Vision, mission, raison d’être and operating context

Vision, Raison d'être, mandate, and role

Raison d'être

The Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) support a strategic vision for defence in which Canada is:

The National Defence Act (NDA) establishes DND and the CAF as separate entities, operating within an integrated National Defence Headquarters, as they pursue their primary responsibility of providing defence for Canada and Canadians.

Mandate and role

This raison d'être forms the mandate that is the responsibility of the Minister of National Defence. The Minister presides over the Department and as established by the NDA.

The Department has an essential relationship with Veteran's Affairs Canada (VAC), as demonstrated by the Minister of Veterans Affairs' dual role as Associate Minister of National Defence. The position is provided for in the NDA. The Associate Minister is responsible for defence files, as mandated by the Prime Minister, with the specific priority of ensuring a seamless transition for CAF members leaving the military.

The Minister of National Defence is advised by the Deputy Minister (DM), who is appointed by the Governor-in-Council. The DM is the Minister's most senior civilian advisor, and is authorized under the law to carry out, on the Minister's behalf, many aspects of the management and direction of the Department. The DM is responsible for policy advice, departmental management, interdepartmental coordination, international defence relations, public service renewal, federal-provincial relations, and portfolio management. Under the Financial Administration Act, the DM is designated as an Accounting Officer with the responsibility of ensuring financial oversight and the prudent management of allocated resources and is accountable before parliamentary committees to provide explanations on matters for which the DM is responsible.

The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) is the primary provider of military advice to the Government. The CDS has direct responsibility for the command, control and administration of the CAF, morale and welfare and personnel support programs of members and their families and is appointed by the Governor-in-Council. The CDS advises the Minister of National Defence on issues such as current and future military requirements, force capabilities, possible courses of action and the consequences of undertaking (or failing to undertake) various military activities. The CDS is also responsible for maintaining international military relations with Canada's allies and partners. The CDS is accountable to the Minister for the conduct of all CAF activities, as well as for the readiness and the ability to fulfill military commitments and obligations undertaken by the Government. The CDS is also the advisor to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on major military developments and issues.

For more general information about the Department, see the Corporate information section of this report. For more information on the Department's organizational mandate letter commitments, see the Minister of National Defence Supplementary Mandate Letter and Minister of National Defence Mandate Letter.

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: Canada's Defence Policy (SSE), 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 have accelerated since SSE was published in 2017 and continue to shape and alter 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, and to continue to strengthen its defences at home.

Against this backdrop, DND and the CAF remain focused on implementing SSE, a 20-year plan which 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. At the same time, DND/CAF is constantly considering new approaches and initiatives to reflect changing circumstances. For example, building on the commitments made in SSE, National Defence is advancing Canada's investments in NORAD modernization announced in June 2022. These investments will help ensure NORAD has the capabilities needed to carry out its mission in the face of modern and emerging threats in the aerospace domain, including through Canada's Arctic and Northern regions. They will also strengthen the defence of NATO's Western Flank and help ensure North America remains a secure base to be engaged globally and project power in support of Allies during a crisis or conflict. In addition, in Budget 2022, the Government of Canada directed DND/CAF to conduct a Defence Policy Update that reflects changes in the geopolitical, technological and environmental landscape. Taken together, these efforts will help 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 Policy (SSE) Chapter 4 – Global Context.

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