Anticipate, Adapt, Act: The Canadian Approach to Defense in Response to the Evolving Security Environment and the Threat of Climate Change

Source: North American Aerospace Defense Command; U.S. Air Force Photo/Justin Connaher

The Canadian mandate, Anticipate, Adapt, Act (A3), is the military’s neo-dimensional approach to improve effectiveness in the armed forces, which includes but is not limited to land, air, and sea. The approach details the rules of engagement (ROE), and the standard operating procedure (SOP) initiative that aims to achieve Canada’s defense objectives both at home and abroad. Canada’s security challenges today are complexly interwound with several volatile situations that are not mutually exclusive. This includes climate change, domestic insecurity, and threats against allies; thus, Canada requires a modern, sustainable, counteractive course of action such as A3. This course of action encompasses an increased efficiency in Operational Readiness (OP), Joint Military exercise (JME) with allies, increased reconnaissance in Area of Operations and Responsibility (AOO/R), improvement in the Statement Unit Requirements (SUR) of the forces and most importantly Operational Control (OPCON) in the midst of threat.

Canada’s A3 policy implementation will be tested as it faces its most daunting challenge head-on: climate change.

The first pillar, “Anticipate”, strategically places the Canadian forces on ready alert. The new mandate reinforces and implements cross-cutting instrumental ratings, modern technology machinery, and departmental pillars for intel gathering and planning rapid distribution of information and operational services. This uniquely positions Canada to work efficiently and effectively with academic think tanks, experts, and other allies in achieving Canada’s defense objectives. An example of this ongoing initiative that secures Canada’s formidable military might around the globe is Canadian Forces Intelligence Command (CFINTCOM). The initiative aims to increase its capacity to anticipate and deter hostile acts in any form, through quality and effective intel gathering. 

The second pillar of the new mandate is “Adapt”. While Canadian forces anticipate hostile acts, the second policy pillar positions these forces to adapt to an evolving security environment. A key initiative that the Department of Defense is embarking on is the integration and enhancement of the reserve. This reinforces the initial military strength with enough human capabilities. A path that the forces are undertaking to achieve this is through the implementation of the Military Capability Studies (MSC). Hostile acts can be perpetuated through several means; in order to detect, deter, and defend, the Department of National Defense is strategically partnering with other departments, particularly Global Affairs, in enhancing the performance capability of the space unit while adhering to international space law. Furthermore, in meeting unit and security demands, the Department of National Defense in guidance of the A3 is forming remarkable alliances in the private sector. These unique public private partnerships position Canada to leverage the best practices in the private sectors to meet unforeseen challenges. 

Finally, with the proper mechanisms and regulations as outlined in A3, Canada’s operational and tactical readiness are able to act and adapt. A remarkable example of this acting is the combat readiness of DND in coordination with the global affairs in low to -high level volatile regions, such as the active Operation-Presence (OpPRESENCE) in partnership with Global Affairs, DND, and the United Nations (Peacekeeping Operations); Canadian Forces played a significant role in logistics movement for the United-Nations (Peacekeeping/MOVCON) in Entebbe, Uganda.

Climate Change: A significant challenge faced by Canada in today’s evolving security environment

The security challenges or threats that Canada is confronted with today are complexly interwound with several asymmetrical situations. These challenges have transcended the conventional forms they once took and have evolved into severe, multifaceted, borderless threats. The severity of this threat is unpredictable in nature, and requires both international and domestic cooperation. Climate change is a global crisis and Canada is at the center of it: Canada is located in the global north with vast natural resources, such as fresh water, oil sands, and forestry, and is therefore most likely to experience the impact of climate change at an unprecedented rate. The northern part of Canada borders Russia and the United States. The Arctic is melting at an alarming rate, thawing and unleashing diseases unheard of. The melting of this ice has created new travel pathways, putting Canada in a tight window of time to defend its sovereignty and prevent unusual diseases. Canada continues to defend her borders from all forms of threat. However, the effects of climate change go beyond the frontline of borders. 

The impact of climate change at this moment cannot be underscored in Canada. General Jonathan Vance, Chief of Staff of Defense, stated that he needs “more men and women to handle these crises and his soldiers need more training to deal with fires and floods.” According to the Climate Reality Project backed by statistics from the National Assessment of Canada in a Changing Climate, “Canada is a maritime nation. Eight of its 10 provinces and all three territories border ocean waters. That puts the western Arctic, Canada’s southeastern Atlantic Coast, and major cities like Vancouver and Halifax right on the front lines of sea-level rise.”

The role of “Anticipate” in Canada’s defense against climate change

The new-dimensional approach of the DND/CAF to anticipate, adapt and act to threats is the mechanism in place to ensure and sustain the safety of Canadians at home and abroad through international partnership and cooperation. The severity of the threat of climate change around the globe will certainly cause inestimable havoc within a specific period we cannot yet understand. Undeniably, climate change constitutes a powerful disruptive force to the security environment and the DND/CAF are at the forefront of confronting this threat. Ideally, a counteracting response to this threat should be a conventional means, as the ones utilized in previous non-similar natural disaster related situations. However, due to the non-conventional form that climate disruption takes, it would require a neo-dimensional approach such as the A3 policy mandate.

As Canadian forces anticipate the threat of climate change, the A3 mandate reinforces cross-cutting instrumental policy ratings, and technology that aims to implement the national and defense commitment to reducing greenhouse emissions to meet the federal sustainable development goal. The “anticipate” pillar in the new mandate leverages intel from this technology and its military capabilities to mitigate this threat before in sightings. A significant method by which the DND/CAF is anticipating the threat of climate change and increasing its capabilities to mitigate it is the strategic liaison with the private sector in building climate resilience technology. In addition to having a formidable machinery that can withstand climate disruption and in anticipation of future climate risk particularly within Canada, the Canadian Forces are embarking on the integration and enhancement of the reserve initiative. 

With Canada’s current A3 instrumental policy ratings, alongside the increased operational capabilities of Canadian Forces in combating climate change, these two features could create a blueprint for other countries in formulating environmentally friendly defense policies. Importantly for Canada, it creates a unified front for climate action.