III. Delivering on this Vision: Strengthening the Foundations

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Military personnel marching.

Canada is committed to building a stronger Canadian Armed Forces, equipped to deliver increased security for Canadians. Our investments will enable the military to adapt in a sustainable, responsible manner, guided by our evolving national security needs in a more dangerous world.

The initiatives laid out in this defence policy can only succeed if the institutional building blocks of our military's operational effectiveness are sound. Strengthening these building blocks is the necessary first steps towards our vision.

Strengthening our Foundations

The Canadian Armed Forces' ability to conduct operations depends on a strong institution that can procure equipment with agility, manage personnel using modern, digital systems, and recruit and retain talented people from across Canada.

Generating and deploying military capabilities requires people, equipment, training sustainment and infrastructure. We have made steady progress in these areas through critical investments under Strong, Secure, Engaged but more work is needed to address longstanding shortfalls, especially as Canada faces increased global demands. In the years since the release of the 2017 defence policy, the pandemic, a higher tempo of operations, inflation, supply chain pressures and revelations of misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces have exacerbated these pressures.

We will place particular focus on addressing recruitment, retention and personnel management, as well as quality of life for military members, including health and family supports such as childcare and housing. We will also address other foundational requirements—maintenance and repair of equipment and infrastructure, ammunition, digitalization and internal services. Lastly, the Department of National Defence will focus on improving our ability to deliver, with more people to plan, procure and manage capabilities, reform our defence procurement system, and fix outdated processes and systems that are analog, cumbersome and inflexible.

The goal is to have the foundations in place to ensure that our military can continue to grow, establish new capabilities to meet new threats, and deploy ready, resilient and relevant forces to meet today's and future challenges.

Supporting our People

A Pilot from HMCS Ottawa’s Helicopter Air Detachment stands on the flight deck of the ship during a Remembrance Day ceremony in the Sea of Japan during Annual Exercise (AnnualEx) on 11 November 2023.

Every day, Canadian Armed Forces members don the uniform and stand ready to protect and defend the people and the values of Canada. Their bravery and sacrifice allow millions of people, at home and abroad, to live in peace and security. That's why our people remain at the core of everything the Canadian Armed Forces does.

Culture Change

Our first priority must be our people and their well-being. We will be relentless in our ongoing commitment to address all forms of misconduct and unprofessional behaviour in our organization.

To build a more inclusive and supportive force, Defence is pursuing legislative changes to the National Defence Act, and implementing 206 external recommendations received from four external reports:

With our goals clearly in view, we will build on our positive momentum. In the past two years, Defence has published a new Canadian Armed Forces ethos, Trusted to Serve, which sets out modern principles, values and standards for the conduct of all members, and has introduced character-based leadership assessment in the selection of General Officers and Flag Officers. Defence has also established a Declaration of Victims' Rights and a Victims' Liaison Officer program to help victims navigate the military justice system, and is taking a trauma-informed approach to workplace reintegration for respondents, setting up an expanded Restorative Services program, and improving the quality and delivery of training and education at all levels.

Defence has also delivered new programs and new tools, such as the Defence Team Positive Space Program and the anti-racism toolkit. We have expanded the existing Sexual Misconduct Support and Resource Centre to enable it to support Cadets and Junior Canadian Rangers aged 16 and older as well as their families.

This work is complemented by the introduction of Bill C-66, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and other Acts, which will lay the foundation for an improved military culture by modernizing the military justice system, improving support to victims and, among other things, providing exclusive jurisdiction to civilian authorities to both investigate and prosecute Criminal Code sexual offences committed in Canada.

We have appointed an External Monitor to help sustain this momentum by assessing and publicly reporting on our progress on the Independent External Comprehensive Review.


A career with the Canadian Armed Forces is a source of unique pride and confidence among those who have the privilege to serve. Defence will seek to inspire a wider audience of prospective members to consider the opportunity of a life in service to Canada.

The current gap between the Canadian Armed Forces' actual force size and our authorized force size is unsustainable and needs to be filled rapidly. Going forward, we will change our approach to recruitment by taking new and innovative measures on an urgent basis to fill this gap.

The Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year (ALOY) program Officer and Naval Cadets complete their year and receive their Completion Certificates. Parade Square, RMC, Kingston, ON on June 10, 2022.

Defence will modernize its recruitment processes to rebuild the military by 2032. Current efforts are focused on using digital technology to improve the applicant experience, speeding up required screenings, and connecting with new pools of applicants. The Canadian Armed Forces is also modernizing training by optimizing new members' transition into service, streamlining training activities, and providing new recruits with meaningful work more quickly and effectively.

We are taking new, fresh approaches to recruit and retain more military members. We are evolving dress requirements to foster greater inclusiveness. The Royal Canadian Navy has launched innovative one-year trial programs to attract recruits without requiring a long-term commitment and streamline the intake period for a prospective sailor from months to weeks. We are exploring ways to recruit experienced candidates in high-demand technical professions at a level that reflects their work experience and skills. Recruiting centres and training schools are being staffed on a priority basis to increase the military's capacity to connect directly with prospective members and new recruits.

The Canadian Armed Forces will create a probationary period to enable the faster enrolment of applicants. We will streamline the security clearance process to reduce the time it takes for new recruits to move into their positions. In addition, we will take new steps to re-evaluate medical requirements, and abolish outdated processes and criteria wherever possible to support efforts to urgently fill our personnel gap while also diversifying our forces. We also recognize the need to meet more Canadians in large population centres, and that we cannot rely on recruitment exclusively from rural areas, which are historically well-represented. The Canadian Armed Forces will ensure that our recruitment efforts are tailored towards recruiting talented people from all parts of our society. In this, we will also remove barriers to the recruitment of diverse Canadians.


Shortfalls in recruitment reinforce the need to retain current military members. Despite important improvements, the underlying personnel system still requires structural reforms to reflect today's realities, including changes to military personnel policy, human resources renewal, and identifying new approaches to position the military as an employer of choice.

Captain Han shows medical equipment to members of the public during Operation NANOOK-NUNAKPUT in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut on 23 August 2022.

To retain existing members and attract new ones, Defence will reform how we manage military personnel, granting members increased career control and flexibility while enhancing performance management and succession planning. As we continue to remove barriers to deployment, retention, and career progression for diverse women in the military, we will also explore ways to improve career support for military members through upgraded administrative processes and improved service delivery that is enabled by digital tools. We will provide them with the modern equipment, training and infrastructure required to succeed in their missions.

The Department will also examine adjustments to personnel policies related to compensation and benefits, human resources policies, leave, and other supports for work-life balance for those in uniform. Our current framework was put in place decades ago and does not address the expectations and realities of today's members.

We will establish a Canadian Armed Forces Housing Strategy, rehabilitate existing housing and build new housing so that our military members can afford to live where they and their families are posted. We have already taken bold action to improve access to housing for all Canadians, and will do the same for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families.

We will accelerate the development of an electronic health record platform that improves the continuity of care in mental and physical health services for the diverse needs of members as they move between provinces and territories.

Finally, we will invest in additional supports for military families, including by investing in affordable childcare. Military service often demands frequent moves and deployments, making quality childcare more than just a convenience. To support our military families, Canada will provide our members with access to childcare at Canadian Armed Forces bases across the country. This is an essential support to members' ability to serve and the well-being of their families.

These investments will ensure the Canadian Armed Forces recognizes and rewards military members and their families for the sacrifices that they make in the service of Canadians, which will in turn lead to a more diverse, efficient and operationally effective military.

Strengthening the Canadian Armed Forces …

Canada needs a modern military to employ the capabilities required to take on new threats and deliver on the military's core roles. Through 2032, the Canadian Armed Forces will focus on building back to its authorized force size of 71,500 Regular Force and 30,000 Primary Reserve Force members, and lay the foundations for future growth. This effort will enable the military to manage modern capabilities at the speed and scale that is required.

A stronger military will be able to deploy in greater numbers for sustained periods to meet the growing demands for military support in Canada and around the world. For every member deployed on an operation in Canada or abroad, another member is on high-readiness training preparing to relieve a colleague, and another member is returning from operations, adjusting to the transition and preparing to support others. This three-to-one deployment rotation is, in turn, supported by a robust structure of civilian and military specialists that enable every operation, such as logistics officers, intelligence and IT specialists, military police, legal advisors, trainers, health services, HR, finance, and other forms of administrative support. Canada will provide its military with the right people, in the right numbers, to enable our members to succeed in the missions that Canada asks of them.

… and Civilian Capacity

Defence will increase the number of civilian specialists employed in priority areas that are essential to the future growth and development of the Canadian Armed Forces. A larger civilian workforce will increase our capacity to recruit and train new soldiers, service our capabilities, purchase new equipment, increase our stocks of ammunition, accelerate digital transformation and upgrade infrastructure. They will also fill critical gaps in functions that are essential to carrying out our operations today and into the future, such as staffing, security screening, and information technology.

Speeding Acquisition and Advancing Defence Procurement Reform

Defence procurement takes too long in Canada and needs to be faster and more effective. We will think differently about how we procure equipment, how to better maintain and upgrade it over time, and how to ensure it is optimized to meet the diverse needs of our members. We will also compress the timeline of major acquisitions, to reduce the operational and financial risks of delays and gaps between capabilities being retired and new ones being added.

Public Services and Procurement Canada, National Defence, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, and the Treasury Board Secretariat have launched a review of our defence procurement system. This includes examining internal processes used by Defence to define requirements and approve projects, and looking at the broader set of rules, regulations and policies that govern military procurement. This effort will clarify mechanisms to facilitate the timely delivery of military equipment, enable increased use of government-to-government arrangements where it makes sense to develop strategic partnerships, and look at how best to leverage existing programs to strategically invest in the domestic capacity needed by the military.

We will think differently about how we procure with our allies. Like Canada, they are rethinking how to speed up the acquisition of capabilities to meet quickly evolving threats. They are also supporting defence industrial initiatives and strategies to build resilient supply chains, incentivize private industry to scale up or open new production lines, secure sources of supply, and roll out domestic workforce and acquisition strategies that invigorate their economies.

Canada will pursue increased economic opportunities as part of newly forming defence trade arrangements among trusted partners. Our privileged access to allied defence, research and innovation sectors supports good jobs and economic growth for Canadians. For example, thanks to our trusted status, every one of the more than 3000 F-35 fighter jets sold by the United States to its partners around the world will contain parts made in Canada by Canadian workers. By leveraging our world-leading capacity for invention and innovation, Canada will pursue collaborative development of new weapons and systems that will support interoperability, and ultimately strengthen our collective defence.

We have a global reputation as a hub for innovative research and the development of cutting-edge capabilities vital to the future of military operations. This will be boosted with NATO's Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic, which is establishing a North American Regional Office in Halifax. We will capitalize on our strengths and develop new ones, including in areas such as avionics, satellite technologies, sensors, computing, command and control, secure communications, and munitions. The integration of emerging technologies, including AI, will be informed by GBA Plus considerations. Government investment in these areas will help keep our technology at the leading edge and position our industry as a strategic resource to our international partners.

Building an Innovative and Effective Defence Industrial Base

The majority of defence investments are spent right here at home—on thousands of jobs and in hundreds of communities from coast to coast to coast. In addition to the 130,000 Canadians employed by Defence, the Canadian defence industry contributed close to $12.6 billion in GDP and 78,000 jobs across Canada's economy in 2023. Investments in defence are investments in Canada's national strength and in advanced technology.

We will change our approach to working with industry, innovators, and researchers—moving away from transactional approaches for acquiring capabilities to sustained strategic partnerships founded on transparency and trust. This means more regular engagement and, through regular four-year reviews, greater transparency and certainty about our plans for future investments. Through long-term partnerships, Defence can pursue an expanded set of goals in defence procurement, including the rapid onboarding of new technologies, and deeper integration with allied supply chains and innovation networks, securing a reliable supply from Canadian industry.

Building up Canada's defence capabilities must also include building up our defence industrial base. Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have demonstrated the importance of reliable defence supply chains. When we need ammunition or equipment, we need it urgently, and we cannot count on private capital to deliver the surge capacity that is required. Limited government support can bridge the gap to ensure that domestic capacity is available when we need it most.

Members of the 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (1 RCHA) hold a M777 Howitzer shooting range practice during a trial for Canadian Army Trial and Evaluation Unit, Gagetown (CATEU) at Canadian Forces Base Shilo, Manitoba on February 8, 2022.

To support Canadian industry to meet the ammunition demands of Canada and our closest allies, Canada will seek to accelerate the establishment of new artillery ammunition production capacity in Canada, creating skilled jobs for Canadian workers for the long term and generating economic benefits for Canadian communities. It will increase the Canadian Armed Forces' resilience by establishing a reliable Canadian supply of NATO-standard ammunition at a time of unprecedented need and limited global production capacity.

To capitalize on our industrial investments, the Canadian Armed Forces will establish a greater strategic reserve of battle-decisive munitions. Canada needs adequate stockpiles of munitions to meet its defence and security commitments during a crisis or conflict, and industry needs clarity from government about future acquisitions to set up production lines. Our North, Strong and Free will provide both. At a time when these munitions are becoming more difficult to procure abroad, a strategic reserve will ensure our military can sustain itself in longer, more dangerous operations, and enable sufficient ongoing training. As part of this effort, Defence will work with Canadian suppliers and allies to strengthen Canada's ability to ensure that appropriate stocks are available to sustain Canada's commitments to NORAD and NATO regardless of global capacity constraints.

To accelerate the integration of new technologies into our vehicles, vessels, aircraft and other equipment, Defence will pilot a Continuous Capability Sustainment approach to upgrading equipment. While the traditional approach is to wait years to do minor upgrades to major equipment to align them with major mid-life overhauls, a continuous approach will give Defence the flexibility to rapidly integrate the latest technology and innovations in more regular, incremental maintenance cycles.

We will ensure a reliable supply of defence materiel, free from disruption or interference through a Defence Supply Chain Resilience Strategy. Defence will work with federal partners to develop solutions to mitigate risks throughout the supply chain, from critical commodities and intellectual property to manufacturing and delivery.

Canada will participate in the newly established NATO Innovation Fund, which will offer additional funding streams for innovative Canadian entrepreneurs. The Fund is the world's first defence-focused multi-sovereign venture capital fund, providing investment in start-up firms developing dual-use, emerging and disruptive technologies critical to our defence. These include artificial intelligence, big-data processing, quantum-enabled technologies, autonomy, biotechnology and human enhancement, novel materials, energy, propulsion, and space capability.

Canada actively collaborates with the Five Eyes partners—Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States—on undersea, advanced cyber, quantum, artificial intelligence, hypersonic, and electronic warfare capabilities, and we are seeking to further this collaboration. These partners will continue to be among the most vital to Canada and its national security going forward. Through NORAD modernization and the investments laid out in this defence policy, Canada will continue to collaborate with these countries in the rapid development of these military capabilities.

Moreover, Canada's research and development investments under our NORAD modernization plan correspond directly to the advanced capabilities sought by our allies. These initiatives, supported by defence procurement and industry partnership transformations, will ensure a defence innovation pipeline that is rapid and essential, and makes valuable contributions to the Five Eyes defence partnership.

Digital Transformation

The speed of technological change requires a shift in organizational mindset—a willingness to embrace innovation and experimentation, and to continuously adopt emerging technologies.

The digitalization of defence is central to this objective. The Canadian Armed Forces is updating its tools and processes to better suit them to the modern world. We will make full use of our digital technologies by overhauling outdated and analog processes to improve our ability to hire people, conduct security screening, and share information in a timely way. This includes expanding the use of artificial intelligence-driven data management tools, as well as initiatives to advance big data management, acquire analytical tools, and expand cloud-based computing on open and secure networks.

These digital initiatives will build a data-driven organization capable of transforming data into actionable information that will allow for rapid decision-making and near real-time responses. It will also ensure the Canadian Armed Forces can remain interoperable with our most important allies and partners well into the future.

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