Restructuring the Armed Forces for Unpredictable Dangers

Article excerpt

The Armed Forces are in the second year of a five-year restructuring program intended to cut costs while equipping them with the multi-purpose combat capabilities needed to meet the unpredictable challenges of a dangerous world. Address to the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, December 2, 1996.

In every walk of life, in every profession, in every business, challenges are faced and choices are made continuously.

There is no simple way to assess what the 21st century holds for Canada, nor what the challenges will be for the Canadian Forces, nor what the international dynamics will be over the next decade -- particularly on issues of peace and war. The totally unforeseen changes that have occurred in the past 10 years are a guarantee of that.

It is possible to identify the developments that are likely to shape the challenges for global security in the initial years of the next century.

There is plenty of evidence of geopolitical manoeuvering, with the United States, Russia, China and the European community, among others, reevaluating their roles in an uncertain world.

The United States will no doubt remain the preeminent global power for some time to come. Yet efforts to balance its budget and pressures from domestic isolationist forces may combine to limit America's ability to remain fully engaged in critical regions.

Russia's future course is unclear, as it copes with enormous political and socio-economic evolution precipitated by communism's collapse.

China is at a crossroads. With its massive population, high-growth economy, and Hong Kong absorbed, China will certainly play a growing role in the world's affairs.

The European community is an example of dramatic change and unprecedented co-operation and accommodation.

There is relative understanding in relations among the great powers, but a number of violent conflicts continue to pose serious challenges to peace.

The risk of conflict between states will continue. Deep-seated territorial and ideological grievances persist in volatile regions like the Middle East, South Asia and the Korean Peninsula. The world must remain ready to meet these dangerous challenges.

Peacekeeping and peacemaking operations will often be needed in the developing parts of the world where there is a collapse of authority and political, social and military chaos.

The United Nations, many hope, will remain the source of international legitimacy; the place where the world seeks to work out problems of instability and aggression. But it must evolve if it is to provide a framework for meeting the challenges for action in response to the threats to security in various regions of the world.

The alliance structures to which we are committed partners are also changing to meet the challenges of the new global realities. For example, it is widely accepted that some of our former adversaries from the Warsaw Pact will formally become our allies as part of NATO. Who would have believed that 10 years ago?

So the question is: how will the Canadian Forces meet the challenges of the 21 st century?

In our view, the choice is clear -- we must retain multi-purpose, combat-capable forces to carry out the essential mission of defending Canada and contributing to international peace and security.

The choices we must make for the Canadian Forces will build on the historic foundation of loyal, dedicated and professional service that the members of the Canadian military have provided since before Confederation.

In the aftermath of the Cold War, we no longer foresee any worldwide conflict, but we must deal with instability in the world.

In the face of our country's fiscal situation, our challenge is to implement a major downsizing initiative of the Canadian Forces while continuing to invest in the long-term viability of the Forces during a period of extremely intense operational activity. …