Archive for May, 2008


May 30, 2008

By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen


Canada and the U.S. have signed an agreement that paves the way for the militaries from either nation to send troops across each other’s borders during an emergency but some are questioning why the Harper government has kept silent on the deal.


Neither the Canadian government nor the Canadian Forces announced the new agreement which was signed Feb. 14 in Texas.


The U.S. military’s Northern Command, however, publicized the agreement with a statement outlining how its top officer, Gen. Gene Renuart, and Canadian Lt.-Gen. Marc Dumais, head of Canada Command, signed the plan that allows the military from one nation to support the armed forces of the other nation during a civil emergency.


The new agreement has been greeted with suspicion by the left-wing in Canada and the right-wing in the U.S.


The left-leaning Council of Canadians, which is campaigning against what it calls the increasing integration of the U.S. and Canadian militaries, is raising concerns about the deal.


“It’s kind of a trend when it comes to issues of Canada-U.S. relations and contentious issues like military integration, we see that this government is reluctant to disclose information to Canadians that is readily available on American and Mexican websites,” said Stuart Trew, a researcher with the Council of Canadians.


Mr. Trew said there is potential for the agreement to militarize civilian responses to emergency incidents. He noted that work is also underway for the two nations to put in place a joint plan to protect common infrastructure such as roadways and oil pipelines.


“Are we going to see (U.S.) troops on our soil for minor potential threats to a pipeline or a road?” he asked.


Mr. Trew also noted the U.S. military does not allow its soldiers to operate under foreign command so there are questions about who controls American forces if they are requested for service in Canada. “We don’t know the answers because the government doesn’t want to even announce the plan,” he said.


But Canada Command spokesman Commander David Scanlon said that it will be up to civilian authorities in both countries on whether military assistance is requested or even used.


He said the agreement is “benign” and simply sets the stage for military to military co-operation if the governments approve.


“But there’s no agreement to allow troops to come in,” he said. “It facilitates planning and co-ordination between the two militaries. The ‘allow’ piece is entirely up to the two governments.”


If U.S. forces were to come into Canada they would be under tactical control of the Canadian Forces but still under the command of the U.S. military, Commander Scanlon added.


News of the deal, and the allegation it was kept secret in Canada, is already making the rounds on left-wing blogs and internet sites as an example of the dangers of the growing integration between the two militaries. On right-wing blogs in the U.S. it is being used as evidence of a plan for a “North American union” where foreign troops, not bound by U.S. laws, could be used by the American federal government to override local authorities.


“Co-operative militaries on Home Soil!,” notes one website. “The next time your town has a ‘national emergency’, don’t be surprised if Canadian soldiers respond. And remember — Canadian military aren’t bound by posse comitatus.”


Posse comitatus is a U.S. law that prohibits the use of federal troops from conducting law enforcement duties on domestic soil unless approved by Congress.


Commander Scanlon said there was no intent to keep the agreement secret on the Canadian side of the border. He noted it will be reported on in the Canadian Forces newspaper next week and that publication will be put on the internet.


Commander Scanlon said the actual agreement hasn’t been released to the public as that requires approval from both nations. That decision has not yet been taken, he added.


Military officials on both sides of the border say such co-operation is a plus and could help speed up responses in a disaster.


“Unity of effort during bilateral support for civil support operations such as floods, forest fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and effects of a terrorist attack, in order to save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate damage to property, is of the highest importance, and we need to be able to have forces that are flexible and adaptive to support rapid decision-making in a collaborative environment,” Gen. Renuart said in the U.S. military news release.


In the same news release, Canadian Lt.-Gen. Dumais called the plan “an important symbol of the already strong working relationship between Canada Command and U.S. Northern Command.


The plan recognizes the role of each nation’s lead federal agency for emergency preparedness, which in the United States is the Department of Homeland Security and in Canada is Public Safety Canada. It facilitates the military-to-military support of civil authorities once government authorities have agreed on an appropriate response, according to the news release.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:




May 29, 2008

By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen


Joint Task Force 2’s comrades from the early days of the Afghanistan war have a new book highlighting their achievements. Norwegian special forces (NORSOF) played a major part in Task Force K-Bar which included U.S. and other special operations forces including Canada’s own JTF2.

Now my Norwegian colleague Tom Bakkeli has a new book out called “Norway’s Secret Warriors. Norwegian Special Operations Forces in The War Against Terror” which looks at Norwegian SOF and their missions.(there is also a small bit in the book on JTF2 snipers in Afghanistan).

Norway had a force of more than 70 special operators assigned to Task Force K-Bar in the early days. Those men from the Jaeger Kommando and Marine Jaeger Kommando served with the initial 40 JTF2, German SKS, Danish SOF, Navy SEALs and U.S. Air Force and Army special forces. Also along were New Zealand and Australian SAS.

Norway’s SOF community declined to officially co-operate with Tom (they may have opened back channels to him, I’m not sure). But once it came out the book was well received by the country’s special operations folks.

There are lots of details on ship boardings and maritime counter-terrorism, as well as a section on the Afghanistan war.

Tom’s book also has excellent photos of his country’s special forces operators. Most of the photos are taken by the Defence Forces SOF Photographer, Torbjørn Kjosvold with two examples of his work at this photo and this photo.

Tom was invited to meet some of the SOF operators and was taken for a tandem night parachute jump from a helicopter.

The book has sold 8,400 copies so far (that was several months ago so it’s likely more by now), which is considered very good in a country of 4.5 million people.

The unfortunate part of all this (for North Americans that is) is that the book is written in Norwegian……so I’m hoping some publisher will put out an English language version.

David Pugliese


May 22, 2008

Devil’s Brigade battle legacy accepted by Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR)

By David Pugliese

The Ottawa Citizen

Thursday, May 22, 2008



Commandos who established their reputations as hardened and legendary soldiers during the Second World War will be honoured by Canadian special forces by having their unit’s battle legacy transferred to a recently created regiment.


The Canadian Special Operations Regiment, or CSOR, has received approval to accept the battle honours from the Canadian section of the First Special Service Force, military officials say.


The First Special Service Force, better known as the Devil’s Brigade, was a joint U.S.-Canadian unit that fought with distinction during the Second World War. The unit established its reputation during fighting to liberate Italy, but also took part in operations in Alaska and France.


A special event will be held at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa in late June to honour the veterans, CSOR officers said.


“This is great for our outfit,” said Charlie Mann, a Devil’s Brigade veteran who is director emeritus and the Canadian military liaison officer for the First Special Service Force Association. “I feel that CSOR is probably the closest thing to the original force since the war. They function very similar to the way we used to function.”


Two directives issued earlier this year designate CSOR, at CFB Petawawa, and the Ottawa-based Joint Task Force 2 as honour-bearing units.


That will allow them to receive battle honours.


CSOR commander Lt.-Col. Jamie Hammond says the regiment is working on getting its own regimental colours. “On that flag, we will put any battle honours we get and we’ll also perpetuate the honours of the First Special Service Force,” he said.


Lt.-Col. Hammond said it would take about another year for CSOR’s colours to be designed and approved by Government House.


In the meantime, however, Lt.-Col. Hammond said he wanted to have a ceremony to mark the acceptance of the First Special Service Force’s battle honours.


“We’re hoping to have a small colour party of the vets march on to our change-of-command parade and hand their First Special Service Force flag over to us as a symbol of us carrying on their legacy,” he said.


Efforts to transfer the battle honours have been ongoing for several years, said Mr. Mann, a resident of Kincardine, Ont.


At first, he said, JTF2 wanted to accept the honours.


“But JTF2 is not a regiment, so they couldn’t accept our battle honours,” Mr. Mann said. “Then along came CSOR, and CSOR is a regiment and very similar to the Special Service Force.”


Mr. Mann said it was estimated that a little more than 300 Canadian and U.S. members of the First Special Service Force were still alive.


May 21, 2008

Plan for supply ships comes up short

Tories’ $2.9-billion budget isn’t enough, DND officials say


David Pugliese

The Ottawa Citizen


Monday, May 19, 2008


The Canadian navy’s $2.9-billion project to replace its aging supply ships has run aground, with defence and industry officials concluding that the vessels can’t be bought with the amount of money the Conservative government is providing.


Defence Department representatives have met with Treasury Board to ask for more money for the Joint Support Ship project, but at this point, it is unclear whether additional funds will be approved.


The JSS project, as it is called, was announced in Halifax in June 2006 by Public Works Minister Michael Fortier and then-defence minister Gordon O’Connor. The new vessels are to replace the aging supply ships, which are considered vital to supporting destroyers and frigates for long periods at sea.


The project is to acquire three new vessels as well as hire a company to conduct in-service support for the ships over a 20-year period.


The Conservatives used the JSS project to start the equipment portion of their Canada First Defence Strategy two years ago, heralding it as a new beginning for the Canadian military. At the time, Mr. O’Connor said the JSS project showed the government was “committed to getting the right equipment for the Canadian Forces, at the right price for Canadians, with the right benefits for Canadian industry.”


The problems with the JSS are the latest to affect the strategy. Last week, it became mired in controversy after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced further details of the long-term plan, but was later contradicted by government officials on the cost of various equipment programs.


That prompted opposition MPs to accuse the Conservatives of low-balling the cost of new military gear by tens of billions of dollars.


Other opposition MPs said there was no way the government could guarantee funding for various equipment programs would be available that far into the future.


The $2.1 billion set aside for buying three Joint Support Ships is not enough, defence officials confirm. They point out that part of the problem is the new vessels would conduct missions far beyond the scope of re-supplying warships at sea, the role now done by the decades-old Protecteur-class ships.


Besides supplying ships, the JSS will have to carry army vehicles, a command centre and a small hospital, as well as other facilities to support ground troops on shore.


There is no similar type of ship in the world, as most navies use two types of vessels to perform the distinct roles.


Defence officials have heard from industry that the money set aside by the government might be enough for two ships, not three. A minimum of three ships are needed because of the size of the territory covered by the navy and the fact that, at times, one ship could be sidelined for maintenance.


The Defence Department declined to provide comment and referred questions to Public Works and Government Services Canada. That department, however, also declined to discuss the ongoing problems with the JSS.


“As the procurement process has not been completed yet, it would be inappropriate to comment further,” said Lucie Brosseau, a Public Works spokeswoman.


The first ship is supposed to be delivered sometime in 2012, but it’s unclear at this point whether that schedule will be kept.


Liberal Senator Colin Kenny said too many capabilities are expected from the ships for the budget the government approved. “Having some kind of replenishment capability for the navy is vital, so this is a serious issue,” said Mr. Kenny, chairman of the Senate’s committee on national defence and security.


He said that having just two ships would be unacceptable and unworkable because one vessel is often docked for regular maintenance.


Negotiations between Treasury Board and the Defence Department are expected to continue. Of the $2.9-billion overall project cost, about $800 million will be set aside for long-term maintenance of the vessels.


The new ships will be around 200 metres in length and have a displacement of 28,000 metric tonnes.


Defence chief Gen. Rick Hillier views the ships as key to the future of the Canadian Forces, not just to support the navy in its missions. He has said the JSS would be used to provide support to international operations for the other services as well.


“The ships will provide the vital lifeline of supply and support to other Canadian navy ships as well as to army and air force assets in certain deployed operations,” Gen. Hillier has said.


“A key component of the Canadian Forces transformation, the ships will help build a truly ‘joint’ navy, army and air force capability.”


For the latest military news, see David Pugliese’s Defence Watch blog at


May 21, 2008

JTF2 JOINT TASK FORCE 2 zeroes in on Taliban bombers

David Pugliese

The Ottawa Citizen


Tuesday, May 20, 2008


The Canadian military plans to ramp up its campaign, starting this summer, to track down and deal with Taliban bomb-makers and their improvised explosive devices.


Canadian special forces and members of an ultra-secret electronic eavesdropping team are already involved in efforts to eliminate the bombmakers, whose devices, known as IEDs, have claimed the lives of the majority of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.


But they will be getting more support in their campaign from a recently created counter-IED task force.


The focus of the battle against IEDs is shifting from dealing only with the explosive devices to putting more efforts into “attacking the network” responsible for financing, creating and planting the bombs, says Col. Omer Lavoie, head of the task force.


That effort combines combat operations, winning the support of the Afghan population, improving training and making better use of forensic information to track down the identities of the bombmakers and their supporters.


“This really speaks to targeting networks and winning the support of the people so that they’re reporting the builders and the transporters before they do put (IEDs) in place,” said Col. Lavoie.


“It’s also trying to change the mindset,” he said. “This is not an undefeatable bogeyman out there.”


Col. Lavoie said his message to fellow military personnel is that IEDs are not just a problem for combat engineers and explosive experts to handle. All personnel should be involved and the problem should be dealt with through a combination of improved training and attacking the networks, as well as efforts to deal with the devices themselves by locating the bombs and neutralizing them.


IEDs are considered such a threat that a group, made up of Col. Lavoie’s task force, intelligence officials, the Communications Security Establishment, and the Canadian Forces expeditionary and special operations commands, among others, meet every two weeks to review progress and deal with ongoing issues.


Col. Lavoie did not elaborate on what Canadian special forces and intelligence units are currently doing in Afghanistan.


But government sources have confirmed that both the Ottawa-based Joint Task Force 2 and the Petawawa-based Canadian Special Operations Regiment have been tracking down bomb-makers. A team from the Communications Security Establishment, also from Ottawa, has been using its skills to intercept insurgent radio and cellphone transmissions in an effort to locate those who are involved in the IED networks. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has also been contributing with its agents in Afghanistan.


Col. Lavoie’s counter-IED task force, which will eventually have about 60 personnel, will create two new centres of excellence this summer at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, N.B. One will be focused on how to deal with and technically defeat IEDs and will involve the skills of combat engineers. The other centre will concentrate on writing tactics, techniques and procedures for counter-IED operations.


Col. Lavoie will also oversee co-ordinating efforts across the Canadian Forces of the various organizations involved in dealing with IEDs. His task force already has an officer and other personnel in Afghanistan to advise commanders there.


The “attacking the network” concept can also come into play even after an IED detonates. That process involves collecting information at the bombsite and pieces of the device that may aid in determining who built it. Individual bomb-makers can be identified through parts of the bomb, some of which may have telltale signs of specific tools that were used in its construction.


Col. Lavoie said there is a forensic component already involved in dealing with IEDs, but it will be expanded through training courses co-ordinated by the task force. Forensic lab capabilities in place in Afghanistan could be expanded.


At later stages, Col. Lavoie will also look to expand links with other government departments involved in the IED issue. “We do a lot of work with the RCMP now,” Col. Lavoie said. “Do they need to establish a similar and more advanced lab back in Canada for stuff that can’t be cracked back in theatre? That’s what I’m trying to develop (later).”


The colonel, who served in Afghanistan during one of the most violent periods of Canadian operations there, said he has seen up close the carnage that such weapons can cause. Half of the soldiers killed from the unit he commanded were victims of IEDs. “If nothing else I have a vested interest and a passion to get this program up and running and support the troops and the mission,” Col. Lavoie added.


The Canadian military has already spent about $120 million in bringing new capabilities and equipment to deal with IEDs. Last year the government announced it had purchased a number of new vehicles for detecting, investigating and disposing of IEDs and landmines in Afghanistan.


Among those are the Husky, the Buffalo and the Cougar specialized vehicles. The Husky provides the detection capability using various sensors, while the Buffalo uses an extendable mechanical arm to uncover IEDs. The heavily armoured Cougar transports the explosive ordnance-disposal personnel who defuse or dispose of the bombs.


Col. Lavoie said while technological efforts as well as training are important, winning the support of Afghans is crucial. “To think we’re going to win this with technology or moving pillboxes is not the way to do it,” he added.


Winning Afghan support includes programs that provide cash payments for IEDs turned in by the locals. It also involves providing aid to villages that co-operate with coalition and Afghan forces.


For all things military, read David Pugliese’s blog, Defence Watch, at

© The Ottawa Citizen 2008


May 14, 2008


Canada’s defence strategy for the next 20 years will be based on speeches by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay given on Monday in Halifax.


In a highly unusual move, the Conservative government will base its entire future rebuilding of the Canadian military on Mr. Harper’s 10-minute speech and Mr. MacKay’s 700-word address.


No actual strategy document has been produced, nor will be produced, according to government and defence officials. Neither speech went into any specific details about equipment purchases, costs or timelines or how the future strategy will unfold. Both speeches presented more broad-brush approaches to defence.


Asked about when the actual Canada First Defence Strategy was going to be released, Jay Paxton, Mr. MacKay’s press secretary replied that “It is a strategy that you heard enunciated by the Prime Minister and Minister MacKay.”


“It is not a ‘document’ like a white paper — it is the vision delivered today for long-term planning for the CF,” he added. “As such, the speeches are the strategy.”


Mr. Harper’s speech repeated some of the same phrases from previous addresses, including the need to have a strong military. “If you want to be taken seriously in the world, you need the capacity to act – it’s that simple,” Mr. Harper said. “The Canada First Defence Strategy will strengthen our sovereignty and security at home and bolster our ability to defend our values and interests abroad.”


Mr. MacKay’s speech talked about the purchase of fixed wing search-and-rescue aircraft, new fighter planes, replacements for destroyers and frigates, combat vehicles for the army and a replacement for Aurora maritime patrol aircraft. He did not provide any details about how much such procurements would cost or the timelines for such purchases.


Mr. MacKay also talked about improving key infrastructure used by the Canadian Forces and increasing military readiness but did not go into details about either.


The Conservatives did retreat on an election promise which called for a boost to the size of the regular military to 75,000 and the reserves to around 35,000. Now the size of the regular force will be 70,000 and 30,000 for the reserves, an expansion that will take place “over the course of the plan,” according to Mr. MacKay.


The Canada First plan covers the next 20 years.



May 14, 2008

Congress has been notified of the possible sale of six Chinook helicopters to Canada for operations in Afghanistan.


Notice of the possible sale of the CH-47D helicopters, along with associated equipment and services, was issued April 23 by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. The deal would be handled as a Foreign Military Sale.


Canada has requested six CH-47D Chinooks, along with spare engines, machineguns, night vision systems, communications and navigation gear and spare parts. It is also requesting contractor technical and logistics services be provided.


The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $375 million (U.S.), according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.


The proposed sale would include 12 T55-GA-714A Turbine engines, four M240H Machine Guns, 30 AN/AVS-6/7(V)1 Aviation Night Vision Imaging Systems, and two spare T-55-GA-714A Turbine engines, mission equipment, communication and navigation equipment, ground support equipment, spare and repair parts, special tools and test equipment, publications and technical data, site survey, Quality Assurance Team support, contractor technical and logistics personnel services, and other related elements of logistics support.


The prime contractors would be The Boeing Company in Ridley Park, PA; Honeywell, Inc. in Phoenix, AZ; and FN Enterprise in Lubbock, TX, according to the notice.


The D model Chinooks will be an interim measure until the Canadian Forces can take delivery of the first of 16 Chinook F models. That, however, is not expected to take place until 2010 or 2011.


Negotiations for that sale are still ongoing between Boeing and the Canadian government. Canada has earmarked two billion Canadian dollars ($1.76 billion) for the program to buy the helicopters plus another 2.7 billion Canadian dollars for in-service support for the helicopters over a 20-year period.


Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier has said the helicopters are essential for missions such as in Afghanistan where large amounts of equipment are needed to be lifted in hot and mountainous terrain. The Canadian Forces also sees the Chinook as ideal for roles in domestic emergencies.


The Canadian military had operated Chinooks until the early 1990s but those were sold to the Netherlands to save costs.



May 13, 2008

This Web site features articles by journalist David Pugliese. Pugliese is one of the top military reporters in Canada, and has written two books on special forces units including Canada’s Secret Commandos, a best-seller on Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) as well as Shadow Wars, which examines missions by special forces in the war on terror. Keep watching this site for a wide range of military articles.