The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Cannis):
We'll just move on, then.
I'd like to welcome our guests. We have with us today, from the Department of National Defence, Vice-Admiral Robertson, chief of the maritime staff; Commodore Greenwood, director general, maritime equipment program management; and from Public Works and Government Services Canada, we have Mr. Terry Williston, director general of land, aerospace, and marine systems and major project sectors. We also have with us Mr. Edward Lam, director of the joint support ship project.
I'll just introduce our guests for the second session as well, if I may. Also from the Department of National Defence, we have Lieutenant General Leslie, chief of the land staff. We have with us Colonel Riffou, director of land requirements. We have with us Chief Warrant Officer Lacroix, land forces chief warrant officer. From Public Works and Government Services Canada, we have, as I mentioned earlier, Mr. Terry Williston, director general of land, aerospace, and marine systems.
I'd like to welcome you, gentlemen, and thank you for being with us today.
I think the normal practice when I was chairing was that the witnesses spoke first. Will all four of you be speaking, if I may ask? I just need to know for timing purposes.
VAdm D. Robertson:
Thanks very much, Mr. Chairman and ladies and gentlemen.
Thanks for providing us an opportunity to come here today and speak to you. Certainly we were encouraged by the active role that the committee is taking in the study of matters of national defence, and we look forward to this discussion of maritime procurement. I'm very pleased to be here with colleagues from Public Works, and with Commodore Greenwood, who I would characterize simply as the navy's engineer.
As Chief of the maritime staff and commander of Canada's navy, I am responsible for providing maritime forces to operational commanders who employ maritime power. This is what we call force generation, and it consists of providing commanders not only maritime forces that are equipped and trained for any mission, but also in establishing the policies, standards and doctrine that will translate into tactical excellence in maritime operations. This includes the setting of requirements for new or replacement capabilities that will ensure the continuing success of maritime operations.
The role military requirements play at the beginning of the procurement business has been introduced by previous witnesses, and I'd be pleased to discuss this further during the Q and A period. I'd like to focus my comments on those things that tend to make maritime procurement unique.
The uniqueness of maritime procurement is attributable to the cost of maritime platforms, due to their complexity, and the timeframes over which they are acquired and employed. Delivering new or replacement capabilities takes longer than in the other environments because of the nature of warship design and construction—since warships are the most complex platforms the Canadian forces own.
Each of our warships is a self-contained entity that shouldn't be thought of as the equivalent of a fighter aircraft or a tank. In fact, as some of you have seen first-hand in visiting our ships, as a tactical platform each warship is more like parts of an army battle group or a flight of combat aircraft, as well as parts of the many assets that deploy and sustain those capabilities in theatre--strategic and tactical lift, combat support, combat service support, long-haul communications, intelligence, surveillance, force protection, and so on and so on--all rolled into one platform.
Virtually all these war-fighting and enabling capabilities are designed into warships from the keel up, and it's these organic and highly integrated capabilities that permit ships to operate globally for months at a time with the inherent flexibility to accomplish a range of different missions when deployed, as well as to seamlessly integrate into larger maritime formations when that's required.
All of this capability in a single package comes at an upfront cost that tends to create a little bit of a sticker shock among policy-makers, and that tends to delay maritime force recapitalization.
What's not often appreciated is the fact that despite the initial costs of maritime forces, the navy is the least expensive of the three services. This is the case when viewed across the entirety of the defence services program, which includes not only the capital costs for combat fleets, but also their ongoing sustainment costs, enabling infrastructure, research and development, and especially their personnel costs, and so on.
To that fact needs to be added the longevity of naval platforms and the timeframe measured in decades over which the initial capital investment in warships achieves effect. After all, the Iroquois-class destroyers were designed in the 1960s, commissioned in the 1970s, updated in the 1990s, and are still performing exceptionally well as both air defence platforms and command and control ships for the Canadian Forces, as well as for the NATO alliance and coalition forces.
And I have little doubt that any project to replace the Iroquois-class and Halifax-class will be very expensive, but our experience is that the replacement ships will serve from late in the next decade through until the 2050s or 2060s.
Nevertheless, the upfront costs of building or modernizing a class of ships is the largest challenge in military procurement that naval planners confront. That challenge has certainly made it difficult to proceed with capability replacement or creation. Even as the last of the Halifax-class frigates was delivered in 1996, we dealt departmentally with several project deferments or cancellations.
The real consequence of those deferment and cancellation decisions has been to increase the strategic risk that we will have diminished output in the middle of the next decade. Simply put, we will have fewer hulls available to respond to contingencies as we begin to modernize the Halifax class frigates.
Moreover, the later we introduce future surface combatants to replace our current ships, the greater may be the need to introduce them in a relatively compressed period of time, and that means we potentially miss an opportunity to break the boom-and-bust cycle that's long characterized naval procurement.
Previous witnesses have stated that the replacement of a warship class is one of those instances that favours a design-build approach to procurement, and there are a number of reasons for this.
First, ships are built in much smaller numbers than other fighting fleets, such as vehicles or aircraft. As a result, shipbuilding remains largely a made-to-order industry, despite the worldwide consolidation of maritime defence industries.
Second, national requirements have a major impact by virtue of the highly integrated nature of warship design. Embedded into ship design is the entire structure and philosophy of a navy's establishment, the concept of employment, manning, training and education, and maintenance, as well as conditions of service.
The design-build approach is exemplified by the Joint Support Ship project. As previous defence industry witnesses have noted, JSS has been more open during the pre-definition and definition phases than previous major warship activities. The project office is decidedly smaller than was the case for the Halifax class project, and it has made greater use of contracted engineering design support than was the case in the past. Commander Greenwood will be pleased to elaborate on these points in the questions and answers to follow.
Ladies and gentlemen, with that, I'd merely emphasize that our ability to make long-term achievable and affordable plans over the life cycles typical for maritime forces creates the predictability that allows us to optimize our force planning, generation, and employment in the long term.
Mr. Chairman, thanks for the opportunity to make remarks. I'd be happy to take your questions.
VAdm D. Robertson:
We look ahead at the future security environment, based on the work that we're doing today. Over the past year, we've had ships deployed with the alliance in the Mediterranean and off the coast of Africa. We have a ship that's just coming back from doing maritime security work with coalition forces in the Persian Gulf region. From all of those deployments, from our exercises, we make observations about where we think we should be doing things differently and where we need new capabilities for the future.
We also focus on what for most would seem to be the very long term, because naval capability is only delivered over a period of eight to ten years. We are always looking at what is likely to happen a decade to two decades from now. In terms of what can be put into warships or what new warships might look like, 2017 is almost tomorrow. In that regard, we watch what's going on around the world.
A decade from now, I would expect to see a variety of technological advances in the hands of coastal nations around the world, and those will require us to adapt over the coming decade. There would be several great examples, and I think the best would be the attack that Hezbollah put in against an Israeli frigate last summer. That shows the proliferation of capabilities to a terrorist organization.
A decade from now, we expect that terrorist organizations won't simply have a missile that travels at Mach 1; anyone could expect that surface missiles would be proliferated to travel at something of the order of Mach 2 or greater. We have to be able to work in the littoral region, and we have to be able to defend ourselves against that kind of capability.
VAdm D. Robertson:
If you were to go back over the last thirty years, and indeed if you were to forecast ahead over perhaps twenty or thirty years, you would see that the percentages allocated year by year fluctuate greatly, but that they tend to be relatively constant over time.
I'll give you an example. In the early 1990s, a huge investment was made in the navy that is continuing to pay off today, and that was the Halifax-class frigates, which were an upgrade over the Iroquois class. At that point, those two major crown investments were consuming a large portion of the available capital money, and there were people in the army and the air force who might have encouraged the same question to be asked about why the navy was being allowed to hog all of the armed forces money. So this does tend to go in cycles.
In the early 1990s, that was a function of the rust-out of the ships that we built in the 1950s and 1960s. We needed to make great change quickly. That was appreciated, so there was a reinvestment made.
That's not where we are today with the maritime forces, but there will need to be a reinvestment made in coming years. Again, it comes down to a question of balance. At this point, the air force absolutely needs reinvestment, and there will be a time to make a significant reinvestment in the navy in years to come.
Hon. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Lib.):
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Admiral Robertson, Commodore Greenwood, Mr. Williston, and Mr. Lam, for being here today.
I'd like to ask just three very quick questions.
First, I'm hearing some disturbing reports that the subs are going to be scrapped in order to pay for other infrastructure. Is that true or false?
Second, can you give us some indication when the RFPs for the Iroquois replacement will be started?
Lastly, it was my understanding that our current supply ships will be mothballed two years prior to the new ships coming online. Can you tell me if that's true or false? If it's true, don't you think we ought to keep our current supply ships afloat in order to make sure that our navy has the supply required for them to exercise the duties that they do so well?
Mr. Steven Blaney:
Thank you, Mr. Cannis.
Chief of the defence staff, commodore, Public Works and Government Services representative, welcome to you all this morning.
I appreciate this conversation. I am seeing that on the one hand you have to be able to plan the maritime forces' long-term needs and on the other, Ms. Black clearly referred to the fact that it was also in the industry's interest, because for decades, like over the last, dockyards have, practically speaking, been on life support.
I believe this should be one of our committee's recommendations. Surely, there would be consensus among Canadian members that, regardless of the governments in power, there needs to be a long-term policy with respect to the marine industry, so as to strike a balance between the equipment you need and production.
This leads me to the question I have for Mr. Williston.
You mentioned that not only are needs being felt by the navy, but also by other industry sector stakeholders. When will the meeting that you mentioned take place, the meeting between those who have to get these ships built, the coast guard etc.?
The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Cannis):
Ladies and gentlemen, we'll reconvene .
I did introduce all our guests when the meeting opened earlier, but we're into our second session and I'll take a moment to reintroduce our guests.
From the Department of National Defence, we have General Leslie, chief of the land staff, and Chief Warrant Officer Lacroix, land forces. From Public Works and Government Services, we have Terry Williston, and we also have Johanne Provencher, senior director, major projects directorate.
Welcome to the committee.
Will all of you be speaking, or will there be one presentation? All right, one presentation.
General Leslie, ten minutes. The floor is yours, sir, and then we'll go into questions.
LGen A. Leslie (Chief of the Land Staff, Department of National Defence):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. It is a pleasure to be back with you once again, particularly for these important hearings on procurement.
Before I begin, I would like to introduce to you the people who are with me. I am accompanied by Mr. Terry Williston and Ms. Johanne Provencher from Public Works and Government Services, by Colonel François Riffou, my Director Land Requirement and my Chief Warrant Officer Lacroix, the Regimental Sergeant Major for the Land Staff.
The army's requirements are evolving as a result of the changing threat and the environment in which our soldiers operate. Much of the equipment we field today was acquired just following the Cold War or in the 1990s. Today we face asymmetric threats and an enemy that uses different weapons and tactics. There are other differences as well: during the many years when our major focus was on central Europe and later, our service in Bosnia, we were not required to operate in desert conditions.
Army requirements are driven by two major pillars. The first pillar is the combat development process. This process has led to the development of the document Land Ops 20-21, which is our future force employment concept. It looks out 15 years and tells us what kind of army will be required and how we should be prepared to fight in two to three decades. That is the more theoretical side and is prepared by some of the most forward-looking thinkers in the army, officers who study the evolution of land combat, likely technological advances and other questions of that nature. We are putting the final touches to that document and it should be published in the near future.
On the more practical side, and this is the second pillar, army requirements are driven by government policy and funding. At the moment, Mr. Chairman, the primary equipment related focus for the army are unforecasted operational requirements for the Afghanistan theatre.
And on the positive side, Mr. Chairman, the system has been very responsive to our requirements in that theatre. Whether it was the M777, UAVs or the Nyala fleet, the system has clearly demonstrated that it can be flexible and responsive to the needs of our soldiers in theatre. What is new is the ability of the system to respond more quickly to requirements that involve major expenditures; equipment we will bring home and maintain in the army for years to come, such as the M777 artillery pieces.
This is not the way we want to procure equipment on a regular basis—clearly, we prefer to take more time and think carefully about what will serve us best in different theatres for years to come. But the fact that the system has demonstrated the responsiveness that it has to our most pressing needs in Afghanistan is a most welcome development. On behalf of our soldiers, we are grateful.
Mr. Chairman, the length and intensity of our engagement in Afghanistan will no doubt have a significant impact on some of our major capital fleets. And we are using them at a faster rate than we initially thought would be necessary; we are driving them hard and wearing them out. As an example, the army is initiating a study, to be completed by July that will tell us the exact state of our lav fleet. The fleet was expected to run about 4,000 km a year—and not necessarily in desert conditions. We are now running 14-hour crew days and we are loading them up past what we expected with additional armour, ammunition and other things soldiers need when they go to war. We are running them in desert conditions for much of the year. We may therefore be forced to schedule life extension or replacement programs earlier than planned.
Mr. Chairman, your committee has heard from Mr. Dan Ross. He referred to a new way of doing business, so-called performance-based requirements. The army agrees in principle with this approach: the tell us what you want this piece of equipment to do approach, and we look forward to guidance and direction that will facilitate the change in our culture and methods from the more prescriptive approach that we currently use.
I should update the committee on a couple of more immediate projects, Mr. Chairman—we expect to go to the contract phase of our heavy-armoured truck acquisition by the end of March and our medium-weight truck project is on schedule to go to contract by Christmas. In both cases, we have received a good deal of interest from industry.
Mr. Chairman, the Canadian Army operates in a world where we face asymmetric threats, enemies have shown themselves to be highly adaptable, where technologies change very rapidly and where the age-old competition between offensive and defensive systems has accelerated.
As commander, I simply want to get the best possible equipment to my soldiers as quickly and in the most efficient way possible. Anything this committee does to streamline the system and help us to attain that goal will be greatly appreciated by Canadian soldiers.
In closing, sir, the process is going very well. When I first went to Kabul with 2,500 of your soldiers, in very short order we were provided with unattended aerial vehicles, night vision goggles, new radars, and up-armour kits for some of our vehicles. A whole bunch of people around town—Treasury Board, PWGSC, Foreign Affairs, PCO, ADM (Mat), and the entities within National Defence Headquarters—have done a great job, and that process is accelerating even faster, for which the soldiers of the army are extraordinarily grateful.
Quite frankly, sir, you and your committee should be very proud of all the work that you've done as a team to try to expedite the acquisition process to better protect our soldiers.
Gentlemen, I am now prepared to answer your questions.
Hon. Denis Coderre:
Gen. Leslie, it would be appropriate, before we begin, to tell you to what extent we are proud of our men and women currently fighting in Afghanistan as well as all those involved in other missions throughout the world. You should also be proud, because you yourself represent this very pride and this honour. It is also a great privilege to have you here. Moreover, we wish you a speedy recovery. We hope you will be back on your feet in no time.
Today, it would only be appropriate, not only on behalf of the official opposition, but on behalf of all members, to say to what extent, through you, we express the pride that we feel in our men and women fighting for our country, democracy and well-being throughout this world.
That being said, I am pleased to see that now, at the end of March, we will finally have a selection process in place. As you have stated on several occasions, if there is one force that has crying needs, it is certainly the land force. We need to replace 1,500 military vehicles, 800 commercial trucks and 300 trailers. It's essential and it's important. The lives of our troops depend on it. We need these vehicles, we need them to be able to operate.
You will agree with me, general, that at the end of the day, the person who approves the requirements—
The one who agrees with the requirements is the minister. Do you agree with that?
Mr. Claude Bachand:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First off, I would like to start by welcoming the entire team as well as Gen. Leslie who impressed me a great deal with the quality of his French. His presentation was 90% in French. I also know that he is a great tactician. So perhaps he was trying to catch me off guard by making this presentation. I also know that he is able to withstand what I would call IPEDs in other words, improvised political explosive devices.
Some hon. members: Ah, ah!
Mr. Claude Bachand: Gen. Leslie, how do you feel—I'm not talking about your leg—but rather as chief of the land staff? Out of the $20 billion announced by the government for projects, only $1 billion will be going to the land forces.
Don't you get the impression that you need to change your approach with the department? In fact, the billion dollars is for the much-wanted trucks. Earlier on, when Mr. Robertson was here, I talked to him about these $3 billion, in other words 15% of the total amount which means that 80% of the money will be going to the air force.
What I am even more concerned about is that so much money is invested in aviation—and that is the purpose of my question—that I wonder whether you may currently have projects which are in a way paying for it. I will be very specific: I am referring to ADATS, the Air Defence Anti-Tank System and to MMEVs, Multi-Mission Effects Vehicles.
For the benefit of the people watching us today, the ADATS are used to control air space and ensure that when our soldiers are in a theatre if there is a missile or an aircraft they are able to manage the air space.
With respect to MMEVs, they are for command and control in an operational theatre. The MMEV contract was cancelled and the ADATS program will probably continue until the 2010 Olympics. And then it will be stopped.
Do you not feel as though you are a victim of the tremendous influx of investment on the air force side and, at the end of the day, Ottawa's orphan child, because of these decisions?
LGen A. Leslie:
First off, thank you for your comments.
When I went to Saint-Jean, during the ice storm, I had a good French-language instructor, you. So, I owe any ability that I have to speak French to you.
Sir, you've asked a complex question. Because I'm recovering from knee surgery and may be somewhat under the influence of prescribed medication, I will default back to English to try to answer you. And I apologize for that. Normally I wouldn't.
I certainly do not feel like the poor child among the three services. As you know, over the course of the last 15 to 20 years, a great deal of intellectual thought and future scenario planning has led most senior military officers to understand that the Canadian Forces has to be a team. I cannot do my job as a soldier unless I am delivered to wherever the moment of crisis might be, either domestically or internationally.
When the army shows up somewhere—and as you know, we tend to show up in very large numbers with thousands of pieces of equipment—the people who move us are the air force and the navy, certainly over strategic and even operational distances.
So when one considers that we have a first remit, which is to Canada, to be able to move great young soldiers around to help in domestic crises or
during the ice storm or other similar events,
in the Winnipeg floods, you have to get us there. And more often than not, internal to Canada, that will be done by the air force. So the idea of focusing a large number of resources to re-equip our operational and strategic fleets to move army folks around certainly resonates with me and with a great number of other soldiers.
The same is true of the navy. The joint support ship issue, which will have embedded within it the intellectual idea that you can move a company of soldiers within that construct, I think is a very good one, a very good one indeed. So I do not feel, as the army commander, that we are being disadvantaged by the current focus of activities, certainly in terms of the large crown projects, on the air force and the navy.
With regard to the response from folks such as you, from Canadians, and as I mentioned earlier, from the team here in Ottawa, the energy and attention that's been given across town to make sure that our soldiers are as well protected as they possibly can be—and that is expensive—has been brilliant. It really has.
In the past it would have taken years to do the design work and get approval to wrap our armoured vehicles in more armour--more steel--to buy night-vision goggles, to buy the RG-31, to buy the Triple 7 guns, and to buy new boots for the soldiers and the new flak vests to stop the shrapnel from hurting them. I guess when you total up the sums of all those various initiatives, they do not match that of the major crown projects being dedicated to air and sea assets, but I'm certainly very comfortable with where we are now.
LGen A. Leslie:
First and foremost, the Government of Canada has not made a decision on the future of MMEV, nor of ADATS, nor indeed on any of our large, complicated pieces of land-centric equipment.
ADATS is approaching the end of its useful life, in terms of its technology. Some of the fire-control systems, software, and computational assets that are integral to the vehicle, and the links it has with the look and sense of the fire-control systems are such that we're either going to have to make a major investment in keeping that fleet going—by major, I mean truly of a very large scale—or we're going to have to look for other options.
There is an operational requirement that the commander of Canada Command has identified in support of the Olympics, which you quite rightly have already referred to. Once we get a sense of what the full operation plan will be to support the Olympics, then I'll be able to give you more advice.
Ms. Dawn Black:
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Welcome to the committee.
I think you know that several of us on the committee were in Kandahar last month, and I just wanted to start by saying how impressed all of us were with the professionalism of the well-trained men and women in the Canadian Forces who we met there. We all really appreciated the opportunity to be there and see first-hand what's happening on the airfield, and even to experience going out in the Nyala—a bit outside the wire anyway. I wanted to let you know that this was the consensus of everybody on the committee.
There has been a lot of talk in the media about the possibility of purchasing more Leopard tanks from Germany. I'm wondering, is this being contemplated? Is that happening?
Also, did anything have to be purchased to ready the Leopard tanks that we now have in Afghanistan and get them there?
My third question concerns the issue of the cooling system that's also been reported in the media. We're coming into spring in Afghanistan, and it's a very hot climate. What's happening around the cooling system and the ability to put in air conditioning?
There is this horrible vision of people cooking inside those things, and I would like an update on that, please.
LGen A. Leslie:
Absolutely, Madam, thank you.
The threat environment that we're currently facing in Afghanistan is not necessarily the model, but it is a model, and no matter where we may go next internationally, it's logical to assume that we will be facing much the same type of threat from fundamentalists or terrorists who will use improvised explosive devices to harm either our soldiers or those we're charged with protecting.
In the absence of a technological breakthrough of sufficient sophistication, degree of accuracy, and lethality that you can mount it on relatively light vehicles to defeat a suicide bomber with five or six artillery shells in the back of his Toyota pickup truck as he rams up alongside you, or that can defeat an incoming projectile, such as a rocket-propelled grenade, we have had to default to options incorporating more mass on our vehicles, as have most other armies.
So we've put thousands of kilograms of extra armour on our M113 armoured personnel carriers. We bought the RG-31, and I know you've travelled in one. It's hideously uncomfortable, but it does the job. Think of the alternative.
Much the same is true of the Leopard, which is the single best-protected vehicle we have against an enormous blast. It's proved its worth in the sense that it has saved lives.
Like all soldiers who have been in combat, I don't necessarily like having to use the weapon systems that the Government of Canada makes available to us, but we are prepared to use them.
Very often, having these heavy pieces of equipment means that you don't have to use them, because you've presented or you've limited--
LGen A. Leslie:
In the immediate future, the big focus for us is on survivability. That ranges from putting more armour mass on our vehicles to individual soldier survivability systems. If I had to choose one nugget, that would be it.
A fear I have is that sometimes we may get it wrong, because we are facing an adaptive, intelligent enemy who can very often figure out what we're doing within days or weeks of our actually doing it. They adapt their tactics and their explosive charges. So it's a continual balance, a to and fro.
The second nugget, I guess, would have to do with tactical transportation. That, of course, is in part being addressed by the armoured trucks, which are moving very briskly indeed, I'm glad to say. Once again, that's thanks to the efforts of everybody on this committee.
But also there is the issue of medium- to heavy-lift helicopters. I would really like to see medium- to heavy-lift helicopters there. We will always have to travel by road, because one of our remits is to be out there with the population, but just having those helicopters would allow us in many cases to not expose our troops to unnecessary risks.
The third one, I would say, is surveillance. That's an air-land combination: how do I see over the next hill better, faster, smarter?
Thank you, Madam.
Mr. Blaine Calkins:
I'm glad to hear that.
This whole procurement thing is quite interesting to me. I've been researching this quite a bit and I have some questions that relate to the statements of requirements that the air force, if I can call it the air force, and the land service have been moving to, which would streamline the process so that we basically get rid of these 1,700-page documents on technical requirements and get down to capabilities requirements and then put it out to industry a lot quicker, speeding up the process. But when the folks from the navy were here this morning they basically were talking differently, from the perspective of still basically designing those technical specifications.
From an overall procurement perspective, when you talk about the integration of the three different services or three different elements of the Canadian Forces and how you're dependent upon the navy and how you're dependent upon the air force to project forces and to sustain operations domestically or in foreign territory, how do you see the fact that we are going to design-build with the navy, to off-the-shelf with the air force, and off-the-shelf maybe with the army component? Is that going to pose any problems?
There's going to be significant lag time, if we go to design-build in the navy, compared to off-the-shelf with air force and army. I'm wondering how that affects your defence capabilities planning and your strategic planning in the future.
LGen A. Leslie:
Thank you for the comments about your soldiers. It's important for them to hear that. I think they know that, anyway, but it's very important for them to hear that. So thank you.
For the army, quality is important, as the technological sophistication of our various weapons platforms is ever-increasing. Also, mass has a quality all its own, so we tend to buy lots of things much smaller and less complex than ships.
My knowledge of shipbuilding is lower than a snake's belly. Admiral Robertson is a very smart guy. If he articulated to you the fact that he does need very detailed design specs, as the head of the navy, I'm going to nod at him, just as I kind of hope he'll nod at me when I'm talking about trucks or armoured personnel carriers.
In terms of the overall thrust, though, of getting to performance-based requirements, anything that can make the partnership among us, the other folks in government across town, and industry more responsive, and shape the output better such that industry can have a say in how things work--not in terms of dictating to the Government of Canada or the armed forces but just helping as a team--I think can only be of benefit in terms of the speed of response and in getting some good ideas from industry experts.
LGen A. Leslie:
Sir, we are going back to heavily armed vehicles, keeping in mind that we'll still have to have a range of capabilities to meet different operational scenarios, to give the Government of Canada a range of employment options. So we'll still have to have little, wee armoured patrol vehicles with four wheels. We'll still have to have heavier vehicles and a fleet in between.
By the way, the current fleet in between is the light armoured vehicle. As I mentioned before, only the Canadian army would call something that weighs 45,000 pounds light. It is a brilliant vehicle, but we have to wrap it in more steel to allow it to have a better chance of survival against the suicide bombers or the rocket-propelled grenades.
That sort of threat will probably exist wherever the Government of Canada might want to send us internationally. That is probably the worst case, but in the view of mitigating against unnecessary casualties, we in the army tend to try to plan for a little bit of the worst case.
So we see the army moving towards re-establishing a heavier presence--hardening ourselves, I guess, is the word you want to use. We're certainly not abandoning the idea of the lighter vehicles; it's just that we want a range of capabilities.
Of course, now we're operating at the extreme end of the range, but it's our thought that no matter where we may go next after Afghanistan, much the same sorts of threat scenarios will exist.
LGen A. Leslie:
You have the army sergeant major here who speaks on behalf of the soldiers. We have seen the results of injuries to the neck and shoulder as a result of shells, rocket grenades or suicide bombers going off.
There's a continual trade-off between the mobility of the soldier himself--so he can do his job--and protection. We are actively pursuing, as we speak, higher collars for some soldiers, shoulder pads of different types of armour, and a newer type of ballistic goggles. The introduction of the ballistic goggles, which now everyone has to wear all the time, has probably saved, anecdotally, 10 or 15 sets of eyes from having fragments hit them. There is the new flak vest as well.
To answer your question--and I'm sorry I'm babbling badgering on--yes, we are actively pursuing that.
Do you have any details, François?
Hon. Keith Martin:
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and Mr. McGuire.
Thank you, General Leslie, for being here, and gentlemen, and Madame Provencher.
I hope people who are listening know--they can't see it--you're here in a wheelchair, so we thank you very much for going the distance. Again, for what all of your troops are doing in the service of our country, we're profoundly grateful.
General, our overriding goal is to make sure your troops get what they need before they need it. That's why we're setting this. Could you give us a sense on a couple of things? One, you're perched on top, looking at the bottlenecks that you alluded to. Can you give us any advice on what we can offer to be able to remove those bottlenecks to facilitate that overriding goal?
Secondly, are you getting enough funds for your trainers to be able to get the training required for your troops to hone their skills?
Lastly, some of the IEDs coming out from Iraq, particularly ones that are able to shoot molten metal, are deeply concerning to the Americans, and you can see the movement of technology or tactics from Iraq to Afghanistan. Can you give us any advice on what we can offer to be able to ensure that you have the resources to protect your troops, given what you're seeing in Iraq and seeing the flow of nasty tactics that have been employed in Afghanistan?
LGen A. Leslie:
Absolutely. Keep on asking your questions. The fact that you're doing this is once again sending a clear signal across town that this is important. So all of you as a team are focusing your energies on trying to help the soldiers, and that in itself has ripples in the pond, spreading it across.
In terms of training systems, there was some thought five or six years ago that by investing in training technologies--and by the way, we want to do more of that--we could actually save money in the longer term. I do not hold that view. I think we have to invest in training systems, but that's to make our soldiers better at what they do and give them a greater chance of survival for that moment of truth overseas. So we want to invest more money in training systems, but I do not want to cut back on the number of field days that the soldiers in the army go out and do their business. Nor do I want to cut back on the ammunition we consume to give the young men and women that final edge that they might need when they go overseas.
On top of all that--I'm trying to think of an example--we are spending a great deal of taxpayers' money, and I think wisely, in doing different types of training than armies have done in the past. We've hired hundreds of Canadians who come from Afghanistan to give us a hand and play village elders, to play the roles of family elders, of shura council members. We are training our soldiers on how to work in and with the three-D construct, training them on how to work with the international organizations and development agencies, and all that's expensive.
Vis-à-vis the IEDs, the improvised explosive devices, they are gaining in lethality. With every passing month, there seems to be something new out there. I and my team do not have a solution currently in the immediate view that takes us away from mass--i.e., the idea of hardening elements of the army, big slabs of steel or armour.
LGen A. Leslie:
Thank you, Madam.
I've been on a large number of missions internationally, and attack helicopters or small armoured machines that can survive a hit from the ground have a variety of impacts on the people below them, not the least of which is that by having them, sometimes you deter those unpleasant elements who are trying to attack you. Of course, when an attack does occur it's a lot easier to find them and deal with them if you have that responsive capability.
If I may just bring the discussion up to a level involving the medium- and heavy-lift helicopters, when we get the medium- and heavy-lift helicopters, we are going to want to ensure that as they progress, as they travel across relatively hostile terrain, there will be other machines, smaller machines, around them to protect them. Does that happen in a multinational context? Do members of the coalition provide that capability? Do we add onto the existing Griffons? What will we do with the H-92? What is the future of the EH-101? I mean, there's a whole bunch of air-force-related questions that the chief of air staff–and I know you've talked to him–would be better able to articulate to you.
In terms of the army requirements, is there a need for a direct-fire and surveillance capability to better help the soldiers on the ground? Absolutely. It's a question of available resources and a certain degree of prioritization.
LGen A. Leslie:
Absolutely. It is a tool to provide surveillance of the air space and to assist in the command and control network.
But if we look out over the next five or ten years, a variety of decisions have to be made in terms of priority of effort. It's not only money; it's the skilled people, which Jean-François is in desperately short supply of, as are the folks at PWGSC, to manage these issues in a coherent fashion.
My immediate priority is hardening the force. And the current concept of the multi-mission effects vehicle does not have a great deal of survivability in the type of scenario that we see happening overseas. So no decisions have been made, as I mentioned earlier.
The Chief, the Chief of Force Development, the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff, and I have to figure out what the requirements are to support the Olympic Games. We have to figure out what are the likely chances of a reasonable possibility for success in terms of investment, either into ADATS or where are we going with MMEV. And no such decisions have been made.