The dawn of the twenty-first century finds the Canadian Navy where it has been since its founding at the beginning of the twentieth: sail- ing far from home in concert with its principal allies as part of multilateral maritime coalitions.
Consistent with Canadian foreign and defence policy since 1994, and Canadian Forces declared strategy, Canada’s navy has sought to enhance interoperability with the United States Navy (USN) and navies from other like-minded nations. Interoperability has many facets: tech- nical, operational, political. At its most advanced, it allows maritime forces from a num- ber of different countries to come together seam- lessly, able to operate as a single unit. As explic- itly stated in its latest strategy statement, Leadmark, this is what the Canadian Navy seeks in relation to the USN.
It is also the national and naval strategy of the United States to promote interoperability with allies. Over the last ten years, the USN has pos- tured itself not to fight on the high seas, but to pro- ject power from littoral waters into adjacent regions of conflict and crisis where US interests are at stake. For the United States, interoperabil- ity is one of the many tools employed to maintain its dominant global position. Thus, while Wash- ington encourages and welcomes Canadian mar- itime contributions, such contributions, however tactically and operationally useful in a particular venture, are unlikely to afford Ottawa a greater voice or leverage in larger political or strategic decisions. This, and not fears about foreclosing an independent Canadian decision to participate, is the true sovereignty concern about interoper- ability. The choice to sail or not to sail in concert with the USN will remain a Canadian one, as will the selection of particular roles and missions within the combined forces. But once those deci- sions have been made, and Canadian naval forces are at sea, Ottawa does yield a measure of inde- pendence, and its policy options are narrowed. This is as it must be. Otherwise, interoperability with the USN would not be to America’s advan- tage. As long as Canada wishes to play a role in world affairs and as long as the Navy can be a use- ful tool in supporting such a role, there will always be a certain tension between the strategy and pol- itics of interoperability with the USN. But this is a familiar situation and one that can be properly managed with close political oversight.
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the importance of the maritime approaches to the American “homeland” has increased. In contrast to overseas operations, Canada has less discretion in whether or not to pursue interoperability with the USN in North American littoral waters. More- over, as Washington considers how best to orga- nize and combine aerospace, land and maritime defence, the Canadian Navy’s role in North Amer- ican security will raise sovereignty concerns. However, Canada is again in familiar waters, and not just because they are its own. Close conti- nental security co-operation through the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) as well as in a wide range of bilateral naval arrangements has been an essential com- ponent of Canadian defence and foreign policy for over half a century.
While it may not always mean smooth sailing, especially in these unusually troubled times, Ottawa has much experience in navigating the political dilemmas associated with interoper- ability, both overseas and at home, in a manner that protects and furthers the Canadian interest. The world-class capabilities of the Canadian Navy, combined with careful and continual polit- ical oversight can make interoperability with the United States Navy a mainstay of Canada’s national security policy.
At the dawn of the 21st century, the US Navy is seeking to define its missions across the AORs and how it will carry out those mis- sions…US policy statements make it clear that whenever possible, US forces will seek to respond to requirements for military force in concert with other countries. These responses may take the form of ad-hoc coali- tions or bilateral actions with other coun- tries, and may or may not have mandates or consent from the United Nations, NATO, or other international bodies. This being the case, a particularly important question in defining the US Navy’s role is how will it operate with its key allies? The fact that navies will be less engaged in classical blue water operations and instead will be more involved in littoral operations enhances the possibility of improvised multinational naval cooperation. Under these circum- stances, achieving interoperability becomes much more complicated, for it is no longer simply a question of standardization and compatibility. Interoperability also involves issues of political will.
—Kenneth Gause, Center for Naval Analysis1
Accepting…that Canada is more likely to conduct overseas military operations in con- cert with other like-minded nations…it is also advantageous to both the US and its allies that the US not act unilaterally as the “world’s policeman.” If recent experience is an indi- cation, there will continue to arise any num- ber of situations in which naval forces of medium powers such as Canada can make a difference by working in combination with the USN…Opponents of closer allied cooper- ation will argue that integration into US and NATO naval formations undermines Cana- dian sovereignty, but that is not necessarily so. Rather, because each mission is a function of choice, it tends to strengthen Canadian sovereignty. This issue, of the potential effect of closer allied cooperation upon indepen- dence, is a matter of national strategy. For the navy, it must be noted and considered while implementing the requirement identified in Strategy 2020 for enhanced interoperability.
—Leadmark: The Navy’s Strategy for 20202
While some pundits in Canada derided the commitment as insuf- ficient and inappropriate, it was not surprising that Ottawa’s initial response to the American call for allied assistance in the War on Terrorism was to dispatch several of the Canadian Navy’s most advanced surface ships. Practically and politically, ships were the easiest units to send right away. To this extent, the deployment was fully in line with traditional Canadian responses dating back to the Korean War, through the Gulf War and during the heightened “new” peacekeep- ing of the 1990s. It could be said that the dawn of the twenty-first century finds the Canadian Navy where it has been since its founding at the begin- ning of the twentieth: sailing far from home in concert with its principal allies as part of multi- lateral maritime coalitions.
But it is also the case that relative to other branches of the Canadian Forces (CF), the Navy has gone furthest in seeking interoperability with the armed forces of the United States. And this is why the fleet sailed so quickly, once again, in con- cert with the United States Navy. Indeed, today, more than a decade into the post-Cold War era and despite the disappearance of the Soviet threat, Canadian defence policy is more closely linked to that of the United States than at any other time in our history. Ottawa seems to be “glued” to its seat at the allied table and as a consequence, its defence posture, especially at sea, seems even more fused with that of the United States.
This paper examines the strategy and politics of Canada-US naval interoperability. It begins with a discussion about sea power in the post-Cold War era. Since 1990, the political and strategic nature of multilateral sea power has changed, shifting from a focus on securing the seas to that of the pro- jection of power ashore. This is followed by an examination of interoperability in the context of overall American national security policy in a “unipolar world.” The changing nature of sea power combined with the implications of unipo- larism has meant that the United States Navy (USN) has placed greater emphasis upon interop- erability with a host of traditional and non-tradi- tional allied navies. The paper then turns to con- sider what this has meant for the Canadian Navy given the role of Canada’s maritime forces in the country’s overall foreign and defence policy and national interests. The paper argues that interop- erability is an inescapable and highly beneficial fact of life for the Canadian Navy if Ottawa wishes to maintain a “global” defence policy. Moreover, despite its size relative to the USN, the Canadian Navy can make an effective contribution to West- ern maritime multilateralism. To a certain extent, the USN’s interest in interoperability with the Canadian Navy is not fundamentally different than its fostering of similar ties with other navies. At the same time, it is argued here that from the Canadian standpoint (and perhaps from the American after September 11, 2001) there are unique considerations. Above all there are intan- gible factors of sovereignty and autonomy. If the immediate naval response to the War on Terrorism was traditional, then so too are the questions that can be raised about the strategy and politics of interoperability in the post-Cold War era. For how- ever tactically and operationally sensible, it raises old questions about Canada’s ability to conduct an independent national security policy or its ability to determine, on its own, the extent and character of its contributions to American-led multina- tional collective defence and security operations. Another consideration is that until now, bilateral interoperability has been focused on the applica- tion of naval power overseas, to secure regions and allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Canada’s “region,” North America, was not a pri- ority for the USN. What will “homeland” defence mean for the strictly bilateral dimension of Canada-US naval co-operation?
If, for the USN, the passing of the Cold War has brought about what is already a decade’s worth of intellectual effort to redefine the role of sea power, for the former Soviet, now Russian, Navy, the past ten years have been a continual and not very successful effort simply to stay afloat.
The end of the Cold War has occasioned a sim- ilar challenge to the meaning and role of sea power as that which took place at the end of the Second World War. At that time, the advent of atomic weapons appeared to make navies obsolete and superfluous in any future war against the Soviet Union. “How could enough time be allowed for sea power to take its effect, where war was char- acterized by strategic bombing with nuclear weapons?” asked leading naval theorist Bernard Brodie. Nations, their land and air forces, as well as their economies would “disappear in the first blows of the nuclear war.”3 Not only did atomic weapons appear to undermine the need for sea power, but American sea power seemed so absolute that Admiral Chester Nimitz worried that it would be taken for granted.4
The Cold War atomic era did not see the eclipse of sea power, but quite the opposite. By the early 1950s the USN had developed a carrier-based nuclear strike capability. The last years of that decade saw the advent of the nuclear-powered bal- listic missile submarine (SSBN) which, with its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), became the capital ship of the new age. It was upon this third and secure leg of the nuclear triad that the credibility of deterrence rested. The develop- ment first of nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) and later of sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) made it evident that nuclear propulsion and especially the deployment of nuclear weapons at sea had endowed navies, particularly the USN, with a power and strategic significance unmatched even when Britannia ruled the waves.
Had strategic nuclear deterrence been the sole, or even dominant, role of sea power in the Cold War, then the USN and other Western navies would never have attained the size and sophistication that they did. But navies continued to be con- cerned with traditional roles, protection of the sea- lanes of communication (SLOCs), the projection of force ashore, gunboat diplomacy and naval pres- ence. Even in the absence of a comparable rival such as the Soviet high seas fleet, sea power main- tained relevance in the global balance of power. Indeed, Samuel P. Huntington argued in 1954 that the USN’s monopoly of the seas and Soviet land power in Eurasia had resulted in a new kind of navy — a “transoceanic” one. The USN’s role was not to prepare for a Mahanian fleet-on-fleet strug- gle for the high seas but to apply power on the “nar- row lands and the narrow seas which lie between” the “great oceans on the one hand and the equally immense spaces of the Eurasian heartland on the other.”5
This was especially the case for the NATO alliance. From its earliest days, the alliance focused on securing the seas immediately adja- cent to Europe. Moreover, while it was the case as Huntington argued that the USN and its allies dominated the high seas, in the “narrow seas” around Western Europe the Soviet Union could, even in these early years, deploy sea denial forces (principally submarines) that would have made the immediate projection of force ashore difficult. In later years when, due to the emergence of a more powerful and high-seas-capable Soviet fleet along with a considerable land-based naval avia- tion capability, NATO grew increasingly appre- hensive about its ability to protect the transat- lantic SLOCs upon which the strategy of flexible response rested. Sea power had been an essential component of collective defence.6
In what turned out to be the last years of the Cold War, NATO took specific and deliberate steps to address what was viewed as a growing maritime threat. In 1981, the Defence Planning Committee (DPC) adopted a “Concept of Maritime Opera- tions” (CONMAROPS) which stressed the impor- tance of containing Warsaw Pact forces through forward operations, of defence in depth, and of gaining and maintaining the initiative at sea. Although differing in some respects from CON- MAROPS and the cause of considerable contro- versy, the USN’s much heralded, and much maligned, Maritime Strategy of the 1980s also drew attention to the need to provide a more effec- tive counter to growing Soviet naval capability.
But it was never the various formulations of maritime strategies that defined the role and sig- nificance of sea power in NATO during the Cold War. Nor was it, fundamentally, only the naval bal- ance of power which determined the need for mar- itime forces. Allied naval plans and the forces acquired to implement them were simply reflec- tions of the overall goal of NATO, which was to pro- vide for collective defence and deterrence ashore in Western Europe. The Cold War had wrought many changes in international strategic relations, but it did not change the true essence of sea power, which remained the ability to secure, deny to the enemy, and utilize the oceans for the projection and sustainment of military power ashore in peace and war. The ultimate objectives of naval forces, even in the nuclear age, have been ashore because it is there that organized political com- munities exist. As Colin Gray has observed, “The sea, like the air and like space, has strategic mean- ing only in relation to where the human race lives, the land.”7 Accordingly, the measure of the effec- tiveness and significance of naval forces rests in their ability to influence the situation ashore. Whether it was the USN’s SSBNs and carriers rein- forcing extended nuclear deterrence or the com- bined NATO fleet’s support for conventional deter- rence through the maintenance of a flexible response capability, the ultimate objectives of allied sea power were ashore. It was this reality which, despite the consternation over the future of sea power at the dawn of the Cold War, made the NATO navies major contributors to the final vic- tory in that “long twilight struggle.”
To this extent, it is evident that while in the Cold War era, and especially in the 1980s, the USN said it was relying upon the theories of Mahan, it was in fact more closely following the writings of Sir Julian Corbett. The global dispersal of the USN seemed to suggest that commanding the sea meant commanding the land and that the great challenge to the USN was a rival fleet able to challenge it for control of the seas. But until well into the 1970s, and even then, no country had a fleet capable of matching the American Navy. Yet the USN was essential to the American and allied strategic pos- ture.
All this was described by Corbett, who argued that “the ultimate purpose of naval forces working in the service of the government’s wider policy objectives was to pressure the enemy in various ways, assist the army, the diplomats, the country’s allies.” The USN’s emphasis upon joint operations “also reflects an acknowledgement of his state- ment that the idea in tactics remains the same in strategy because ‘The Army’ was the primary objective around which all dispositions turned.”8
By the early 1970s, it appeared that a rival fleet was emerging to challenge the USN and its mar- itime allies. For most of the early Cold War period, the Soviet Navy had also been following the prin- ciples of Corbett, insofar as its prime mission and resulting capabilities were directed toward the defence of the Soviet Union and its position on the ground in Eastern Europe. With its heavy emphasis on attack submarines and land-based naval aviation, this was a sea-denial force meant to thwart the power projection capabilities of the American “transoceanic” navy. Here the Soviet Union had the advantage. For in the waters off the European littoral, despite its overall quantitative and qualitative inferiority, it still presented a for- midable challenge to any power projection efforts by the USN and its allies. Limited as its range might have been, the Soviet navy could control waters vital to any allied war plans that envi- sioned a protracted conventional conflict along the central front or the northern or southern flanks. To be sure, the USSR acquired a sea-based atomic delivery capability, and thus the ultimate power-projection weapon. But here too, defence and sea denial were important and it devoted sig- nificant assets to the protection of its SSBN fleets in their northern bastions.
As the Soviet Navy grew, it also took on aspects of a true blue-water fleet, sailing more widely and seeking out port and base facilities far from the homeland. As with the USN, the Soviet Navy was to be an instrument of global presence, protecting distant allies. In the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and, with the establishment of a base in Vietnam, in Southeast Asia, the Soviet Navy chal- lenged America not so much for control of the seas, but rather for global political influence. As reflected in the USN’s vaunted “Maritime Strategy” of the mid-1980s, the United States now believed it finally faced a Mahanian challenge worthy of its steel. But with the abrupt ending of the Cold War, this (potential) challenge vanished.
For the USN and its allies, however, because their sea power had always fundamentally been about power projection, the new era did not mean the disappearance of the need for maritime forces. And here too, it has been the Corbett, as opposed to Mahanian, approach that has made allied sea power relevant to the post-Cold War era. The USN articulated its post-Cold War strategy in From the Sea in 1992. It is an aptly named document for it constituted a shift in focus from the sea of the 1980s Maritime Strategy to the land, where the real objectives of sea power have always been. Com- mand of the sea is meaningless unless it can allow for the projection of force from the sea to the land. “Derived from” the National Security Strategy of George H. W. Bush’s administration, which emphasizes peacetime presence and engagement, promotion of stability, thwarting of aggression mobility and flexibility in meeting regional, rather than global threats to American interests, the USN’s strategic direction was described as:
[A] fundamental shift away from open-ocean warfighting on the sea towards joint opera- tions conducted from the sea. The Navy and Marine Corps will now respond to crises and can provide the initial “enabling” capability for joint operations in conflict—as well as con- tinued participation in any sustained effort. We will be part of a “sea-air-land” team trained to respond immediately to the Unified Com- manders as they execute national policy.9
With the coming into office of the Clinton administration, new guidance was provided for the role of military forces, one which reflected the new roles and missions, especially in the areas of peacekeeping that the US military had undertaken.10 Given the shift in emphasis toward the “new dangers” posed by “aggression by regional powers,” it was necessary to again review naval strategy. In November 1994, the USN pub- lished Forward…from the Sea. The document notes that while naval forces “are designed to fight and win wars, our most recent experi- ences…underscore the premise that the most important role of the naval forces in situations short of war is to be engaged in forward areas, with the objectives of preventing conflicts and controlling crises.”11 As the Chief of Naval Opera- tions put it, the “cornerstones” of American sea power will be “forward presence, power projec- tion, strategic deterrence, sea control and mar- itime supremacy, and strategic lift. Naval forces are going to come from the sea. They are going to work near land and over land.”12
For Jan Breemer, the USN’s approach to the role of sea power in the post-Cold War era marks the “end of naval strategy.” In making this argument, he draws a distinction between naval strategy, which is concerned with securing command of the sea, and “maritime strategy,” of which naval strat- egy is a subset and which is concerned with the relationship between navies and armies. Naval strategy is at an end to the extent that the USN’s focus is no longer on planning for war at sea but rather on support of joint operations on land. Gone is the “Mahanian vision of naval power as the struggle for command of the sea by battlefleet,” a vision which was integral to the maritime strategy of the 1980s. The then rising Soviet fleet is gone. Because the USN need no longer “look over its shoulder for the next blue water challenge,” it can concentrate on “operations other than war at sea.” Indeed, it can concentrate on operations other than war, on littoral operations to contain crises.13
Yet, as argued above and as Breemer acknowl- edges, in 1954 Huntington had already pointed out the importance of the Eurasian littoral as the true objective of American and NATO naval power. In the post-Cold War era, the orientation of sea power away from the sea to the land had become even more pronounced. To be sure, allied naval forces continue to prepare for Article V operations in defence of NATO territory. To this extent, as the statement on British maritime doctrine makes clear, the principles of NATO maritime operations remain consistent with CONMAROPS. That is: “seizing the initiative, containment, defence in depth and presence.”14 The alliance cannot fully discount the possibility that it may in the future face a challenge for command of the sea. However, consistent with trends in American maritime strategy, the thrust of the allied military posture has been to support the overall objective of enhancing stability and expanding cooperation in and to Eastern Europe in addition to peace sup- port operations out of area. It is not so much that allied naval forces need to project power ashore as to project political and military stability. And to the extent that this projection has been mainly undertaken under the leadership of and in concert with the USN, interoperability has become an important element in contemporary maritime strategies and postures, including for Canada.
The interest of the United States Navy in interoperability with the Canadian Navy must be seen in the context of broad trends in American national security pol- icy. As Michael Mastunduno has argued, since the end of the Cold War, “US officials have in fact fol- lowed a consistent strategy in pursuit of a clear objective — the preservation of the United States’ preeminent global position.”15 In the pursuit of this objective, the United States does seek out oth- ers who are willing to act with it, but as means to preserve its unipolar status. The events of Sep- tember 11 have only served to make America more determined to maintain this position, one that is now clearly linked to the physical security and safety of the American people.
Reflecting on the events of the 1990s, Coral Bell noted the importance of a “pretense of concert” in American national security policy in the post- Cold War era. In the current international envi- ronment, America need only conform to the “pre- tense of concert.” The Clinton administration adopted the view that “the unipolar world should be run as if it were a concert of powers.”
In a sense, the post-World War II “institu- tionalization” of diplomacy — through the UN, NATO, the G-7, the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF, the OSCE and so on — has more or less imposed that strategy on policymakers. Resolutions must get through the Security Council and consensus must be sought in other organizations to “legitimate” the poli- cies that are deemed to be in the US national interest. Of course, the policies could be fol- lowed without seeking their legitimation by the “international community,” but the advantage of securing it are worth the diplo- matic labor it takes. A resolution or consen- sus eases consciences both in America and abroad, and helps protect US allies from their respective critics at home (though not in Washington, of course).16
This is not to argue that coalitions, and the inter- operability that may be necessary for them to act together, are not important for the United States, they are. It is only to emphasize that American interest is based upon perceived national interests. That being said, the USN does have an interest in fostering interoperability. It allows it to “operate with foreign navies during a crisis or conflict.” Dur- ing the Persian Gulf War and the Kosovo campaign, the USN found that military and political effec- tiveness was enhanced by the ability of certain “high-end allies” to contribute to operations. Inter- operability promotes a “harmonization” of foreign naval programs with those of the USN, providing “the political benefit of shaping foreign navies.” This extends the influence of the United States over military developments in old and newer allies and, in the event of joint action, may afford even fur- ther scope for effective contributions from allies. Above all, the USN supports interoperability because it is “required by US policy.”17
As part of its fundamental efforts to preserve America’s dominant position, the Clinton admin- istration placed particular emphasis upon the continued engagement of allies and the enlarge- ment of the number of democratic regimes with market economies. This encompassed sustaining and adapting security relationships that would be of value to the United States in the event of future crises and coalition efforts and to spread the bur- den of “responsibility for international peace and stability across nations.” In particular, the regional Commanders-in-Chief were tasked with shaping the security environment in their regions, in part by developing close relationships and working with foreign militaries. The goal was not only to help these nations improve their own security capabilities but to enhance the ability of these countries to participate “in international coalitions of varying degrees of complexity.”18
While the George W. Bush administration came into office sharply critical of Clinton’s emphasis upon multilateralism, it too sees the cultivation of security ties as important. This is particularly so with the Department of Defense’s (DoD) “new planning construct.” As explained, in the Septem- ber 30, 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review Report, “the United States will maintain regionally tailored forces forward stationed in Europe, Northeast Asia, the East Asian littoral, and the Middle East/South- west Asia to assure allies and friends, counter coer- cion, and deter aggression against the United States its forces and its allies.” The objective is to allow the United States to maintain regional bal- ances “in concert with US allies and friends with the aim of swiftly deterring attacks with only mod- est reinforcements and, where necessary, assuring access for follow-on forces.”
Security cooperation will serve as an impor- tant means for linking DoD’s strategic direc- tion with those of its allies and friends. DoD will focus its peacetime overseas activities on securing cooperation to help create favorable balances of military power in critical areas of the world and to deter aggression and coer- cion. A particular aim of DoD’s security cooperation efforts will be to ensure access, interoperability, and intelligence coopera- tion, while expanding the range of pre-con- flict options available to counter coercive threat, deter aggression, or favorably prose- cute war on US terms.19
Drawing upon the NATO definition, the US Department of Defense defines interoperability as, “the conditions achieved among communica- tions-electronics systems or items of equipment when information or services can be exchanged directly and satisfactorily between them and/or their users.” Gause broadens this definition to include three types:
Gaps in one type of interoperability may origi- nate in more than one type. He notes in particu- lar, that “interoperability gaps that at first may appear to be technical in nature, upon close exam- ination turn to have their origins in political/cul- tural factors.”20
At the heart of technological interoperability is the ability of weapons platforms, ships, planes and submarines to exchange information. Interoper- ability in Command, Control Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) in a manner that would allow a multinational force to carry out naval missions as if it were a single national force. This would include the ability for digital exchange and satellite connectivity. Ideally, this would afford the individual contributing national units to share a “common operational picture.” So linked together, the combined forces would have the capacity for surface warfare, air and anti-air warfare, undersea warfare including anti-subma- rine warfare and, potentially, theatre ballistic mis- sile defence.
The technological gaps between the USN and allied navies are the result of a number of factors. The USN, as with the entire American armed forces, has put a higher priority on C4I than plat- forms. In the development of its C4I, the USN does not take into consideration allied use of these sys- tems. Allies complain that they cannot keep up with American development in these systems. Adjustments can be made, but altering them too much in order to accommodate allies may under- mine their effectiveness. There is the concern that attempts to integrate technologically inferior allie forces into USN units would expose the Americans to greater risks “and thus unacceptable political costs in case of casualties because weapons and systems were not used to their full capacity.”
The technological gaps can in part be accom- modated in multilateral maritime operations if allied units are assigned less demanding roles. Another alternative is to accept the idea that there are levels of interoperability. The highest is “a seamless fusion of military forces,” placing great demands “across all dimensions of interoperabil- ity: technical, operational and political/cultural.” Such a level would be most important in high- intensity combat operations, especially where the issue at stake was one considered vital by the United States. Therefore only navies with the req- uisite capabilities and whose governments were in full agreement with the objectives and the meth- ods would be allowed to participate. In operations other than war (OOTW) such as various types of peacekeeping, peace enforcement, non-combat- ant evacuations and humanitarian/disaster relief operations, a lower level of interoperability would be necessary. This could involve close coordina- tion with a combined task force with basic com- munication amongst contributing forces.21
Interoperability in OOTW is more feasible, not simply because of the less demanding technolog- ical requirements, but because in the final analy- sis, interoperability is a manifestation of political consensus. And it is easier to obtain a consensus in OOTW than the higher end of the conflict spec- trum. Thus more allies would be willing to partic- ipate in combined maritime operations and the United States would be more willing to accommo- date the technological gaps. The political dimen- sion is crucial because it influences the techno- logical and doctrinal approach which the USN takes to interoperability, which in turn deter- mines not only how, but with whom and when the USN will operate.
It was the political imperatives of alliance cohe- sion which fostered and allowed the elements of interoperability and standardization within NATO and the development of a broad set of publications on procedures and tactics. There has evolved a gen- erally accepted NATO maritime doctrine provid- ing guidance on how navies “intend to operate in a collaborative environment.” The USN was a major factor in the evolution of allied interoper- ability. However, for the USN, being able to oper- ate in coalition with NATO and other friendly navies was in addition to its primary task of being able to operate unilaterally. In the present cir- cumstances, the USN would like to see allies move toward its standards. “This would allow the US Navy to develop a seamless global fleet rather than an Atlantic fleet more connected to NATO allies and a Pacific fleet more unilateral or connected to Asian allies… United States is creating a multi- faceted doctrine to deal with the myriad threats that a global superpower might need to confront, while its allies are creating doctrines to deal with specific practical cases in circumscribed areas.”
NATO maritime doctrine is concerned with three dimensions: (1) small-scale local con- flicts (Kosovo et al.), (2) rogue states with some missile and WMD [Weapons of mass destruction] capabilities on the periphery of Europe, and (3) major regional powers with power projection capacity. Only the United States has developed doctrine to deal with all three of these threats…and in preparing for the higher end of the spectrum, the US has opened a doctrinal gap between itself and the allies. No allied navy has followed this path for reasons of domestic politics, history, per- ceptions of threat, national interests, and budgetary constraints.
The doctrine gap has led to technology gaps. To face the spectrum of threats, the global navy of the United States has developed spe- cific technologies for force protection and power projection intended to minimize casu- alties and maximize punishment. In doing this, it has adopted deterrence and denial strategies that can be used on a global scale: from a small-scale contingency in Kosovo to a major regional conflict in Northeast Asia. To remain interoperable with the US on all levels, allied navies would require a large increase in their budgets. More importantly, they would need to rethink naval doctrine. The very roles and missions of the navy (which drive the force structure and systems that are purchased and maintained) would have to be changed. This would mean changes in the domestic politics and national interest calculations that end up in the elaboration of doctrine.
Technology developments in the United States have been sparked by what is “possible” for a global navy with a large budget for research, development, and acquisition. This has been nurtured in an environment of competitive internal institutions seeking to exert influence on the future direction of the navy. This is in marked contrast to allied navies. To the extent that they desire to coop- erate with the US Navy, their doctrine will be hostage to the direction of US Navy doctrine. They can attempt to follow and play niche roles within larger allied concerns by spe- cializing in a particular type of naval war- fare, or they can create an extremely small number of ships capable of interoperability with US Navy battle groups. Either way, such national choices limit the roles and missions of their navies and force them to make important decisions about doctrine.22
For the USN then, as for the rest of the Ameri- can military, interoperability is a means to an end, the enhancement of American national secu- rity through the continued global dominance of the US military. This not a secret agenda, it is made quite clear in US statements and in the relation- ship of the USN with foreign navies. The USN is prepared to work with other navies and encour- ages them to upgrade their capabilities in order to enhance the ability to collaborate. It is recognized that the American technological lead has and will create gaps, especially at the higher end of the con- flict spectrum. The American position seems to be that it will be up to allies to bridge these gaps, and if they cannot (which will be the situation in many cases), this will restrict their ability to oper- ate with the USN. Fundamentally, the USN is pos- tured to be able to support American policy uni- laterally. The record of the post-Cold War era suggests that many nations, including Canada, are anxious to achieve some level, however modest, of interoperability with the USN and make whatever adjustments are necessary to achieve this goal.
It is doubtful that the Canadian Navy would describe its planning and posture as being “hostage to the direction of US Navy doctrine.” Yet, there is little doubt that the Navy, as with the rest of the Canadian military, has been looking into the strategic future through the prism of American unipolarism. Given this, it would be easy for critics to charge that once again the Cana- dian military is placing allied ties — in the Navy case, the old American-organized international “fraternity of the blue uniform” — ahead of the national interest. But in this, the Navy (and the rest of the military) has not parted company with the country’s political leaders. The foundation of the Canadian Navy’s interest in interoperability with the USN is the continuation of a broad consensus within Canada, especially amongst the foreign pol- icy elite, that the country must continue to remain globally engaged. To the extent that it has involved the use of the Navy as a policy instrument, Cana- dian overseas engagement has meant adjusting to trends in Western sea power, namely the shift in focus from “blue” to “brown,” littoral waters. In its operations in those waters, the USN has been open to and has sought out ways in which its forces can operate with those allies located in the littoral states and traditional Western allies, like Canada, who can bring their forces to bear in those waters. But this in turn has fostered some unease about the consequences for Canadian sovereignty and auton- omy of these maritime trends on the part of polit- ical leaders, whose very policies encourage the strategy of interoperability.
For students of Canadian history, the current concerns will have a familiar ring. After all, the Canadian Navy was born in 1910 amid a great national debate on how best to assist the Royal Navy (RN). There were some in Canada who feared that a national navy, closely tied to the RN, would involve the country in imperial entanglements. Whatever the original debates, the history of the Canadian Navy in the twentieth century was one of close and continual cooperation with the dom- inant naval powers of the era, the RN and the USN. This was so in two world wars and during the Cold War when the CN was deployed primarily in the Atlantic and postured to support the American dominated NATO maritime forces. Historically, Ottawa has wanted a distinct national navy, but part of that naval tradition has been that the Cana- dian Navy has always sailed and fought alongside its powerful allies even while political leaders sometimes fretted about autonomy and sover- eignty. For example, in the late 1960s, Ottawa agreed to supply ships to NATO’s Standing Naval Force Atlantic (STANAFORLANT). Yet at the time it also sought assurances that it would be able to recall the ships during a time of tension if the gov- ernment had misgivings about a particular oper- ation or the ships were needed closer to home.23
This approach continued in the post-Cold War era. The 1994 White Paper on defence declared that the CF must be prepared to “fight with the best against the best.” After half a decade of intensive operations in Eastern Europe, it may not be clear who the opposing best is, but it is clear with whom the CF wishes to fight. In Shaping the Future of Canadian Defence: A Strategy for 2020, this is made explicit. The CF must strengthen its “military to military relationships with our principal allies ensuring interoperable forces, doctrine and C4I.” In particular it calls for expansion of “the joint and combined exercise program to include all envi- ronments and exchanges with US.”24 Given the his- tory of the post-Cold War decade which saw the CF deploy abroad along with the US and its principal allies, in a host of UN and especially NATO opera- tions, this approach is the only one that makes sense for the CF.
Interoperability is the direct military conse- quence of accepting unipolarity, or at least Amer- ican dominance. Interoperability with the US is the logical defence posture for a Canadian national security policy based upon continued global engagement. For Canada, the present inter- national security environment, especially at sea, is favorable. To be sure, the Navy has a role in pro- tecting our natural resources at sea and backing up the civil authority against those who undertake criminal acts and environmental damage. As noted below, the Navy may well have additional responsibilities in terms of the “homeland” defence of the United States and Canada. But no hostile maritime power or group of powers today seriously and immediately threaten the seas upon which Canada’s security and prosperity depend. We have a stake in the safety of trade routes at sea, but over eighty percent of our trade is with the United States and the routes that link us to Japan and Europe are in no danger of being cut by a rival naval power. What this means is that a strong case cannot be made for the maintenance of a strong Navy, especially a blue-water one, on the grounds that major and direct maritime threats exist.
While not escaping the budget cuts of the recent years, the Canadian Navy has emerged as the most unscathed of the three services and is rel- atively well-prepared to fulfil national and inter- national roles. It has 16 major surface warships, including 12 state-of-the-art Halifax class frigates. It also has 12 Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDV). One of the three support ships, which had been scheduled to be paid off in 1996, will be retained. Also retained will be the existing force of 18 maritime long-range patrol aircraft. Shortly after its election in 1993, the Liberal government fulfilled a campaign promise to cancel the pro- gram to acquire 50 new helicopters to replace the existing fleet, including those carried on the destroyers and frigates. The government is still looking for new helicopters. The Navy is also going to take delivery of the Victoria class sub- marines from the Royal Navy. It has been looking at acquiring a multirole support vessel, one capa- ble of transporting troops and equipment, mak- ing Canada less reliant on allied sea lift in peace support operations.
While the Navy faces major challenges even in maintaining its present capabilities, let alone enhancing them, much has been done to achieve interoperability with the USN. This is because the Navy’s modernization has produced ships which, because they have independent capabilities, are of use to American forces. Indeed, amongst Amer- ica’s naval allies, the Canadian Navy is considered “high-end.” With the emphasis upon Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelli- gence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR), the Canadian Navy has achieved a level of sophis- tication that allows it to operate with the USN. As Leadmark notes, during the Gulf War the Canadian Task Group commander was the only non-Ameri- can Warfare Commander because of the compati- bility and interoperability of Canadian ships with those of the US and other allies. The upgrading of the command and control and area defence stan- dards of the four Iroquois class destroyers (making them Guided Missile Destroyers [DDGs]) allowed them to play a major role in NATO’s Balkan oper- ations and “in support of US Drug Enforcement Agency counter-narcotics operations in the Gulf of Mexico.” The integrated combat system of the Halifax class patrol frigates has allowed these ships to integrate “seamlessly into USN carrier battle groups deployed to the Persian (Arabian) Gulf in continued enforcement of United Nations resolu- tions against Iraq.”25
At its most exacting, multilateral interoperabil- ity should allow forces from different countries to engage in integrated high intensity combat against like forces on, over and under the sea and to project power ashore against an equally sophis- ticated adversary. In reality, there are almost no maritime or other forces not allied with the United States which can present a peer challenge. Most of the operations in which the Canadian Forces have been involved alongside the USN have been OOTW, with the opposing naval forces either non-existent or very limited and unsophisticated. As noted above, interoperability is easier to achieve at this level of conflict. While the Canadian Navy has achieved a significant level of interoperability with the USN and some of its assets are leading- edge, it is unclear how it would perform at the extreme level of maritime combat. At the same time, the likelihood of a major war at sea (or else- where) between the US and equally sophisticated forces, is remote. Jeffrey Record has argued that mastery of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) “is mastery of a war that will likely never be fought…” He adds, though, that “to extent that it facilitates situational awareness it will be a plus at any level of combat.”26 Thus the sophisticated C4ISR capabilities which the Canadian Navy can bring to OOTWs and limited combat are impor- tant. This was evident in the Kosovo campaign.
The interoperability achieved by the Canadian Navy in the 1990s is consistent with the long tra- ditions of that service. The Navy has long had a truly global deployment capability. It is a Navy which traditionally has been geared toward NATO maritime multilateralism both as a national pol- icy and in terms of anticipated operations. In the post-Cold War era, it has continued to sail on wider seas because it remained the foreign policy of the country to contribute to international stability. The Canadian Navy, which played only a minor role in the era of classical peacekeeping, has over the first decade of the post-Cold War era, been called upon to support the country’s contributions to peace enforcement in all its varied dimensions.
What that has meant, though, is that in the last ten years, the focus of Canadian Navy has, in a sense, moved even further from the national waters than was the case during the Cold War. Then, in concert with the USN, the Navy was vitally concerned with the maritime defence of North America, but it was also postured to secure the transatlantic bridge against a Soviet Navy ded- icated to cutting the SLOCs. Today, the Navy deploys to the coastal waters of lands throughout the world where regional or ethnic conflict is seen as requiring combined Western intervention. For example, Canadian naval forces have been more active in the Mediterranean on behalf of NATO in the post-Cold War era than before. It deployed to Southeast Asia to support operations in East Timor. It participated in the embargo against Haiti. And now a substantial force has been sent to the Indian Ocean as part of the campaign against Afghanistan.
To this extent, the objective contained in Lead- mark: The Navy’s Strategy for 2020, to become a “medium global force projection navy that will serve Canada as a multipurpose, interoperable force capable of joint and combined operations worldwide,” is consistent with international secu- rity trends and overall Canadian policy in the post-Cold War era. To achieve this,
[T]he Canadian Navy will continue its devel- opment as a highly adaptable and flexible force, ready to provide the government with a wide range of relevant policy options across a continuum of domestic and international contingencies. The Navy will generate com- bat capable forces that are responsive, rapidly deployable, sustainable, versatile, lethal and survivable. Canada’s naval forces, from individual units to complete Task Groups, will be tactically self-sufficient and be able to join or integrate into a joint US or multinational force, anywhere in the world.27
Whether the Navy will be able to achieve all its goals given the continued pressure on the defence budget remains to be seen. More will need to be done, especially in the area of C4ISR, in order to allow the Canadian Navy to expand the scope of interoperability, allowing Canadian forces to con- tribute to and benefit from a common operational picture generated by advanced sensors and com- munications. In addition, if Canada wants its forces to be interoperable, then they must be able to sustain and supply themselves for extended operations. But there is little doubt that is the “leadmark” toward which naval planning is head- ing. As the document notes:
Accepting…that Canada is more likely to conduct overseas military operations in con- cert with other like-minded nations…it is also advantageous to both the US and its allies that the US not act unilaterally as the “world’s policeman.” If recent experience is an indication, there will continue to arise any number of situations in which naval forces of medium powers such as Canada can make a difference by working in combina- tion with the USN…Opponents of closer allied cooperation will argue that integra- tion into US and NATO naval formations undermines Canadian sovereignty, but that is not necessarily so. Rather, because each mission is a function of choice, it tends to strengthen Canadian sovereignty. This issue, of the potential effect of closer allied coop- eration upon independence, is a matter of national strategy. For the navy, it must be noted and considered while implementing the requirement, identified in Strategy 2020, for enhanced interoperability.28
As the statement notes, interoperability raises sovereignty concerns. It is correct in noting that participation in US-led maritime operations and the level of commitment remains discretionary. The fact that the Canadian Navy plans and pos- tures itself to be able to achieve interoperability with the USN does not necessarily bind the gov- ernment to dispatch forces when Washington decides to deploy its fleet. Even when it does decide to send forces, Ottawa can still specify what activities it will or will not undertake as part of a combined fleet. To this extent, an interoperable naval capability can serve as a useful tool. It allows an independent policy decision to join with USN forces where the government believes Canada ought to be present and to select the appropriate niche role. Moreover, the access to the common operational picture which can be afforded Canada through its interoperable C4ISR contributions can also affords Canadian policy decision-makers greater knowledge of the activities of an Ameri- can-led multinational naval operation.
However, the fact that Ottawa retains a measure of discretion does not override the fundamental consideration that convincing allies to dispatch ships to join the USN, and encouraging them to be as interoperable as their budgets allow, is yet another manifestation of the American pursuit of global dominance. For the United States, unilater- alism and multilateralism are simply two means to this end. It is Washington’s choice as to which one will best serve overall American interests in particular circumstances. In part, this decision will be based upon the demands of a specific oper- ation and its level of importance. In instances where vital US interests are considered to be at stake, the United States will be less inclined to undertake the political and military adjustments that coalitions demand. For example, if Canada or other countries place too many restrictions regarding roles and rule of engagement, the USN may simply not accept a contribution. Most importantly, even when allies contribute forces and there is agreement on specific tasks, there is no concomitant expectation that smaller contrib- utors, such as Canada, will therefore share in the higher strategic and political decisions associated with the operation. Interoperability may well allow the Canadian navy to make a useful contri- bution at sea, but it is not likely to permit Ottawa a greater voice or leverage in Washington.
This, and not fears about foreclosing an inde- pendent Canadian decision to participate, is the true sovereignty concern about interoperability. The choice to sail or not to sail in concert with the USN will remain a Canadian one, as will any choices regarding particular roles and rules of engagement consistent with national policy. But once those decisions have been made and Cana- dian naval forces are at sea, Ottawa does yield a measure of independence and its policy options are narrowed. This is as it must be, otherwise inter- operability with the USN would not be to Amer- ica’s advantage. From the American perspective, interoperability is attractive because it allows the USN to collaborate with allies toward common objectives, not because it secures strategic and political influence on the part of allies over Amer- ican decisions and direction as to how those objec- tives are to be achieved.
Here is the political dilemma posed by inter- operability to Canada’s political leaders. The country still wishes to remain globally engaged and the Navy is an extremely useful tool in sup- port of this wish. It is also recognized that a “mod- est” global Navy does not operate alone, and that in the unipolar post-Cold War world of the twenty- first century this means being able to operate with the USN. Having the ability to choose to operate with the American Navy is, therefore, an impor- tant part of Canadian security policy and military strategy. But in both policy and practice, interop- erability with the American Navy, from Washing- ton’s perspective, affords Ottawa no special status or influence.
As troubling as this dilemma may be, it can be said that for Canada this is by no means a new sit- uation. Much of Canadian foreign and defence pol- icy since the founding of the country has involved navigating between the commitments and con- straints that go along with being a global actor but not a global power. Thus it will be important for political leaders to acknowledge the American per- spective on interoperability and what it means before making the decision to commit elements of the Canadian Navy to a coalition operation over- seas. In theory, Ottawa can always call the ships home if it does not agree with how the operation is being conducted, such is the flexibility tradition- ally attributed to sea power in contrast to land forces. In reality, once Canadian ships join up with the USN, the political cost of withdrawal or of plac- ing very restrictive conditions on their use is no different than for other elements of the CF.
But the discretion which Ottawa retains, despite adopting a naval strategy in which interoperabil- ity figures so highly, should not be discounted. This is particularly so since overseas coalition operations with the USN are themselves likely to be discretionary. As important as these operations may be in the context of regional stability, and as much as Ottawa will maintain an internationalist perspective on its security, the record of the post- Cold War era suggests that Canadian vital interests will not likely be at stake on the high seas or in the “brown” littoral waters across the oceans.
The same, though, may no longer be the case for the littoral waters of North America. The USN will remain a force whose primary focus will be the projection of force overseas. But, long con- sidered by the USN as strategic backwaters, the ocean approaches to the continent are likely to become important in the global calculus of American national security policy. For Canada, this could mean that interoperability, heretofore mainly applied to overseas operations, could take on new meaning in the American response to September 11, 2001.
In one very important respect, Canada is unlike other allies and friends, new and old, who are enlisting under the War on Terrorism. It is directly involved in the defence of the American homeland. As former US Under Sec- retary of Defense, John Hamre recently told a Canadian audience, “There is no longer a way to secure the United States without securing the United States and Canada simultaneously.” This is nothing new, strategic defence has long been the essence of the bilateral Canada-US defence rela- tionship.
In 1938 in Kingston, Ontario, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared, “The Domin- ion of Canada is a part of the sisterhood of the British Empire: I give you an assurance that the people of the United States will not stand idly by if domination of Canadian soil is threatened by any other Empire.” A few days later in response, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King stated that Canada too had its obligations as a “good and friendly neighbour, and one of these is to make sure that our country is made as immune from attack or possible invasion as we can rea- sonably be expected to make it, and that, should the occasion ever arrive, enemy forces should not be able to pursue their way either by land, sea or air to the United States across Canada.”29 The two declarations reflected the growing apprehension of Ottawa and Washington about the deteriorating international situation and the potential threat to both countries. They also bespoke the friendly feeling between the two countries and indeed between the two leaders. But they also reflected dif- fering strategic perspectives based upon comple- mentary but not identical national interests. For the United States, the problem was that Canadian weakness might endanger American security. Canada could not become a strategic liability in the defence of the US homeland. For Canada, the problem was satisfying this legitimate concern without compromising, however benignly, its own national sovereignty. This could be accomplished by taking measures on its own, to secure its terri- tory, airspace and maritime approaches.
Although the focus was overseas, North Amer- ica itself had lost the protection afforded by its ocean boundaries with the advent of nuclear weapons and long-range bombers. America could not hope to credibly extend its deterrent if the US itself were vulnerable at home. In essence, the Cold War brought about a situation wherein the North American continent was to be regarded as a “strategic unity” for purposes of defence. This made Canada, as John Foster Dulles once put it, “a very important piece of real estate.”30 Thus strate- gic air defence, between the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the United States Air Force (USAF), came to be the most important dimension of the bilateral defence relationship. By the early 1960s, the focus shifted to the threat posed by land- based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) fired from nuclear-powered ballistic mis- sile submarines (SSBNs). The United States decided not to pursue ballistic missile defence (BMD) in the late 1960s, and this was reinforced by the 1972 US-Soviet Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense (ABM) Treaty. Since there was no protec- tion against missiles once fired, NORAD’s prime mission became surveillance, warning and attack assessment in order that the American deterrent would not be caught off-guard. As the missile threat grew, and with no BMD systems, Canadian airspace and territory became less important, as there were no missile warning facilities on its soil.
In part because no formal overall bilateral com- bined command was established for North Amer- ican defence, and because the US military com- mand structure also lacked a single continental command, there were only informal linkages between the aerospace and maritime defence structures of the continent. Responsibility for the defence of the American West Coast fell to the USN-dominated Commander-in-Chief, United States Pacific Command, (CINCPAC), headquar- tered in Hawaii. An additional factor was that for the USN, the focus was always overseas power pro- jection. To be sure, the United States was con- cerned with monitoring Soviet submarines, both nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) and SSBMs. Thus at sea, especially in the Atlantic, the Royal Canadian Navy and the United States Navy maintained and developed close collaboration in monitoring the maritime approaches to the con- tinent. Much of this activity took place in the con- text of NATO’s Atlantic Command (ACLANT) which included a western (North American) region and, within it, a Canadian sub-region (CANLANT). During the Cold War, the bulk of the Canadian Navy was dedicated to NATO anti-sub- marine warfare (ASW) roles primarily directed against SSNs. Thus continental defence missions meshed well with the NATO focus. To this extent, bilateral maritime collaboration, in contrast to aerospace co-operation under NORAD, was politi- cally invisible. It was also politically comfortable because it was mostly part of the multilateral NATO arrangements with which Ottawa was more at ease. This collaboration, but for the level of inte- gration, was as extensive in aerospace matters. Even in this case, however, as the Soviets developed longer range SLBMs with the capability to hit North America from waters closer to Eurasia, the relative importance of continental maritime defence progressively diminished.
There was concern in the mid-1980s about new threats from Soviet sea-launched cruise missiles fired from SSNs, including possible use of the Arc- tic waters as a transit route. This potential threat prompted increased American interest in mar- itime security and the Arctic, which in turned raised fears about Canadian sovereignty. The pro- posal in the 1987 White Paper for a fleet of Cana- dian SSNs was meant to deal with both the secu- rity and sovereignty threats. This was a classic response to the so-called defence against help dilemma. If Canada could not secure its waters, the USN would and it would not necessarily have to tell Ottawa how it was doing it.
The end of the Cold War brought about a decline in the importance of traditional continental defence and helped sink the Canadian SSN pro- gram. The early 1990s saw a marked scaling back of NORAD activities. To be sure, neither Washing- ton nor Ottawa was prepared to dismantle the radar lines and disband the interceptor squadrons. Moreover, to the extent that NORAD’s prime mis- sions had become warning and assessment of mis- sile attack and space surveillance, there was a con- tinued role for the combined command. Thus the agreement was renewed in both 1991 and 1996. But the strategic value to the US of Canadian airspace, which had steadily declined throughout the Cold War in any case, was greatly diminished. Indeed, by the early 1990s, despite the NORAD renewals, there were suggestions in the United States that NORAD be dismantled, its missile warning and attack assessment missions handed over to United States Space Command or United States Strategic Command, and its residual air defence role given to the USAF Air Combat Command (ACC), a com- ponent command of the newly created United States Atlantic Command (USACOM) which has responsibility for defending most of the conti- nental United States.
As to the maritime defence of North America, while the submarine threat had diminished, Russ- ian Akula-class submarines were still detected patrolling in North American waters. In May and June of 1995, they conducted exercises near Kings Bay, Georgia, the east coast SSBN base for the USN.31 According to the USN Office of Naval Intel- ligence, this “was the first deployment by a Russ- ian submarine near the US East Coast since 1987.” Later in 1995, an Akula was operating near the Bangor, Washington, SSBN base where “Russian SSNs have not been seen in recent years.”32 For over 40 years, Canada has been a participant with the United States in the Integrated Undersea Surveil- lance System (IUSS) which had several facilities, including the USN base in Argentia, Newfound- land. When the US closed the Argentia base because of budget cuts, Canada decided it would build a new facility to process and display infor- mation from the IUSS. In May 1995, Trinity, the Canadian Forces Integrated Undersea Surveil- lance System Centre, was opened in Halifax. Com- manded by a Canadian officer with a staff of about 140, 30 of whom are members of the USN, Trinity is “a unit of Canadian Maritime Forces, Atlantic, but falls under the control of the US Navy’s com- mander, undersea surveillance, at Norfolk.”33 Nev- ertheless, the continuing decline of the Russia Navy, whose motto would now be “backward from the sea,” appeared to further reduce the strategic importance of the maritime approaches to the continent.
Although the defence of North America was on the decline in the early 1990s, by the middle of the decade American overseas operations contributed to a revival of interest in the defence of the Amer- ican homeland. This was an interest that had not been seen since the early days of the Cold War, with exception of the Reagan administration’s short-lived Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) with its proposal for an elaborate BMD system. The renewed interest in BMD was initially the result of the Gulf War, when attention was focused on The- atre Missile Defence (TMD), and the need to pro- vide protection for deployed forces and regional allies. In its 1994 White Paper on defence, the Canadian government seemed to alter its position to a possible BMD role for NORAD:
The Government will examine closely those areas which may require updating in accor- dance with evolving challenges to continen- tal security. Canada will work towards an agreement that furthers our national inter- ests and meets our defence needs, now and into the 21st century.
Canada’s potential role in ballistic defence will not be determined in isolation, but in conjunction with the evolution of North American and possibly NATO-wide aero- space defence arrangements.34
As noted, the impetus for the new concern with BMD came from continued American activities abroad. Richard Betts observed that US policies abroad may actually increase the danger to the American homeland: “Today, as the only nation acting to police areas outside its own region, the United States makes itself a target for states and groups whose aspirations are frustrated by US power.” It is “US military and cultural hegemony — the basic threats to radicals seeking to challenge the status quo — that are directly linked to the imputation of American responsibility for main- taining world order. Playing Globocop feeds the urge to strike back.”35 This especially includes bal- listic missile threats from so-called “rogue states.” These states were developing, or already had, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and enhanced high explosive (CBRNE) weapons.
A new concern with “homeland” defence was emerging in the United States, one not seen since the 1950s. Paradoxically, these fears arose at a time when America’s relative military power had never been greater. While fears about homeland defence were being pushed most forcefully by Republicans in the Congress, polls in the late 1990s conducted by the Chicago Council of Foreign Relations found that while “Americans feel secure, prosperous and con- fident,” with “fear of armed threats from a rival super- power diminished, they are, nevertheless…alarmed by violence at home and abroad” and “support measures to thwart terrorists, prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and keep defence strong.” Moreover, while the vast majority of Americans did not see vital threats to US interests abroad, 84 per- cent regard “international terrorism” as the num- ber one “critical threat” to American interests.36 Here at least, the supposedly “uninformed” and “disinterested” American public “know-nothings” knew something.
In what is now an eerily prophetic comment, the United States Commission on National Secu- rity in the 21st Century, the Hart-Rudman Com- mission, in a report subtitled New World Coming, predicted in 1999 that,
America is becoming increasingly vulnerable to hostile attack on our homeland — and our military superiority will not protect us…. In fact there is a school of thought that American military superiority on the conventional bat- tlefield will push our adversaries towards unconventional alternatives. This school fur- ther postulates we are entering a period of “cat- astrophic terrorism” with terrorists gaining access to weapons of mass destruction includ- ing nuclear devices, germ dispensers, poison gas and computer viruses. States, terrorists, and other disaffected groups will acquire weapons of mass destruction, and some will use them. Americans will likely die on Amer- ican soil, possibly in large numbers.37
Yet another important indication of growing American concern with homeland defence was the renaming in October 1999 of USACOM to United States Joint Forces Command, (USJF- COM). In addition to its responsibility to prepare US forces for overseas deployment, USJFCOM is responsible for “homeland defence,” including “providing military assistance to civil authorities for consequence management of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) incidents within the conti- nental United States, its territories and posses- sions.”38 It will also “support the WMD conse- quence management efforts of the other combatant commands” throughout the world. In setting up USJFCOM, then Secretary of Defense William Cohen appointed an Army National Guard Brigadier General as the first commanding general of Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS). “The JTF-CS will ensure Department of Defense assets are prepared to respond to requests for sup- port from a lead Federal Agency such as the Fed- eral Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).”39
In the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, the US military has made homeland security the defence of the United States “the highest priority.” As the QDR notes:
The United States will maintain sufficient military forces to protect the US domestic population, its territory, and its critical defense-related infrastructure against attack emanating from outside US borders, as appropriate under US law. US forces will pro- vide strategic deterrence and air and missile defense and uphold US commitments under NORAD. In addition, DoD components have the responsibility, as specified in US law, to support US civil authorities as directed in managing the consequences of natural and man-made disasters and CBRNE-related events on US territory. Finally, the US mili- tary will be prepared to respond in a decisive manner to acts of international terrorism committed on US territory or the territory of an ally.
As part of this new emphasis, the US intends to again review the organization of its forces within the continental United States. The QDR called for a continued examination of the “roles and respon- sibilities” of the active and reserve forces “to ensure they are properly organized, trained and equipped, and postured.” It is clear, the report went on, “that US forces, including the United States Coast Guard, require more effective means, meth- ods, and organizations to perform these missions. As part of this examination, DoD was to review the establishment of a new unified combatant com- mander to help address complex inter-agency issues and provide a single military commander to focus military support.”40 The United States Marines expanded the scope of their special units to deal with attacks that might take place in the United States. Senior administration officials were suggesting revision to the US posse comitatus, laws that restrict the use of the regular armed forces in civilian law enforcement.
This rising concern with homeland defence was already impacting upon the bilateral defence rela- tionship and, indeed, the character of overall rela- tions between the two countries before September 11. As noted above, the American strategic inter- est in Canada is that it not be a strategic liability for the United States. In the Cold War, with both countries accepting shared threat, the strategic unity of the continent ensured that this would not be the case. But the real defence of the continent lay in the deterrent capabilities of the US, not in joint measures for direct defence.
In the wake of the attack on the United States, Canada has again become a very important piece of real estate for Americans. This started minutes after the first attacks of September 11 as Canadian per- sonnel at NORAD joined in the effort to prevent fur- ther attacks and secure North American airspace. The air defence role, which had been in decline since the late 1950s, has taken on a new focus in order to prevent a repeat of those attacks. The “unde- fended” border now needs to be secure if trade is to continue to flow in a timely manner. Canada has been told to reform its immigration policies and augment its internal counter-intelligence efforts so as not to make itself a security liability.
In the War on Terrorism, as in the Cold War, for- ward-deployed offensive forces will accompany the new emphasis on homeland defence. Indeed, despite statements regarding the priority now to be attached to homeland defence, the bulk of the mighty American military posture will still be focused upon the projection of force overseas. However, the relative importance of homeland security will increase. This is already evident with regard to BMD where the events of September 11 gave President Bush all the justification he needed to finally do what his administration had promised to do, withdraw from the ABM Treaty and go forth with a BMD system. Along with the new emphasis upon air defence, this will again bring Canada’s role in NORAD to the top of Ottawa’s bilateral security agenda.
In the fall of 2001, USJFCOM established a new Homeland Security Directorate which was tasked with developing an organization, mission, roles and doctrine for its new mission. The focus of the new directorate is given as land and maritime defence, while for aerospace defence, it is “partnered” with NORAD and US Space Command.41 This, though, appears to be only a temporary measure.
In January 2002 it was announced that by Octo- ber 1 the US would stand up a new unified com- mand, Northern Command, whose Commander- in-Chief (CINC) will “have responsibility for homeland security for the United States.” The spe- cific tasks of the Command and its relationship to other branches of the US government still need to be worked out. According to General Pace, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
From our standpoint, this individual is going to have to take NORAD and ensure that the very, very long-standing close relationship with Canada is maintained and nurtured and taken properly into the future and to figure out, is there a way, then, to add to the air defence, the land and sea defences. He’s going to have to figure out, for starters, where is the best place to be? We want him near the Capital region, probably in the Capital region — maybe not, if homeland security is something that we want to be concerned about with some kind of an attack in and around Washington — and then building the staff and what types of functions: do we want this CINC to be able to perform posse comi- tatus; how much do we want our military to actually do or not do inside the United States?
Right now we have folks who are going to be detailed to the borders of the United States in support of other government agencies. And how do we work all that? So I can’t give you a precise answer yet, because we are just in the beginning of understanding the types of capa- bilities that we need this country to have. And then who best should perform those functions and provide those capabilities? Should it be the states? Should it be the federal govern- ment? And if it’s the federal government, should it be FEMA? FBI? The military? We need to make all those determinations.
So whoever this new CINC is going to be, come 1 October, he is going to be very busy just figuring out what questions to answer and then determining how to go about answering them.42
As noted above, in the US responsibility for the maritime defence of the homeland is presently divided between USJFCOM in the Atlantic and PACOM in the Pacific. Traditionally, the USN has jealously guarded its dominance in the Pacific. Whatever the specific new arrangements, since terrorists are capable of making use of the seas to bring WMDs to America, it is likely that Northern Command (or whatever it will finally be called) will take renewed steps to secure its ocean approaches. This could include, as proposed, mak- ing greater use of the US Coast Guard, perhaps bringing it under the new command. For Canada, this will mean that its traditional sovereignty pro- tection roles, ones that will be directed against non-military threats, will now take on added meaning in terms of overall North American secu- rity. The Navy will still be tasked with protecting Canadian economic resources and enforcing Canadian law. But the relative importance of its other long-held tradition, collaboration with the USN in the maritime defence of the continent, is likely to become more important than it has been since the end of the Cold War.
Yet if the necessity for interoperability in over- seas littoral waters raises concerns about Cana- dian sovereignty and independence, how much sharper are these concerns when it comes to home waters? To some extent, the fact that the ocean approaches to North America tended to be strate- gic backwaters for the United States and, at least in the Atlantic, handled within a NATO frame- work, eased Ottawa’s apprehensions and the “defence against help” dilemma. Now, worries about how much bilateral maritime co-operation will be required to assure Washington may yet emerge again, even more so given the scope and intensity of American concerns. And, here, there is little discretion available. Ottawa can choose not to deploy overseas with the USN; it cannot choose to ignore American efforts to secure the maritime approaches to the continent. In addition, overall sovereignty concerns will be exacerbated if NORAD is to be subsumed within the new North- ern Command, thus depriving it of its distinctive bilateral character, so important to Canadian con- siderations of autonomy. Indeed, the prospect of a new overall American command, whether solely US or some continental or hemispheric “Ameri- cas” command, has already generated controversy in Canada. Paul Manley raised concerns while For- eign Minister, and former Foreign Affairs Minis- ter Lloyd Axworthy and former Defence Minister Paul Hellyer recently sounded the alarm, claim- ing that Canada is in danger of surrendering sov- ereignty at home.43
Once again, Canada is in familiar waters, not just because they are its own. But with regard to North American maritime efforts, sovereignty concerns can be addressed without sacrificing autonomous interests. To be sure, Ottawa will have to take care to ensure that Canadian interests and laws are respected in any new North American command structures or arrangements that are put in place. This could be a difficult task if for no other reason than the sorting out of responsibilities within the US may be complex and confusing. (Indeed, it may be easier for Washington to reach an agreement with Canada than amongst the American services and other federal agencies.) While any new arrangements will tie Canada closer to the US in terms of continental and, especially, maritime security, it needs to be remembered that interoper- ability in North America will allow the Navy to make a contribution in the face of a direct threat to Canada. After all, in these waters, as opposed to for- eign seas, Canada has a vital national interest. Increased collaboration with the USN and the US Coast Guard in the defence of North America should be a priority for the Canadian Navy, consis- tent with the other steps Ottawa is now taking. In other words, interoperability should begin at home if the Navy is to fulfil its primary role, the defence of Canada’s maritime interests.
It has been said repeatedly that everything has changed since September 11. This is true in the sense that combating international terrorism has now become the central focus of American foreign policy after a post-Cold War decade in which no grand organizing principle similar to containment and deterrence emerged. During those years, many argued that the very def- inition of “security” had changed and expanded. No longer could it be viewed in strictly military or national terms. The economy, the environment, culture and especially “human” security were dominating international strategic relations. But combined with other trends in the 1990s, the impact of the “attack on America” has brought back aspects of the Cold War world and catapulted traditional concerns about national security to the top of the agenda in order to deal with a non-tra- ditional challenge. Indeed, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has cautioned the American people that this is to be a protracted struggle comparable to the Cold War. Here again, we have Washington asserting indispensable leadership against a threat which, because it is directed primarily against America, endangers the entire Western world. Once more, the NATO alliance is called upon to lend its material support — and more importantly, legitimacy and unity — to American efforts. Once more, the United States is supplying military assistance and advisors, as in the Philip- pines, to help Third World governments deal with insurgencies. Indeed, Daniel Pipes has compared the campaign against Islamic terrorist extremists with the Cold War efforts to confront and contain communism wherever it existed.44 We hear another Presidential address to the American peo- ple asking like-minded nations in all parts of the world to join the United States in what will no doubt be yet another “long twilight struggle.”
It was the global character of America’s Cold War policies and its continued global activism in the post-Cold War era that made naval interoper- ability a priority for Canada. Sharing Washing- ton’s appreciation of the pervasiveness of the threat and sharing a continent, it was essential that Ottawa also become concerned with its own national security and how its policies would be co- ordinated and adjusted to accommodate and sup- port its closest ally.
After September 11, Canada has once again been drawn into a global effort, one within even greater and more complex ramifications for bilat- eral security relations. Its response was to do what it has done in the past: join in the campaign along- side America and its Western allies. Along with NATO partners, it invoked Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty declaring the attack on America to be an attack on all alliance members. Ottawa dis- patched forces overseas and turned anew to efforts to help secure the North American continent. Just as Canadians were glued to their television sets in early September 2001, so too have these events emphasized and reinforced the bonds of common strategic interests, concepts of world order and shared values that continue to underlay bilateral security relations. These will keep Canada firmly affixed to its seat at the table of the American-led and dominated Western alliance, including its maritime dimensions.
This means that interoperability with the USN, grounded in over half a century of multilateral and bilateral collaboration at sea, and given new emphasis in the post-Cold War era, will become even more important as the two countries con- front the threat of terrorism in distant seas as well as their home waters. But as in music, where many instruments go into making a concert but all musicians are expected to play from the same sheet and follow one conductor, naval interoper- ability requires some sacrifice of autonomy. Thus sailing in concert with the USN will entail implicit recognition of the dominant position that the United States holds…and seeks to maintain in international relations.
But these are familiar waters for Canada. And while it may not mean smooth sailing, especially in these unusually troubled times, Ottawa has much experience in navigating them in a manner that protects and furthers Canadian interests. The world-class capabilities of the Canadian Navy, combined with careful and continual political oversight can make interoperability with the United States Navy a mainstay of Canada’s national security policy.
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For Immediate Distribution – Thursday, April 25, 2002
Montreal – “Ottawa cannot choose to ignore American efforts to secure the maritime approaches to the continent,” especially since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, argues Joel J. Sokolsky in “Sailing in Concert: The Politics and Strategies of Canada-US Naval Interoperability,” released today by the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP).
The Dean of Arts, and Professor of Political Science at the Royal Military College of Canada argues that “interoperability is an inescapable and highly beneficial fact of life for the Canadian Navy if Ottawa wishes to maintain a ‘global’ defence policy”:
– Interoperability with the United States Navy (USN) becomes even more important as the two countries confront the threat of terrorism in distant seas and its home waters, recognizing the dominant position that the United States holds, and seeks to maintain in international relations.
– But, Ottawa has navigated these waters before in its history, while still protecting and furthering the Canadian interest. The world-class capabilities of today’s Canadian Navy can make interoperability with the USN a mainstay of Canada’s national security policy, if combined with careful and continual political oversight.
– And these welcome Canadian maritime contributions, however useful in a particular venture, will likely not give Ottawa a greater voice in larger political or strategic decisions. The choice to sail in concert with the USN will remain a Canadian one, as will the selection of particular roles and missions within the combined forces. But once Canadian naval forces are at sea, Ottawa does yield a measure of independence and its policy options are narrowed. This, and not fears about foreclosing an independent Canadian decision to participate, is the true sovereignty concern about interoperability.
Sokolsky concludes that as long as Canada wishes to play a role in world affairs and as long as the Navy can be a useful tool in supporting such a role, there will always be a certain tension between the strategy and politics of interoperability with the USN. This is not a new situation, and it is one that can be properly managed with close political oversight.
“Sailing in Concert: The Politics and Strategies of Canada-US Naval Interoperability” is the latest Choices paper to be published in the IRPP’s National Security and Interoperability series. It is now available in Adobe (.pdf) format on the IRPP website at http://www.irpp.org – to access the document, simply click on the “What’s New” icon on the homepage.
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For more information, or to schedule an interview with the author, please contact the IRPP. To receive IRPP media advisories and news releases via e-mail, please subscribe to the IRPP e-distribution service by visiting the newsroom on the IRPP website.
Founded in 1972, the IRPP is an independent, national, non-profit organization whose mission is to improve public policy in Canada by generating research, providing insight and sparking debate that will contribute to the public policy decision-making process and strengthen the quality of the public policy decisions made by Canadian governments, citizens, institutions and organizations.