OTTAWA — A former fighter pilot and second in charge of North America’s air defenses was named Canada’s new chief of defense staff on Aug. 27.
Lt. Gen. Thomas Lawson, deputy commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and former head of Canada’s Royal Military College, will replace Gen. Walt Natynczyk as the nation’s top soldier.
He will be promoted to the rank of general in the coming weeks.
Queen’s University defense policy expert Douglas Bland described Lawson, 54, as “a young intellectual air force officer with lots of operational experience.”
Lawson is taking over at a time of transition for the Canadian military away from overseas deployments such as Afghanistan and Libya to homeland security.
“If the government is interested in defending Canada’s coastline, staking a claim to the Arctic, focusing on operations closer to home like in the Caribbean and working more closely with the United States, then a commander with close relations with the Americans through NORAD is the way to go,” Bland told AFP.
Lawson, considered an Ottawa outsider, will also oversee Canada’s largest-ever military procurement of new fighter jets and navy ships in the coming years.
His main challenge, Bland said, will be money.