Monday, January 03, 2011

Canada's Military Space Policy:
Part 3, Towards Northern Sovereignty

The recent announcement by Colonel André Dupuis, the Director of the Department of National Defence (DND) Directorate of Space Development (DSpaceD) that DND is set to release an "updated" but not substantially changed Canadian military space policy early in 2011 suggests a series of obvious questions.

Past, present and future prime ministers in 1968. Pierre Trudeau, John Turner, Lester Pearson and Jean Chretian overlooked by the press and the image of Sir Wilfred Laurier.

In part one of this blog post, titled "The Axworthy Doctrine," I attempted to answer some of those questions by showing how the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's led to a Canadian reassessment of the four traditional pillars of our national defense strategy and a new focus on international peacekeeping. This new policy required space focused communication and surveillance capabilities and led directly to our first military space policy in 1998.

Part two of this post (titled "The Changing Political Landscape") discussed why Canada never had a military space policy prior to 1998 by going back to the 1960's and the federal liberal party under Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau.

Pearson, Trudeau and their successors essentially refused to differentiate between space based military assets for communication/ surveillance and space ‘weaponization’ (placing weapons in space) in order to be perceived of as strong, international supporters of the United Nations Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963) and the UN Outer Space Treaty (1967).

This led to the shutting down of most Canadian military space programs and a focus on space science, exploration and technologies with civilian applications that could be spun off into profitable companies.

Not that there was anything wrong with this "civilian" focus but without military communications and surveillance programs the Canadian Forces was placed in the position of needing to consistently borrow US satellite and logistical assets.

After awhile, all the borrowing exposed Canadian officials to US concerns that Canada was no longer paying it's "fair share" on defenses. Unfortunately, the American's were right and this state of affairs has lasted ever since.

By 2008, James Fergusson, the Director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba could legitimately claim in his "Report on Canada, National Security and Outer Space" that:
Canada has no overarching national space policy, and space is not addressed in either of the latest national security and defence policies.

Space is so structurally buried and fragmented within government that voices advocating for more appropriate treatment of space security issues are marginalized, even within such departments as Industry Canada (the Canadian Space Agency's parent department) and the Department of National Defence (DND).

The Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) budget, and accordingly, its interests and activities have been diminishing and narrowing around space science and exploration for the last decade (dominated by human space flight and international space station programs), leaving little investment opportunity for other space pursuits (i.e., space-based services and access to space). 

The DND, while pursuing the development of a small space-surveillance satellite (Project Sapphire), has progressively scaled back its space interests and pursuits since its mid-1990s peak. Even then, those interests and pursuits were modest, end-user focused, and highly reliant on American leadership and resources.
Current Canadian PM Stephen Harper.
Fortunately for the military space advocates, by 2008 the liberals were no longer in power and the recently elected conservative Stephen Harper government was busy developing what they called the Canada First - Defense Strategy.

Officially focused around increased funding (from $18 billion in 2007-2008 to over $30 billion in 2027-2028) and new equipment purchases for what is supposed to be variety of domestic and international missions, the new policy is in reality focused on protecting Canadian claims of arctic sovereignty.

Why would Canada be doing this?

According to the July 7th, 2007 article "Canada boosts military presence in the Arctic" on the New Scientist TV website:
... the country is in dispute with its neighbour, the US, over the ownership of the northwest passage. If sea-ice continues to shrink, this passage could knock a third off the trip from Europe to Asia. Currently, the shortest route involves crossing through the Panama Canal.

Harper's determination to show that Canada will not be booted out of the Arctic is such that he has decided to put $2.9 billion (US) towards building up his nation's military presence in the area. This will help buy eight new ice-breaker military patrol ships and build a new port in the north of Canada.
According to the article, our long-term allies seem to have become our major competitors, at least in the high arctic.

If the Harper government really wants new military purchases, expanded operations and increased infrastructure they will also require expanded communications and area surveillance capabilities of the type most effectively provided by space based assets.

But this time, the Canadian government might actually have to purchase these assets and not just borrow them from patient allies.

The technologies we need to utilize and how we might get them will be the subject of our 4th post on this topic. Until then, here's a little more background on some of the issues surrounding the increased interest in protecting the "Canadian" arctic.

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