Has the Time Come to Establish Policy?
CHRIS MACLEAN
© 2015 FrontLine Defence (Vol 12, No 5)

A recurring theme in many FrontLine articles over the last decade, the need for clear policy reverberates strongly again in this edition. Will we finally be heard? Presumably, a lack of policy provided flexibility to push the envelope when convenient, or back off at other times, but this lack of guidance impacted every aspect of Canada’s defence posture and, indeed, her economic prosperity.

Is it coincidental that many articles in this edition once again focus on the need for Policy? In fact, retired Vice-Admiral Drew Robertson goes one step further, explaining the need to identify our “National Interests” first. A defence policy could then be based on those national interests. He notes how such a policy could have provided a renewed sense of urgency for defence requirements that happen to fall best in line with our national interests.

This links in closely with a call by Joe Spears to articulate an Arctic strategy based on our national interests. Such a list might have clarified the need for Arctic SAR; few would question the importance of safety issues related to the High Arctic, but how important does the Government of the people consider it to be? The problem is, without clear policy to guide decision-making, those who govern are flying by the seat of their pants (a strange aviation metaphor, but apt). Defining our national interests would allow leaders to make better decisions based on clear direction rather than emotions or special interest pressures (it’s called a plan).

And who are those decision-makers? Tim Lynch started out examining the fractured relationship between the departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs and, in the process, came to realize that, not only is a robust foreign policy extremely important, it depends to a great extent on an equally robust national defence policy, so why don’t these two, very influential federal departments play well together?

A robust foreign policy would define Canada’s relationship with global players, goals for the future, and would identify the path we want to travel. It would also provide a roadmap for federal departments to pursue a unified objective rather than individual ambitious agendas.

A defence policy would benefit that sector in so many ways, and with it, the economy. It would outline defence priorities, which would in turn help prioritize key procurement programs. Decision-makers could effectively strategize because they would know where Canada’s interests lie and what procurements would be necessary to accomplish them.

How would that help the business community?

There are solid reasons why CADSI, the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries has strongly advocated for a defence industrial policy. For years, company executives have explained to FrontLine that a defence industrial policy is necessary for the long term planning of business lines, and to guide corporate investment (oh, if they only knew which sectors Canada would focus on for future economic development).

When you consider the economic impact the defence sector has on the national GDP, it’s hard to dismiss the need for a strong defence industrial policy as one spoke to the wheel of a national defence policy, which would in turn support a robust foreign policy, all based on a clear articulation of Canada’s national interests.

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© FrontLine Defence 2015

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