Defence Policy – Strong, Secure, Engaged

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Summary

  • Canada’s defence policy − Strong, Secure, Engaged – was released in 2017 to maintain the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) as an agile, multi-purpose, combat-ready force that contributes to ensuring Canada is strong domestically, an active partner within North America, and engaged internationally.
  • Strong, Secure, Engaged(SSE) was focused on making significant investments to ensure that Canada’s defence challenges were met, and on meeting the needs of military members and their families.
  • Ongoing and future defence investments will help Canada’s economic recovery post pandemic and better meet evolving threats to Canada and Canadian interests, including through leveraging the expertise, partnerships, and capabilities that have been achieved to date through SSE.

Context

  • Canada’s defence policy − Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE) – was released in 2017 and outlined Canadian defence priorities over a twenty-year horizon, including increasing the size of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), affirming Canada’s commitment to its alliances and partnerships, and investing to ensure CAF members have the tools they need to succeed in – and return home safely from – operations.
  • The roles and missions for the military, as well as the corresponding levels of funding and resources, were founded in the defence policy’s review of the global security environment. This review confirmed three trends:
    • The evolving balance of power is characterized by a return to major power rivalry in the international scene and challenges to the rules-based international order;
    • The nature of conflict and its drivers are becoming increasingly complex. For example, the increasing use of hybrid tactics (e.g., the coordinated use of diplomatic, cyber, military and economic tools to achieve strategic goals) by state and non-state actors alike, such as terrorist organizations, is blurring the lines between conflict and peace; and
    • Technology continues to evolve rapidly, requiring Canada to keep pace to continue to cooperate seamlessly with allies and maintain an edge over adversaries.

Considerations

  • SSE provided new policy direction across the defence portfolio and concentrated on addressing the highest risk capability gaps and most pressing investment priorities identified at the time. Ongoing areas of policy implementation include:
    • Reinvesting in people and their families: The CAF will increase its personnel by 3,500 Regular Force (to 71,500 total) and 1,500 Reserve Force members (to a total of 30,000) as well as 1,150 defence civilians. Key personnel initiatives include new funding to enhance support for military families and a focus on increasing diversity and gender balance.
    • Rebuilding core military capability: The policy commits to maintaining a full spectrum, combat ready force, which includes the recapitalization of the core fleets of the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Air Force.
    • Investing in new capabilities: SSE invests in a number of new capability areas, including space, cyber, and Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems to ensure the CAF is able to succeed in the future security environment.
    • Focusing on transparency: The ongoing need for transparency was at the core of the defence policy development process and remains a critical aspect of how the department showcases its implementation efforts. Public documents, such as the Investment Plan, provide insight into spending priorities so that the public better understands how DND uses public funds and industry can position itself to better support requirements.
    • Advancing innovation: SSE invests in the development of innovative technology and knowledge, in order to enhance Canada’s ability to mitigate new threats, stay ahead of potential adversaries, and meet evolving defence and security needs.
  • Next steps: SSE was released at a time when the trends of the current security environment discussed above were just beginning to take shape. A significant acceleration of those trends in the period since SSE was published underscores the need to continue to invest in Defence as a matter of national security and economic vitality.
  • With a presence in hundreds of communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast, investments in Defence have a nationwide economic impact, advance core Government priorities, and can help ensure that Canada remains prosperous and secure as it transitions from its COVID-19 emergency response to its recovery effort. Building off the implementation of SSE to date, key program areas can include delivering on continental defence, building national resilience, cultivating innovation, partnering with industry, and acquiring enabling capabilities – all while investing in Canadian industry, jobs, and communities.
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