Speaking notes for The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence for an address at a CANSEC 2017, Ottawa, Ontario, May 31, 2017

Speech

Ladies and gentlemen,

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces,

Distinguished guests, good morning.

Let me begin by expressing my condolences to the families and victims of recent attacks in Egypt and Manchester. These tragic events have once again reminded us that we are in complex, unpredictable and challenging times. Modern militaries need to be flexible, agile and quick to respond in this global security environment.

Militaries fight terrorism, protect civilians, contend with natural disasters and work to secure a more peaceful world.

We need a military with the best technology and tools. The innovation on display at this event is remarkable. So too is your commitment to give our women and men in uniform every technological advantage on and off the battlefield.

I will soon announce how we can work more closely together towards that commitment, to the benefit of all Canadians. On June 7, I will unveil Canada’s new defence policy. It will make clear how the government will invest in the future of our military… how we will overcome the challenges we face today, and address them into the future.

These challenges are all too familiar to most of you. Many of you were there when I spoke of these challenges at the CDA Institute earlier this month. There, you heard me say that:

Successive governments have not invested adequately and predictably in a number of critical areas. As a consequence, the Canadian Armed Forces are managing several capability gaps. Fighter jets and surface combatants are the best known examples, but they are far from being the only ones.

Underinvestment has left us in a hole. I say this not to lay blame, but to be clear about where we are starting, and take ownership of this challenge. Our government will address this problem.

As we do, we will ensure that you, as industry, know where we are going and how you can prepare.

We will institute predictable, consistent funding so that you can plan your own strategic investments. We will enhance government transparency and accountability so Canadians can understand how our policies and programs are working.

And we will pursue collaboration with industry and academia, because we know that we cannot tackle these challenges in isolation. There is a substantial role here for industry to play in ensuring the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces are properly equipped. We need to work together, as a nation, if we are to address the threats we face. 

The Defence Policy will be our collective roadmap for the next 20 years. It was informed by the most open and extensive consultation process National Defence has ever undertaken — including an industry roundtable that many of you participated in. The policy will contain numerous initiatives that will set the course of our military for a generation.

Innovation will be one of the principle objectives of our new policy.

Taking a lesson from the high tech sector, we will implement dedicated — and funded — programming to drive innovations among small and medium enterprises, which are crucial generators of innovation.

Our work will be aligned with the government’s broader innovation agenda and will integrate its core principles into our programming. The initiative will be a catalyst of Canadian research and development.

It will connect defence and security needs with innovation in academia and the private sector.

It will bring together some of Canada’s brightest innovators and industry and business leaders, and foster communities of collaboration. 

And it will stimulate creativity, and leverage the diverse talent in this room, and the talents of your colleagues across the country.

More specifically, we will establish world-class research clusters comprised of academics, industry leaders, government scientists and other partners. We will bring people together uniquely qualified to accelerate innovation, grow businesses and expand markets.

Working together, these innovators will conduct cutting-edge research and development in areas such as alternative fuels, surveillance tools, remotely piloted systems and solutions to counter improvised explosive devices.

These are areas that promise to revolutionize military tactics within a generation.

The program will support innovation for the Canadian Armed Forces from ideas to trials, and it will enable National Defence to commit early to promising new ideas.

But ultimately, our research and development must focus on our people.

Among our chief priorities will be research and development focused on treatments for mental health and operational stress injuries… anything that will strengthen our personnel and help them heal.

The best ideas may come from you. We will enable you to present your most creative solutions to our defence and security challenges. We will introduce competitions that allow National Defence to commit early to promising new ideas. And we will work closely with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to grow our defence industry, support entrepreneurship, and take advantage of the exceptional talent here in this room.

The many benefits of this approach to our Forces are obvious. Our soldiers will gain access to state-of-the-art solutions and benefit from technologies that stand above those of our adversaries.

But what does all this mean to you? It means we will collaborate with you to the fullest extent possible. It means we will help companies field-test products with the Canadian Armed Forces to ensure that the new capabilities they develop meet the needs of our military. It means we will give businesses the experience and exposure they can use to pursue opportunities in global markets.

We recognize that a productive relationship between industry and government is critical. There is so much we must accomplish in the years ahead, and so much opportunity for us to benefit our soldiers, sailors and aviators by working together.

That is why our government is disappointed in the action of one of our leading industry partners. We strongly disagree with the decision of the United States Commerce Department to initiate a trade remedy case in response to Boeing’s petition against Bombardier.

As my colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has indicated, Canada is reviewing our procurement involving that firm. As you all know, one of those is the exploration of an interim fleet of fighter jets.

I would like to take this opportunity to put that in proper context.

We have a capability gap with respect to the number of mission-ready fighter jets. There is an insufficient number of jets to meet our NORAD and NATO obligations simultaneously. The Royal Canadian Air Force has been doing a good job risk-managing that gap for a number of years.

Our government has decided that risk-managing our obligations is not good enough. We intend to meet them. We acknowledge that it will take some time to get there.

When we announced last November our intention to explore procurement of an interim fleet while we proceed with the competition to replace the full fleet, we made it clear the interim fleet was one of three significant measures to address the capability gap in the coming years.

We are also ramping up recruiting and training significantly to fill the personnel gap, and further investing in extending the legacy F-18 fleet.

The interim fleet procurement requires a trusted industry partner. For decades, Boeing has been an outstanding partner with the Canadian Armed Forces, the government of Canada and in communities across the country. I expect that to be the case in the decades to come.

However, our government is of the view that their action against Bombardier is unfounded. It is not the behaviour we expect of a trusted partner, and we call on Boeing to withdraw it.

At the same time, we call on all of our industry partners to speak with one voice about the interconnectedness of the defence-industry supply chains in Canada and the United States. We need your help making the clear case for ensuring goods continue to flow freely between our two countries. We need your voices to articulate the consequences should our borders be closed. The government will continue to deliver this same message.

The Defence Policy will further clarify our expectations, formalize our acquisition intentions, and better meet your needs as we meet ours. I look forward to sharing Canada’s new Defence Policy with you on June 7, and I look forward to working with you closely in the weeks and months that follow.

Thank you.

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