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Gap Analysis of the Canadian Defence Policy vs. Guidance

The Government of Canada fcouses on protecting the people inside and outside its boarders. The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has the mandate of protecting the country and defend its sovereignty. CAF conducts its operations to secure the country and its people based on the Canadian Defence Policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE) and the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) guidance, Beyond the Horizon that provides the framework for the growth of Command within the military (Sajjan, 2017). The policy and the provided guidance work closely in supplementing each other to ensure a strong CAF to protect the country. The two documents share some common trends in ensuring that CAF has strong relationships with other bodies in Canada and around the world, as well as facilitating agility, innovation, and risk management (Government of Canada, 2020). However, the application of these documents shows some variation regarding how strong CAF is at home, the security of North America, and engaging in world peacekeeping activities. Therefore, despite providing a similar framework for having a strongly related CAF with other organizations, SSE and CANSOFCOM guidance have gaps about being strong at home, providing North America with security, and keeping the world’s peace.


The Canadian Defence Policy and CANSOFCOM Guidance show the linkage regarding establishing strong relationships of CAF with allies and partners such as NATO. These relationships ensure seamless cooperation between CAF and its partners, including Five Eyes Plus and NATO, which facilitates the possible conduct of operations to provide protection (Sajjan, 2017). Canadian Defence Policy requires that Canada pursue leadership roles and its planning and capability development to prioritize interoperability. This prepares CAF to renew the strong commitment of Canada and facilitates seamless cooperation with NATO and NORAD among other allies and partners (Sajjan, 2017). These relationships have seen CAF act in various theatres as they bolster disaster relief, take part in search and rescue, contribute to peace operations, and build capacity. SSE delivers on the enduring commitment of Canada’s government to defend the country and its people while working with the US to defend North America and credibly engage the international actors.

Similarly, CANSOFCOM Guidance facilitates strong relationships of CAF with the partners globally to conduct training and operations and facilitate the broader contributions of Canada. Particularly, the relationship regarding Command with the Five Eyes Plus partners and many other nations around the world has been significant in training and conducting operations (Government of Canada, 2020). Military alliances, including NATO, help to enable the broader contributions of Canada to these coalitions. According to this guidance, the relationships offer the platform for creating language shares among actors to understand each other. The existing links promote communications, sense of common identity and reinforce the shared vision. By having these relationships, CAF and the partner agencies are able to understand the situation, improve processes and systems of interagency, and effectively use capabilities as bother complementary and stand-alone (Government of Canada, 2020). This allows the CAF and the partner agencies to have better solutions of how to counter adversaries. CAF also increases its available options to the Canadian government to have unique capabilities in conducting operations and support partners; activities in security. Through this guidance, CANSOFCOM, through provided opportunities, allows CAF and Canada to understand the situation and adopt beneficial protection.

The policy and CANSOFCOM Guidance advocate for CAF to be agile, innovative, and manage risks. The policy ensures that achieving Canada’s security objectives, defence, and strategic interests is not threatened by the new challenges occurring in cyber and space domains (Sajjan, 2017). The policy recognizes the reinvention of CAF through the transition process as they modernize command and control systems to have more agile and effective forces in complex operational theatres, including peace operations. This involves acquiring more advanced fighter aircraft to help support the sovereignty of Canada in its commitments (Sajjan, 2017). The anticipate, adapt, and active defence approach by Canada is critical in risk management such that threats are understood, harness new technologies, and take action to protect the country.

Similarly, CANSOFCOM Guidance supports the need for agility, innovation, and the management of risk by CAF. The guidance has prioritized the Gradient Ascent implementation as a new initiative supporting digitalization and data analytics (Sajjan, 2017). The design of this initiative is to link the competency level in the digital space with the kinetic space achievement to have enough information on the operations adversaries. The initiative significantly leverages the importance of digital technologies in achieving improvements in institutional effectiveness and efficiency (Government of Canada, 2020). The guidance requires the Command to commit to innovation concerning continued focusing on implementing and improving areas of operation. This should be facilitated by the adoption of new technologies to identify and manage risks.


Based on the two identified documents, significant gaps exist between the Canadian Defence Policy and the concrete CANSOFCOM Guidance. The policy requires CAF to ensure they achieve strong at home, secure in North America, and engage in the world activities; hence there is a need to adopt bridge the identified gaps (Everett & Yamashita, 2017). These requirement aspects create significant gaps in relation to the provisions of the guidance for CAF. The aspect of strong at home provides military support to civilian organizations where the key focus is areas that require effort and resources to be invested, including a vigorous liaison program. The program creates a tight network of CANSOFCOM with other intelligence agencies of Canada (Government of Canada, 2020). At the same time, the basis of strong at home aspect the improved mobility and reaches in Artic of Canada. This is emphasized on the need to focus on general Arctic training and equipment that allow operating infrequently and vast, inhospitable Arctic environment. This involves surveillance, control, requisite Command, and a robust sustainment system.

On being secure in North America, the gap exists where there is a need to improve aerospace awareness and response and enhance satellite communications. The approach is based on the presence of multi-role platforms that have employed capabilities within the same fleet of aircraft, providing numerous benefits for CANSOFCOM and RCAF objectives (Brown, 2013). On the requirement to be secure in North America, the multi-role adaptation is relevant to SOF as they offer significant benefits to SO in applying the effects of aerospace. The gap in the “engaged in the world” aspect requires prioritizing interoperability in developing capability and planning with Allies. This is based on strategic communication, which underpins the approach towards output delivery to align images, words, and action with the required influence (Everett & Yamashita, 2017). Since STRATCOM aligns civil-military operations, information operations, and key leader engagements, it is employed by SOF to promote the friendly narrative of force and discredit hostile narratives.


CAF has adopted policy and CANSOFCOM guidance to ensure the protection of the country. However, the application of policy and guidance has shown links and the existence of gaps that require appropriate approaches to bridge. The links involve establishing strong relationships of CAF with allies and partners such as NATO for seamless cooperation and possible conduct of operations to provide protection. Another significant link is based on agility, innovation, and risk management by CAF to achieve security objectives and reduce new challenges. Some approaches to bridging the gaps involve providing military support to civilian organizations while focusing on areas that require effort and resources. There is also a need to improve mobility and reaches in Artic of Canada by focusing on general Arctic training and equipment, which allow operating in inhospitable Arctic environment.


Brown A.L. (2013). JCSP 39 PCEMI 39 Master of Defence Studies Maîtrise en études de la défense.

Everett, K., & Yamashita, E. (2017). Whole of Government in the Canadian Arctic. Whole of Government through an Arctic Lens, 295.

Government of Canada. (2020) CANSOFCOM Guidance – Beyond the Horizon. Reports and Publications.

Sajjan, H. (2017). Strong, Secure and Engaged: Canada’s Defence Policy. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces.


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