Joint Operations Symposium 2020

March 11, 2020 - Defence Stories
By Major (Retired) James Simiana

“Exploring new ideas and approaches on addressing persistent and complex global threats to national security.” That succinct but sweeping ambition recently brought together Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and National Defence leadership – along with senior Allied military representatives and key federal government partners – to the Joint Operations Symposium 2020 (JOS 2020).

This meeting of minds, conducted February 25-26 at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, saw participants share ideas on pressing security issues and how to best conduct military operations in today’s ever-evolving global security environment. Beyond attempting to deepen shared understandings about current threats to the international rules-based order, JOS 2020 also launched the first phase in the latest iteration of the CAF’s enduring JOINTEX series.


Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance addresses the Joint Operations Symposium at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario on February 25, 2020.

Image by MCpl Stuart MacNeil, OPTIC

Initiated in 2012, JOINTEX – a continuous three-year cycle of military education, joint capability development, and training activities whose focus spans national to continental to global perspectives – was distilled down by Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) General Jonathan Vance as “a forcing function to make us better.” Linked to Canada’s Strong, Secure, Engaged, defence policy, JOINTEX is meant to enable the CAF to keep pace with, and successfully adapt to, the modern reality of military operations.

The world the CAF operates in today is not only dynamic but also multi-facetted. It changes constantly and is pan-domain in character, extending beyond traditional warfare into such new realms as space, cyber and information. This reality has made planning operations to respond to current and emerging security threats even more complicated. JOS 2020, as part of JOINTEX, supports the creation of a more agile, interoperable and relevant national defence and security enterprise equipped to prevent, deter, counter, defeat and mitigate actions by global adversaries.

For the Commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC), Lieutenant-General Mike Rouleau, JOS 2020 represented an opportunity for Canada and its like-minded national and international Allies and partners to determine how to be more relevant and effective operating within a persistent pan-domain threat environment. JOS 2020 featured panel discussions that touched on: understanding Allied employment and future force concepts; current operations related to pan-domain challenges; how to best compete, contest, confront, and when necessary, combat our nations’ adversaries; and how a Whole-of-Government or Whole-of-Nation approach will enable the National security team to effectively address current and emerging security threats.

As an illustration that today’s pan-domain challenges involve more than military power alone, Brigadier Charlie Collins of the United Kingdom’s Permanent Joint Headquarters observed that our current era has seen the politicization of warfare, one in which all domains are at play and, requiring a comprehensive and operationalized approach to security in each partner nation.


Keynote speaker and author Sean McFate addresses the Joint Operations Symposium at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario on February 25, 2020.

Image by MCpl Stuart MacNeil, OPTIC

In keeping with the theme that Western militaries need to make significant changes to how they conduct operations, JOS 2020 featured a pointed and intriguing presentation by keynote speaker Dr. Sean McFate, a retired American soldier, Georgetown University professor of strategy, and author of The New Rules of War; Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder.

While the role of militaries within the pan-domain global environment is becoming more challenging, CDS General Vance noted that, although offensive power remains key to deter and make prohibitively costly any adversarial actions, another reality today is that, “The narrative wins, no matter how militarily effective we are. We have to ensure that narrative prevails in the pan-domain environment.”

National Defence Deputy Minister Ms. Jody Thomas, the CDS’ “fire team partner”, echoed the point that “national defence (on its own) doesn’t equate to national security” and that other options exist to respond to today’s threats and challenges. This point was reinforced by the presence of Mr. Ian Shugart, Clerk of the Privy Council, who wrapped up day one by sharing his thoughts on military and national security issues.

JOS 2020 generated considerable discussion on national instruments of power and the need for cooperation as we seek solutions to these complex security issues. This discussion is sure to continue and deepen as the latest JOINTEX cycle moves forward.

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