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 ongoing activity that seeks to address future threats and defence and security challenges with effective solutions.

In FY 2020–21, the Department of National Defence (DND) and the CAF continued to support the ongoing implementation of Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada’s Defence Policy (SSE) through effective innovation. Highlights from FY 2020–21 include:

  • Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) remains engaged in experimentation, such as the Joint Arctic Experiment and JOINTEX. The All Domain Situational Awareness (ADSA) Science & Technology program has delivered a final report on air and maritime surveillance technologies. DRDC is formulating a broader scope for the Science and Technology program for pan-domain awareness;
  • The IDEaS program launched a number of challenges, covering topics such as better energy generation in the north, reducing visual and infrared detection of our soldiers and vehicles, cyber protection of avionics networks and bus technologies, to name a few. IDEaS is a versatile program able to adapt to the rapid pace of change in today’s fluid security environment. Canada’s new approach to defence adopts new technologies and methods, and transforms the way people manage defence and security challenges. IDEaS launched 11 challenges in FY 2020–21, including seven through Call for Proposals 4, and four through a special COVID-19 focused Call for Proposals. In FY 2020–21, 97 projects were given initial funding to explore topics;
  • IDEaS focused on the projects that aim to detect and track objects of interests. As a follow-on option to IDEaS, two Test Drive challenges have been identified: Ecopia (detection and classification of objects of interest) and Sapper Laps (cyber attribution);
  • DND is conducting artificial intelligence (AI) research to automatically detect and identify objects by integrating images, videos, signals and other data for the purposes of monitoring the sea surface and land. Some of the results from this research are currently used in CAF operations. AI research is being performed to detect patterns of life and find anomalies in maritime traffic, and the results of this work is being considered for integration into operations. Since launching the program, IDEaS has initiated several challenges where innovators are using AI as part of their solution. Many of these projects are advancing through the various components of IDEaS, and some are progressing to the testing phase in order to be acquired and transferred to DND and the CAF for testing and evaluation; and
  • The Defence Security, Science and Technology Program is developing and demonstrating the application of AI and Machine Learning to:
    • Monitor networks and systems for cyber-attacks;
    • Sentiment analysis of open source intelligence;
    • Recognize disinformation/misinformation; and
    • Detect, identify and track objects of interest using optical systems in army vehicles.

In its work to demonstrate AI-enabled solutions to detect, identify and track objects of interest in vehicle-borne tactical imaging systems, the Defence Security, Science and Technology Program has launched a number of IDEaS challenges including:

  • Better than meets the eye: reliable object detection amongst the waves;
  • Shields up! Defend and protect satellites from natural and artificial threats;
  • Collision course: tracking and de-orbiting space debris;
  • Persistent maritime surface sensor systems;
  • Detection and classification of objects of interest;
  • Persistent maritime surveillance; and
  • What is in this full motion video?

DND provided funds for the Transport Canada Program ARCTIC MISTEndnote 130 which represents the next generation of sensor data fusion technology. Transport Canada’s National Aerial Surveillance ProgramEndnote 131 conducts aerial surveillance operations using advanced sensor-equipped aircraft over all waters under Canadian jurisdiction, including the Arctic. Preventing pollution from ships by acting as a deterrent to potential polluters, monitoring ice conditions, conducting marine security patrols, aiding in search and rescue, and ensuring polluters are detected and prosecuted are among the program’s top priorities. Using an ensemble of neural networks and a novel data fusion system, ARCTIC MIST closes the gap between modern maritime surveillance requirements and operator capabilities, greatly enhancing operator situational awareness by analyzing data from multiple sensors in real-time and providing the operator with fused information.

DND provided funds for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans "Dark Vessel program". Dark Vessel Detection makes use of fishing pattern detection algorithms to determine if a vessel is likely to be fishing. This is one small part of the project, and the machine learning (ML) code has already been developed by a non-government organization and is being incorporated into the larger work. International trials are currently under way with plans to implement the behavioural algorithm. The plan is to use satellites to detect and track so-called “dark vessels”—ships that have switched off their location transmitters to evade authorities. The desired outcome of the project is meant as a proof-of-concept—a scheme to work with developing nations and demonstrate how a combination of satellites can help focus the search for illegal fishers.

The Defence Security, Science and Technology Program continued low-level work on human-machine interaction aimed at improving the span of control for human operators by mitigating the cognitive workload.

DND and the CAF is a member of the Government of Canada Cyber Skills Developmental Working Group (chaired by Public Safety Canada), which is focused on human resources and training the Civilian Cyber Workforce. DND and the CAF awarded a contract to a civilian educational institution for the Developmental Period 1 Cyber Operator training. DND and the CAF recruiting centres are using the process of human resources training for the new training of unskilled candidates.


  • Solutions provided by Industry to address innovation challenges continue to advance and are feeding into other Innovation for Defence Excellence and SecurityEndnote 132 (IDEaS) components. To advance DND and the CAF’s capabilities, two Competitive Projects (Component 1a: Up to $200K for six months of development and Component 1b: up to $1M for one year of development) and Demonstration tools (Sandbox) are proceeding. Sandboxes are an opportunity for innovators to test and demonstrate their solutions to published Defence challenges. The scenario and environment are provided by DND and the CAF, and participants will receive observational feedback from our experts and potential users.

In FY 2020–21, twelve contributions of up to $1.5M each were awarded to Canadian university-led research micro-nets, which include industry and government sector partnerships. This funding supports the development of revolutionary advances in materials science with a focus on emerging and advanced materials relevant to detection avoidance and physical protection against kinetic and non-kinetic threats. Research is also being done to promote revolutionary advances in our understanding of autonomous systems with a focus on trust and barriers to the adoption of such innovative and revolutionary technology. 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.

The IDEaS program launched 52 challenges aimed at various priority areas for DND and the CAF through its Competitive Projects elements. In FY 2020–21, through the Competitive Projects element, IDEaS was able to put over 210 contracts in place, representing more than $32M in funding for individuals and organizations across Canada. Priority areas were as follows:

  • Ensuring our Forces are protected when on active duty;
  • Protecting Canada from cyber security threats;
  • Accelerating next generation technologies;
  • Greening defence operations, protecting our assets in space; and
  • Finding new and improved ways to use platforms dedicated for Command, Control, Communications, Computers Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR).

A sandbox challenge was conducted at the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) in Suffield, Alberta. Selected innovators were invited to test and demonstrate technologies created to detect and defeat Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV, commonly called “drones”).

A sandbox for examining solutions to the “Corrosion Detection In Ships” challenge was launched in April 2020, but because of COVID-19, it was postponed to April 2022. Although delayed, responses of interest from 25 companies were received.

As new challenges are identified, the IDEaS program will continue to explore other sandbox opportunities.

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

In FY 2020–21, 48 contribution agreements valued at over $8.6M were approved. The first results are to be expected within seven months. Challenge titles were as follows:

  • Moral Trauma on the Frontline – See, Prevent and Treat;
  • Rapid Response: Real-Time Insights for Pandemic Decision-Making;
  • Scrubbing Your Scrubs: Finding Ways to Re-Use COVID-19 Protective Gear; and
  • Super Sanitize: Cleaning Sensitive Equipment and Workspaces.

The launch of the Competitive Projects Call for Proposal #4 resulted in more than 50 (1a) contracts ($200K/six months) awarded. Challenge titles are as follows:

  • Essential Deliveries: Getting Vital Supplies to Troops Using Autonomous Vehicles;
  • Armour Up! Modular Lightweight Armour for Land Vehicles;
  • It’s Not Just Noise – Innovative Tools for Acoustic Sensor Operators;
  • Better Than Meets the Eye: Reliable Object Detection Amongst the Waves;
  • Making Data Make Sense: Real-Time Data Analysis for Rapid Decision-Making;
  • Knot Vulnerable – Locking Down Cybersecurity on Naval Vessels; and
  • Navigating Your Next Chapter – The Transition Back to Civilian.

Regarding test drive challenges, the first call for proposals was launched for Green Heat to retrofit older buildings using energy storage systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Two Competitive Projects investments ($1.2M each) have moved on for testing/evaluation by stakeholders:

  • A solution to the Cyber Attribution challenge valued $7.5M from Sapper Labs to be tested by Canadian Special Operations Forces Command; and
  • A solution to the Detection and Classification of Objects of Interest challenge from Ecopia is in development.

DND and the CAF continued the key tasks of the Force Mix Structure and Design (FMSD) work to re-align the CAF’s structure and ensure it can deliver the operational concurrency required by SSE. Specifically during FY 2020–21, FMSD created detailed dashboards characterizing demand signals for each Force Element across multiple scenario sets, showing potential gaps, shortfalls or affluence. Public health measures challenged FMSD’s ability to meet with the various required stakeholders, but the FMSD initiative was still able to provide robust datasets to support sophisticated resource discussions.

During FY 2020–21, DND and the CAF continued the capability based planning cycle, completing the analysis of force development scenarios and the capability based planning final report. The capability based planning cycle execution was delayed by approximately six months due to COVID-19 related restrictions.

Defence has a close partnership with the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security and Shared Services Canada to operate, monitor and protect DND and the CAF enterprise networks. Through DND and the CAF’s Cyber Mission Assurance Program (CMAP), Defence engages other government departments and agencies to identify, evaluate, and investigate the defence of critical infrastructure that the Defence Team depend on to conduct operations in support of government objectives.

The Defence Team continued to advance CMAP to understand organizational risks and address these risks by enhancing cyber resiliency across the department. CMAP led efforts to develop a cyber threat intelligence capability in support of CMAP and cyber domain awareness materials to enhance the cyber resiliency of DND and the CAF. CMAP continues to work with federal government departments and agencies, as well as with Canada’s allies, to defend and protect the supply chain and the critical infrastructure that enable the CAF's operational readiness.

The department continued to ensure that defence capabilities are designed to meet future threats by continually investing in partnerships and technologies that support CAF operations.

Results achieved

Departmental results Performance indicators Target Date to achieve target 2018–19 Actual results 2019–20 Actual results 2020–21 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 scaleNote * 31 March 2021 2 2 2
Degree to which future security assessments and capability deductions remain coherent with those of our allies and partners 2 on a 3 point rating scaleNote ** 31 March 2021 2 2 2
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 scaleNote *** 31 March 2021 2 2 2

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

The IDEaS program continues to put forward challenges to seek alternative energy options and their potential use for operations including reducing electrical energy consumption at deployed camps, using cleaner fuels, designing more efficient soldier equipment, and providing more efficient power solutions for operations. These include contests as a competitive means of finding innovative solutions and awarding prizes to the best solutions derived from the innovation community. Three selected innovator teams are invited to begin building their prototypes. To that effect, IDEaS has conducted the third launch of its contest component which aimed at re-imagining how the CAF operate when deployed into the field. The initiative aimed at innovating on the production and use of energy, waste (in both liquid and solid form) as well as water supply for our troops while deployed.

In FY 2020–21, several science and technology activities targeted increased operational endurance and improved energy efficiencies for reduced electrical loads, fuel consumption, the water resupply or waste removal, 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:

  • Data discovery of Halifax-class frigate that enabled identification of 10 percent fuel reduction target for Ship Platform Exploitation of Energy Datasets, funded through Greening Government Fund program; and
  • An innovative integrated systems approach at remote northern and Arctic federal facilities, specifically, the North Warning System, to achieve greenhouse gas reductions throughout the year by doing an Advanced Microgrids towards Arctic Zero Emissions targets.

The IDEaS program has made progress over the last year. The Low Carbon Energy Generation for Heating Existing Buildings Test Drive was launched in January 2021 with an advanced procurement notice. IDEaS will acquire, install and operate a large-scale, low-carbon energy system integrated with an existing CAF building in Kingston, Ontario, to assess the effectiveness and costs of such technology.

Sapper Labs is the first innovator to advance from Competitive Projects Component 1b to Test Drive and was awarded $7.5M. The company is testing their advanced cyber attribution technology in a real-world environment with the support of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command. If successful, the solution would allow DND to achieve important cyber effects.

The IDEaS program launched a contest called “Pop-up City: Integrated Energy, Water and Waste Management Systems for Deployed Camps” which resulted in 111 proposals received from organizations across Canada covering each of these three technical domains (i.e. integration of energy, water and waste). Forty-two of these organizations have moved on to the second round of this contest, the aim of which is to combine solutions from each of these three technical domains into one overall integrated solution. This will lead to round three, during which selected innovators will receive a contribution agreement to cover the costs associated with building a prototype of their integrated solution and demonstrating its performance. Round four will assess which prototype produces the best results. The winner will receive a final prize of $2M.

The All Domain Situational Awareness Science and Technology programEndnote 134 has delivered a final classified synthesis report on various concepts and technologies, and their degree of readiness and maturity, in order to provide advice on force development options for air and maritime surveillance. While a select few projects are still being completed by DRDC in partnership with Industry, the surveillance capabilities of a number of technologies have been demonstrated in the laboratory or in the field. Some of these technologies have been exploited and transitioned to operational capabilities; others are being used to define future major capital projects, such as Over-The-Horizon Radar, as part of a system-of-systems for North Warning System capability renewal. DND has also provided expertise and information to produce the first-ever bi-national Northern Approaches Surveillance Analysis of Alternatives report (classified) to be published by the United States for defence purposes and for informing NORAD modernization defence investments.

The department continued to implement the departmental Science, Technology & Innovation (ST&I) Functional Authority to leverage, align and optimize departmental ST&I resources through the departmental Science and Technology Investment Steering Committee. The department also continued to provide ST&I advice. The Defence Security, Science and Technology Program has:

  • Enhanced evidence-based decision-making through a number of science and technology activities that will help DND and the CAF transition to a data-driven organization;
  • Continued performing predictive analytics on financial data to improve how the Defence Team make in-year and out-year forecasts;
  • Developed a model to forecast and visualize current and future National Procurement spending for all Equipment Program Managers and fleets to improve the planning, allocation and expenditure of National Procurement funds;
  • Developed a systematic approach to prioritizing advanced analytics use cases to ensure that organizations begin using AI with the right projects;
  • Deployed predictive analytics models, including an automated enrollment forecast model;
  • Produced an initial case study on how to quantitatively integrate schedule risk into conventional DND cost risk analysis;
  • Supported the Chief Data Officer by delivering priority use cases that advance analytics and DND and the CAF’s Data Strategy; and
  • Provided advice on science, technology and innovation as the next steps in adopting an enterprise approach to drive analytics adoption throughout DND and the CAF.

The department continues to collaborate and share its skills across organizations to mature data science tools and software. For example, in FY 2020–21, the department developed a prototype of an automated model for expenditure forecasting to predict Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) enrollments. This type of predictive modeling will improve defence enterprise resource management and can be extended to all CAF Regular Force occupations while being used for strategic reporting.

The Combat in the Virtual and Physical Environment Strategic Focus Area of the Defence Security, Science and Technology Program is continuing to invest in technology to improve Defensive Cyber Operations in the medium term. Initial scoping work is under way, in partnership with the Communication Security Establishment, for potential defence security, science and technology activities that enable DND-specific active cyber operations. The Combat in the Virtual and Physical Environment Strategic Focus Area has also conducted scoping work to detail challenges and prioritize investments in cyber intelligence and warning.

The Canadian Special Operations Forces Command’s Innovation Program, PROMETHEUS, focused on:

  • Foresight/Horizon Scanning: Insight gained to avoid strategic surprise and to focus more efficiently on force development. DND and the CAF partnered with the Creative Destruction Lab and collaborated with IDEaS and Innovation Solutions Canada to identify and adopt technologies to enable capability;
  • Small Scale Directed Research: Cutting-edge ideation, research, experimentation, and prototyping through small-scale projects seeking solutions for real-time problems. DND and the CAF conducted academic engagement through Senior Clinic Projects and student employment (Virtual Force) in technical skills such as coding and programming; and
  • Enabling Innovation Forward: Continuous outreach and engagement in innovation ecosystems. Partnered with Invest Ottawa, Venturelab and Canada Superclusters, DND and the CAF participated in Hack the North, Canada’s largest hackathon.

To engage the industry and academia in developing solutions that close or mitigate capability gaps affecting the CAF, specifically North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) operations, a series of three virtual NORAD webinars were conducted in FY 2020–21.

Results achieved

Departmental results Performance indicators Target Date to achieve target 2018–19 Actual results 2019–20 Actual results 2020–21 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 At least 90% 31 March 2021 30% 30% 46.09%Note *
% 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 At least 20% 31 March 2022 Results not available New indicator as of 2018–19 5.5% 77.8%Note **

Budgetary financial resources (dollars)

2020–21 Main Estimates 2020–21 Planned spending 2020–21 Total authorities available for use 2020–21 Actual spending (authorities used) 2020–21 Difference (Actual spending minus Planned spending)
840,491,721 845,220,905 881,591,666 836,173,606 (9,047,299)

Human resources (full-time equivalents)

2020–21 Planned full-time equivalents 2020–21 Actual full-time equivalents 2020–21 Difference (Actual full-time equivalents minus Planned full-time equivalents)
2,223 1,883 (340)

Financial, human resources and performance information for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces’ Program Inventory is available in the GC InfoBaseEndnote 136.

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