For any military force, maintaining an advantage requires innovation and investment. It is why Canada is modernizing our Army, Navy and Air Force while putting our serving members in the Canadian Armed Forces at its core. To ensure our people have the most advanced capabilities and tools for the future, Canada is putting a greater focus on research and development, supporting innovators in industry and in government, and building a closer relationship between these two worlds.
Since 2017, when we published our fully funded 20-year defense policy “Strong, Secure, Engaged,” we have seen significant changes in the global security environment. These new challenges underscore the need to invest in defense as a matter of national security and economic vitality. “Strong, Secure, Engaged” was released at a time when the dominant forces of the current security environment were just beginning to take shape. Today, Canada faces a world defined by great power conflict, rapid military modernization by states set on upending the international rules-based order, and advances against disruptive technologies in which North American geography no longer affords the protection it once did.
While we have traditionally been able to address threats abroad before they reach our shores, our security requires reinforcement. While this new space has many unknowns, we know that multilateralism and supporting the rules-based international order is critical to our success and our safety. Since 2017, Canada has increased our support to NATO partners through Operation Reassurance — which has seen Royal Canadian Navy ships deployed in the Black Sea region, the Royal Canadian Air Force supporting air policing in Romania, and Canadian Armed Forces members leading the Enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup in Latvia — as well as through our work leading NATO Mission Iraq and our support for the coalition.
We also know that this changing security landscape means we need to take a thorough look at how we can secure North America against the threats of today and the future. It is why Canada continues to work with our American partners on the modernization of North American Aerospace Defense Command to build continental resiliency. This critical work will ensure that Canada and the United States of America have the ability to detect, deter and respond to threats, and that the only binational command in the world can meet the challenges of the 21st century.
For many years now, the Department of National Defence has worked hard to keep defense industries informed of future investment opportunities that will continue generating jobs and improving Canada’s capacity for innovation. It is one reason that we have a forward-looking, 10-year defense investment plan that is updated every three years. This engagement with industry has become an integral part of the procurement process, providing critical insights while showing industry that we are a predicable partner.
Despite the unexpected challenges during 2020, Canada reached important milestones for key defense projects. In July 2020, the first Arctic and offshore patrol ship was delivered to the Royal Canadian Navy, followed in the fall by delivery of the first new fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft to the Royal Canadian Air Force. Construction of armored combat support vehicles for the Canadian Army began in May 2020, with the first vehicle delivered to the Armed Forces in December 2020. We also continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into equipping members of our armed forces.
We now see unprecedented innovation in all corners of the world, which militaries can harness to quickly understand and respond to potential threats before they cause harm. It is why new and emerging technologies in cyber and artificial intelligence are becoming an integral part of defense projects. Canada is growing its defense industry by leveraging research and development from both industry and government to achieve the best results. By working together, we can come up with innovative solutions to increase Canada’s operational effectiveness while showing that defense is forging a path to the future.
In addition to embracing innovation within defense institutions and industry, more work is needed to support our people. The Canadian Armed Forces is a diverse institution, and our equipment needs to recognize that. It is why the Gender-based Analysis Plus process looks at factors such as gender, race, religion and ethnicity so that our defense projects better meet the needs of armed forces members.
These changes help get the best out of our people, producing meaningful results. For example, changes made to the brake pedal assembly in the new armor-protected cab of the Standard Military Pattern vehicle ensure all soldiers, no matter their size, can safely operate these vehicles.
By building an agile, well-educated, flexible, diverse, combat-ready military, we will be able to deal with threats abroad to protect stability at home. This historic investment through “Strong, Secure, Engaged” allows Canada to modernize our military by putting our people at its core as we continue to step up our contribution to North American and global security. When our partners and allies call upon Canada, we will be there for them.
Harjit Sajjan is Canada’s minister of national defense.