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November 2, 2018 | Local, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

Defence Business Planning in Canada

by Ross Fetterly
CGAI Fellow
October 2018

“Running any complex organization during a period of major change, especially large and complex organizations, requires careful attention to the essentials of management.”1

The history of defence reform in Canada has been one of a constant struggle to renew both core military capabilities and personnel strengths, while searching for increased efficiency within a limited budget. Indeed, the Canadian Armed Forces/Department of National Defence (DND/CAF) operates on a magnitude and complexity across a broad range of diverse responsibilities unique in Canada. At a time when global security demands our constant attention, and when the CAF operates outside Canada in a less permissive and uncertain environment, resource management is important. The environment is increasingly one of unilateralism and multi-dimensional conflict, with unconventional means used to disrupt both national institutions and long-standing multi-national arrangements. While state organizations commit many non-military actions such as cyber-security attacks, defence organizations have a significant role to play in this domain. This requires resourcing defence to build capacities that support whole-of-government initiatives which enhance the Canadian government’s resiliency in response to the multi-dimensional actions taken by illiberal or non-democratic states. Defence business planning has a key role in realigning resources and activities in response to shifting geopolitical realities.

Management of defence resources is about transforming them into military capabilities in a relevant manner and in accordance with government policy. Defence establishments are unique within national government institutions, as well as in organizations in general. Nevertheless, they are required to produce certain outputs and are given a range of resources to achieve that. To accomplish assigned tasks, those resources need to be put through a deliberate business-process mechanism. The objective of the defence business planning process is to provide a pragmatic method of documenting organizational priorities and objectives, and communicating them internally while highlighting and addressing any constraints.

Business planning is well established within the Canadian defence establishment. In recent years, the business planning approval process has become a key focal point in the departmental Investment Resource Management Committee (IRMC) leading up to the start of a fiscal year. Yet, the 2017 defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE), has dramatically changed the dynamics of resource management at National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ). From a relatively stable status quo, to an environment where programmed personnel, equipment and funding increases are significant, managing change and the new initiatives as articulated in SSE, becomes a central institutional priority. Business planning is the primary process to manage implementation and execution of this relatively ambitious program. The discussion of defence business planning will begin with its challenges, and then provide an overview of factors inherent in resource demands. The third section will examine defence resource management reforms and the impact on implementing SSE, and then address factors affecting change in business planning, as well as consideration of enduring challenges. The final section will highlight that defence business planning is the bridge between near- and long-term planning and then articulate why it will need to act as a primary enabler in implementing SSE-directed activities.

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