Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Agile Procurement Workshop

On Thursday September 19, the Canadian Defence and Security Network hosted a day-long workshop on agile procurement in Ottawa. The event provided an opportunity for senior officials from the Department of National Defence (DND), the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to engage with outside academics and commentators on the challenges of pursuing an agile defence procurement model in Canada. This made for a full day of stimulating and far-reaching discussion.
The Agile Procurement Workshop consisted of half-hour briefings led by officials with follow-on roundtable discussions. First, officials from DND note that, while many things in Canadian defence procurement are going well, Canada’s current system for acquiring military capability may be ill-suited for a future in which the pace of technological change can only be expected to increase. Furthermore, civilian corporations that were previously unaffiliated with the defence sector are making their ‘game-changing’ capabilities available on civilian markets, while also shortening user-upgrade cycles and rapidly reducing the availability of parts for existing systems. The presenter asked: “Are we ready for what’s coming?” The consensus was that Canada risks falling behind in an evolving procurement space. In an era in which military equipment is software-enabled and the pace of hardware obsolescence is increasing, DND and the CAF require flexible planning tools that will enable them to continue to acquire and effectively sustain advanced military capabilities, while demonstrating value for money to the Canadian taxpayer.
The second session, delivered a CAF flag officer, considered how the CAF sets capability requirements. In his talk, the presenter described the CAF’s Capability Based Planning Model for defence acquisitions and compared this system in a standard procurement project versus an agile procurement project. He suggested that in the agile context, spending intentions, capability targets and High Level Mandatory Requirements (HLMRs) can all be revised as a project progresses, thereby allowing the CAF to adapt its requirements and costing to evolving technologies and threat environments. He suggested that flexible systems architectures are well-suited to this procurement approach. The presenter concluded by considering how evolving requirements might change DND relationships with industry.
The third session examined how the new Project Approval Directive is being leveraged to streamline procurements. As part of this effort, new authorities have been delegated to senior officials at DND to emphasize accountability and significant advances in data analytics are being leveraged in an interactive dashboard that will display the state of CAF readiness, personnel and ongoing capital projects. A portion of this information is made public on an annual basis in the Defence Capability Blueprint. Discussion focused on the cultural shift that will be required within DND for a comprehensive embrace of agile procurement. Academics asserted that there needs to be increased risk tolerance and greater emphasis on intra-departmental information sharing.
The fourth session of the day covered the Consolidated Investment Fund, with a focus on how DND defines “projects” versus “programs” and spends funds to purchase new capabilities or sustain existing ones. The presenter informed attendees that 173 of DND’s 333 active procurement projects have moved to a new phase of work in the past two years. The presenter noted that 70% of the capital projects named in Canada’s defence policy Strong, Secure, Engaged are in the costing or implementation phases. Work is being done to streamline processes around routine procurements and to ensure that existing governance mechanisms are used strategically on major projects.
The final sessions expanded upon several of the themes considered above. Presenters agreed that agile procurement is necessarily iterative, adaptable and solution-oriented. The process is conducive to sustained collaboration with other government departments and industry. It was further agreed that the emphasis in Canadian procurement must shift from seeking authority to being accountable. Finally, one presenter summed up the issue of the day: “We don’t want to be taking delivery of yesterday’s projects tomorrow.”
              The academics who attended the Agile Procurement Workshop are working on a report that responds to the discussion summarized above and proposes concrete steps that the Government of Canada can take to enhance defence procurement. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Imitating the Best: CIMVHR FTW!

The Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research started out as a partnership and then took off.  It is a network of doctors, scientists, military folks, government officials, and others who seek to understand the health challenges facing active members of the Canadian Armed Forces, veterans, and their families.  The CDSN Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator (podcast producer extraordinaire Melissa Jennings) gave me a "no, duh!" kind of look when I told her that CIMVHR (along with TSAS) inspired the original thinking and design of the CDSN.  CIMVHR is a CDSN partner, so Melissa and I attended the first day of their Forum in Gatineau at the casino on the other side of the river from Ottawa.

CIMVHR is simply the best bet (yes, doubling down on the casino thing) in Canada, as it has funded, supported, and disseminated a wide variety of research as you can see here:

I learned StatsCanada has heaps of
interesting surveys of defence stuff!

This morning had a great talk by Senior Epidemiologist Robert Hawes that made me reflect on my trip to Afghanistan in December 2007.  How so?  He talked about merging a bunch of different data, and showed that IED's were the major source of casualties.  I was not surprised by this, but hadn't realized when the lines split between improvised explosive devices and more ordinary forms of violence--bullets/artillery, etc.  The split happened really after 2007.  This was striking to me as my visit in December of 2007 had as a constant theme the IED threat.  We had briefings with those seeking to combat IEDs and such.  However, as the figure also shows, the efforts to defeat IEDs escalated and was quite successful (the green in the figure compared to the red).

The figure that showed the split also had three conclusions that were interesting: that given the nature of the various forms of harm, including mental, the health team has to be interdisicplinary; that few of the deaths but lots of the wounded were caused by safety issues, not the adversary; and a healthy force is more resilient than one that is already facing health challenges.

I couldn't stay long because of other commitments, but I learned alot from the poster presentations (see above), from this one talk, and from how CIMVHR does its business--so very well. So very proud of this CDSN partner.  Keep on keeping on!

Friday, September 20, 2019

CDSN Workshop #1 With A Bullet: Defence Procurement

The Canadian Defence and Security Network has two basic parts: a headquarters that is running all kinds of activities to train, connect, and amplify (the website/twitter account/podcast are the first visible/audible efforts there with much more to come) and five research themes--personnel, procurement, operations, civil-military relations, and security.  Those five themes/nodes/groups/whatever will have workshops and other efforts each year that will hopefully build to five distinct research programs over the first three years of the grant, and then we will re-set and then have five new research programs over the last three years of the grant.

Yesterday, we had our first workshop, and it was within the procurement theme, organized by Philippe Lagassé--a fun irony that procurement moved most quickly.  It brought together individuals (rather senior ones) from the relevant agencies/divisions within the government, from academia, and from civil society.  We did not have any folks from industry, i.e., defence contractors, because that would have impacted what the government officials could say.  That plus Chatham House rules helped to produce a very robust conversation of the challenges facing those trying to get the "kit" to the Canadian Armed Forces, and the efforts they have made to overcome a variety of obstacles.

As someone who does not study procurement--I was there mostly in my capacity as the Director of the CDSN and not as a researcher--I was very much drinking from the firehose.  I didn't understand many of the acronyms, and it took me half of the day to figure out why the "colour of money" mattered (or perhaps not)--whether it comes from operational funds or capital funds.  I learned a great deal and so here are some of the things I picked up along the way.
  1. It works!!  That is, the CDSN is an effort to get academics and military and government folks together so that we can understand each other.  The officials gave up a significant hunk of time, which is a precious commodity, to hang out with the academics yesterday, and the exchanges were quite forthright.  So, the efforts over the past five or six years to build this network paid off, and, yes, I am very pleased by that.  
  2. The Defence Policy Review that produced the Stronger, Secure, Engaged report has been pretty meaningful.  While the exercise might have been aimed at producing certain results, it did lead to a greater focus and more resources on improving procurement.  The various pieces of that document have become signposts for policy-makers.  While procurement is hardly fixed, the SSE seems to have led to a variety of improvements that make spending more predictable, that have empowered folks at lower levels, and so on.
  3. A key aspect of this is that Treasury Board, which holds the money in Canada essentially, and DND have overcome much earned distrust from the past and have figured out ways to move projects, especially less risky ones, along faster.  
  4. I have a new favorite acronym: SNICR (pronounced like either the candy bar or a kind of laugh) or Snow and Ice Capability Recapitalization.  It refers to snow removal systems--snow blowers--that the military needs and procures.  
  5. Betterment is not just something advertised on podcasts, but language used by Treasury Board to refer to efforts to improve an existing system rather than procure a new one (I think).  I asked why not use "Improvement", but the folks in the room just go along with TB jargon.
  6. Talking about risk in this kind of setting is strange.  Why?  Because we can think of at least three kinds of risk--wasting money on a failed program, getting unwanted political attention, and people being at risk of losing their lives.  So, we need to be clear about what we mean by risk as some kinds of risk aversion make more sense than others and some kinds of risk acceptance might be necessary to move more quickly. 
  7. The politicization of procurement, as analyzed by Kim Nossal, who was at this workshop, is a real impediment to improving stuff.  Why? Because it creates an environment of risk aversion.  Innovation requires failure--you have to try a bunch of stuff and then keep the stuff that works and accept the wasted money on failed efforts.  But if there are politicians and parties out there willing and eager to blow up any mistake into a major political issue, it deters folks from taking risks and thus stunting innovation.  
  8. One way to handle this is to be far more transparent.  That most news stories gain traction after those in office deny that there are problems.  If the parties could agree (holy collective action problem) not to take every bit of procurement bad news and make it a talking point for the most simplistic soundbite in Question Period, we might create an environment where the folks doing procurement take reasonable risks that allow stuff to move faster.
  9. Oh, and why do we need to be more agile, moving faster?  Because defence procurement is ultimately about getting better stuff to our troops in the field, in the skies, and at sea so that they are not outclassed by our potential adversaries who are also innovating.  I am not so certain autocrats do procurement better/faster as in such systems, taking risks and then having failures can mean more than political embarrassment--people can get killed.  But still, moving slowly in a high tech environment is not a good way to keep up with one's allies and stay ahead of one's adversaries.
  10. Which leads to one conclusion.  We need to discriminate.  That is, we need to develop different procedures and different rules for different kinds of projects.  Stuff involving info technology probably needs a different set of procedures than boots or tanks.  One size fits all does not work, so the question is can we come up with procedures that vary, depending on not just the size of the project but the nature of the thing being procured.  Maybe sole sourced projects (no or little competition) makes sense under certain circumstances rather than being an excuse for one party to crap on another? 
Again, I don't know much about this stuff, but I feel like I have a much better idea of some of the big questions and challenges.  My hope and our plan is for this workshop to lead to not just another one in year two and another one in year three, but a pattern of sustained interactions so that we academics get better data, get a clearer idea of the questions, and that when we start to develop some evidence-based research and policy implications, that we have a receptive audience.  That is one way in which the CDSN research themes will work.  There will be other models in the other themes, where it is less your turn, my turn, your turn, and more co-creation.  The key is that there is a productive conversation going on, and I am so very pleased.  That Phil did a great job bring folks from various realms together, that the government/military folks put in much thought and were quite open about the challenges they faced, that there were great conversations not just between government types and academics but among the government folks themselves.  And that the students (MA and PhD) involved got a great deal out of it.

Money for value, indeed. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

AI, bots and deep fakes: MLI study shows how technology shapes the fight against foreign political interference

Original post from MacDonald- Laurier Institute
Hostile foreign actors are increasingly employing digital foreign interference (DFI) as part of their toolkit to undermine democratic countries like Canada and its allies. This remains a serious, ongoing threat. And, with our federal election less than two months away, Canada needs to guard against possible intrusions in its information environment and election process.
If such a threat looms large today, what does the future hold when it comes to DFI? What impact will technological advances have on the threat posed by DFI?
To help answer these questions, MLI’s latest report by Munk Senior Fellow Alex Wilner and several of his students – James Balasch, Jonathan Kandelshein, Cristian Lorenzoni, and Sydney Reis – explores how advances in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning could impact DFI in the future.
Titled The Threat of Digital Foreign Interference: Past, Present and Future, the report explores how DFI uses the Internet, social media platforms, and other types of technology to create and proliferate disinformation and misinformation. Once a malicious actor is virtually connected with foreign individuals and communities, they can create and disseminate tailored and targeted propaganda.
Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), for instance, ran digital campaigns across multiple social media platforms during the 2016 US presidential election. This campaign resulted in 3841 persona accounts on Twitter generating 10.4 million tweets (of which 6 million were original), 81 unique Facebook pages containing 61,483 posts, 1107 videos across 17 YouTube channels, and 33 Instagram accounts containing 116,205 posts.
DFI campaigns also targeted Germany, the UK, France, and Taiwan. The process often starts with sophisticated hackers stealing sensitive personal and/or professional digital data, which are dumped anonymously and made publicly available.
“Twitter and other social media platforms are then used to draw broader attention to the documents and data. Bots do their part to amplify the process even further. The content enters the collective mainstream, shared by regular social media users and reported upon by traditional media,” note Wilner and his co-authors.
Contemporary DFI still has an important human element, in which information is generated and disseminated by people who publish material online via social media, in much the same way as ordinary citizens might communicate their own political views to their friends and family. Yet the future of DFI will be even further AI-enhanced and AI-generated.
“Powerful automated software will troll the Internet, generating its own content and disseminating it against pre-selected and vulnerable populations. AI-supported software may eventually autonomously generate manipulative or suggestive photographs, videos, and text. A DFI campaign may even be executed and managed by an artificially intelligent software program.”
Of particular concern are deepfakes, which are video forgeries that appear to make people say or do things they never did. A good example is the famous FakeApp forgery of President Barack Obama insulting President Trump.
“With enough photo or video images of a person, facial recognition algorithms can recreate a solid replica of the person’s original face. The material can then be superimposed onto other video content. Add audio – also facilitated by AI – and you have a convincing video of a person engaged in a scenario that never took place.”
Responding effectively to DFI will require a multifaceted, multilateral, and flexible approach. Internet companies and social media firms will have to be held accountable for the information they disseminate and post on their sites. Independent tribunals might be established to review and possibly reinstate material that is removed. States may need to promote a common legal understanding of the phenomenon of disinformation and misinformation among and between the private and public sectors.
Canada should continue working with like-minded states to counter DFI when and where it occurs. As the authors conclude: “Providing a common baseline for response and collective action will help individual democracies present a unified front. Working in partnership with others, Canada might cautiously explore whether and how it might use DFI against known and identified aggressors.”
For the future, Canada should encourage the continued private sector development of domestic AI excellence in a manner that finds the right balance with privacy rights. It can also explore ways to better integrate AI expertise into Canada’s defence establishment.
To read about the future of digital foreign interference, check out MLI’s latest report here.
Alex S. Wilner is an Assistant Professor of International Affairs at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University and a Munk Senior Fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

James Balasch, Jonathan Kandelshein, Cristian Lorenzoni, and Sydney Rei are MA students at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Renforcer le contrôle des exportations d’armes du Canada


Le régime d’exportation d’armes du Canada contredit l’image que le Canada a de lui-même en tant que nation pacifique et progressiste. Maintenant que le Canada est sur le point d’adhérer au Traité sur le commerce des armes (TCA), le gouvernement fédéral devrait envisager d’établir des critères plus précis concernant les risques que du matériel militaire canadien soit utilisé en violation des lois de la guerre ou des droits de la personne. En outre, il devrait proposer un cadre qui permettrait d’évaluer ce qui constitue une violation inacceptable et qui rendrait un acheteur inadmissible aux exportations (actuelles ou futures). Enfin, il devrait envisager d’aligner la position canadienne sur celle de ses partenaires et alliés européens en mettant fin aux exportations vers l’Arabie saoudite. 


  • Les gouvernements canadiens successifs se sont montrés réticents à refuser des licences d’exportation sur la seule base de considérations liées aux droits de la personne. Les critères d’évaluation du TCA obligent le gouvernement à refuser un permis s’il existe un risque important (c’est-à-dire un « risque sérieux » en droit canadien ou un « risque prépondérant » aux termes du Traité) que l’exportation entraîne la violation des lois de la guerre ou des droits de la personne.
  • Les gouvernements canadiens successifs ont eu tendance à produire des rapports inadéquats sur les exportations de produits militaires du Canada ainsi que sur le courtage d’armes au Canada et par des Canadiens dans d’autres pays. Les ventes de systèmes civils aux utilisateurs finaux militaires ne sont pas déclarées au Canada, tout comme les ventes aux États-Unis, principal acheteur de produits militaires fabriqués au Canada. Le TCA oblige le Canada à modifier ces pratiques et à accroître considérablement la transparence.


Le TCA énonce les critères humanitaires selon lesquels les gouvernements membres exportent des armes classiques, qu’elles soient légères ou lourdes. C’est le premier et le seul traité juridiquement contraignant conçu pour réglementer le commerce mondial des armes, lequel représente plusieurs milliards de dollars. Le Canada sera le dernier État membre de l’OTAN et du G7 à adhérer au Traité, qui a été adopté par l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies en 2013 et est entré en vigueur en 2014. L’adhésion comporte des modifications au droit canadien, plus précisément à la Loi sur les licences d’exportation et d’importation et au Code criminel, et ajoute de nouveaux critères pour évaluer les demandes de permis d’exportation, notamment des critères liés à des actes graves de violence fondée sur le sexe ou à des actes graves de violence contre des femmes et des enfants. Plutôt que d’interdire des accords d’exportation spécifiques d’aujourd’hui ou de demain, le TCA ajoute un palier international de responsabilité au processus décisionnel canadien sur les licences d’exportation, tout en obligeant le gouvernement fédéral et les exportateurs à maintenir un système de contrôle national plus transparent et à défendre publiquement leurs évaluations des risques.
L’industrie canadienne de l’armement compte environ 2 000 entreprises qui génèrent 6 000 emplois pour l’économie canadienne et 12 milliards de dollars de revenus. Environ la moitié de ces revenus proviennent de l’étranger et de la vente de produits et services militaires à des clients dont le bilan en matière de droits de la personne est alarmant. La vente à l’Arabie saoudite de véhicules blindés de fabrication canadienne d’une valeur de 15 milliards de dollars en est un bon exemple.
Selon les médias et les sondages d’opinion publique, ce contrat déplaît à de nombreux Canadiens, sinon à la plupart, pour des raisons à la fois éthiques, juridiques et politiques. Restant l’un des principaux auteurs de violations des normes internationales relatives aux droits de la personne, le royaume mène actuellement une guerre au Yémen, où une coalition militaire dirigée par les Saoudiens cible régulièrement des civils par des bombardements et des blocus. Cela est non seulement illégal en droit international, mais aussi une cause directe de ce qui est, selon toute mesure raisonnable, la pire catastrophe humaine actuelle au monde. De plus, le gouvernement saoudien s’est engagé dans de multiples différends diplomatiques avec le Canada et ses alliés. Les relations entre Ottawa et Riyad se sont effondrées en août 2018 lorsque la ministre des Affaires étrangères, Chrystia Freeland, a légèrement critiqué l’horrible bilan du royaume en matière de droits de la personne. Après l’assassinat choquant du journaliste Jamal Khashoggi au consulat saoudien d’Istanbul plus tard cette année-là, le gouvernement Trudeau a évoqué la possibilité d’un arrêt des futures expéditions d’armes vers Riyad.

Facteurs à considérer

  • Le TCA renforce la réglementation canadienne actuelle sur les transferts d’armes et d’équipement militaire. Le gouvernement fédéral est en mesure de renforcer davantage la réglementation canadienne en augmentant la transparence et en enregistrant les ventes de tous les produits de fabrication canadienne utilisés par les armées étrangères.
  • Le gouvernement fédéral s’est maintenant engagé à produire des rapports sur les exportations aux États-Unis de produits militaires complets, mais pas nécessairement sur les principaux sous-systèmes et composants construits au Canada qui sont régulièrement intégrés aux principaux systèmes américains et vendus à des utilisateurs finaux tiers.
  • En vertu de la nouvelle loi, le gouvernement fédéral est tenu d’évaluer toutes les exportations en fonction des critères d’évaluation du TCA, qui sont très variés, ainsi qu’en fonction d’un critère de risque sérieux.
  • La détermination de la nature des violations du droit de la guerre ou des droits de la personne reste politiquement délicate. Toutefois, le gouvernement fédéral est en mesure de limiter légalement le pouvoir discrétionnaire du ministre des Affaires étrangères d’approuver les exportations d’armes et d’introduire des critères plus spécifiques quant à ce qui constitue un risque sérieux dans des situations politiques telles que l’affaire susmentionnée des armes saoudiennes.  
  • À en juger par les déclarations du gouvernement et les sondages d’opinion publique, plusieurs alliés et partenaires du Canada ne veulent plus armer l’Arabie saoudite. Le Sénat américain a imputé l’assassinat de Khashoggi au gouvernement saoudien, et au prince héritier Mohammed bin Salman en particulier, tout en demandant au gouvernement américain de retirer son aide militaire à la guerre menée par les Saoudiens au Yémen. Les gouvernements du Danemark, de la Finlande, de la Suède, de l’Autriche et de la Grèce ont effectivement mis un terme aux futures exportations d’armes vers l’Arabie saoudite. Le gouvernement allemand a également mis un terme aux exportations déjà approuvées.
  • En 2018, le gouvernement Trudeau a déclaré qu’il envisageait des moyens d’arrêter toutes les expéditions de véhicules de GDLSC vers le royaume, mais n’a fourni aucune mise à jour sur cette mesure depuis, ni fait de déclarations sur les exportations continues à destination de Riyad de fusils et autres équipements militaires fabriqués au Canada.
  • Le gouvernement Trudeau et GDLSC ont tous deux déclaré que l’annulation de la vente d’armes saoudiennes entraînerait des pénalités d’un ou plusieurs milliards de dollars que le gouvernement canadien devrait payer.
  • Les libéraux aussi bien que les conservateurs souhaitent maintenir le cap relativement au contrat des armes saoudiennes. Le Nouveau Parti démocratique, le Bloc Québécois et le Parti vert du Canada souhaitent l’annuler (le NPD a renversé sa position en 2016).


Le gouvernement fédéral devrait :
  • suivre les conseils des organisations de défense des droits de la personne et prendre des mesures supplémentaires pour accroître la transparence et améliorer l’enregistrement des exportations d’armes du Canada; cela s’appliquerait à toutes les exportations vers les États-Unis, y compris les sous-systèmes et les composants;
  • chercher à appliquer des critères stricts d’évaluation du TCA, y compris un critère de risque sérieux bien conçu, à l’égard des exportations d’armes du Canada; cela s’appliquerait à toutes les exportations vers les États-Unis, y compris les sous-systèmes et les composants;
  • élaborer un cadre pour évaluer ce qui constitue une violation inacceptable rendant un acheteur inadmissible aux exportations, futures ou actuelles;
  • envisager d’aligner la position du Canada sur celle de ses partenaires et alliés européens et de mettre fin aux exportations à destination de Riyad.
Publié le mercredi 14 août 2019 dans L'Impact uOttawa. Srdjan Vucetic 

Monday, July 29, 2019

Introducing Battle Rhythm: A CDSN Podcast

We have launched a new social media endeavor: a podcast!  Available here and here with more links soon to other outlets.  Stéfanie von Hlatky and I are co-hosting Battle Rhythm, one of the first outputs of the Canadian Defence and Security Network.  What is it and why are we doing it?  

The podcast will appear every other Wednesday (we hope--this podcasting stuff is not easy) on the CGAI Podcast network.  The Canadian Global Affairs Institute is a partner of the CDSN-RCDS, and a key contribution to our network is hosting our podcast.  We are aiming to keep each podcast under/around an hour.  The first segment will have us discussing defence and security stuff (Canadian and beyond) that is in news or otherwise worthy of our attention and falling somewhere near our expertise.  Stef will occasionally report back and comment on debates going on in Francophone defence and security studies.  Sometimes, we will chat about books we have read.
We will then have a short interview with an Emerging Scholar to present their research (which is usually further along at the cutting edge than established profs).   The aim will be to provide an outlet to the next generation, especially those from communities that have been underrepresented in previous generations.
The third segment will usually be an interview with someone who we have met along the way--Stef and I interviewed a number of folks who were at the Kingston Conference on International Security, she interviewed some at the Annual Workshop of Women In International Security-Canada, and I interviewed some of those presenting at ERGOMAS and EISS conferences in Europe this summer.
The penultimate segment will be "Steve's Peeves" where I audibly Spew about an issue that troubles me.  I am hoping to lure Stef into doing some peeving of her own, but she has much greater restraint than I do.
The last segment will be responding to listener questions, assuming we get some.

Why are we doing this?  First, one of the key missions of the CDSN is to provide greater visibility to various events in Canada.  By conducting interviews with those attending KCIS and WIIS-C (both run by CDSN partners), we help to extend the audience for those events both over distance and over time.  An event in Kingston or Toronto will largely get local attendees and those invited explicitly for the conference.  By giving some of these participants a potentially global (ambitious, aren't we?) platform, our podcast will extend how far the conference reaches.  Because podcasts, once put on a cloud somewhere, can be downloaded months or years later, it also means that the stuff presented at a conference can resonate beyond the week of the conference.  The CDSN effort aims to amplify and connect, and this podcast is a way to do so.

Second, while there are an increasing number of podcasts in Canada on defence and/or security issues, we think we have a different perspective that might be of interest. Both of us come at Canadian defence and security with a comparative perspective as well as the awareness of needing to keep in mind that Canada never operates alone.  Stef and I have both written on alliance politics.  However, our expertise is only overlapping and not identical, as she has an extensive background studying nuclear policy, US-Canadian relations, and gender policy in contemporary militaries.  My work is more on the domestic politics of civil-military relations, and my older work is on intervention and on the international relations of ethnic conflict.

Third, another explicit aim of the CDSN, and one that has been something the two of us have been doing separately, is to provide outlets for those who have lacked such outlets.  She started the Canadian branch of Women in International Security-Canada to give female scholars more opportunities to share their research and to provide more mentoring.  One reason why I started building the CDSN was to do the same for not just women but also people of color and indigenous voices. 

Fourth, despite the difficulties, podcasting is fun.  Doing the podcast gives me more opportunities to chat with Stef.  She is not only smart and dynamic, but she makes me laugh.  And, yes, doing a podcast means one more form of social media for me to play with.  Plus it gives us an excuse to track down and have extended conversations with interesting folks that we mostly did not know beforehand.  That is one way in which the first episode is not going to be a model for future podcasts.  I interviewed Dan Drezner for the first episode, and I have known him for nearly two decades.  Pretty much everyone else we have interviewed have been people we met for the podcast or met quite recently.  In sum, I like to talk, I like to talk to Stef, and I like to talk to people who are excited about their own work.  Hopefully, Battle Rhythm will be fun for our listeners as well.

All I ask is that you have some patience with us, as podcasting is not nearly as easy as it seems. And let us know via our twitter account @cdsnrcds or via email at if you have suggestions, comments, or questions.  Again, we hope to have listener mail as a regular segment.  It has the potential to be the most interesting, funnest segment.  

The CDSN Thanks SSHRC!

We got the word from SSHRC in late April that it would be funding the partnership grant the Canadian Defence and Security Network had sought, but we could not talk about it.  We could operate, but we could not give credit to the funder... until now.  The Minister announced the results, along with other competitions (hey, co-director Phil, congrats!), so now we can give thanks to SSHRC for the funds.

And not just the funds for which we are thankful.  The partnership grant process required us to do a great deal of networking and leveraging. That each partner has to not just specify what it wants out of the partnership, but what it wants to put into it.  Indeed, the process requires partners to give at least 35% in cash on in kind to match the SSHRC funding.  Our partners went way beyond that.

While the Carleton publicity gave me heaps of credit, I need to make clear this was very, very much a team effort.  The folks who are now CDSN co-directors helped write heaps of draft documents (the application has more than 20 pieces), gave comments on drafts, met in August to discuss the Stage 2 application (it is a three stage process, with us making it past stage 1 the second time we tried), and helped bring along more than 30 partners.  Our partners had to grapple with the SSHRC website and with their own legal people to get a Memorandum of Understanding signed, so I will be forever grateful for them.  Our roughly 100 participants also had to do some SSHRC webwork, so I am thankful to them.  I had multiple RAs work on this project with us, doing much of the tracking and grunge work, so thanks!  The folks at Carleton, especially Kyla Reid, our grants facilitator, who knows this process and has brought several teams to success over the past few years, will be owed beers for a long time.  Our Dean, Andre Plourde, not only provided support and enthusiasm, but also served as a mock interviewer for the third stage of the process--a 20 minute interview.  Which reminds me that I owe Stéfanie von Hlatky and Caroline Leprince for kicking butt in the interview.  Twas a strange process, and they came through big-time.  Our VP for Research and his staff were also very helpful.

Now what?  Well, since we got the notice in late April:

  1. We had a meeting in Ottawa to develop the rules and procedures so that we operate well; 
  2. I have started distributing some of the money to the leaders of the five research themes; 
  3. I hired two great staffers in Jeffrey Rice, our project coordinator, and Melissa Jennings, our knowledge mobilization coordinator or comms person, and kept on Alvine Nintai, our excellent research assistant.
  4. Melissa built a webpage and staffed the twitter account and email address, and we now have a banner and stickers for the podcast!
  5. Stef and I started a podcast, Battle Rhythm, with two episodes out and one to be taped and dropped next week.
  6. The Co-Directors have started planning their first workshops.  Each of the five theme teams will be holding annual workshops to build focused research agendas.
  7. We supported the Kingston Conference on International Security and the annual workshop of Women in International Security-Canada.
  8. We (and by we, I mean Jeff) applied for several DND project grants to fund some of our efforts.
  9. I went to Europe to network with the European Research Group on Military and Society and the European Initiative for Security Studies to see if they want to join our network.
  10. We have added one new partner and are working to bring along a few others who have indicated interest.
  11. We just transitioned to a new Defence Fellow--a Canadian Forces officer who becomes part of the CDSN HQ team.
So, yeah, it has been a busy three months.  Our next steps will be to develop the goals that SSHRC wants to measure us by in year 3.5, and to help various partners with their events this fall.  It is not exactly all downhill from here, as years 2-7 will have a variety of activties that we are not doing this year (annual conference, summer training institute, book workshop, post-doc competition, etc).

We believed very strongly in this endeavor, that it will provide many collective goods to help the Canadian Defence and Security community, so we are most pleased by what we have accomplished thus far, and, finally, we can thank SSHRC for funding this effort.  

Monday, July 22, 2019

F-35 Sales Are America’s Belt and Road

JULY 12, 2019, 4:20 PM

Imagine a globe-spanning economic and security project—with a cost of over a trillion dollars and whose members encompass 46 percent of the global economy—designed to advance the interests and influence of the lead state, even as it binds the smaller ones into an asymmetric interdependence. Recipients get large economic rewards for participating, but they will find it even more expensive to extract themselves from the network in the long run.
Perhaps one day, China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which by the most generous definition of membership encompasses 40 percent of the world economy in its sprawling infrastructure initiatives, will live up to this description. But the United States’ Joint Strike Fighter program, peddling the F-35 fighter jet, already does, something the recent brinkmanship between Turkey and the United States makes clearer than ever.

On Friday, Ankara received the first parts of a Russian S-400 missile defense system, which Washington says is incompatible with Turkey’s participation in the F-35 consortium. The Department of Defense has already stopped training Turkish pilots on the aircraft at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, and Congress is threatening to kick Turkey out of the program entirely. In the worst-case scenario for Turkey, the United States can apply various sanctions on the country under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, ranging from denying visas to restrictions on almost any Turkish arms exports to banning access to U.S. financial institutions.

The F-35, a highly capable fifth generation aircraft, has been rightly criticized for being over budget, long delayed, and burdened with design flaws. Yet the “jet that ate the Pentagon,” to use one critic’s biting phrase, has yet to lose out to any other fighter in any formal procurement competition. And whereas many countries can build a port, albeit not as cheaply as China, building weapons is different. No other country has yet built a high-end fighter like the F-35 at any price.

Modern fighters require thousands of subcomponents drawn from many different technologies and involving a dizzying supply chain. The upfront development costs of the F-35 are staggering and can only be offset by purchasing large quantities. And once a country has several F-35s in its fleet, switching to a (less advanced) competitor is unappealing. Meanwhile, laggard states—facing the prospect of potential rivals buying larger, more advanced jets—will be pressured to join the winning program, leading to market dominance.

China has been criticized for using Belt and Road-related debt coercively, for example by taking overa Sri Lankan port lease for 99 years after the country failed to repay a loan. And China’s Defense Minister recently confirmed that the initiative has a military component. But the F-35 program goes far further. It makes a state’s very security reliant on the United States for decades—and Washington uses that leverage. In 2005, it suspended Israel’s access to the program in retaliation for Israel selling drone parts to China. Israel quickly stopped those sales.

Turkey is even more dependent on the F-35 network, because its own aviation industry supplies a number of F-35 components. It would face major losses if the United States cut Turkey off for good. Whereas the Pentagon estimates that finding alternate domestic suppliers to replace Turkey will cause at most a few months’ delay, Turkish production lines will be unable to so easily adapt, putting at risk the $12 billion in component parts business Turkey expected. That figure may be a rounding error for the trillion-dollar F-35 program, but it is equivalent to eight years’ worth of all Turkish aerospace exports. Erdogan will thus pay a high cost if he crosses the United States and persists in his purchase of Russian weaponry.

Before the United States stopped sending F-35s to Turkey in April, Belgium ordered 34 planes, Singapore took steps to order 40 to 60, and Japan increased an existing order by 105, more than making up for Turkey’s 100. Meanwhile, although Italy’s governing Five Star Movement ran on a platform of canceling the program, it has since backed down. As Five Star’s junior defense minister reported to parliament in December 2018, “It is obvious we cannot deprive our Air Force of a great air capability that puts us ahead of many other countries.”

Relative to the fighter network, Belt and Road’s optimistic projections cover a larger landmass and more countries, and—crucially—the initiative brands itself as a generator of wealth and peaceful co-existence on a global scale. But Joint Strike Fighter membership provides its own benefits in terms of prestige, access to technology and subcontracts, and close security ties with the United States. Sovereign states will balance these benefits against the potential for dependency—and indeed which country they will have to depend upon. Perhaps Belt and Road wins out in the future, but the current reality favors the U.S. version.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Introducing the CDSN-RCDS

by Stephen M. Saideman, Paterson Chair in International Affairs, NPSIA, Carleton University

Today, May 24th, the Canadian Defence and Security Network (Réseau Canadian Sur La Défense and La Sécurité) kicks off! 

This is what our network looks like now!
We have built an excellent team of scholars and defence scientists to lead the effort and already have a terrific staff to do much of the heavy lifting and day-to-day management. In addition to that, we have so many partners who strengthened our application through the commitments they have made.   I am so very grateful for the work done thus far and the work to be done by our leadership team (David Bercuson, JC Boucher, Andrea Charron, Irina Goldenberg, Phil Lagassé, Anessa Kimball, Alex Moens, Alan Okros, Stéphane Roussel, Stéfanie Von Hlatky, and Srdjan Vucetic), the folks at CDSN HQ (Jeffrey Rice, Melissa Jennings, Alvine Nintai), the people at NPSIA, our dean, Kyla Reid--grants facilitator extraordinaire, other folks at Carleton including our VP for Research, and our partners and participants. 

Of course, as you are reading this, you are asking yourself: what is the Canadian Defence and Security Network and what is it supposed to do?  
It is a partnership involving academics at both civilian and military universities, units within the Canadian Armed Forces, elements of the Department of National Defence, think tanks, advocacy organizations, a survey firm, and more.  We have a set of common objectives:
  • To create a coherent, world-class research network.
  • To advance our understanding of defence and security issues.
  • To tailor research initiatives to provided evidence-based knowledge to inform policy-making
  • To improve the transfer of knowledge and data across various divides.
  • To improve the defence and security literacy of Canadians (and beyond).
  • To build the next generation of experts with an emphasis on equity, diversity and inclusion.
How will we reach those objectives?  The CDSN will focus on five themes to coordinate research efforts--personnel, procurement, operations, civil-military relations, and security--while also providing resources via our headquarters to assist its members and its partners to collaborate and amplify their work.  

To provide an example, one can imagine an event organized by scholars in Kingston or Calgary.  The CDSN Headquarters (based at CSIDS at NPSIA) will help provide contacts to reach out beyond the networks of the organizers, it will help publicize the event through the CDSN's social media efforts (yes, we have some experience in that stuff), and then after the event, provide a repository for the data generated, the papers and policy briefs that are produced and spread the findings via our website and our podcast.  

Please note, despite our years of grant prep work, we are very much a work in progress.  Our first major event will be the Kingston Conference on International Security (KCIS).  While that event has been a great conference involving not just Queens's Centre for International and Defence Policy but also the NATO Defence College and the US Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute and various CAF elements, we hope that the CDSN will help KCIS have a broader reach across Canada, and it will probably be our first podcast content!

For our first year, we will be focusing mostly on developing our infrastructure and figuring out how to help the various members of the CDSN community.  In years 2-7, we will have thematic workshops on our five areas of research; book workshops for junior scholars; post-docs; surveys of the Canadian public; network analyses; summer training institutes for scholars, military officers and policy officers; an annual conference; defence fellowships for military officers; and capital capstone events that will bring the best young presenters from events across Canada to Ottawa to present to defence policy-makers.

Our twitter account is:  The website will be announced in the near future, and we will certainly have facebook, instragram and other social media accounts that we will be announcing over the next few months.  Our logos are a work in progress, but this is what we have thus far:

If you are interested in joining our efforts or have questions, shoot us an email at