MINDS Policy Challenges 2020-2021
MINDS Policy Challenges for the 2020-2021 fiscal year follow below. They reflect policy challenges for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) and are the result of consultations with senior leadership across the Defence Team. These challenges represent key issues areas where DND/CAF could benefit from external expertise to challenge or complement their thinking.
When applying to the program, whether through Targeted Engagement Grants, Collaborative Networks, or Scholarships, applicants are asked to align their work with these priorities, focusing on the key questions. Additional questions have been added for applicant consideration. It is also recommended that applicants consider the future evolution of the issue area (i.e. forecasting), implications for DND/CAF, and Government of Canada (GoC) priorities, including Indigenous peoples, innovation, environment and climate change, diversity and inclusion, etc. For more information on GoC priorities, please visit
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Please note that the MINDS program is focused on policy thinking and the generation of knowledge related to challenges in the public policy sphere. Applicants interested in advancing critical solutions to defence and security challenges relating to applied capabilities and technology should consider applying to the Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program. Please visit the IDEaS page for more information.
MINDS COVID-19 Challenge
Policy Challenge: Defence Role in Global Health and Pandemic Preparedness
As the world responds to the most severe global health crisis in a generation, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) are focused on identifying and understanding the geopolitical consequences, lessons to be learned, and implications for the Defence Team, its people and capabilities. First, understanding the pandemic’s impact on great power competition, economic prosperity, and political stability are a top priority, particularly as governments consider re-opening their societies and economies. Second, at home and abroad there are hard lessons to be learned about anticipating, responding to, and managing public health crises, and questions about the appropriate role for military capabilities in civilian-led response efforts. Lastly, the pandemic’s disruption presents challenges and opportunities across the defence and government portfolios, particularly in the areas of personnel, logistics and procurement, information management and technology (IM/IT), governance, planning, and operations.
Proposals should examine the pandemic’s geopolitical and economic impacts, the lessons to be learned from response efforts at home and abroad, or its implications for DND/CAF’s people, capabilities, roles, and relationships. As these issues are complex and multidimensional, expertise from a wide range of disciplines is welcome (e.g. from security and defence perspectives to experts in public health, law or sociology). Proposals may situate or problematize DND/CAF’s mandate and role as a ‘force of last resort’, considering its unique contributions and capabilities within broader whole-of-nation efforts to anticipate, prevent, and manage health crises. Proposals could also give thought to the complex nature of the problem and its disparate impacts on urban, rural, remote, and vulnerable communities, both at home and abroad. Proposals may also consider how DND/CAF can maintain readiness and appropriate force protection, while conducting concurrent operations both at home and abroad.
The goals of this challenge are threefold. First, to generate ideas on how COVID-19 is changing the global security environment and will intersect with emerging trends and technologies. Second, to identify lessons and best practices from COVID-19 responses in Canada and elsewhere, particularly as they relate to ‘flattening the curve’ of transmission, maintaining force readiness, and integrating military capabilities within federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal efforts. Lastly, to identify the short- and long-term implications for the people, capabilities, processes, roles, and relationships of DND/CAF.
- How has COVID-19 changed the geopolitical landscape? What are the likely short- and long-term impacts of the pandemic on international relations, defence and security issues, political economy and society?
- How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the nature of strategic competition between great powers, most notably between the US (and the West) and Russia/China?
- What, if any, are the potential impacts of aggressive disinformation operations targeting Western governments, including militaries, on future operations?
- What lessons can DND/CAF learn from Canada and other countries’ response to COVID-19?
- What’s the appropriate role for DND/CAF in managing and responding to requests for assistance?
- How can DND/CAF work more closely with other government departments and agencies, civil society organizations, and the communities in which they serve to prepare for and prevent the spread of infectious disease? Who are the key stakeholders with whom they should partner?
- How can DND/CAF contribute to Canada’s global health engagement, in anticipation of health security becoming a larger problem in the future?
- Should there be a restructuring or re-prioritization of the collection and presentation of medical intelligence to DND/CAF leadership and other government departments?
- What vulnerabilities or dependencies revealed by COVID-19 require urgent action (supply chains, reliance on civilian health care, etc.)?
The Defence Team: People, Capabilities, Roles, and Relationships
- How can DND/CAF adapt its support and service delivery to DND/CAF members and their families following COVID-19? What unique barriers or challenges did CAF members and their families encounter in managing the crisis?
- How can DND/CAF help to grow the economy following COVID-19? How can the CAF assist the recovery of Canada’s defence and dual-use sectors which are essential to meeting capability needs or maintaining readiness/posture?
- How can the Primary Reserve and Ranger forces be used during public health crises?
- What are the impacts to how the CAF operate during a global health pandemic? What equipment, training, doctrine, capabilities, etc. would better prepare DND/CAF for future public health crises?
- What are the gendered and diversity implications of the Covid-19 pandemic on CAF members, both at home and in their work?
- What are the implications of COVID-19 for DND/CAF’s capacity building efforts abroad? How should DND/CAF engage with partner forces to enable partner nation rebalancing post-COVID-19?
- What opportunities for innovation and efficiency have arisen from the COVID-19 crisis and what can DND/CAF learn from adaptations elsewhere in the public and private sectors?
Theme One: Well-Supported, Diverse, Resilient People and Families
Challenge 1: Creative recruitment and retention models
The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) require an agile and responsible approach to recruitment and retention that capitalizes on the unique skill-set of Canada’s diverse population. Canada’s diverse and multicultural population is one of its greatest strengths, and the CAF is committed to building a workforce that leverages the diversity of talent in Canadian society.
The operational success of the CAF begins with a robust recruiting system that engages and attracts the best and brightest, communicates the unique opportunities and benefits of military service, efficiently and effectively selects and enrolls new recruits, and incentivizes recent recruits to remain. This includes showcasing the unique career options available to all CAF members, and demonstrating the unparalleled professional and personal development opportunities. However, recruitment is only the first step. In order to retain our recruits, we must ensure a culture of respect and inclusion, and ensure that our military personnel receive competitive benefits and remuneration for their service. Taking concrete steps to attract and retain personnel will better position the CAF to maintain a skilled and cohesive force across a broad range of tasks.
Proposals should take into consideration current challenges to sustaining and growing force size, and achieving diversity and inclusion. Applicants are encouraged to think creatively about recruitment and retention strategies that will reflect and harness the diversity and talent of the Canadian populace. The CAF competes with the private sector for talent, therefore proposals should think about how to leverage the uniqueness of a military career and demonstrate how the military can offer opportunities on par with the standards of industry and private sector to all who serve.
Given that the CAF wants to be representative of Canadian society and an equal opportunity employer of choice, DND/CAF would like to explore strategies to develop a more responsive and inclusive military personnel system that supports both CAF members and their families, to enhance the profile of CAF employment opportunities, and to better reflect the diversity of talent in Canada to achieve and maintain an inclusive military with the aptitudes and skill-sets required to succeed. More broadly, the desired outcome is the development and demonstration of innovative approaches to the recruitment and retention of CAF personnel.
- How can DND/CAF make a military career attractive to all who may be interested in serving? How can the CAF strengthen the appeal of a military career when competing for talent from the private and public sector?
- What are the barriers (systemic barriers, unconscious biases, etc.) to recruiting and retaining a diverse CAF within the existing recruitment and retention models, and how can these be eliminated?
- How can DND/CAF best integrate and manage a more diverse membership, including those with unique (i.e., intersectional) profiles?
- How can DND /CAF improve the retention of its experienced, mid-career members?
Additional Guiding Questions
- How can the CAF best engage, recruit and retain women, members from minority groups and diverse communities, with the objective of building a CAF that is inclusive and reflective of the Canadian population?
- What are the intersecting identity factors that have an impact on the recruitment and retention of a diverse CAF and what creative solutions might be incorporated into existing models to address these?
- How can the CAF best connect with Indigenous communities, sometimes remotely located, and improve Indigenous representation? What actions can the CAF in particular take to address the specific barriers experienced by Indigenous people when it comes to joining and remaining in the CAF?
- How can a military force best communicate with diverse, multi-generational and intersectional populations to effectively publicize the full range of opportunities offered by a military career, in the Regular and Reserve Force?
- How can Reservists’ part-time service be optimized over the span of their career, to provide predictable and operationally relevant capabilities?
- How will current approaches to attraction, recruitment, professional development, career management, and other personnel management processes have to evolve to ensure the needs of a more diverse military community are met?
- How will support to military families have to evolve to ensure the needs of a more diverse military community are met?
Challenge 2: Innovative approaches to force mix and structure
Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE), highlights the commitment to an agile, highly trained, well-equipped, and capable military. To succeed across a broad mission set, DND/CAF must think about the force mix necessary to deliver, ensuring we have the right people across environments and occupations, with the necessary capabilities to be successful in an unpredictable security environment.
Given the uncertainty and complexity of the global security environment, Canada will continue to invest in a multi-purpose, combat-ready force that is able to act decisively and deliver results across the full spectrum of operations. To that end, SSE commits to growing the CAF, investing in emerging domains, and recapitalizing the core capabilities of the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Air Force. There are also considerable investments in our people, with the creation of new occupations to respond to the evolving security environment. These investments will provide flexibility for the CAF to operate across the spectrum of conflict, enable interoperability with Canada’s allies, and maintain an operational advantage over the threats of today and tomorrow.
Proposals should give thought to the types of people, occupations, and capabilities necessary to meet the level of ambition described in SSE. Proposals should also consider Canada’s commitment to grow the Reserve Force, including the appropriate mix of Reserve Force versus Regular Force within the CAF. Consideration should be given to the challenge of maintaining a skilled force that is sufficiently equipped across a broad range of tasks while also meeting requirements in critical occupations facing shortages and the need for non-traditional skills/capabilities.
The goal of this challenge is to generate ideas on the future force mix and structure of the CAF in light of the evolving security environment, as well as the commitments and challenges outlined in SSE. The Defence Team is also interested in receiving innovative ideas about the infrastructure required to support this force.
- What is the appropriate force mix and structure for today and in the future, in light of emerging challenges like climate change?
- How do we maximize the output and impact of the Reserves?
- How can diversity targets support Force Posture and Readiness efforts?
Additional Guiding Questions
- How does the CAF organize and balance itself, with finite resources, to meet the increasingly complex demands resulting from policy and the current multi-domain security environment, which require concurrent and diverse operations across an ever broader spectrum, often in closer coordination with domestic and international partners?
- How can the CAF adapt force generation, including training, to ensure that forces are ready for all types of missions, including those with a non-combat mandate such as capacity-building (e.g. OP UNIFIER, OP IMPACT) and deterrence (e.g. OP REASSURANCE), while preserving the efficiency of, and managing the pressure on, the force generation systems?
- How should the current Reserve model change to meet the expectations for CAF response in the future security environment?
- How can DND/CAF leverage non-traditional skill sets from the private sector (e.g. cyber expertise) to meet the defence mandate in a time of rapid technological change?
Challenge 3: Addressing and Preventing Sexual Misconduct
Sexual misconduct can erode morale and the operational effectiveness of institutions. The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) recognize that it is a serious and persistent problem that threatens personnel and the long-term health of Canada’s military. Addressing it requires a significant and sustained long-term effort, as well as a culture change across the institution. The CAF’s Operation HONOUR and DND’s Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC) are currently leading this challenge.
Ensuring a workplace that is free from harassment and sexual violence is an integral part of the people-centered approach of Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE). Actions have already been undertaken to increase awareness, respond more decisively to incidents and improve support and care for those affected; including through the creation of Operation HONOUR and the SMRC. Important progress has been made, including in the area of policies, programs and services, but it is a complex challenge that will require a significant and sustained effort over many years to ensure DND/CAF fosters a work environment of trust, respect, honour and dignity.
Sexual misconduct is defined by DND/CAF as conduct of a sexual nature that can cause or causes harm to others. It includes:
- Actions or words that devalue a person or group on the basis of sex, sexuality, sexual orientation or gender identity/expression;
- Jokes of a sexual nature, sexual remarks, advances or verbal abuse of a sexual nature in the workplace;
- Harassment of a sexual nature;
- Viewing, accessing, distributing or displaying sexually explicit materials in the workplace; and
- Any criminal code offence of a sexual nature.
Proposals should consider this definition and how to better understand and prevent sexual misconduct, respond to it, and support those affected by it in a military cultural context. Proposals could also give thought to the gender imbalance in terms of reporting sexual misconduct. Data has shown that men in the CAF are affected by sexual misconduct but seek support and report their experiences to authorities (Military Police or the Chain of Command) in lower numbers than women, who report at a low level already. In addition, consideration should be given to GBA+ and the intersections of gender in the military context, including, but not limited to, early training environments and socialization processes, operational contexts, leader influence, and formal and informal power embedded in hierarchy and group structures. Proposals for effective strategies to address the issue are of particular interest.
The goal is to improve the Defence Team’s understanding of how to prevent sexual misconduct and to improve outcomes for those who are directly impacted. The Defence Team is interested in receiving innovative ideas and proposals for building the evidence base for addressing these lines of effort.
- What promising and emerging practices can the CAF support and/or implement to improve outcomes for those affected by sexual misconduct, in all aspects of their experience?
- What further efforts can the CAF take to prevent sexual misconduct?
- What can be done to encourage those affected, including men, to seek assistance when needed and to report their experiences?
- How can the CAF increase its understanding of those individuals who commit sexual misconduct and the situational and individual risk factors which may lead to such incidents?
Additional Guiding Questions
- Several diverse populations in the CAF are disproportionately affected by sexual misconduct, including women and members of the Indigenous and LGBTQ2S+ communities. What more can be done to ensure the needs of these groups are met?
- The CAF as an institution is unique in Canadian society, in that its members often live, work, train, and socialize in the same locations. How can this situation be used to enhance prevention efforts?
- Is there research evidence linking measures of short-term socio-cultural indicators of change, such as self-reports of sexual misconduct, to longer-term socio-cultural change in large institutions? How can this knowledge be applied to culture change strategy in military context?
- What is the relationship between ethical conduct, ethical leadership, and the role of unit/operational level leaders in mitigating sexual misconduct?
- Considering the prevalence of evidence linking gender balance and masculine values, to risk for sexual misconduct, what are the best practices of masculine-dominated para-military and military organizations in mitigating these risk factors?
- What sub-cultural considerations and best practices need to be taken into account when developing and implementing strategies to mitigate sexual misconduct across unique sub-cultural contexts in large organizations?
Challenge 4: Addressing and Preventing Hateful Conduct and Radicalization
Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE), highlights the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF)’s commitment to a respectful workplace, free from harassment and discrimination. However, as an integral part of Canadian society and an employer of more than 120,000 civilians and military members, the DND/CAF is not immune to societal problems. Discrimination persists across Canadian society and around the world, and when pushed to the extreme, can manifest as hateful conduct and radicalization.
In recent years, hateful conduct by DND/CAF members has been a recurring issue in the public environment. Internal investigations and reports have prompted new and refocused efforts to address hateful conduct and potential radicalization within the DND/CAF. Diversity, inclusion, and well-being are positioned in SSE and the CAF Diversity Strategy as sources of strength and flexibility that are vital in making the DND/CAF a modern, forward-looking, and operationally effective organization. However, in the context of growing political polarization, social and economic inequality, and prevalent disinformation via social media, individuals that are vulnerable to isolation, radicalization, and recruitment by violent groups remain a pernicious challenge for the DND/CAF and society writ large.
Proposals should situate or problematize what hateful conduct and/or extremism are, and consider how the DND/CAF can address hateful conduct and potential radicalization at all levels and throughout an individual member’s career, from initial recruitment to employment to release and retirement. Proposals should also give thought to the complex nature of the problem, and how the DND/CAF’s mandate and role as an employer can both enable and limit its ability to address hateful conduct and potential radicalization. Expertise from a multidisciplinary audience is welcome; critical studies, psychology, sociology, religion, law, international relations, and civil society practitioners are all viewed as relevant to these issues.
The goal of this challenge is to generate ideas on how the DND/CAF can better understand the adoption and transmission of hateful attitudes, how to prevent their proliferation, and how to influence and prevent the decision to commit a hateful act. The Defence Team is also interested in the factors that affect an individual’s vulnerability to radicalization toward hateful attitudes and their susceptibility to recruitment by hateful organizations, including but not limited to gender, socioeconomics, relationships, military status (prospective, serving, veteran). A better understanding of how hateful conduct and radicalization are different from, and interrelated to, other forms of inappropriate behaviours and attitudes (e.g., racism, discrimination, harassment, and micro-aggressions) is also desired. Finally, insight on how the chain of command can better track incidents, understand trends, and take appropriate action in a timely manner is desired.
- How can the CAF adapt institutional measures such as personnel generation, including recruitment and training, to ensure that it recruits the right people and continuously promotes a culture free from hateful attitudes and conduct?
- How can the DND/CAF work more closely with other governmental departments, civil society organizations, and the communities in which they serve to disrupt hateful conduct and radicalization? Who are the key stakeholders with whom they should partner?
- What best practices exist to identify individuals who may be susceptible to radicalization or already hold hateful attitudes and how can these methods be applied to prospective, currently-serving, or veteran members?
- Does the CAF’s unique indoctrination (basic training, wearing of uniforms, etc.), traditions, and uniformity play a role in either perpetuating or removing hateful conduct and views? Do these factors differ across the Regular and Reserve Forces?
- Is the DND/CAF’s policy suite sufficiently comprehensive to address hateful conduct and radicalization? What are the other options (culture, training, etc.) by which this form of misconduct could be addressed?
Additional Guiding Questions
- How do hateful attitudes and conduct manifest in the DND/CAF and what impact do they have on operational effectiveness and/or diversity and inclusion in the organization?
- How can DND/CAF ensure that its definition of ‘hateful conduct’ is practically communicable to internal and external audiences?
- How can the DND/CAF identify and provide employer support, positive influence, and rehabilitation programs to address negative actions of those who may accept or are at risk of accepting extremist values?
- What are the key differences between types of radicalized groups (e.g., jihadists vs white supremacists) that must be considered when addressing hateful conduct and radicalization in the DND/CAF?
- How can the CAF best monitor and disrupt the proliferation of hateful and radicalized attitudes through open source and private social media platforms used by current and former CAF members?
- What are the relationships between hateful attitudes and conduct with other forms of misconduct? Can the intersection between these behaviours provide additional insights into addressing inappropriate behaviours in the DND/CAF?
Theme Two: A Changing Security Environment
Challenge 1: The Rise of Grey Zone Conflict: Below Threshold Tactics and Hybrid Warfare
We are seeing a resurgence of strategic competition between states, which is unfolding daily through coordinated hostile activities across all spheres of state power (i.e., diplomatic, economic, information, military) that are deliberately crafted to fall below the traditional threshold of armed conflict. In this environment, there is a broader and “greyer” spectrum of threats with which governments and their military forces must contend, often with significant ambiguity and, policy and legal frameworks that have not kept pace with evolving threats.
State and non-state actors are increasingly pursuing their agendas using below threshold tactics and hybrid warfare in the “grey zone”. These practices often rely on ‘’weaponized’’ information operations to sow confusion and discord in the international community, including creating ambiguity with respect to intent and maintaining deniability for perpetrators. States are able to gain competitive advantage by influencing events in their favour while also causing harm to their adversaries without triggering a meaningful response from the targeted entity, or wider conflict. This presents unique challenges for Canada, particularly in terms of deterrence, detection, attribution and response. Responses must consider proportionality and appropriateness to balance the risk of escalation and the failure to deter future malicious activity.
Below threshold tactics and hybrid warfare challenges our ability to identify, attribute, and categorize adversarial actions, thus making it increasingly difficult to distinguish between actions which, taken collectively undermine our national security and defence interests in a significant manner (including those that give rise to a use of force) and those that do not. The linkages between disparate spheres of activity are also difficult to understand and can mask broader strategic objectives. Below threshold tactics and hybrid warfareFootnote1 also introduce questions regarding the appropriate distribution of responsibilities to respond across government, including DND/CAF’s role when defence equities are threatened through non-military spheres.
Proposals should consider how the use of below threshold tactics or hybrid warfare across all spheres of national power (i.e., diplomatic, economic, information, military) impact the national interest and defence equities. Proposals should also consider how they challenge the understanding and application of NATO’s Article 5 for Canada and its Allies. In addition, proposals should take into consideration how “influence operations” (i.e. misinformation circulated among communities by state and/or non-state actors) can challenge CAF personnel in theatre, and how Canada can be proactive – for example, through deterrence and counter-influence operations – in its response to these operations. Proposals should give thought to how allies, partners and other multilateral institutions are responding to below threshold tactics and hybrid warfare, paying particular attention to deterrence and the role of defence institutions in countering them.
The goal of this challenge is to generate ideas on the implications of below threshold conflict in the context of future policy development, as well as DND/CAF and other government departments’ roles in predicting, preventing, responding and competing with non-conventional tactics. DND/CAF would also be interested in receiving ideas on the acceptable scope of response to below threshold tactics and hybrid warfare, in alignment with Canadian values. In light of the increased use of below threshold tactics and hybrid warfare by state and non-state actors, the Defence Team is interested in the best practices of allies – particularly related to deterrence, ethical, legal and regulatory frameworks, and governance, both within defence institutions and in a broader whole-of-government context.
- What does the rise of grey zone conflict, below threshold tactics, and hybrid warfare mean for policies/capabilities at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels?
- What is the role for DND/CAF and other government departments? Who should have the authorities and what is the governance structure?
- How do allies and adversaries define and approach below threshold tactics and hybrid warfare?
- How are non-state actors and adversaries using non-traditional actors (e.g. gender or minority populations and child soldiers)?
Additional Guiding Questions
- How do nations integrate, achieve coherence, and employ whole-of-government effects, including the full spectrum of national power (i.e., diplomatic, economic, information, military), in below threshold or hybrid conflict? What is the role of a military force?
- How is deterrence best achieved in a below threshold or hybrid warfare scenario without risking undesirable escalation? For example, how can Canadian units such as battle groups as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltics respond to non-kinetic adversarial activities in a way that achieves their deterrence mandate and operational success while avoiding undue escalation?
- Are there any best practices from partners that would be useful in helping the CAF think about new approaches to deterrence or continuous competition in a below threshold or hybrid context?
- How do we prepare military and civilian members to respond to the challenges posed by grey zone conflict? To what extent should the civilian population be engaged and informed, against actors and activities of this nature?
- What is the role / purpose of information warfare branches within other allied/coalition forces (e.g. the United Kingdom and the United States), and should a similar branch exist in the CAF? Is there a NATO model?
Challenge 2: The Evolving Role of Major Powers
Canada has a strong interest in supporting the international system it helped build, including by fostering new partnerships, engaging with emerging powers and promoting peace around the globe. However, there is evidence to suggest the balance-of-power is shifting, and the roles of major powers are evolving as they engage in behaviours that threaten the international order and challenge the rules-based system.
Trends in global economic development are shifting the relative power of states, from the West to the East, and – to a lesser extent – from the North to the South. Great power competition has returned to the international system. China is a rising economic power and Russia has proven its willingness to test the international security environment. We are moving away from a unipolar world to a multipolar world – the impact of which is a challenge to the Western designed security system. This creates more space for state and non-state actors to exercise influence. We are seeing the effects of this power competition in the South China Sea, Crimea, North Korea, and Iran. We are also seeing its effects in the evolving role and presence of major powers on issues related to the Arctic.
In light of the return of major power rivalry, proposals should take into consideration how Canada can develop stronger relationships with current allies and partners, and build new relationships with emerging powers, while contributing to ongoing and future deterrence efforts, as well as continuous competition against potential adversaries. Proposals are also encouraged to consider how the international security environment is being changed by the actions of leading and lesser powers that no longer accept the Western rules-based order. Applicants may further explore the extent of change and its impact on the strategic interests of Canada and its key allies.
The goal of this challenge is to improve the Defence Team’s understanding of the strategic objectives of countries such as Russia and China, and how they might affect Canada. DND/CAF would also like to better understand the responses of allied and partner nations to the challenges posed by the evolving role of major powers.
- What are the strategic objectives of Russia and China? How do they align and diverge?
- How are allies, partners and other actors responding to Russia and China?
- What are the threats to and opportunities for DND/CAF and Canada in a time of great power competition?
- What are the implications of Canada’s democratic system of governance for the country’s ability to respond to threats and opportunities presented by major powers?
Additional Guiding Questions
- The re-emergence of major power competition has reminded Canada and its allies of the importance of deterrence. What do deterrence and other peacetime competition strategies look like in relation to new and evolving powers?
- What does Canada’s position in the international order look like given the “new power” rivalry?
- What are Canada’s objectives relative to other partner nations and allies (e.g. Five Eyes, NATO, US, etc.)? Are the current construct of alliances (e.g. NATO) still relevant?
- How can traditional alliances adapt to great power competition and challenges to the international rules-based order? Should new alliances/international governance models be forged to better address the current context?
Theme Three: Global Defence Engagement
Challenge 1: NORAD Modernization and the Future of North American Defence: Identifying Threats and Gaps
The Canada-US defence partnership is most tangibly demonstrated by the combined defence of the continent through the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD). Since its establishment in 1958, the threats facing North America have evolved significantly and weapons technology has advanced tremendously. NORAD’s strength is its ability to evolve and meet the challenges posed by the changing defence and security environment. Canada is committed to working closely with the US in the defence of North America, including through the modernization of NORAD.
The binational NORAD has served as the first line of continental defence against an air attack for over 60 years. Through strong cooperation between Canada and the US, NORAD has demonstrated its effectiveness in deterring, detecting and defending North America’s approaches. Today’s security environment, however, is more complex than ever, characterized by trans-regional, multi-domain, and multi-functional threats.
Strong, Secure, Engaged highlights the ongoing importance of NORAD, committing the Defence Team to work with the US to ensure that the binational agreement is modernized to meet existing challenges and evolving threats to North America, taking into account the full range of threats.
Proposals should look broadly at emerging threats to North America, across all domains, in the context of continental defence and the CAN-US defence relationship. Proposals should consider Canada’s current contributions to continental defence, including existing policies, and whether they support or facilitate NORAD modernization and the evolution of North American defence.
The goal of this challenge is to receive in-depth analysis of the current and future state of continental defence, including consideration of current and future gaps that may exist in the defence of North America.
- What are the emerging threats against North America and the associated gaps in continental defence? How can Canada best contribute, cooperate and coordinate within NORAD to address them?
- What capabilities and infrastructure fill these gaps? What is the best use of Canadian resources and assets to fill identified gaps?
- How should/could NORAD evolve given the evolution of both the security environment and technology, including impacts to the space, air, maritime and cyberspace domains and emerging threats like UAS and hypersonics?
- What policies within the Government of Canada must be reformed in order to modernize NORAD?
- What role is there for other security organizations such as NATO?
- How can we better understand US defence priorities, both within the NORAD context and around the world, and identify new opportunities to cooperate?
- What should be considered critical infrastructure in the context of continental defence?
- How do emerging technologies threaten North America and how might they be leveraged for continental defence?
- Should NORAD be concerned with domains currently outside its mandate, including land and cyber?
- Are there innovative strategies that could be used and invested in to partner with business, indigenous groups, and special interest groups to offset capital costs while providing capabilities for defence use (e.g. food, power, etc.)?
- How should defence work with other security departments for a Whole-of-Government approach to the defence of North America?
Challenge 2: Canada’s Defence Relationships
Canada is committed to being a responsible international player that upholds universal values, contributes to peace building, and works together with allies and partners to address security challenges and help enhance overall capacity and resiliency. However, there are countries testing the international security environment and challenging the rules-based order. Strong partnerships are critical to the effective execution of the defence mandate.
Cooperative defence relationships support the advancement and promotion of broader government priorities – particularly national security, trade, international assistance, and foreign policy objectives. As a trading nation and influential member of the G7, G20, NATO and the United Nations, Canada benefits from global stability underpinned by a rules-based international order. Defence partnerships are critical to Canada’s capacity to address challenges to international instability, which helps to reinforce the rules-based international order.
Recent years have witnessed several challenges to the international rules-based order, which calls for allies and other like-minded states to re-examine how to deter and respond to a wide spectrum of challenges to the international order. These challenges raise questions for Canada regarding the future of its defence relationships.
The Defence Team is committed to maintaining a network of defence partnerships that is flexible and adaptable. Proposals should consider the shifting balance-of-power and the evolving roles of major powers when thinking about what opportunities exist for developing new partnerships and strengthening existing ones. The willingness of potential or existing partners to work with Canada should also be considered.
The goal of this challenge is for the Defence Team to understand the broader effects of the return of major power competition to the international system, and more specifically, what this means for Canadian defence relationships and partnerships. The Defence Team is also interested in an assessment of the opportunities and challenges that exist for new or greater cooperation on defence and security issues.
- How does the breakdown of the international rules-based order affect defence relations?
- What is the future of NATO in an era of great power competition?
- What are the opportunities and challenges to defence and security cooperation?
- How can Canada’s defence relationships be expanded to include the voice and agency of women (i.e. Women, Peace and Security)?
Additional Guiding Questions
- What is the impact of great power competition on allied/coalition support for international commitments, as well as Five Eyes, the UN, and Canada’s other bilateral and multilateral defence relationships?
- Does DND/CAF require new partnerships with business and academic partners? If not, why is the current situation sufficient?
- How can defence diplomacy be better understood and practiced (e.g. port visits, capacity building, defence engagements, etc.)? How can DND/CAF measure the effectiveness of defence diplomacy and capture its full strategic effect for the Government of Canada?
Theme Four: Approach to Defence: Anticipate
Challenge 1: Anticipating Future Challenges
Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE) values the ability to anticipate new challenges in order to better prepare for, and respond to, threats to Canadian defence and security.
Anticipating emerging threats and challenges, and better understanding the defence and security environment, is essential to Canada’s security. Through the initiatives outlined in SSE, the Defence Team will improve its ability to provide timely information to decision-makers, allowing the Government to identify and understand emerging issues, events and crises in the global security environment, and to respond appropriately and effectively.
As DND/CAF undertake prudent planning in order to remain strong at home, secure in North America, and engaged in the world, they must consider not only threats and future flashpoints, but the sustained investments required in funding people and capabilities.
Proposals should focus on defence and security issues and threats facing DND/CAF from a forecasting perspective. The response should build on the analysis of the global security environment outlined in SSE and take into consideration the level of ambition presented in the policy’s discussion of concurrency and spectrum of operations, as well as its investment plan. Proposals are also challenged to consider changes around organizational and systems design.
In light of the rapidly evolving security environment, DND/CAF would like to better understand the changes that have occurred since the publication of SSE, as well as what to anticipate in the short-, medium- and long-term. Relevant and achievable recommendations should be supported by a thorough analysis that considers SSE.
- How will the following domains evolve over the next 10, 20, 50 years?
- Security Environment
- Defence Investment and Burden Sharing
- Geopolitical issues, alliances and partnerships
- Technology / Information
- Are current capabilities broad and adaptable enough to meet an evolving security domain? If not, what force structure is the most applicable to meet any future challenge in a joint or combined environment?
- What impact will climate change have on CAF operations and readiness, both at home and abroad?
Additional Guiding Questions
- How do we prepare military and civilian members to respond to challenges posed by threats and challenges along the 10, 20, 50 year horizon?
- How is the future of conflict gendered, and what are the impacts on DND/CAF capability needs?
- How can technologies like AI, virtual reality or simulations help in prediction and forecasting?
Theme Five: Approach to Defence: Adapt
Challenge 1: Cyber, Space, and Information as Operational Domains
The Government of Canada (GC) and the CAF face a continued state of competition, confrontation, and conflict. In an increasingly complex, opaque, and volatile environment our adversaries are challenging us in multiple domains, such as cyber, space, and information. DND/CAF must adapt and operationalize a mindset able to meet these challenges. We are in the age of digital transformation, including the rapid pace of technological development and the increasing growth and implementation of AI, quantum computing, and the Internet of Things. This rapid transformation presents both threats and opportunities. Numerous technological advances have important military implications. This is especially true of activities taking place in the domains of space, cyber, and information which are leveraged by allies and adversaries alike. DND/CAF must adapt to improve the use of space, cyber and other information related capabilities to ensure these new pan-domain challenges do not threaten Canadian defence and security objectives and strategic interests.
Space, cyber, and information are three domains which have become particularly crucial to modern military operations. Today, modern militaries rely on networks and data to plan and carry out missions. Space-enabled systems, such as Global Positioning Systems and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance satellites, enable Western forces their technological and tactical advantage by providing accurate navigation and increased ability to monitor and control areas of interest. While modern information technology brings significant operational benefits, it also introduces critical vulnerabilities through factors such as increased connectivity, legacy hardware and software, and human components. Potential adversaries are rapidly developing cyber means to exploit vulnerabilities, and some states are developing anti-satellite weapons. Further, actions conducted by our adversaries often go un-responded to as they attempt to operate just under the threshold of conflict, targeting Canadian equities at home and abroad. These emerging capabilities present unique challenges as domestic and international legal and policy frameworks continue to evolve.
Proposals are asked to consider the space, cyber, and information domains in a pan-domain context as key force enablers as well as military domains in their own right, exploring positive disruptive opportunities for military and security application. Proposals may also wish to consider – in the context of Canada’s commitment to modernizing space capabilities, develop military-specific information operations capabilities and assuming a more assertive posture in cyberspace – the experiences of other modern militaries, paying particular attention to how they are adopting and incorporating space and cyber capabilities in operations.
DND/CAF has identified the cyber, space, and information domains for advanced research and development. This challenge seeks a thorough analysis of how these domains can be leveraged to support military operations, while considering the potential strategic and operational, as well as legal and ethical implications, of developing and testing these capabilities.
- How can DND/CAF maximize the use of these domains, especially in the context of great power competition?
- How can DND/CAF maintain effective command and control and freedom of action in new domains amidst rapid technological change?
- How should DND/CAF research, develop, test and employ these capabilities in light of strategic, operational, legal and ethical considerations?
- How must domestic and international legal and policy frameworks change in order to compete with, contest, confront, and – when necessary – combat our nation’s adversaries within the information domain?
- How will adversaries use and/or exploit these domains? What does their official and unofficial policies with regard to them indicate for future developments or postures?
- How do we respond to developments in the space domain and the requirement to adapt to emerging challenges in a way that is compatible with Canada’s international engagements on space security?
- In an age of hostile influence activities, how can DND/CAF support whole of government efforts to instill resiliency in our population and institutions?
Additional Guiding Questions
- How can we assess other areas of vulnerability in the cyber, space and information domains? What might future vulnerabilities for DND/CAF look like in these domains?
- How should DND/CAF approach the increasing blending of domains (i.e. air, land, maritime, space, cyber, information), given digital advancements?
- How do we prepare military and civilian members to respond to threats, challenges, and opportunities associated with advancements in the space, cyber, and information domains?
- How are space and cyber shaping the information domain amidst great power competition?
- What joint enablers – cross-cutting capabilities that can be used across maritime, land, space, cyber and air – are required to produce effects in the information domain?
- Should key space and cyber capabilities be considered critical infrastructure for Canada?
- What are our partners and allies doing to meet emerging challenges in these domains?
Challenge 2: The Role of Artificial Intelligence
While much media attention has been given to the rise of autonomous weapons and the potential for “killer robots,” artificial intelligence (AI) can have many applications, including improving business processes, assisting decision-making and predicting problems in equipment. SSE discusses the rapid pace of technological development, but a deeper and more wide-ranging examination of the use of AI is required.
AI refers to the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence – for example, recognizing patterns, learning from experience, drawing conclusions, making predictions, or taking action – whether digitally or as the smart software behind autonomous physical systems. AI, machine learning and analytics are rapidly changing the face of business and industry, and it has the potential to significantly change the way nations address defence and security, as well as the face of the battlefield. AI has the potential to change all of defence, including business practices, training, healthcare, recruitment, combat, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. AI and machine learning have biases and potential exploitable vulnerabilities, including those related to gender, age, and ethnicity, that are a threat to how AI is developed and used.
Other nations are making significant investments in AI for military purposes. These investments threaten to erode the west’s technological and operational advantages and destabilize the international order.
The Government of Canada has recognized the importance of investment in AI as part of its focus on innovation, not just in the private sector, but the public sector as well. Proposals should consider the ongoing and existing Canadian work on AI internal and external to the government of Canada, as well as the efforts of other nations, in determining how DND/CAF should evolve in this domain.
The outcome for this challenge is an analysis of the current uses of AI and autonomy, including advanced machine learning software, and how these applications may be leveraged in the military context, while considering the potential strategic, operational, technical, ethical and societal implications of their use. Responses to this challenge should clearly articulate the steps required to meet the proposed end state.
- What are the strategic and military implications of AI?
- How can the CAF be better positioned to leverage continuous developments and uses of AI?
- What legal/ethical considerations should the CAF be aware of during the development, testing, and use of AI applications? How do you reduce the potential for imbedding biases as a result of machine learning?
- How will adversaries use AI to challenge the DND/CAF?
Additional Guiding Questions
- Where will AI, once developed, have the most immediate impact on military capabilities? Is there value in pursuing data analytics and machine learning to reinforce advantages against adversaries?
- How can we ensure gender, racial, and other social biases in AI, machine learning, and cyber systems are not inside our defence architecture and affecting operational capability?
- What is needed to develop AI that accurately reflects and protects the diversity of human bodies, identities, and experiences in the military context?
- How should Canada define AI and autonomy and what are the implications?
- Are there policy barriers in the near and long term that will prevent effective use and development of AI technology?
- What is the role of cultural perspectives on AI, Robotics, and autonomy and how do these impact multilateral negotiations and efforts to regulate “appropriate use”?
- What considerations must DND/CAF consider when determining how to address the human-machine relationship in adversarial contexts?
Challenge 3: Emerging Technology and Military Application
Strong, Secure, Engaged identifies the rapid evolution of technology as a key factor of the changing security environment: one that presents opportunities and vulnerabilities. Numerous technological advances have the potential to change the fundamental nature of military operations. The rapid pace of technological change, both inside and outside the military domain, requires DND/CAF to adapt: not just in terms of operations and capabilities, but with respect to governance as well.
Although Canada and its allies have maintained a long-standing qualitative advantage in military power, global economic growth and the fast pace of technological developments are allowing potential adversaries to swiftly close the gap. Unlike previous technological shifts in conflict, new and emerging technologies are rarely developed exclusively for military application. “Dual-use” technologies often have wide-spread use in the civilian sector such that innovations in military technology are taking place in the private sector, outside of the sovereign control of any one country. This has led to foreign actors to use economic-based tools to acquire sensitive technologies, intellectual property or expertise from Western countries for their own military development.
While linked to the challenges related to space and cyber, proposals for this challenge should consider technological development in the private sector, as well as academia and research, with a focus on dual-use technologies. Proposals may also wish to consider the experience of other like-minded countries in countering economic-based threats and the development of appropriate measures to mitigate the risk of sensitive dual-use technology being acquired by potential adversaries.
The goal of this challenge is for the Defence Team to better understand the Canadian technological landscape, including which emerging developments are likely to have future military value, as well as to identify opportunities to work with these sectors in an effort to limit the exploitation by potential adversaries.
- What are the strategic, operational and tactical implications of emerging technologies such as AI, quantum, robotics, human modification, biotech and additive manufacturing/3D printing?
- How are Canada’s allies and potential adversaries addressing emerging technologies for defence and security purposes?
- How can DND/CAF work with these sectors to raise awareness and mitigate risk?
- How should the role of these sectors evolve given the high likelihood of dual-use applications for emerging technologies?
- What are relevant or notable examples where military or dual-use technology was acquired from the private sector by a foreign state, and what lessons can be learned from these cases?
Additional Guiding Questions
- How can the Government of Canada’s, and the CAF’s, approach to developing, adopting and employing technology be agile and rapid enough to match the integrated civilian-military models adopted by authoritarian adversaries? How can we best balance the restrictions inherent to our democratic principles and operational requirements to retain our/the West’s competitive edge?
- Are there any outstanding legal or ethical questions that could be exacerbated by military application?
- How do we prepare military and civilian members to respond to dual-use technologies with military applications?
- What is the acceptable risk level of trying to maintain pace with evolving technology?
- What diversity considerations are important to consider when developing, adopting, and employing emerging technology?
Challenge 4: Defence Role in the Arctic
Traditionally a region that relies heavily on international cooperation, the Arctic is emerging as a site of growing competition. Climate change and technological advancements have resulted in an increasingly accessible Arctic. New actors are pursuing economic and military activities, some of which may pose a threat to Canadian security and sovereignty. Strong, Secure, Engaged recognizes that working cooperatively with allies and partners, including ongoing collaboration with Arctic states, will be essential for succeeding in a complex security environment.
The Arctic region represents an important international crossroads where issues of climate change and the environment, international trade, and global security meet. A decade ago, few states or firms had the ability to operate in the Arctic. Today, state and commercial actors from around the world seek to share in the longer term benefits of an accessible Arctic, pursuing economic and military interests in the region. However, some of the increased activity in the Arctic has the potential to threaten Canada’s sovereign interests, including activities outside of the traditional military realm such as increased growing foreign investment, tourism and scientific research.
Proposals should consider the interests of Indigenous communities living in the Arctic, including the question of how military and non-military activities in the region can contribute to an improved standard of living for these communities. Proposals may wish to look at the linkages between poles (Arctic/North Pole and Antarctica/South Pole) and polar capabilities, as well as whether there are any areas of cooperation between allies or partners with interests and activities in Antarctica.
Proposals could also examine the shifting power dynamic in the Arctic (e.g. increased militarization, Chinese activity, Russian actions and responses), engagement with ‘partners’ considered adversaries in other venues; and the interplay between NORAD and NATO, and Canada’s role in both, in questions related to the Arctic.
The goal of this challenge is for the Defence Team to better understand how Canada can work with both Arctic and non-Arctic partners to identify and address risks in the Arctic, including those in the non-military realm.
- Beyond the military domain, what threats exist in the Arctic? What are the foreign economic and military interests in Canada’s North?
- DND/CAF works closely with partners (e.g. government, other Canadian partners, other Arctic countries, NATO, non-Arctic partners) in the Arctic. How can these relationships be more effective at delivering benefits and services?
- What is/will be the role of land, sea, air, and/or special operations forces in demonstrating Canadian sovereignty and exercising deterrence against activities undermining Canadian interests in the North? How do we operate in this environment to achieve these effects?
Additional Guiding Questions
- Through SSE, Canada has committed to acquiring various technologies to increase its reach and mobility in the Arctic. Given the changing nature of the threats in the region, including those non-military in nature, are we investing in the right capabilities? Are there other capabilities that would support Canada’s objectives in the Arctic?
- Are our policies and strategies compatible with other Arctic partners? How does Canada work with allies and partners who may have a different interpretation of the level of risk associated with activities in the non-military realm?
- What is the realistic scope of responsibility the Defence Team can assume in the Arctic, particularly given existing resources? What additional resources might be required to meet current and future expectations?
- How could climate change alter future defence requirements in the North and how could DND/CAF address climatic changes in the region?
- What other infrastructure does Canada need in the Arctic? How can CAF and other government departments leverage each other’s capabilities to achieve a holistic presence and situational awareness in the North?
- Canada has recently released the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework (ANPF) to help focus and guide Government of Canada engagement in the North. How does this framework compare to similar Arctic strategic frameworks of Arctic and near-Arctic states?
- How does Canada’s involvement with US, Five Eyes, and NATO affect other cooperative relationships in Arctic?
Challenge 5: Defence Procurement
The CAF must be prepared to conduct the full spectrum of military operations, and ensuring the CAF has the capabilities to do this requires DND to make ongoing investments in the acquisition of new technologies, as well as maintaining current operational capabilities. The Government of Canada recognizes the challenges associated with military procurement and is committed to streamlining the process to deliver new capabilities when they are needed.
The procurement process is complex and involves many actors. Not only is federal government procurement subject to legislative obligations under Canada’s trade agreements, defence procurement in Canada involves several federal government departments and agencies. The need for trade-offs between costs, capability, schedule and benefits for Canadians/Canadian industry results in inherent tension and competing objectives among implicated players. Further, cumbersome decision-making and approval processes have introduced unnecessary delays, and capability requirements have not always been clearly communicated to industry and Canadians.
Given that many of the military capabilities the CAF operate are also used by our allies, maintaining interoperability is an essential consideration. As military technology is evolving rapidly, the CAF must continually evolve to maintain an operational advantage and protect against emerging threats. As a result, proposals should take into consideration the need for a flexible and agile defence procurement process in order to support such rapid progress, while maintaining an accountable process that will ensure value and relevance for Canada.
The goal of this challenge is for the Defence Team to receive innovative ideas and possible procurement models to streamline the defence procurement process, ensuring the CAF has the capabilities necessary to act decisively and deliver results across the full spectrum of operations.
- How can DND/CAF improve defence procurement?
- What does the model look like?
- What policy changes, if any, are required to implement a new model?
Additional Guiding Questions
- What are the advantages/disadvantages of capability-based planning versus threat-based planning? Is there a hybrid option?
- How can trials/testing by Original Equipment Manufacturers or other countries, as well as proven technologies, be utilized by Canada to expedite procurement?
- Is there a more effective model to manage capabilities that evolve quickly or require updating/replacement on an accelerated schedule? What does this model look like?
- Given that much of defence procurement is reliant upon the processes of other government departments (OGDs), are there best practices or models that could better enable aspects of defence procurement for which OGDs are responsible?
- What is needed to foster greater supplier diversity in defence procurement, including among Indigenous businesses?
- What are the benefits of a programmatic approach to acquisition and replenishment of defence capabilities?
- How can procurement be agile and responsive enough to meet the quickly changing strategic environment and evolution of technological solutions?
Theme Six: Approach to Defence: Act
Challenge 1: The Future of Capacity Building
Strong, Secure, Engaged defines one of the CAF’s core missions as, “capacity building to support the security of other nations and their ability to contribute to security abroad”. Canada has a long history of providing expertise and assistance to partner countries and it will continue to do so moving forward.
Canada’s military has participated in capacity building for many years, providing expertise to help strengthen the professional capacity of partner defence and security forces. The scope of capacity building is determined on a mission-by-mission basis and can include training (including military training), advice and assistance for partner forces, including lethal and non-lethal aid.
DND/CAF offers training in Canada and abroad. Training includes: language training to facilitate communication and interoperability; professional development and staff courses; peace support operations training; and, expert team and delegation visits to enhance defence capabilities in specific areas.
The global system has evolved, and with it, partners and other countries and their militaries have matured. They no longer require just the “basics” when it comes to training. To that end, proposals should consider if the growing complexity of the security environment, the changing nature of conflict, and the nature of peace operations, require Canada to reconsider how it engages in capacity building.
The Canadian Armed Forces are a professional force that has been highly capable of providing effective military training and assistance to foreign military and security forces. As the security environment has evolved, so too has the training and capacity building assistance provided. The goal of this challenge is to consider the evolution of this important CAF mission, while also considering the ongoing requirement for interoperability.
- How should capacity building evolve?
- What are the implications of hybrid warfare on capacity building?
Additional Guiding Questions
- With respect to capacity building, what partner nations should Canada consider engaging with?
- Should Canada offer capacity building opportunities to partner nations that are not actively seeking them?
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