Championing the Joint Force: A Job for the Public and our Political Leaders – Not Just Military Professionals Alone

  • Stuart Beare Canadian Global Affairs Institute


Canada’s security interests and the mission of our Armed Forces – that is to defend Canada, defend North America and to promote peace and security abroad – may largely remain unchanged and timeless. The nature of the security environment, however, has not – nor will it be in the years to come. An effective and relevant Canadian Armed Forces will continue to require capable, wellequipped and operationally-ready maritime, air and land forces who are largely raised and trained within our Army, Navy and Air Force. But in order for Defence to remain relevant and effective in an era of increased instability, volatility and unpredictability, our Armed Forces need the ability and capacity to match these with an increased understanding of what is going on, and preparedness for what is to come. This is the business of our military’s Joint Forces – those beyond the tactical units that the services provide. It is the joint organizations and networks within the institution that generate intelligence, provide understanding and lead the partnering, planning, force posturing and practicing so essential to the anticipation of, preparation for, and conduct of, operations – in particular in a world of unrelenting complexity. A decade after General Rick Hillier’s extraordinary initiatives to transform our Armed Forces from a service-centric machine-age force to one focused on the business of operations, one that thinks and acts Canadian Forces (joint) first, we do see evidence of real progress in the approach to joint operations and improved appreciation of our military’s joint functions and capabilities. Unlike the political and public calls for strong services and the modernization of their major platforms, however, this progress has been realized largely through efforts internal to the Armed Forces themselves. The initiative has been without political leadership and external policy topcover, rendering this progress and its future vulnerable and reversible. This paper describes the functions of the Joint Force; advocates for the capabilities they require to enable partnerships, enhance understanding and advance mission preparedness; and calls for unified leadership of the joint domain and over our military’s joint culture. Our traditional international partners have travelled this road. They too see that clarity on joint functions, joint capability, joint domain leadership, and stewardship over joint culture are vital to their military’s relevance and operational effectiveness – and to their agility and flexibility in the years to come. Their progress is the result of internal professional transformation, as well as the understanding of, and requirement by political leaders and modern defence policy to make this so. Here in Canada, the forming of new government this fall calls for a relook at Defence policy, providing new opportunity to invite that same political leadership and influence. Joint functions, joint capabilities and clear joint leadership are vital to our military’s relevance to, and effectiveness in, our national defence and operations. Joint Forces and the joint domain, like strong and capable Army, Navy and Air Forces, need to be led, resourced and fully engaged before planes fly, ships sail, and troops deploy. Joint-ness requires external understanding and proponents, and, within the Forces, a clearly identifiable champion. In Canada, these range from ambiguous to absent.
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