MINDS Policy Challenges 2022-23

Key issues where external expertise can enable defence policy-making

Introduction

The Mobilizing Insights in Defence and Security (MINDS) program leverages external expertise to enhance the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces’ (DND/CAF) ability to anticipate, adapt, and act in a complex security environment.

The MINDS Policy Challenges reflect the key issues facing the Defence Team and represent potential areas for knowledge transfer and collaboration with the defence and security expert community. When applying to receive MINDS funding, whether through Targeted Engagement Grants, Collaborative Networks, or Scholarships, applicants seek to align their projects with these priorities. The challenges are refreshed annually through consultations with senior leaders from across the Defence Team to ensure MINDS and its external partners deliver actionable, relevant, and timely insights.

For more information, please contact MINDS@forces.gc.ca.

People, Culture, and Diversity

Adaptive, Diverse and Inclusive Recruitment and Retention Models

The Challenge

The CAF require a creative, agile, and responsible approach to recruitment and retention that capitalizes on the unique and comprehensive skills of Canada’s diverse population. The operational success of the CAF begins with recruitment and personnel systems that reflect and leverage the diversity and values of Canadian society. These systems must engage and attract the best and brightest, incentivize retention by adapting to individual situations, and ensure a culture of respect and inclusion, while offering competitive benefits and remuneration.

Key Aspects and Suggested Questions

Recruiting diverse talent and improving representation
  • How can the CAF strengthen the appeal of a military career when competing for talent with the private sector and other areas of the public sector?
  • How can DND/CAF best engage, attract, recruit and retain women, Indigenous and black people, people with disabilities, and other underrepresented and diverse communities?
  • How can DND/CAF best connect with young people and effectively communicate with them through social media?
Addressing barriers
  • How can DND/CAF best integrate and enable a more diverse force and workforce? What barriers exist and how can they be eliminated?
  • How can the CAF best connect with Indigenous communities, sometimes remotely located, and improve their representation and integration? What actions can the CAF take to address the specific barriers experienced by Indigenous people when joining, remaining and thriving in the CAF?
  • How can DND/CAF work with the Provinces, Territories, and other government departments to reduce barriers for military families as a means of encouraging retention?
Improving retention
  • What policies or programs could improve DND/CAF retention, particularly among women, people with disabilities, visible minorities, key specialist occupations, and experienced, mid-career or young members?
  • How will support to total health and well-being of military members and their families have to evolve to ensure the needs of a more diverse military community are met?
  • How can DND/CAF leadership selection and development programs educate and equip future leaders with the management skills needed to cultivate a positive workplace culture that promotes a supportive, safe, and healthy work environment? 
  • How does the current CAF human resources (HR) model compare to similar organizations (defence or non-defence, but of similar size, etc.)? How can the CAF HR model, which embodies the CAF culture, be adapted to attract a broader labour pool?
  • What are the career pathway expectations and desires of the Canadian labour pool today? How can current CAF career management, promotion, and compulsory retirement policies and processes evolve to better align with 21st century labour market realities and improve overall retention?

Innovative Approaches to Force Mix and Structure

The Challenge

To succeed across a broad mission set, DND/CAF must think about the force mix necessary to deliver and operate across the spectrum of competition, tension, and conflict. This entails ensuring we have the right personnel, both military and civilian, across environments and occupations, with the necessary capabilities to succeed in an unpredictable security environment.

Key Aspects and Suggested Questions

Force mix and generation for future security environments
  • What is the appropriate force mix and structure for today and in the future, given emerging challenges and the growing demand for new and non-traditional activities by the CAF?
  • How can the CAF’s 84 separate military occupations be simplified to enable more rapid retraining and reorientation towards emerging challenges?
Balancing force mix needs, resources, and obligations
  • How can DND/CAF ensure flexibility, balancing individual and institutional needs, while meeting its domestic and international obligations?
  • How can DND/CAF recruit and train a force with the diverse expertise needed to operate effectively in all domains and missions?
  • Should the CAF consider civilianizing, downsizing, or outsourcing certain capabilities or functions in order to redirect resources toward more cutting-edge capabilities, and to keep pace with allies and the evolving threat environment? If so which ones?
Leveraging the reserves
  • How can DND/CAF maximize the output and impact of the Primary Reserves and the Canadian Rangers?
  • Does the current Primary Reserve model need to change to meet the expectations for CAF response in the future security environment, and if so how?  How can DND/CAF better integrate the Reserves into overall CAF culture, including identity, inter-group relations and cohesion among units?
  • How can the CAF human resources model, which is predominantly driven by the Regular Forces, adapt to and incorporate alternative employment patterns, including the Primary Reserve and other economic sectors?
  • How can DND/CAF make Reserve units more applicable to the needs of local community?
  • How can DND/CAF work with Provinces, Territories, and employers to facilitate service in the Reserves, particularly in times of need (e.g. job protection legislation or other means)?
  • How can the CAF recruit mid-career professionals and incorporate their experience and expertise? How could external experience be incorporated into current CAF career structures?

Culture Change

The Challenge

Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE) highlights that Canada’s unique, diverse and multi-cultural population is one of its greatest strengths. Informed by societal, national and institutional reckonings like #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the LGBT Purge class action, the Heyder and Beattie class actions, and other settlements, there is a recognized requirement for substantial changes to the cultures in the DND/CAF. Recent experiences have highlighted the need to identify and critically examine the many factors that influence cultural practices and outcomes in Canadian defence.

Key Aspects and Suggested Questions

Aligning with evolving Canadian society
  • How do Canadians perceive DND/CAF culture and sub-cultures, institutional identity, and role/purpose?
  • What values, ideals, and behaviours would Canadians like to see reflected within DND and the CAF, and how might these expectations evolve in the future?
  • How are conceptions of diversity and inclusion evolving, and how are these best understood given the range of perspectives evident in Canada’s multi-cultural landscape?
Culture Frameworks
  • How can DND/CAF best understand its internal cultures and develop strategies to move from the current to the desired culture?
  • What critical perspectives are relevant to current conceptualizations, policies and examinations of DND/CAF cultures?    
  • What intersectional facets of identity could help explain why individuals in similar employment conditions have different lived experiences?
Social Systems
  • How do broad social systems, both within and external to organizations, influence institutional and operational levels of structure and responsibility in organizations?
  • What are the influences of legacy/historical systems and structures in Canada on current DND/CAF cultures?
  • What institutional elements, relationships, processes and practices need to be examined within DND/CAF?
Capacities to Lead and Manage Continuous Culture Change
  • What competencies and approaches are important for leaders/managers, researchers and policy officers to enable them to effectively implement change initiatives; to understand the operant culture at the small group level; and, to recognize how their personal biases affect how they interpret and influence culture?
  • How can those who have lengthy periods of employment within DND and CAF cultures develop the capacities to critically assess their own views and cultural perspectives?
  • What approaches can DND/CAF use to strengthen mechanisms of voice, to engage with those with different lived experiences, and to understand the perspectives of those with reservations over change objectives?     
Cross-cutting Issues
  • What developments in the study of organizational culture change are relevant to the DND/CAF context; how can DND/CAF effectively measure and assess culture change initiatives?
  • What can be learned nationally or internationally from other culture change initiatives (e.g., from the private and not-for-profit sectors; multilateral organizations; other professions; other Defence organizations)?
  • What institutional strategies, measures and policies can DND/CAF adopt to ensure and promote a culture free from racism, discrimination, sex- and gender-based violence, and hateful attitudes?
  • What are the implications of addressing undesirable behaviours through legal actions, punitive actions (e.g. release), rehabilitation, leader interventions, or education?
  • What are the best pedagogy approaches to achieve required learning and self-insight? What are effective methods to assess and select leaders to address these challenges?

Addressing and Preventing Sexual Misconduct

The Challenge

DND/CAF are committed to ensuring a respectful workplace, free from harassment and discrimination. Sexual misconduct is a serious and persistent problem that harms military and civilian personnel, and previous initiatives in DND/CAF have not achieved their desired effects. Addressing this challenge requires a significant and sustained long-term effort with a deliberate plan for systemic change across the institution.

Key Aspects and Suggested Questions

Understand cultural context and risk
  • How can DND/CAF best understand and address sexual misconduct, military sexual trauma and moral injury and related institutional, systemic, situational and individual factors?
  • What are the relevant cultural and sub-cultural dynamics that contribute to perpetuating sexual misconduct? What are the links to other expressions of gender-based violence, including domestic violence?
  • How do intersecting identity factors for military and civilian personnel inform their individual experiences and responses to institutional change initiatives? How are these intersecting identity factors expressed within CAF culture?
  • What are the sources of resistance (cultural, organizational, systemic, attitudinal, etc.) to sexual misconduct-related policy changes in the DND/CAF?
  • What can be learned from best practices in other contexts?
Prevent
  • What daily practices, professional values, social norms, or other factors increase the risk of incidents? What factors can mitigate risks?   
  • What considerations need to be taken into account when developing strategies to prevent sexual misconduct, including across unique sub-cultural contexts?  
  • How can leadership and sub-group dynamics be used to enhance prevention? Are there internal groups (e.g., leadership, care providers, support services) that could be more influential in preventing sexual misconduct?
  • What learning and insights should be achieved in professional development?
  • Should the CAF consider encouraging or discouraging particular behaviours or social practices, such as targeting a reduction in alcohol consumption?
Respond and support
  • What practicescan be implemented to improve outcomes for those affected by sexual misconduct, in all aspects of their experience? How is restorative justice best achieved?
  • How should the principles of natural justice be applied? How can those harmed be given an increased role in determining how complaints are addressed?
  • What can be done to encourage those affected, across all sexual or gendered identities, to seek assistance when needed and to report their experiences? What should be the role of peer-support systems? How can reporting mechanisms and/or methodologies be shaped to better encourage reporting by those affected by military sexual trauma?
  • What do workplace/unit leaders/local chains of command need to know and how should they respond to affected persons, respondents, bystanders and concerned colleagues/peers in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct?
  • How can the organization and leaders (re)establish trust, morale, and connection/identity following sexual misconduct, moral injury and/or institutional betrayal? How can response and victim support systems (complaints, reporting, investigation, justice, health) be made more effective?

Addressing Hateful Conduct, Radicalization, and Systemic Racism

The Challenge

Political and identity polarization, social and economic inequality, and disinformation including through social media have prompted efforts within DND/CAF to address hateful conduct and potential radicalization. It is also recognized that historical racism and discrimination have left a legacy of systematic biases in Canadian institutions including DND/CAF. These issues manifest in two ways: individuals are vulnerable to radicalization by extremist groups, and individuals and other minority groups within DND/CAF are subject to harm by others in the organization. Together, these undermine the creation of safe, inclusive, enabling workplaces; erode protection of human rights; and, threaten operational effectiveness.

Key Aspects and Suggested Questions

Defining and understanding hateful conduct, radicalization and systemic racism
  • Do institutional, systemic, situational or individual factors inherent to the defence context contribute to hateful conduct, radicalization and systemic racism, and if so how?
  • What are the conceptual and experienced intersections of systemic discrimination, radicalization, and identity factors, including sexual orientation or gender expression?
  • What research methods and tools could help DND/CAF understand discrimination, hateful conduct, radicalization, and systemic racism at the small team level?
Addressing hateful conduct and radicalization
  • At the individual level, what methods exist to identify prospective, currently-serving, or veteran members who may be susceptible to radicalization or already hold hateful attitudes; how is the role of social media best understood and countered?
  • How are the influences of dominant norms and the social environment best understood, and how do they influence at the small group/team level?
  • At the institutional level, are there ways in which DND/CAF enables or perpetuates the very hateful conduct it is trying to eliminate? How does disrupting or changing harmful narratives around racialized people and other minorities help prevent hateful conduct and radicalization?
  • To what extent could foreign powers exploit information operations to generate hateful and radicalized behaviour (or spread other harmful disinformation) and subsequently leverage it to undermine public support for the CAF?

Continental Defence

Strong at Home – Supporting National Resilience

The Challenge

DND/CAF play an important role in ensuring the country’s national defence and supporting its security, stability and prosperity. As demand for this role grows, there are legitimate questions to be asked about the appropriate role for the military in national security and civilian-led efforts. To continue to support national security and resilience, DND/CAF need to properly define and understand its role in these contexts, and be prepared and equipped to conduct a broad spectrum of activities, while respecting established authorities and mandates.

Key Aspects and Suggested Questions

Threats to and gaps in national resilience
  • What vulnerabilities or dependencies were revealed during the pandemic and other recent instances of CAF assistance to civilian authorities? How might DND/CAF mitigate these in the future?
  • How can DND/CAF work better with federal, provincial and territorial partners to ensure interoperability, adequate training, and preparedness?
  • What non-conventional, non-military tasks should DND/CAF undertake to advance national resilience and how can they be informed by the intersectional needs of Canada’s diverse population?
  • How can DND/CAF adapt to balance the increasing demand for assistance domestically with the need to maintain sufficient resources, personnel, and readiness for international commitments and obligations?
  • How can DND/CAF contribute to a more secure and resilient defence industrial base and supply chain?
Intersections of defence and national resilience
  • What is DND/CAF’s appropriate place and role in Canada’s national security architecture, and do any authorities, policies, or practices need reform?
  • What should DND/CAF’s role be in supporting economic recovery, resilience, and stability, including towards critical economic infrastructure and supply chains?
  • How can defence procurement be improved? What policy or other changes are required to ensure that DND/CAF can update or field new capabilities at the pace required to meet the challenges of the security environment?
  • How can DND/CAF procurement better integrate GBA+ considerations, in particular for women and/or Indigenous-owned businesses?
  • What innovative strategies could be used to provide defence and dual-use capabilities and infrastructure by partnering with businesses, Indigenous groups, and other sectors?
  • How do socio-economic benefits contribute to the relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of DND/CAF’s activities and operations?
 Effective military and defence capabilities
  • How can DND/CAF better contribute to national resilience and what mechanisms could support work with civilian authorities?
  • What role can DND/CAF assets, including the Reserves and Canadian Rangers, play during future public health and national security emergencies? 
  • How might an increased CAF role in domestic, versus international operations, affect recruitment and retention? How might readiness be affected?

Securing North America and Enhancing Continental Defence

The Challenge

Today’s security environment is more complex than ever; characterized by trans-regional, all-domain, and multi-functional threats, and the rapid evolution of technology and military capabilities. Developments in cyber capabilities, hypersonic weapons, advanced cruise and ballistic missiles, space and counter-space systems, remotely piloted systems, and information operations all affect North America’s current and future threat environment. Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, underscored the ongoing importance of continental defence to meeting these challenges and evolving threats. DND/CAF must continue to develop and enhance its approach to defending Canada and North America, including by working with the US and modernizing NORAD.

Key Aspects and Suggested Questions

Emerging threats to North America
  • What are the emerging all-domain threats to Canada and North America and what are the associated gaps in continental defence? How do these threats intersect with below threshold challenges?
  • What policies, capabilities, force adjustments, and infrastructure are needed to meet current and future threats to North America in all domains?
  • What should be considered critical infrastructure given the evolving threats to continental defence, and how can defence organizations work with partners to integrate these considerations into whole-of-government efforts?
Partnership with the US
  • What does the shifting security environment mean for Canada-US defence relations, the NORAD partnership, and Alliance burden sharing more broadly?
  • How should NORAD evolve given the evolution of both the security environment and technology? How can Canada and the US strengthen capabilities to support NORAD fulfilling its current mission set? Should the NORAD Agreement be expanded to missions outside its current mandate?
  • How can DND/CAF deepen its partnership with the US for common defence priorities (cybersecurity, defence industry, disaster response, supply chain security, etc.)?
Defending North America
  • How can Canada best contribute, cooperate, and coordinate with the United States, including through NORAD – both with the US, federal government partners and Provincial, Territorial and Indigenous governments – to address current and future threats to North America?
  • How can applying an intersectional lens to threat definition and response, particularly regarding capabilities development and leveraging Indigenous partnerships enhance the resiliency and relevancy of DND/CAF defence activities?
  • How can DND/CAF contribute to Indigenous, Provincial, and Territorial priorities?
  • What are the Canadian public’s perceptions of threats to North America, and how do Canadians view defence spending in this context?

Defence in the Arctic

The Challenge

In the face of geographic, geopolitical and climate pressures, the Arctic is increasingly an inflection point for human, economic, and national security. As an Arctic nation, Canada is committed to climate change mitigation and adaptation; respecting Indigenous treaty- and rights-holders; protecting the safety and security of Northerners; defending against threats to the continent and demonstrating sovereignty; engaging with Arctic nations and working with allies and partners to promote cooperation and environmental stewardship in the region. The DND/CAF contribution to these efforts must be multi-faceted. With growing competition in the region, and its militarization by some countries, DND/CAF need to be prepared to conduct and sustain a vast array of operations, from demonstrating Canadian sovereignty, to search and rescue and emergency management activities in support of civil authorities.

Key Aspects and Suggested Questions

The changing environment
  • How could climatic and environmental changes alter future defence requirements in the North, and how could DND/CAF address climatic changes in the region?
  • What new or modernized capabilities, infrastructure, structures, or technologies are needed to ensure situational awareness, and enhance DND/CAF’s presence and operational effectiveness in the Arctic?
  • What are the implications of non-Arctic states seeking to increase their presence and influence in the region; how should Canada respond?
Leveraging partners and allies
  • How can DND/CAF work with partners at home and abroad to improve the delivery of its mandate in the Arctic?
  • How can DND/CAF promote a coordinated federal approach to the North, and ensure synergy among the various actors and mandates operating in the region?
  • How does Canada’s involvement with the US, NORAD, the Five Eyes, and NATO affect other relationships in the Arctic? How should Canada work with allies and partners who may have different approaches and strategic frameworks to the region? How should Canada engage with competitors and multilateral organizations in the Arctic?
  • How will Canada ensure its approach is consistent with its commitment towards reconciliation and meaningful consultation with its Indigenous peoples? How can DND/CAF contribute to Indigenous and Territorial priorities in the North?
Protecting and enhancing sovereignty
  • What are the current and anticipated geopolitical pressures in the Arctic, what are their nexus to strategic competition, and how do they affect Canada’s national interests?
  • What should the current and future role of land, sea, air, special operations forces, and other assets be in demonstrating Canadian sovereignty and exercising deterrence against activities undermining Canadian interests in the North?
  • What is and should be the role of the Canadian Rangers in continental defence, and what measures are necessary to maximize their effectiveness?

The Global Security Environment

Major Powers and the Threshold of Conflict

The Challenge

Increasing multi-polarity is shifting the global balance of power, with certain states more assertively challenging the international rules-based order. Strategic competition amongst states is unfolding daily across all domains of power (i.e., diplomatic, information, military, economic, cyber, etc.). This competition often involves activities below the traditional threshold of armed conflict, deliberately avoiding a meaningful response while advancing their perpetrators’ objectives and interests. In this environment, the CAF needs to be a credible and resilient force, capable of operating and coordinating across the full-spectrum of competition and conflict in order to successfully detect, deter, and defeat threats both above and below the threshold. For the Defence Team, this includes supporting and coordinating with actors across the Government of Canada; provincial and territorial governments, and regional and municipal authorities; industry; and other stakeholders and players.

Key Aspects and Suggested Questions

Drivers of change and conflict
  • Which elements of the rules-based international order are under the most strain? What are their implications for Canada and DND/CAF? What should Canada’s role be in a multipolar global security environment?
  • What do modern deterrence, counter-proliferation, and other strategies look like for Canada given new and evolving powers, non-state actors, grey zone warfare and below threshold activities? What should DND/CAF’s role be in these strategies?
  • What are the implications of non-conventional threats, non-state actors, and below threshold activities for defence equities and national security (e.g. foreign interference operations, disinformation campaigns, economic statecraft, etc.)?
  • What could the future of arms control regimes look like, and how should Canada contribute to arms control and counter-proliferation efforts?
  • What are the costs (in terms of economic loss, capability loss etc.) to Canada resulting from targeted foreign investments by hostile state actors?
Alliances, partnerships, and cooperation
  • What does the future hold for NATO, NORAD, the Five Eyes, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the UN, and other multilateral entities?
  • What can DND/CAF learn from allies’ and adversaries’ approaches to competition, hybrid warfare, deterrence, conflict management, and escalation/de-escalation?
  • How should Canada leverage the comparative advantage of alliances and partnerships? Which relationships should Canada prioritize and how can their effectiveness be maximized?  
  • How can NATO, the Five Eyes and other security multilateral fora take action to protect Western technology currently being targeted through licit and illicit means (e.g. foreign direct investments, exports, licensing and partnerships, and espionage, etc.)?
Actors, capabilities, and intentions
  • What are the short- and long-term strategic objectives and interests of Russia, China, and other relevant state and non-state actors? How do they align and diverge?
  • How can Canada build governance and decision-making structures to coordinate the whole-of-government apparatus to determine if, when, and how to act and react?
  • What capabilities or strategic operational concepts should Canada and/or DND/CAF consider investing in, in order to be a reliable, relevant, resilient and interoperable ally and to protect its own national security?
  • How can Canada and DND/CAF achieve or counter coordinated activities across multiple domains? What capabilities are needed to anticipate, adapt, and act in the current and future security environments?

Capacity Building and Defence Diplomacy

The Challenge

Canada is committed to being a responsible and reliable international player that upholds universal values, contributes to peace building, and works with allies and partners to address security challenges. Canada’s Defence Policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, identifies capacity building and cooperative defence relationships as central to fulfilling Canada’s commitments. Defence relationships and capable partners also advance and promote broader government priorities, including national security, trade, international assistance, and foreign policy objectives. To do so, DND/CAF must employ appropriate capacity-building approaches for current and future security environments, and build strong, enduring, and strategic partnerships.

Key Aspects and Suggested Questions

Ways and means of the future
  • How should defence capacity building and diplomacy approaches, policies, and procedures evolve in an era of below threshold activities, complex peace operations, Great Power Competition, grey zone warfare, shifting power balances? How can they better support broader Government of Canada objectives?
  • How can DND/CAF maximize, measure, and communicate the benefits and effects of capacity-building and defence diplomacy activities?
  • How have the tactical, operational, strategic and institutional capacity building needs of current and potential partners changed in recent years?
  • How do evolutions in cross-cutting themes in NATO and the UN inform potential capacity building roles and requisite CAF expertise?
  • What political, normative, and operational challenges may arise from capacity building and military aid? How will they vary with context, and how can they be managed?
  • How can capacity building be conducted in a way that improves the host country’s resilience, security, and stability, delivers a worthwhile strategic investment for Canada, and achieves enduring, self-sustaining effects?
From relationships to partnerships
  • How can defence diplomacy and the role of defence attachés be better understood and practiced? What activities, capabilities, issues, and threats should be prioritized?
  • What should DND/CAF understand about allies’ and adversaries’ approaches to and perspectives on capacity building, cooperation, defence diplomacy and partnerships?
Values and ethics
  • How can Canada’s defence relationships be expanded to include the voice and agency of diverse and marginalized actors in conflict settings?
  • How can the Defence Team apply a GBA+ lens to engaging effectively and respectfully with foreign militaries?
  • How can Canada and its partners incentivize other states to support multilateral organizations and agreements that promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law?
  • How should Canada engage with countries and groups whose values and ethics do not align with Canada’s?

Climate Change and the Environment

The Challenge

The vast reach and impact of climate change present immediate and long-term security challenges to Canada both at home and abroad. It is a complex and multi-faceted security challenge, with militaries increasingly called upon to assist with its consequences, including extreme weather events and natural disasters, which require complex responses, while still concurrently supporting the full spectrum of more traditional military operations at home and abroad. DND/CAF must adapt its planning and activities in accordance with the Government of Canada’s greening objectives, while striving to maintain an agile and resilient force that is responsive to the impacts of climate change.

Key Aspects and Suggested Questions

Preparing for and preventing the worst
  • How can CAF planning, training, operations, and readiness evolve to better anticipate and respond to climate-related emergencies at home and abroad? How can the CAF prepare for the secondary effects of climate change, such as increased internal migration and resource scarcity?
  • How is climate change expected to affect DND/CAF infrastructure, procurement, and supply chains; how can climate resilience be built into these fundamental pillars of CAF operations?
  • How can existing DND/CAF infrastructure, procurement, and supply chains be adapted to respond to increasing pressures onset by climate change, and to mitigate further environmental degradation?
  • Considering Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure Engaged, The Defence Energy and Environment Strategy, and the Greening Government Strategy, what innovative measures are Allies taking related to greening defence? What are some potential areas for collaboration and sharing of lessons learned?
  • How can DND/CAF achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, per the Government of Canada’s commitment? What are some initiatives that could adopt to complement its mitigation and adaptation efforts?
Capabilities and cooperation
  • Will the process of civil-military cooperation shift in light of these new challenges and changing character of security and military operations, and if so how?
  • How could climate change alter future defence requirements (e.g. equipment sustainment, infrastructure, operations, planning, policy, procurement, training, etc.)?
  • How could climate change challenge existing international frameworks, such as Women, Peace and Security, protection of civilians and the framework for the protection of children?
Clear and present danger
  • What would a risk assessment tool on the impacts of climate change on national security look like and how could it function? What can be learned from allied states’ approaches to climate security risk assessments?
  • What are the impacts of climate change on ongoing and future peacekeeping and stabilization missions, including as a driver of conflict?
  • What are the geopolitical implications of a changing climate?
  • How does increasing inequality and resource scarcity brought on by climate change continue to contribute to global instability?

Anticipating Future Challenges

The Challenge

Anticipating emerging threats and challenges, and better understanding the defence and security implications, is essential to Canada’s security. In light of the rapidly evolving security environment, DND/CAF would like to better understand the changes that have occurred since the publication of Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, as well as what to anticipate in the short-, medium- and long-term.

Key Aspects and Suggested Questions

Futures on the horizon
  • How will the following evolve over the next 10, 20, 50 years?
    • Alliances and partnerships
    • Biological warfare
    • Capabilities and emerging technology
    • Defence investment, supply chains, and burden sharing
    • Global security environment
    • Operational integration in multiple domains (incl. space, cyber, information, etc.)
    • Space
    • Stabilization and peacekeeping
  • How is the future of conflict gendered, and what are the impacts on DND/CAF capability, personnel, and personnel systems to support future needs?
  • How can technologies like AI, autonomy, or simulations help in sensing, prediction and forecasting, and rapid decision-making?
  • How will the inter-generational effects of conflict on children and youth impact the global security environment?
  • How should DND/CAF consider and manage the existential risks posed by climate change, nuclear proliferation, emerging technologies, and resource depletion? What are the diplomatic, information, military, and economic implications of these challenges?
Ready for the future
  • Are current capabilities broad and adaptable enough to meet an evolving security environment? If not, what force structure is the most applicable to meet any future challenge in a joint or combined environment?
  • How can DND/CAF prepare for and respond to shock events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, that have the ability to fundamentally alter the geopolitical landscape?
  • How can DND/CAF prepare military and civilian members to respond to these threats and challenges along the 10, 20, 50 year horizon?
  • How can DND/CAF optimize its functional directives, policies, and risk management frameworks to increase its agility?

Domains and Technology

Cyber, Space, and Information as Operational Domains

The Challenge

In an increasingly complex, opaque, and volatile security environment, adversaries are competing across multiple domains concurrently; cyber, space, and information are three which have emerged as crucial to modern military operations. This is compounded by growing concerns that the procurement process is far outpaced by the rapid development of new technologies. Malicious activities in these domains can be difficult to detect or attribute, and often fall below the threshold of armed conflict and at the intersection of mandates and responsibilities of various departments and agencies, which presents challenges to determining the appropriate national lead and response actions. Therefore, DND/CAF must anticipate, adapt, and act to contribute alongside government and other partners to secure Canadian defence, security and broader interests against these pan-domain challenges.

Key Aspects and Suggested Questions

Force development and procurement
  • What joint enablers – cross-cutting capabilities that can be used across maritime, land, space, cyberspace and air – are required to produce effects in the information domain?
  • What competencies (e.g., knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes), policies, and command structures are needed to leverage these capabilities?
  • How can malicious and disruptive activities in non-traditional domains be fused into a coherent picture to optimize situational awareness, decision-making, and responses?
  • How can research, development, and procurement be made agile, holistic, and responsive enough to meet current and prioritize future capability requirements?
  • How should Canada approach space procurement as a way to equip the CAF and other government departments with space assets and create jobs in the space sector?
  • What are the strategic and defence implications of Canada’s space industry for DND/CAF, and how could it be leveraged to contribute to alliances and partnerships?
Threats, vectors, and targets
  • What should DND/CAF’s role be in Canada’s response to malicious and below threshold activities in non-traditional domains?
  • How can DND/CAF maximize the use of these domains, especially in the context of strategic competition? How are allies and adversaries exploiting these domains?
  • How should DND/CAF approach the increasing blending of operational domains?
  • What competencies (e.g., knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes) and training do DND/CAF members need? What creative partnerships can DND/CAF establish, including in the private sector, to enhance its effectiveness in these domains?
  • How can DND/CAF ensure interoperability and credibility with its key allies in these domains?
Pan-domain operations and implications
  • How can DND/CAF maintain effective command and control and freedom of action in new domains amidst rapid technological change?
  • 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 cyber, information, and space domains?
  • How can open-source intelligence (OSINT) operations be conducted to maximize the exploitation potential of the internet, while refraining from infringing on the privacy and rights of Canadian at home and abroad? Are policy or legislative changes needed, particularly in regards to information sharing, privacy, or transparency?
  • How should DND/CAF raise awareness of and communicate with the Canadian public and other audiences on the critical role of cyber, information, and space operations?
  • How should DND/CAF work with other government departments and agencies in the cyber, space, and information domains?

Emerging Technologies and Military Application

The Challenge

The rapid evolution of emerging technologies is a key factor of the changing security environment: one that presents opportunities and vulnerabilities. Numerous technological advances and their applications have the potential to change the fundamental nature of military operations and activities. The rapid pace of technological change requires DND/CAF to quickly translate advancements into military capabilities, limit the exploitation by adversaries, partner with academia and industry, and retain a necessary technological edge alongside key allies.

Key Aspects and Suggested Questions

(R)evolutions in the global technology landscape
  • What are the strategic, operational and tactical implications of emerging and increasingly accessible technologies such as additive manufacturing/3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI), autonomy, big data, biotech, blockchain, cloud computing, crypto currencies, human modification, quantum, robotics, and space-based systems?
  • How can DND/CAF more rapidly identify, develop, fund, and deploy emerging technologies, in light of ethical, legal, operational, policy, and strategic considerations?
  • How can DND/CAF position itself to seize technological opportunities and mitigate potential vulnerabilities, biases, and the perpetuation of inequalities?
  • How can DND/CAF improve its approach to the proliferation of new technologies among allies and adversaries? How will these technologies be used to challenge the CAF?
  • How can emerging technologies enable and support DND/CAF members (e.g. career management, education, health, medical, training)?
  • What competencies (e.g., knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes) will be required of CAF personnel to leverage emerging technologies?
Leveraging other sectors and international partnerships
  • How can DND/CAF contribute to a dynamic and open innovation ecosystem and work with the private sector and academia to raise awareness, mitigate risk, and leverage technologies for defence use?
  • Are there innovative partnership strategies to offset the capital costs of new technologies and capabilities for defence, which safeguard sensitive technologies from exploitation by malign actors?
Ethical, legal, and policy implications
  • What could the future of arms control regimes look like, and how should Canada contribute to arms control and counter-proliferation efforts?
  • What are the legal and ethical considerations for developing, adopting, and employing emerging technologies?
  • How can DND/CAF ensure gender, racial, and other social biases in AI, machine learning, and cyber systems are not inside our defence architecture and affecting operational capability?
  • How are adversaries leveraging non-traditional vectors to impede Allied access to emerging technology pipelines?
  • How can DND/CAF adapt its intelligence function and capabilities to harness the tools offered by emerging technologies while ensuring proper ethical and oversight frameworks are in place?
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