Playing the long game on SSE implementation

Hockey tactics

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By Brigadier-General Kevin Horgan, Chief of Staff, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff

Each Canadian NHL team has the same objective: to build a team that can win the Stanley Cup, not just one year but on a sustained basis over a number of years. In order to achieve this goal, teams need to take a long-term strategic view, develop a detailed plan, and work within their budget to build a properly equipped, balanced and experienced team. Clearly, this is not easy, as it has been almost 25 years since the last Canadian team hoisted the Cup.

For the implementation of Canada’s Defence Policy Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE), the Department of National Defence (DND) leadership team has taken a similar approach; it is worth noting that we are planning on matching the recent success of Pittsburgh and Chicago, versus the frustration Canadian fans have experienced within this analogy.

SSE establishes a detailed and robust roadmap for the present and future needs of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). Establishing the goals was arguably the easy part. Implementing them over a 20-year period in the face of unpredictable changes within the strategic environment is much more complex and challenging.

This will be a team effort, not just within DND, but across the whole government in order to synchronize efforts to match needs and funding for various projects and initiatives over an extended horizon. There will be a natural desire by many to have all the capabilities as soon as possible, but there must be a measured and balanced approach that accounts for our capacity to deliver on SSE while maintaining our already charged agenda of operations and projects.

So, let’s have a look at our team. The owner of the team is clearly the Government and citizens of Canada as represented by the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence. They have high expectations – they have made a meaningful investment in the team and expect us to be transparent, skilled and efficient in delivering on SSE.

The team’s co-presidents are the Deputy Minister (DM) and the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS). They will set the priorities, approve the plans, allocate the resources and monitor progress to achieve the goal. The General Manager and his assistant are the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (VCDS) and the Senior Associate Deputy Minister (SADM). They develop the detailed plans and put in place the long-term vision to succeed. The coach is the Chief of Programme (C Prog). He is working with the team on a daily basis on the details, adjusting the plans based on initial results, and controlling ice-time to ensure a balanced approach and long-term success.

The players are each Level One and Service across the organization, and they need to execute the game plan. Each of us within the Defence Team are the support staff needed for the success of the players. We provide and maintain the equipment, arrange travel, pay the bills, treat injuries, and provide all support needs so the management team and the players can focus on the plan and succeed.

So, as we approach the one-year anniversary, how are we doing? Similar to the Las Vegas Golden Knights, we have had some early success in our first season. The goal is not just to make the playoffs or win one Cup, but to build an ‘Edmonton of the early 1980s’ type of dynasty that can and will compete each and every year over the next 20 years.

Under C Prog and with the input of our players and coaching staff, we have put in place a comprehensive plan that has been endorsed and funded by management. SSE is composed of more than 125 distinct initiatives. These are assigned to the players to oversee and implement.

Most of our initiatives are enduring; you cannot just work hard for a short period, and then place a check mark beside the box. Take for example Initiative #4 – Increase the Capacity of the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School to support the directed CAF growth within SSE. Military Personnel Command (MILPERSCOM) has reviewed and developed the plan, and has started implementation. However, this will need to be adjusted throughout the life of SSE to ensure not only that the capacity is there but also that the quality of the training is maintained and focussed in the right areas. Clearly, the type and focus of recruit training will need to be adapted over the next 20 years.

The updates presented in the image gallery below highlight some of our early wins. As you can see, the team has made great progress. Despite this, hard work remains to be done. Like the Golden Knights, now that we have made it to the post season, playoff success will be the real test. Sustained success over an extended period is the real goal for Canada’s Defence Policy.

SSE Progress Highlights

Click any image below to review the latest SSE progress highlights.

Image gallery

  • Class at RMC Saint-Jean
  • Medals
  • Canadian troops in deployment
  • Diversity
  • CAF response during Quebec floods, 2017
  • Stock photo
  • Stock photo
  • CAF family
  • Artist rendering of an Offshore Patrol Ship
  • Victoria-class submarine
  • Army communications systems
  • Two CF-18s in flight
  • Fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft
  • ULCVs in a hangar
  • Surveillance and reconnaissance platform
  • Targeting systems
  • Cyber operator
  • Cyber force
  • Reservists
  • Portable solar panels used by DND/CAF
  • IDEas
  • F-18s

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