Rebuilding Canada’s armed forces: Why transforming Canada’s defence capabilities needs to begin with a new approach to training and recruiting, starting with the Royal Canadian Air Force
Byline: Jana Lee Murray, Program Director of FAcT, Babcock Leonardo Canadian Aircrew Training
“The military we have today is not the military we need for the threats occurring in the future.” Last month, Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre warned members of Parliament that the rules-based international order is weakening and must be defended—and most importantly, Canada must play an important role in its defence. Yet Canada’s ability to do so is under strain as it faces significant issues around its recruiting and retention within the armed forces. These are issues which procurement of new upgraded defence equipment, alone, cannot solve.
While there are many calls for Canada to increase its defence spending further, there is little discussion on where this funding should be allocated and how it should address the underlying issues Canada’s armed forces are experiencing.
Maybe at the top of the list should be the urgent recruitment and retention issue flagged by Gen. Eyre—and the need to make Canada’s defence forces modern, multi-purpose, and combat capable in order to excel in the changing geopolitical environment?
“Our readiness is going down within the Canadian Armed Forces,” said Eyre. These are startling words to hear during this time of international strife.
It is easy to think conflict and war is far away from our comparatively peaceful existence in Canada and North America. The reality is that it is much closer.
Whether it is through a war of information, cyber security attack, attempts to undermine a country’s democracy, or in more stark terms, an expanding Russian footprint into the arctic, the threat to international order is coming in all shapes and sizes. To protect and defend Canada, and to meet our international responsibilities to our allies, we need to be constantly assessing our preparedness against emerging threats and technologies, ensuring our equipment and forces match up to the capabilities of those who would put Canadians and our international allies at risk.
Defence procurement is as much about the people who protect us, as it is about the equipment Canada will need.
An excellent example is to look at preparations underway within Canada’s air force. As the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) prepares to acquire a fleet of next generation fighter jets, the Canadian government is also focusing on pilot and aircrew training capabilities.
The government’s Future Aircrew Training Program, or FAcT, is a step in the right direction. FAcT will provide RCAF personnel with a comprehensive and fully integrated training solution, built on next generation technology and international experience to ensure the needs of students and instructors are put first.
Defence procurement projects in Canada are expected to deliver economic benefits back to Canadian businesses and communities. FAcT offers Canada an opportunity to redesign and implement a fully integrated aircrew training solution that meets the needs of the Royal Canadian Air Force, while also providing longer term economic benefits and opportunities for Canadian businesses and Indigenous communities.
Unbeknown to many is that FAcT is not just an extension of a program. It is an entirely new program. A fresh start. An opportunity to design and implement a fully integrated aircrew training solution that meets the needs of the Royal Canadian Air Force and provides lasting benefits to Canada.
Babcock Leonardo Canadian Aircrew Training (BLCAT) is proud to be submitting a bid to the Government of Canada for FAcT. Together, Babcock and Leonardo have decades of experience in global aircrew training, including working with NATO allies and G7 countries.
Set to be a 25-year program, BLCAT is taking a generational approach to FAcT by focusing on student and instructor success, engaging at the grassroots level from the beginning, implementing skills development and training programs, developing an inclusive workforce strategy, and partnering with diverse businesses from coast-to-coast.
It is the right time for Canada to be taking a close look at modernizing our forces’ training programs as the country prepares for the arrival of new fighter jets and combat ships. The people protecting us should have nothing less than world class, state of the art, modern training programs centred on student success and long-term wellbeing.
When done correctly, defence procurement projects can be designed with inclusive benefits – AND create job and economic opportunities for business and Indigenous communities across the country. A new approach to training students and fostering lifelong development must be part of the solution to address today’s recruitment and retention issues.