Future Force Design


Develop and design the future force through a deep understanding of the future operating environment and security risks to Canada and Canadian interests. Enhance Defence’s ability to identify, prevent, adapt and respond to a wide range of contingencies through collaborative innovation networks and advanced research.


The future security environment presents a vast array of complex defence and security challenges that transcend national borders. In order to keep pace with our allies, and potential adversaries, it is imperative that the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) prioritizes efforts to design our future force.

Future force planning is a long-term and continuous activity that seeks to address future threats and defence and security challenges with innovative solutions.

The Department of National Defence (DND)/CAF continues to support the ongoing implementation of the defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE). This includes traditional decision-making support to the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) through a progressive approach designed to build on capabilities from year-to-year. The intra-departmental alignment and validation was done through different review processes, such as the Defence Capability Board and the Independent Review Panel for Defence Acquisition. These reviews and other analysis efforts aimed to verify and streamline the procurement process. These activities continued to be informed by the published Force Capability Plan and Joint Capstone Concept.

Effective innovation is critical for modern armed forces operating in a highly complex, increasingly contested global security environment. To be successful, DND must exploit every type of advantage. Highlights from FY 2019-20 include:

  • Research began on all aspects of the military applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI), including AI and ethics. This research supports operations and provides strategic advice on all the categories of the SSE policy's initiatives; and
  • This research created applications in logistics (resource allocation) and provided advice on social media analytics, video surveillance and space applications.

Defence Science, Technology and Innovation has provided a way forward for AI Science and Technology projects and activities. Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) has funded work related to AI in two ways:

  • Supporting Canadian university-led research clusters (more commonly known as micro-nets), which include industry and government sector partnerships stimulating collaboration and sharing ideas critical to innovation in order to support the eventual development of real-world solutions for the CAF. In this area, IDEaS has funded six contribution agreements, with a value of up to $1.5 million each, related to autonomous systems, specifically seeking innovative solutions around trust and barriers to adoption; and
  • Through its Competitive Projects element, IDEaS has launched several challenges where innovators are using AI as part of their solution. Under its first call for proposals, the program awarded 19 contracts with a value of more than $3 million for projects which proposed AI solution models. These ranged from supporting recruitment to the detection and classification of objects of interest. The program has advanced 30% of these projects to the second phase of funding, which are up to $1 million each over a period of a year.

In addition, DND/CAF is a member of the Government of Canada Cyber Skills Developmental Working Group (chaired by Public Safety), focused on Human Resources and training of the Civilian Cyber Workforce. Defence is in the process of awarding a contract to a civilian educational institution to deliver Developmental Period (DP1) Cyber Operator training and recruiting centres have started to process unskilled candidates for this training.

In accordance with SSE and the Communications Security Establishment Act (CSE), DND/CAF and CSE have complimentary roles in the development, planning, and conduct of cyber operations in support of Government of Canada objectives. Furthermore, the establishment of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security formalized CSE’s role in the protection of Government of Canada networks, including those of DND/CAF. The department’s Cyber Program calls for close collaboration with CSE, including the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, to support the development, planning and employment of cyber forces across the spectrum of operations.

The Continental Defence Policy function will deliver on SSE initiative 111 and contribute significantly to Future Force Design. More details on SSE Initiative 111 can be found on page 90 of the Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada’s Defence Policy.


Defence related experimentation activities are outlined in this report throughout the activities under Core Responsibility 4 – Future Force Design.

Key Corporate Risk(s)

There are no key corporate risks associated with the Future Force Design core responsibility at this time.

Departmental Result 4.1 – Defence capabilities are designed to meet future threats

  • Through joint calls to departmental stakeholders, DND/CAF and the Chair of the department’s science and technology committee have worked collaboratively to undertake problem identification and scoping in order for the Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program to develop well defined challenges that can be issued to the Canadian innovator community. This has resulted in challenges that are better aligned to current science and technology activities and ensured that DND/CAF needs and priorities remained focused on getting the best solutions from Canadian innovators.
  • The department continued the key tasks of the Force Mix Structure and Design (FMSD) work to realign the CAF’s structure, and ensure it can deliver the operational concurrency required by SSE. Specifically, the department conducted structure analysis and developed initial estimates based on force employment demand modelling and supporting force generation and institutional structure estimates for the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) to inform discussion/direction & guidance on proposed refinement to FMSD work.
  • During FY 2019-20, DND/CAF began a new Capability Based Planning cycle, informed by collaborative Future Operating Environment work with our Five Eyes allies (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States). This cycle was grounded in the SSE capability investment path and took into consideration NORAD and NATO requirements. Highlights include:
    • Provided support in fulfilling CAF inputs to the NATO Defence Planning Process. In addition, the department engaged with NATO in concept development activities meant to inform and shape long-term improvements in the NATO Defence Planning Process; and
    • The first year of the three-year Capability Based Planning cycle was completed. This consisted of conducting scenario-based analysis utilizing force development scenarios informed by, amongst other sources, SSE and the Five-Eyes Future Operating Environment. The analysis was conducted by an experienced and diverse team of representative-specialists from across DND/CAF.
  • Defence worked closely with Public Safety Canada to advance the new Cyber Security Strategy, published in May 2019 and is a member of numerous pan-Government of Canada cyber fora, including the Interdepartmental Cyber Engagement Working Group, the Director General Cyber forum, and the Cyber Skills Development Working Group. We continue to leverage our close partnership with Shared Services Canada and the Communication Security Establishment Canada regarding the operation, monitoring and protection of DND/CAF enterprise networks. In addition, through the department’s Cyber Mission Assurance Program, we are engaging other departments and agencies to identify, evaluate, and investigate the defence of critical infrastructure upon which the DND/CAF depends to conduct operations in support of Government of Canada objectives.
  • DND/CAF continued to advance a Cyber Mission Assurance Program in order to provide high level governance and guidance to enhance cyber resiliency across the department. The program is establishing a risk management framework to guide monitoring and auditing of operational performance in materiel, and is holding discussions with other government departments and agencies regarding the defence and protection of critical infrastructure affecting the CAF's operational readiness.
  • Defence has continued to work with allies and, in partnership with allies, will invest in the reliable access of satellite communication constellations in support of DND/CAF operations across the globe. Defence began renewing existing agreements with allies to ensure continued access to commercial and military satellite communications for the next decade.

Defence Capabilities - Cyber

Picture shows a person on a computer

The cyber domain is an increasingly important part of military operations and Canada’s military Cyber Operators work to both protect domestic networks as well as conducting cyber operations.

Photo: Sergeant Frank Hudec, Canadian Forces Combat Camera.

Results achieved

Departmental Results Departmental
Target Date to achieve target 2019–20
Actual results
Actual results
Actual results
4.1 Defence capabilities are designed to meet future threats Extent to which the Future Security Environment assessment remains valid 2 on a 3 point rating scale* 31 March 2020 2 2 Not Available
New indicator as
of 2018-19
Degree to which future security assessments and capability deductions remain coherent with those of our allies and partners 2 on a 3 point rating scale** 31 March 2020
2 2 Not Available
New indicator as
of 2018-19
Degree to which future capabilities required to ensure an operational advantage over defence and security threats have been accounted for in defence plans 2 on a 3 point rating scale*** 31 March 2020
2 2 Not Available
New indicator as
of 2018-19


* During the Future Security Environment (FSE) validity period of four years, the FSE document will be assessed annually through internal Canadian Armed Forces foresight and allied collaboration analysis activities. Should these analysis activities identify significant issues, the Chief of Force Development will indicate the intent to produce an updated FSE with anticipated milestones.

** During the Future Security Environment (FSE) validity period of four years, the Force Capability Plan (FCP) and Investment Plan (IP) are reviewed annually through internal Canadian Armed Forces and allied collaboration analysis activities. Should these analysis activities identify significant issues, the Chief of Force Development will indicate the intent to produce updated documents with anticipated milestones.

*** During the Future Security Environment (FSE) validity period of four years, the Force Capability Plan (FCP), Investment Plan (IP) and Force Development scenario sets are assessed annually through internal Canadian Armed Forces analysis activities. If significant issues are identified, the Chief of Force Development will signal the intent to produce updated documents with anticipated milestones.

For more information about the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces’ performance indicators, please visit GC InfoBase.

Departmental Result 4.2 – Defence and security challenges are addressed through innovative solutions

  • In July 2019, the first IDEaS program Annual Report was published – reporting on FY 2018-19. IDEaS program elements are aimed at improving Defence and Security capabilities, while generating economic benefits to Canada. IDEaS will provide support and opportunities to innovators, incentivize the development of solutions, and provide opportunities for the integration and adoption of solutions and new capabilities. During FY 2019-20 the IDEaS program has:
    • Launched 24 challenges through its Competitive Projects elements aimed at various priority areas for DND/CAF. IDEaS has been able to put into place over 210 contracts representing more than $32 million in funding for individuals and organizations across Canada;
    • Conducted a Sandbox challenge where selected innovators were invited to test and demonstrate technologies created to detect and defeat Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV, commonly called “drones”);
    • Launched a Sandbox for Corrosion Detection in Ships which received 21 applications;
    • Launched a Contest, entitled “Pop-up City: Integrated Energy, Water and Waste Management Systems for Deployed Camps”; and
    • Awarded 12 contributions, in the amount of up to $1.5 million each, to Canadian university led research micro-nets. These micro-nets stimulate collaboration and the free flow of ideas critical to innovation in order to support the eventual development of real-world solutions for the CAF.
  • Prioritized Arctic Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance for defence research and development and invested close to $133 million from 2015 to 2020 to inform decisions on surveillance capabilities.
  • Through the All Domain Situational Awareness Science and Technology Program, supported a variety of research and analysis projects contributing to the development of options for enhanced domain awareness of air, maritime surface and sub-surface approaches to Canada, in particular those in the Arctic. In collaboration with the United States, the program has advanced a number of candidate technologies and employment concepts which have better positioned DND/CAF for Continental Defence and NORAD Modernization decisions on future investments. The provision of strategic science and technology advice will continue into FY 2020-21. The program also contributed to the first-ever bi-national Northern Approaches Surveillance Analysis of Alternatives, studying innovative technological solutions to airspace surveillance, which is scheduled to be completed in FY 2020-21.
  • Made significant advancements for science and technology related to whole-of-government security and event planning. These include:
    • A framework has been developed for inter-police response to critical events in the National Capital Region, allowing several law enforcement agencies to properly respond to critical events that require the involvement of police forces within multiple jurisdictions;
    • Work has begun to extend this framework to permit federal, provincial and municipal police responses across Canada;
    • Science and technology related to physical security has also been advanced through new scanning and screening technologies for parliamentary security; and
    • Work on secure data communications and data sharing, helping the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) was advanced.
  • DND/CAF advanced work on alternative energy options and their potential use for operations. During FY 2019-20, we:
    • Sought ruggedized wind turbines for the Arctic to reduce the reliance on diesel fuel generated power;
    • Continued to look for innovative power storage and power generation solutions for dismounted soldiers, to increase soldiers’ autonomy, decrease the physical and cognitive burden of power storage technologies, and decrease the costs of fielding and exploiting wearable power technologies;
    • Overcame scientific and technical barriers that prevent or limit the ability to field electromagnetic and gravimetric quantum-sensing systems for Defence and Security purposes to reduce power consumption requirements of existing technologies; and
    • Continued searching for existing solutions, modifications to existing solutions, or new innovations to address the inefficiencies in the current utilities systems for relocatable temporary camps by reducing the fuel consumption or the water resupply or waste removal.
  • In FY 2019-20, several science and technology activities targeted increased operational endurance and improved energy efficiencies for reduced electrical loads, fuel consumption and greenhouse gases for soldier, camp, fixed infrastructure and ship platforms. The science and technology work was conducted primarily through partnerships with federal laboratories at the National Research Council and Natural Resources Canada’s CanmetENERGY and industry. Some highlights include:
    • Conducted an energy audit and future energy saving technologies assessment of shelter systems in extreme cold environments under a Canadian Joint Operations Command-sponsored Joint Arctic Experiment to advise and model energy reduction methods towards achieving identified Defence Energy and Environmental Strategy (DEES) targets for deployed camps;
    • Completed a data discovery of Halifax-class frigates that enabled identification of 10% fuel reduction target for Ship Platform Exploitation of Energy Datasets, funded through Greening Government Fund program;
    • The technological upgrade enabled the unmanned operation of underwater acoustic arrays deployed in the Canadian Arctic to operate five months longer;
    • Enhanced evidence-based decisions through a number of science and technology activities that will contribute to DND/CAF transitioning to a data-driven organisation, including:
      • Developed a new approach to diagnose the root causes of certain results from the Public Service Employee Survey (future development of this approach will be a key DND/CAF contribution to the Government of Canada Beyond2020 initiative);
      • Conducted predictive analytics on financial data to improve how DND/CAF is making forecasts in-year and out-year, and informed Deputy Minister decisions;
      • Leveraged commercial cloud for data science in DND/CAF for natural language processing to publish interactive dashboards and to work collaboratively with NATO allies; and
      • Deployed predictive analytics models, including an enrollment forecast model.
    • Provided science, technology and innovation advice as next steps in adopting an enterprise approach to drive analytics adoption throughout DND/CAF:
      • Provided key guidance internally on the development of an Analytics Vision and Operating Model for the DND/CAF; and
      • Provided advice to leadership on the capabilities and limitations of automated.
  • DND/CAF advanced defensive and offensive cyber operations through challenges presented in the IDEaS program. In addition, through close cooperation with the Canadian Joint Warfare Centre, CSE and other stakeholders, DND/CAF has continued to:
    • Codify authorities, accountabilities, and responsibilities;
    • Discuss the future nature of continental defence as viewed by NORAD;
    • Integrate with NATO and other allied processes;
    • Detail out the nature of intelligence support necessary for cyber operations;
    • Develop the targeting process in relation to cyber input; and
    • Conceptualize how emergent technology like cloud-based resources will impact cyber operations.

Defence Science and Technology - Communications

Picture shows an army personelle looking at a screen with a map

Signals Officers deliver telecommunications services to the CAF, especially the Canadian Army and command units. They work with command support equipment and systems that include:

  • Purpose-designed, computer-based information systems that assist with battlefield command and control, reconnaissance and surveillance, and target acquisition;
  • The full spectrum of radio systems;
  • Electronic Warfare capabilities;
  • Cyber Warfare capabilities; and
  • Cryptographic and communications, security capabilities.

Results achieved

Departmental Results Departmental
Target Date to achieve target 2019–20
Actual results
Actual results
Actual results
4.2 Defence and security challenges are addressed through innovative solutions % of initiatives and projects that are supported by Defence Science and Technology 90% 31 March 2021 30%* 30% Not Available
New indicator as
of 2018-19
% of Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) projects that resulted in useful advice, adoption, integration or eventual procurement of a new defence and security capability 20% or greater 31 March 2022
5.5%** Not Available
New indicator as
of 2018-19
Not Available
New indicator as
of 2018-19


* This indicator has not been effective and may be misleading in representing DND efforts with respect to initiatives and projects that are supported by Science, Technology, and Innovation. The indicator will be revisited as we continue to develop and improve our ability to address defence and security challenges through innovative solutions with the Defence Team.

** 5.5% of funded contracts launched under IDEaS that have been completed, and results & advice communicated to DND/CAF stakeholders. Adoption, integration and eventual procurement will result as these funded projects mature and solutions advance. Date to achieve target is 2022.

For more information about the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces’ performance indicators, please visit GC InfoBase.

Budgetary financial resources (dollars)

Main Estimates

Planned spending

Total authorities
available for use
Actual spending
(authorities used)
(Actual spending minus
Planned spending)
932,743,071 941,793,597 936,937,509 758,767,329 (183,026,268)

Human resources (full-time equivalents) 

Planned full-time equivalents
Actual full-time equivalents

(Actual full-time equivalents minus Planned full-time equivalents)
2,669 1,930 (739)

Financial, human resources and performance information for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces’ Program Inventory, including explanation of significant variances, is available in the GC InfoBase.

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