CANADA/U.S.: Bilateral Industry Integration
© 2006 FrontLine Defence (Vol 3, No 6)

Canada/U.S. conference promotes integration of North American defence & security industrial base.

With a heightened global instability and a shared concern for domestic security, the time is right for Canada and the United States to revitalize the bilateral co-operation that has historically existed between Canadian and U.S. defence and security industries.

That message was consistently delivered by senior government and industry speakers recently, during the first-ever joint conference of the Canadian Associa­tion of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) and the U.S. National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA).

Presenters spoke to the 250 delegates about opportunities for greater industrial cooperation in key areas of strategic national interest to both countries, and about barriers to effectively address these challenges, most notably, the impact of the International Traffic in Arms Regula­tions (ITAR) on an integrated North American defence and security environment.

Advantages will come from cooperation with our neighbour to achieve mutually beneficial industrial partnerships and standards. Also important is the need to optimize security and retain the free flow of goods and people in this changed world. The coming years will see resources being spent on both sides of the border to achieve a prosperity security balance.

Unprecedented Collaborative Opportunity
“The opportunity for Canadian defence companies to compete for new offset business based on upon new procurements of U.S. defence articles has never been greater,” said U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins, as he opened the conference. “On both sides of the border, we’re now looking at problems as a shared responsibility.”

That shared responsibility for North American security protection has reached historically high levels. Common priorities include joint protection of borders, coastal waters, ports and harbours, urban communities and critical infrastructure.

Defence Cooperation
Canada and America, allies in NATO operations (including Afghanistan), have recently renewed the NORAD agreement, expanding the joint mandate for maritime warning. The two countries are partners in major multinational defence projects, including the Joint Strike Fighter Program.

The Canadian government is set to make its largest investment in defence and security equipment in more than three decades. Much of the $17 billion acquisition of new military platforms is expected to be sourced from U.S. manufacturers. Opportunities for bilateral cooperation are unprecedented in recent decades.

Industry a Key Partner to Governments
Speakers acknowledged the seminal role by industry in the supply of equipment, technologies and services to help the two governments meet their shared defence and security priority requirements.

Conservative Member of Parliament (Edmonton Centre) and a member of the House Standing Committees on National Defence and on Public Safety, Laurie Hawn delivered that message, on behalf of the Government of Canada, during the keynote luncheon address. “A robust Canadian Forces and effective civilian security agencies require an innovative and competitive defence and security industry in Canada and across the border.”

In that context, Mr. Hawn spoke to the ITAR issue, saying that a remedy needs to be found for the ­government to move forward with its acquisition priorities and for Canadian industry to participate in a meaningful way. “Access to controlled technologies is becoming problematic for Canada-U.S. industrial partnerships,” he noted with concern. “This could impact our long-standing and solid defence and industrial partnership and the joint interoperability of our militaries.”

ITAR interpretations remain a thorn in the side of bilateral industrial cooperation, and a number of Canadian company representatives also reflected on the ITAR issue. “Exports are critical to Canadian industry,” affirmed Bob Fischer, VP Business Development & Government Relations with General Dynamics Canada, “we can’t rely exclusively on doing business in Canada.” Fischer went on to say: “in recent years we have drifted away from the concept of an integrated North American industrial base.”

Participants from both Canada and the U.S. recognize that ITAR is here to stay. However, from the Canadian point of view, it requires urgent attention by the most senior political levels of the Canadian and U.S. governments to make it work efficiently. Greg Suchan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense Trade, with the U.S. State Department, discussed ITAR with senior Canadian officials during his visit to Ottawa. He told conference attendees that ITAR is necessary and that “we want to make sure that we come out with a sound approach on this difficult issue because we are committed to defence cooperation with Canada.”

As Canada rebuilds its military and security forces, and commits to the shared security and prosperity of North America, defence and security industries on both sides of the border look to contribute in a revitalized and integrated industrial relationship. CADSI and NDIA are committed to this historic defence and security partnership. Will government decisions demonstrate a similar commitment?

Chris MacLean is the Editor-in-Chief for FrontLine Defence magazine.
© FrontLine Defence 2006