Plans at a glance and operating context

Operating Context

National Defence policies and activities are informed by the evolving security context in which the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) operates. Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE), Canada’s defence policy, identifies three broad trends that continue to shape the modern security environment:

  1. The evolving balance of power;
  2. The changing nature of conflict; and
  3. The rapid evolution of technology.

These trends therefore continue to shape the context in which the Department of National Defence (DND) and the CAF must operate. A common realization from these trends is that many of the modern threats faced by Canada are diffuse and transcend national borders undermining the security once provided by Canada’s geography. This requires Canada’s engagement to help promote security and stability abroad.

Against the backdrop of this ever-evolving operating context, DND and the CAF is squarely focused on implementing SSE. The effective implementation of this comprehensive, fully-costed 20-year plan is essential to ensuring that the CAF is well prepared to execute its mandate and meet Canada’s defence needs. It will also lead to concrete improvements in the care and services we provide to our people and is consistent with SSE’s people first focus. Taken together, these efforts will ensure that Canada can continue to field an agile, multipurpose and combat-ready military that can conduct the full spectrum of military operations simultaneously across multiple theaters of operations.

For more information regarding the Operating Context, please see Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada’s Defence PolicyFootnote ii - Chapter 4 – Global Context.

In 2019-20, DND and the CAF will carry out their mandate to achieve results related to six Core Responsibilities:

  • Operations
  • Ready Forces
  • Defence Team
  • Future Force Design
  • Procurement of Capabilities
  • Sustainable Bases, Information Technology Systems and Infrastructure

More information on the Core Responsibilities can be seen in the Supporting information on the Program Inventory section on page 63 of this report.

Canada’s vision for Defence – Strong at home, Secure in North America, Engaged in the world

In order to meet the challenges of implementing SSE over its 20 year horizon, the department continues to refine processes and improve internal policies to implement all the initiatives and activities contained within SSE. These initiatives and activities are tracked and our efforts and effectiveness is measured, allowing DND/CAF leadership to make evidence-based decisions, with improved results. Going forward, the department will fully leverage and continue to refine the use of existing enterprise software and analytic capabilities to plan, execute and adjust the delivery of SSE.


The CAF’s core missions are: detecting, deterring and defending against threats to Canada and North America; providing assistance to civil authorities/law enforcement in support of national security; assisting and in some cases leading forces for NATO, coalition and UN peace operations; contributing to global stability and security, as well as engaging in capacity building; responding to domestic and international disasters; and conducting search and rescue operations. 

Key planned operations for fiscal year (FY) 2019-20 include:

Strong at Home

  • Search and Rescue: Focus on our primary responsibilities of providing aeronautical Search and Rescue and coordinating the aeronautical and maritime Search and Rescue system, as well as assisting in ground Search and Rescue efforts which can include Canadian Rangers and Primary Reserve members;
  • Operation LENTUS: Provide support to Canadian civil authorities in the event of a disaster relief operation;
  • Operation LIMPID: Provide ongoing surveillance of air, land, maritime, cyber and space approaches to Canada; and
  • Operation NANOOK: Increase our presence in the North, through a synchronized series of activities designed towards interoperability, readiness and established in collaboration with other government departments and our regional mission partners.

Secure in North America

  • NORAD: Protect against and respond to threats to North America. Canada and the United States will conduct maritime and aerospace monitoring and aerospace control, through the North American Aerospace Defence Command; and
  • Operations CARIBBE and MARTILLO: Work with partners in the multinational campaign to fight illicit trafficking by transnational organized crime in the Caribbean Basin, the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the coastal waters of Central America.

Engaged in the World

  • Operation PRESENCE: Support the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). This mission will assist in setting the conditions for development, prosperity and durable peace in Mali. The CAF provides urgently needed aeromedical evacuation, transport, and logistics capacity, as well as armed escort and protection to mission partners;
  • Operation REASSURANCE: Contribute to NATO deterrence and defence measures in Central and Eastern Europe. This includes leading NATO’s multinational enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Latvia, deploying a frigate into Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 or 2, and supporting NATO enhanced air policing in Romania;
  • Operation ACKEE: Mentor, enable and create opportunities for the Jamaican Defense Force to grow as a Special Operations Forces leader to more effective combat trans-regional threats in the Caribbean Basin. Other regional partners include Belize, the Bahamas, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana;
  • Operation IMPACT: Contribute in the fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. This includes supporting local security forces and leading the NATO Mission in Iraq, a training and capacity-building mission in the region;
  • Operation PROJECTION: Enhance maritime relationships with Canada’s allies and partners by conducting training, exercises, and engagements with foreign navies and other international security partners, particularly in the Asia-Pacific. The CAF also supports NATO Maritime Command, U.S. Naval Forces, and other allied operations to make the world more secure; and
  • Operation UNIFIER: Provide training and capacity building to Ukrainian defence and security forces.

More information on current Operations can be found here: Current military operationsFootnote iii.

Defence Diplomacy

A military cannot be engaged in the world unless it is present in the world, and this includes building and sustaining strong relationships with allies, partners, other militaries and multilateral institutions. These cooperative relationships enhance knowledge, understanding and interoperability, allow for the exchange of best practices, and ultimately contribute significantly to success on operations. This kind of continuous global military engagement is often referred to as defence diplomacy.

More information on Defence Diplomacy can be found on page 93 of Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada’s Defence PolicyFootnote iv.

Well-supported, diverse, resilient people and families

SSE puts people at its core. The dedicated military personnel and civilians, who make up the fully integrated civilian-military Defence Team, are our greatest asset. Investing in our people is our most important commitment. The success of any mission is dependent on having healthy, well-trained, and motivated personnel.

We are making every effort to provide a working environment that fosters a workplace free of harassment and discrimination, and characterized by mutual trust, support and respect for the dignity of every person in the workplace. To eliminate sexual misconduct and drive at sustained cultural change, the CAF is committed to utilizing external experts in the improvement of the Operation HONOUR plan and program. Over the past three years, through Operation HONOUR, the CAF has taken positive steps to address all forms of sexual misconduct and we have completed some important foundational work. We will develop an effective long-term response that is coordinated with our partners and will provide the resources needed to address this challenge.

In accordance with the 2018 Fall Reports of the Auditor General of CanadaFootnote v on the CAF’s response to inappropriate sexual behaviour, we are strengthening our efforts in three key areas: victim support, education and training, and use of independent external advice, guidance and authority.

Specifically, in fiscal year 2019-20, the CAF will undertake the following key activities:

  • Design a resourced and expertly informed plan that addresses the expectations and spirit of the recommendations in the 2015 External Review Authority ReportFootnote vi and that will serve as the road map for achieving long-term and enduring culture change;
  • Expand the role and mandate of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre to make it the authoritative voice on victim support and advocacy;
  • Work with the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre to develop a consistent approach to support victims of sexual misconduct, as well as a comprehensive case management service;
  • Improve the processes around reporting, responding to and investigating incidents of inappropriate sexual behaviour; and
  • Establish a performance measurement framework for evaluating our efforts to eradicate sexual misconduct. This will also enable us to generate more informed reports and provide a better analysis.

Gender-Based Analysis Plus

Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) is a tool that helps the Defence Team understand how diverse groups of women, men and non-binary people may experience policies, programs and initiatives. GBA+ also considers many identity factors, like rank, race, ethnicity, religion, age, and mental or physical disability allowing us to better understand the impact that our policies and operations will have on various demographic groups with whom we interact at home and aboard. DND/CAF is actively working to embed GBA+ into our systems and processes to support the development of effective policies, projects, programmes and initiatives. 

Defence Procurement

The government continues to ensure the CAF has the modern capabilities they need to succeed in a complex and constantly evolving world. The CAF must be ready and able to deliver across a spectrum of operations – from domestic humanitarian assistance and disaster response, to counter-terrorism and combat operations.

Effective defence procurement is vital to ensuring the CAF is equipped and ready to fulfill the important missions required to protect and defend Canada and Canadians. Procurement and contracting require significant planning and management to ensure goods and services are acquired and supported in a responsible manner. The Defence Team will reinvest in core capabilities and invest in new areas that will allow the CAF to succeed in meeting Canada’s defence needs. During fiscal year 2019-20 the Defence Team plans the following:

  • Streamline the procurement process. In support of SSE projects, DND will trial a risk-based approach to contract approvals. Additionally, through initiatives such as the Project Approval Process Renewal, we will reduce approval process time and see more projects reach completion in a more timely manner;
  • Grow the professionalized procurement workforce, increasing our ability to manage and support the acquisitions of complex military capabilities; and
  • SSE outlined and funded major equipment projects. Key projects for fiscal year 2019-20 include:
    • Future Fixed Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft; 
    • Continued construction and delivery of six Arctic and Offshore Patrol ShipsFootnote vii. These ships allow the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) to conduct sovereignty and surveillance patrols in Canada’s waters, including the Arctic;
    • The final delivery of the required 1,537 Medium Support Vehicle Systems. These vehicles facilitate transportation of personnel, cargo, and equipment both at home and in support of combat services;
    • Continued construction of Joint Support Ships capable of launching and supporting CAF maritime operations;
    • Design and production engineering of the Canadian Surface Combatant. These vessels are the backbone of the RCN, capable of meeting multiple threats in both open oceans and complex coastal environments. This will allow us to monitor and defend our waters and contribute significantly to international naval operations; and
    • Release of the finalized competitive request for proposal for the replacement of the CF-18 fighter aircraft.*

* Note: The CF-18, which was adapted from the American F/A-18, is also known as the officially designated CF-188 in Canadian use.

For more information on key equipment projects, please visit National Defence’s Current ProjectsFootnote viii webpage.

Defence Infrastructure and Environment

The Defence Team administers the largest real property portfolio in the federal government. Maintaining modern and sustainable infrastructure that supports military requirements, improves efficiency, and reduces energy and environmental footprint are critical enablers for CAF operations. During fiscal year 2019-20, the department plans to:

  • Improve infrastructure on bases and wings, including required off-base/wing office space and housing for CAF personnel and their families;
  • Continue to dispose of underutilized or obsolete buildings in order to improve the efficiency of the infrastructure portfolio while at the same time help us to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • DND will continue to transform its Real Property and Portfolio Management capacity by adapting the organization’s structure and processes to better align with the Corporate Real Estate Model and industry best practices, while ensuring it continues to deliver infrastructure programs that enable and support the Defence mandate.

Defence Innovation

Innovative technology, knowledge, and problem solving are critical for Canada and its allies to mitigate new threats, and meet evolving defence and security needs. In this environment, our new approach to innovation will allow us to better tap into the talent and ingenuity within our country. In fiscal year 2019-20, the department plans to:

  • Build on innovation initiatives. Defence Science, Technology and Innovation will develop an experimentation approach that will accelerate the adoption of technological advances within DND/CAF;
  • Report on initial results of the Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program which will improve defence and security capabilities, while generating economic benefits to Canada. IDEaS will access innovators, incentivize the development of solutions and provide solution adoption opportunities;
  • Defence Science, Technology and Innovation will provide a way forward for Artificial Intelligence Science and Technology projects and activities, which will inform DND/CAF on both threats and opportunities to best position the department for future operations;
  • Advance research in the future of cyberwarfare to improve and strengthen both defensive and offensive capabilities; and
  • Establish Analytics Support Centres across DND/CAF, and further develop and implement a data management framework.

Defence Relationship with Indigenous Peoples

The Government of Canada has emphasized its commitment to truth and reconciliation, and has established guiding principles for its relationship with Indigenous Peoples in Canada. DND/CAF has operational practices that intersect with Indigenous interests.

In 2019-20, DND/CAF will continue to interact with Indigenous groups to advance initiatives of interest to both parties through stakeholder consultations, training and engagement. These include, but are not limited to: land and waterway access; employment and recruitment; land remediation; real property transactions; and Indigenous procurement. The department will also develop its first integrated Indigenous strategy. The strategy will set goals and support initiatives to further improve the relationship with our Indigenous partners.

For more information on National Defence’s plans, priorities and planned results, see the “Planned results” section of this report.

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