Vanguard Magazine

April/May 2015

Preserving capacity, General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, Keys to Canadian SAR

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T The lAST wORD 50 APRIL/MAY 2015 Admiral William gortney is commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command. This article is adapted from a presentation to the Conference of Defence Associations Institute in february. T oday's security environment is complicated by crises around the world. Combining these crises with the ambiguity of the future and today's fiscal reality results in risk – risk incurred by not funding sufficiently to maintain our militaries at a level that will ensure the appropriate strategy is successful. To be honest, I dislike the word risk. We throw the word around so much it is meaningless to almost everyone. First, the single word risk is not descriptive, it's not possessive or impactful. We need to better articulate what risk means, identify who owns risk, and explain how risk impacts our ability to execute our strategy. From my perspective there are three types of risk: risk to mis- sion; risk to the force executing the mission; and risk to the long-term health of the force. The first asks the question, are we able to execute the mission that we are assigned? The second asks, are the forces who execute the as- signed mission able to do so with acceptable losses? And third asks, while doing the first and the second today, are we ensuring we do not hollow or break the force so that the future force is able to execute future missions with ac- ceptable losses? Who owns these risks? I look at risk through the eyes of commanders. And when mission and lives are at stake, only commanders can be held accountable. In Canada, the first and second risks are owned by the com- mander of Canadian Joint Operations Command, the Chief of the Defence Staff, the Minister of National Defence and the Prime Minister. And on the third, the risk is owned solely by the Ser- vice chiefs, for they are accountable to build their future forces. Clearly Congress and Parliament each play a critical role, but they are not commanders. History shows the impact of getting the first two types of risk wrong. In my country, commanders, service chiefs, even Secretar- ies of Defense, have been relieved, and Presidents have not been re-elected. But what about the third – risk to the long term health of the force? Again, history shows that when we have misjudged the first two and failed, most often it was because we failed to ensure the third in the years preceding the event. And this is why I believe the third risk is the most important. How well today's commanders succeed in dealing with today's missions is really a function of yesterday's decisions. And how well tomorrow's commanders succeed in dealing with tomorrow's missions will be a function of the decisions we must make today. Today's security environment is composed of multiple crisis around the world. In the U.S, our combatant commanders must confront the crises they are facing and they must confront them immediately. This means they want forward-deployed and for- ward-based forces; they don't want forces on a prepare-to-deploy order who might be there in 90 to 120 days. Service chiefs must balance their ability to meet this demand while ensuring their relief will have the capability and capacity to succeed in the future. And this is where inadequate resources to meet the strategy increases these three types of risk. We need to better explain this increase, how it manifests itself and what we need to mitigate these increased risks. I believe the cascading ef- fects of accumulated readiness reductions over time increase these three types of risk. These risks are not binary. It is not as sim- ple as having risk or not having risk. And the three types of risk are not static, having the same amount of risk over time. Nor does risk increase in a linear fashion. Instead, accumu- lated readiness reductions over time results in compounding risk. The three types of risk exponentially increase over time. The force does not get hollow with the flick of a switch – say a single sequestration cut – but through inadequate resourc- ing over multiple years, combined with a force stressed by 13 years of war, and which is dealing with today's security environ- ment of simultaneous crises around the world. Failing to mitigate the risks to the long-term health of the force today is a recipe for mission failure with unacceptable losses in the future. The services must also recognize and have the ability to discard unneeded capability while eliminating waste in how we build and maintain our force. We must be good stewards of our taxpayers' dollars while being the guardians and protectors of those taxpayers. While we debate how much we want to invest in our defence, we must remember that only a miniscule percentage of our nation volunteers to serve our nations in this time of war, and it is my hope that the vast majority who could not or did not volunteer make the correct decision to fund those who did volunteer to the proper levels required to continue to protect both our great nations. the risk of a hollow force failing to mitigate the risks to the long-term health of the force today is a recipe for mission failure with unacceptable losses in the future.

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