OTTAWA — The Canadian subsidiary of French defence industry giant Thales has been awarded a multibillion-dollar contract to service Canada’s new fleet of Arctic offshore patrol ships and joint support vessels.
The federal government said Thursday Thales Canada, in a joint venture with the company’s Australian arm, will provide in-service support for the vessels under a contract that could total $5.2 billion over 35 years.
Acting Procurement Minister Jim Carr announced the awarding of the contract along with parliamentary secretary Steven MacKinnon at news conferences in Halifax and Ottawa.
The contract starts with an eight-year, $800-million service period.
Carr said it will provide “men and women in our military with the equipment they need to conduct their operations effectively while creating good middle-class jobs for Canadians.”
But the Union of National Defence Employees said the government is relying too much on the private sector when it should be doing the ship service work in house.
Rear Admiral John Newton said Thursday the Royal Canadian Navy maintains a “fine balance” between in-house capabilities and industry support.
“We are constantly migrating our in-house capability very slowly to keep a balance between what industry can provide, readiness of ships when we demand it, international deployments, and what we (the Royal Canadian Navy) can provide with specialized teams and specialized operational equipment, weapons and sensors,” said Newton, commander of Canada’s East Coast navy.
“We’ll have a navy that’s ready for operations globally and it’s a good navy that thrives on this kind of relationship.”
MacKinnon said the announcement is part of building the capacity for Canadians to do the work in the future.
He said Canada has suffered by allowing its shipbuilding capability to deteriorate, and the government is in the process of rebuilding from the floor up.
“We are literally, under the shipbuilding strategy, rebuilding an industry,” MacKinnon said in Ottawa. “This contract . . . does bring new capability to Canada. It brings new efficiencies to Canada, it brings experience from across the world.
“But at the same time, it’s Canadians doing work on Canadian vessels that were paid for by Canadian tax dollars,” he said. “We’ll be building capabilities benefiting from the experience of our partners from around the world and using that right at home, using Canadians.”
Carr said the federal government received four strong bids. Winning bidder Thales Canada will retrofit, maintain and repair the ships, and will also provide training.
Officials say Thales will be required to hire subcontractors to complete the work in regions across the country to ensure economic benefits.
Work is to be completed in Canada, except when the ships need work overseas.
Thales Canada president and CEO Mark Halinaty said the company isn’t yet sure which shipyards will be used to do the maintenance and repair work.
“That’s all part of the competitive process that we plan to undertake,” he said.
The previous Conservative government originally launched the national shipbuilding strategy in 2010, budgeting $35 billion to rebuild the navy and coast guard fleets while also creating a sustainable
shipbuilding industry on both the east and west coasts.
Six Arctic patrol vessels are being built by Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax, with the first expected next year.
Under the contract, Thales is required to subcontract work for ships delivered in the east to companies in the Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Ontario, whereas work on ships delivered in the west must be completed in the western provinces and territories.
John MacLennan, national president of the Union of National Defence Employees, said privatizing repair work puts public sector jobs at risk.
He also expressed concerns related to national security and the quality of the workmanship that will be done by subcontractors on the ships.
“The quality of work is very important. There is a pride and professionalism in the public service,” MacLennan said.
Carr said there will be no job losses because of the contract, estimating it will create or maintain 2,000 jobs over 35 years.
He added that everybody involved in the work will have a top security clearance.
“We’re fully confident that all the safeguards are in place,” Carr said. “This contract will conform to the highest standards of security for Canada.”
The government and two parties in the center-right opposition have agreed to increase the defence spending with SEK 8,1 billion until 2020.
In 2015, five parties reached an agreement over defence and defence spending until 2020. But in the beginning of this year, those parties reopened talks to increase that budget, as a result of what was referred to as “the worsening security situation”.
The talks were supposed to have been finalized before the summer, but have been dragging on. After the parties met in the beginning of this week, the Christian Democrats announced that they were not happy with where the negotiations were going, and so would leave the talks.
Now, the government, made up of the Social Democrats and the Green Party, has reached an agreement with the biggest opposition party in parliament, the conservative Moderate Party, and the Centre Party to increase the defence spending by SEK 2,7 billion per year between 2018 and 2020.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, Micael Bydén told the government that another SEK 9 billion would be needed until 2020, in order to fulfill the task set by the defence agreement from 2015.
At a press conference on Wendesday, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist thanked the Moderates, the Greens and the Centre Party for good co-operation during the negotiations.
“Continuity in Swedish defence and security policy is crucial,” said Hultqvist at the press conference.
The defence spokesperson of the Moderate Party, Hans Wallmark (M), said that this agreement is in line with what the Supreme Commander had demanded earlier this year. Wallmark said that it was thanks to his party that the increased spending was as high as it was.
“The alternative would have been zero or significantly lower sums,” Wallmark said.
In a comment on twitter on Wednesday, the leader of the Liberal Party, Jan Björklund, said: “The defence decision of 2015 was a) under-financed b) insufficient. Now the decision is fully financed, but Sweden’s defence is still insufficient.”
The Liberal Party left the talks already in 2015, in protest against the direction the talks were taking.
ALAMEDA, Calif. — U.S. Coast Guardsmen and U.S. Navy Sailors conducted shipboard dive operations from a Coast Guard cutter in the Arctic July 29 for the first time since two Coast Guard divers perished in a subsurface accident almost 11 years ago, the Coast Guard said in a Aug. 10 release.
Shipboard Arctic dive operations increase the Coast Guard’s ability to assure year-round access for national security, sovereign presence and increased maritime domain awareness in the region. The shipboard dive operations also highlighted the interoperability between joint Coast Guard and Navy dive teams.
The Coast Guard conducted a comprehensive dive program review following a incident on Aug. 17, 2006, that killed Lt. Jessica Hill and Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Duque during an ice dive in the Arctic Ocean aboard Coast Guard Cutter Healy. In the years following the accident, the Coast Guard improved diving proficiency and retention by making diving a primary duty and created the first three regional dive lockers to centralize control, training and operations.
The joint dive operation from Healy July 29 marked the culmination of this increased oversight, training and proficiency. The crew of Healy and joint dive team held a memorial to honor the fallen divers during the cutter’s current Arctic patrol.
“There is no prospect more sobering than the death of a crew member,” said Capt. Greg Tlapa, commanding officer of Healy. “We honor the memory of our shipmates, Lt. Hill and Petty Officer 2nd Class Duque, and will never forget their sacrifices. It gives our crew great pride to re-establish dive capabilities to Healy and meet the subsurface needs and challenges our service will face in the coming years in the Arctic.”
The joint dive team included personnel from Coast Guard Regional Dive Lockers San Diego and Honolulu and U.S. Navy Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Intermediate Maintenance Facility, Wash. Navy divers supported cold water and ice dives by providing an independent duty corpsman/dive medical technician and by conducting joint training using the Navy’s recompression chamber currently deployed aboard Healy.
“I’m humbled to be a part of such a historic operation, honoring our shipmates by reintroducing Coast Guard shipboard dive operations to the Arctic,” said Chief Petty Officer Chuck Ashmore from Coast Guard’s Joint Regional Dive Locker West in San Diego.
Divers are the Coast Guard’s primary resource for the service’s subsurface capabilities and perform a full spectrum of Coast Guard missions, including maintenance and repair to aids to navigation, underwater inspections and maintenance on icebreakers and other cutters, surveying critically endangered species habitats, assistance to marine casualty investigations and supporting search and rescue operations.
Healy, homeported in Seattle, is a 420-foot long medium icebreaker with extensive scientific capabilities and is the nation’s premier high-latitude research vessel. Healy’s missions include scientific support, search and rescue, ship escort, environmental protection and the enforcement of laws and treaties in the Polar regions.
Once it is fully operational, HMS Queen Elizabeth will doubtless be the most heavily protected vessel in the Royal Navy. For now, however, it seems the £3bn pride of the British fleet is so lightly defended that a £300 drone can be landed for an unauthorised visit to the aircraft carrier’s decks.
An amateur enthusiast has told how he overflew the largest – and most expensive – warship ever built for Britain’s armed forces with his Parrot Bebop drone before briefly landing on its vast flight deck as it sat, apparently unmanned, on Cromarty Firth in the Scottish Highlands.
The ability of a hobbyist to take a private and unchallenged remote-controlled tour of “Big Lizzy” will raise difficult questions about security surrounding the vessel – as well as throwing into sharp relief the fact that the carrier will not have its own complement of aircraft for authorised take-offs and landings for several years to come.
The drone pilot, who asked not be named, posted footage on Facebook of a series of flights over the carrier while it was docked at Invergordon during ongoing sea trials before it is due to arrive at its new home port of Portsmouth as early as next week.
The enthusiast told the Inverness Courier: “I was amazed that I was able to land on the aircraft carrier for two reasons, the first being that there was no-one to prevent it from landing, although there were security police around in small boats who were waving at the drone.”
The amateur flier said he had been forced to land on the deck of the ship after a warning of high winds on the control panel of his drone. He added: “I expected the deck to be steel, which would send the drone’s electronic landing systems haywire, but I was able to touch down OK and took a couple of shots.
There was absolutely no-one around when I landed, it was like a ghost ship.” The 65,000-tonne flagship, one of two super-carriers being built for the Royal Navy, has not yet been formally handed over to the military as it continues to be fine tuned by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, the consortium that is building both vessels.
Trials with the carriers’ American-built F35B “Lightning” aircraft are due to begin next year but the Queen Elizabeth is not due to be fully operational until 2021. The drone pilot said he had been so concerned about his visit to the carrier that he drove to the dockyard in an attempt to explain in person to the crew what he had been doing but was told there was no-one available because all personnel were ashore at dinner.
The hobbyist added: “The ship has not been commissioned by the Royal Navy yet and doesn’t have aircraft, so I don’t think its defence systems that could block radio signals will be fully operational. If they were, there would be no way I would get within a mile of this vessel. “But it is worth a lot of money and I suppose I could have been a Talibani or anything.”
The incident is the latest security scare involving drones, which have been involved in multiple near misses with commercial jets landing at airports as well as criminal uses such as delivering drugs and weapons to prisons.
A Scottish MSP said he was considering tabling a question in the Edinburgh parliament about the incident. Liberal Democrat Jamie Stone said: “I think the moral of this astonishing tale is that there is a serious question about security for the Royal Navy for it would have been quite easy for someone of evil intent to do something quite serious.
Even a drone crashing into its radar could cause damage.” The Ministry of Defence said it had tightened security on the carrier following the incident.
An MOD spokesperson said: “We take the security of HMS Queen Elizabeth very seriously. This incident has been reported to Police Scotland, an investigation is underway and we stepped up our security measures in light of it.”
Germany is emerging as a major defense player in Europe. With the UK leaving the EU, Germany and France are now leading Europe’s efforts to secure the continent. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder talked with Stephen Szabo, a senior fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, about Franco-German defense coordination and Germany’s new heightened role in European defense.
The Cipher Brief: At this year’s Aspen security conference, German Ambassador to the U.S. Peter Wittig talked about how Europe can get a lot more bang for its buck if it synchronizes its defenses in support of NATO, and he also mentioned that Germany and France recently decided that common defense procurement is the way to go. Are there any concrete plans or examples of recent defense procurements between Germany and France?
Stephen Szabo: Last month, Germany and France unveiled plans to develop a European fighter jet, although they haven’t decided on joint procurement yet.
TCB: And would that be the first of this kind of agreement between these two countries?
Szabo: I’m not sure about this specific kind of Franco-German project, but the Europeans have the Eurofighter, for example. The Eurofighter aircraft began with a multinational collaboration program between France, Germany, the UK, Italy, and Spain and was designed and manufactured by a consortium of European defense companies.
TCB: So is this idea not really new, but rather it’s being discussed more now because of the Trump administration and concerns over Trump’s policy toward Europe and NATO?
Szabo: Exactly. The Europeans have been talking about this for 20 years. They set up a common procurement agency, the European Defence Agency, in Brussels in 2004 to supposedly enhance European defense because of the reasons that Ambassador Wittig pointed out: they’re wasting their money on duplication of assets. So they’ve been talking about this for a long time, but it never goes very far, partly because people want to protect their own defense industries to the extent that they can, so they try to buy German or buy French, for example. And that makes it more difficult to get common procurement.
A couple years back there was a discussion about having a merger between Britain’s BAE Systems and Airbus parent EADS, but that fell apart because German Chancellor Angela Merkel basically vetoed it because she was afraid of losing jobs in Germany if they went through with this. The big player has been the UK; BAE is still the biggest player by far because they are one of the few European contractors that can do business with the U.S. and with the Pentagon.
That has hindered a joint European procurement effort because the American market is much bigger than the European market on defense. That might change a little bit if people actually start spending more on defense; but I think the problem has been that the biggest player is the UK. With Brexit, the UK’s role in European security is now questionable, which will have implications for European defense.
Another issue with the Germans is that they’re losing out on technology and technological spinoffs that come with developing your own systems. They’re way behind the U.S. in a lot of respects. The Transatlantic Academy just came out with a report, where we had an idea in there that the Germans ought to create a DARPA within the Germany defense ministry. We were trying to make the case that there is a lot of positive development and spinoffs from defense spending; it’s not a zero-sum game. You get not only technological spinoffs, but also you create jobs.
This is an old story that has not gone very far over the many years the Europeans have talked about it. Of course, there are different factors now that are new. I already mentioned Brexit. Another new factor is Russia and the shock with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And the final new factor is the election of President Donald Trump in the United States. With these three developments, the Europeans are talking more seriously now about this.
TCB: Do you think that this confluence of factors – the UK leaving the EU, Russian aggression, Trump’s election – is going to provide the necessary impetus to actually move procurement and other defense cooperation forward?
Szabo: It should, but it probably won’t. Recently, the head of the French defense forces resigned because President Macron made substantial cuts in the defense budget in France, which is of course the biggest European military player now with the UK leaving the EU. The Germans are talking about doing more, but they are so far behind in terms of equipment and capabilities that it’ll take them a decade, even if they’re serious about this. And I don’t see a lot of support for this among either leaders or publics in Europe.
You’re right, this is a new strategic situation. But the kinds of security issues the Europeans are looking at go beyond Russia, which is still not a direct threat to core Europe, neither Germany nor France nor Italy.
The big issue for Europe is terrorism and securing the borders. There we’re already seeing the Europeans trying to do more and reinforce their borders. In the Mediterranean, for example, they’re trying to intercept boats that carry migrants coming over from Libya.
That’s where the EU does have to play a role, because NATO is not really equipped to do that, and even though NATO has tried to do a little bit in that area, they’re not the organization for the job. So in that area, we’ll see more action, but it’s not the kind of big ticket defense spending that people talk about.
Cyber is another big area. The Germans are investing a lot more in cyber now, and the Europeans are investing a lot more in cyber capabilities as well.
TCB:How much does Germany’s history still play into its ability or inability to take more of a leading role on defense?
Szabo: If you go to a place like Poland or Estonia and ask if they’re worried about the Germans becoming a stronger military power, they will say no; they’re happy that the Germans are now becoming a more powerful defense force. In Lithuania, the Germans are part of an enhanced forward presence force that NATO put together for the Baltics. So externally, it’s not a big issue.
Inside of Germany, it’s an issue the Germans like to bring up because a substantial portion of the public does not want to spend more on defense or do more militarily; they don’t trust the military, and so they use that as one argument not to do more.
TCB:When you say “they” inside of Germany, do you mean “they” the policy-makers and people working in defense, or “they” the general population?
Szabo: Both, though there has been a slight shift in public opinion in the last two years toward a readiness for more defense spending. The polls show close to a plurality that’s wiling to at least think about more defense spending. But there’s still an awful lot of resistance to it. The Social Democratic leadership has now made this a campaign issue, claiming the increases are being made to please Trump.
TCB:The defense conversation in Europe often revolves around Germany, France, and the UK. Discounting the UK, since it’s likely soon leaving the EU, are there other countries beyond Germany and France that we should be looking at to take more of a leading role in defense?
Szabo: Absolutely. Poland is number one because of the eastern front issues. Poland is spending substantial amounts of money on defense. They want to be a defense player, but they want to do that within NATO and they don’t trust the EU on Russia and on providing security – they still rely on the U.S. for defense against Russia. This is what complicates things. The Poles would definitely be a player in this, but they want to go the NATO route rather than the EU route, and that’s a big issue.
There are other countries that can play niche roles, like the Netherlands and Spain. But of course there are different strategic perspectives with the Spanish, the Italians, and the French to some extent, looking south at the migration problem, and with the Germans, the Poles, and the Baltic states looking more east toward Russia. So that’s another problem.
The different factor here is that the Scandinavians are now much more constricted by Russia. The Swedes in particular, the Finns, to some extent the Norwegians, and the Danes are all concerned about the Baltic area now – and they see NATO as the most reliable deterrent, not the EU.
TCB:Are there any signs of closer defense cooperation between Germany and Poland either within NATO or bilaterally?
Szabo: The fact that the Germans have put this battalion in Lithuania has been welcomed by the Poles. The Germans have also been doing some exercises with NATO in Poland, so there’s been limited defense cooperation there. There is a political problem between an increasingly conservative and authoritarian Polish government and liberal democratic Germany, but I still think we should expect to see more German-Polish military cooperation – as long as the Poles think the U.S. will remain engaged with them, even as Germany increases its engagement.
TCB: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Szabo: There are certain defense issues that the EU is very equipped to deal with: counterterrorism and cooperation between intelligence agencies and police agencies within Europe and on border controls. But on Russia and broader issues, they still need the United States.
Also, there’s better infrastructure at this point for defense cooperation within NATO than within the EU. You can create coalitions within NATO that are more effective than EU coalitions because they have better capabilities. You can then plug these into than the EU, which has been limited to small operations in Africa or little crisis reaction operations. NATO has been looked at as an American dominated organization, but actually the Europeans could do a lot with it if they want to.
Dr. Stephen F. Szabo is currently a Senior Fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies and a Professorial Lecturer in European Studies at SAIS. He served as the Executive Director of the Transatlantic Academy and was Interim Dean and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and taught European Studies at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University. He has published widely on European and German politics and foreign policies, including most recently, Germany, Russia and the Rise of Geo-Economics.
A group of Royal Navy sailors and marines together with two Royal Navy Merlin Mk3 helicopters spent the past five months deployed aboard the French helicopter carrier FS Mistral during its Jeanne D’Arc mission.
FS Mistral, together with frigate FS Courbet, embarked Royal Navy personnel in March for a deployment that took the force as far east as Japan and Guam, as far south as the northern coast of Australia, with visits to Vietnam, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Djibouti.
Commenting on the deployment, UK’s armed forces minister Mark Lancaster said: “From fighting Daesh in the Middle East to jointly operating in Estonia as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence, our enduring defence partnership with France is stronger than ever as we work together to tackle global threats.
This deployment has demonstrated the ability of our world class Royal Navy and Royal Marines to operate alongside our French allies and international partners as Britain delivers on its commitment to global maritime security.”
Throughout the deployment, UK personnel worked closely with international partners to strengthen defence cooperation in the region. British troops participated in the first ever four-part maritime exercise involving France, Japan, the UK and US, where as part of a week-long practice assault, the two Merlins moved 330 troops from the four nations to and from the island of Tinian.
UK troops also met with the Vietnam People’s Navy in Ho Chi Minh City to compare national maritime operating procedures and exchange experiences, and during a port call to Egypt, British forces took part in a cross-decking exercise alongside French and Egyptian Armed Forces.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2017 — Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan discussed a variety of issues today in a phone call with Harriett Baldwin, the United Kingdom’s undersecretary of state and defense procurement minister, Navy Cmdr. Sarah Higgins, Shanahan’s spokesperson, said in a statement.
“The leaders discussed defense issues, including NATO, bilateral exercises, changing technologies and procurement innovation,” Higgins said. “They also spoke about the restructure of the Department of Defense’s acquisition, technology, and logistics and chief management officer organizations.”
Shanahan lauded the value of the close U.S.-U.K. security partnership, Higgins said, and he noted that bilateral capability cooperation will be instrumental in enabling their forces to better confront current and emerging threats.
In addition, Higgins said, Shanahan conveyed the high value the U.S. places on British investment in strong defense capabilities, including its two aircraft carriers and F-35B aircraft.
The two leaders agreed to maintain regular dialogue on shared security interests and the bilateral defense agenda, she added.
The vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, and the Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas, discussed the possibility of deploying the Patriot anti-missile defence system in Estonia.
Ratas, having met Pence, who was visiting the tiny Nordic NATO member from 30-31 July, told the main news programme of the Estonian public broadcasting that he discussed the deployment of the Patriot anti-missile system, but there were no talks about a potential date when the system would be deployed.
“We discussed it today,” Ratas said, replying to a reporter’s question about the defence system. “We didn’t discuss specifically when it would happen,” he added.
“The main messages from both sides were that both Estonia and the United States are active allies in NATO,” Ratas told the public broadcasting.
“We also discussed the [Russian] military exercise to take place at the Estonian border – Zapad – and how Estonia, the United States and NATO monitor it and exchange information,” Ratas added.
Increased cooperation in cyber security
The two leaders also discussed opportunities for increased cooperation in the digital field and cyber security. Pence praised Estonia as a model for innovation and the use of technology to develop solutions for global economic, security and social challenges, and he thanked the country for hosting the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn.
After meeting with the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in Tallinn on 31 July, the US vice president again offered reassurances.
“Under President Donald Trump, the United States stands firmly behind our Article 5 pledge of mutual defence – an attack on one of us is an attack on us all,” Pence told reporters.
In Tallinn, he also met allied troops from France, the UK and the US that are stationed in Estonia.
Major General Petri Hulkko assumed the post of Commander of the Finnish Army on 1 August 2017. The Army Commander Change of Command Ceremony was held on 31 July 2017 in Mikkeli.
Major General Hulkko transfered to his new position from the post of Chief of Staff of Army Command Finland. Lieutenant General Seppo Toivonen, who has led the army since July 2014, has transfered to the reserve.
Lieutenant General Seppo Toivonen has developed the army and its readiness in accordance with the demands brought about by rapid change in the security environment. In his speech at the ceremony, Major General Hulkko thanked his predecessor, saying that the Defence Forces Reform planned under his leadership has created a good foundation for the operations and further development of the Finnish Army.
Under Lieutenant General Toivonen, the army has changed from a trainer of conscripts into a true readiness and training organisation. The use and training of personnel as well as the exercise system has been refined in order to respond to even more rapid and unexpected situational development.
Lately, the army has implemented both functioning and cost-effective solutions for materiel development. This decade has been one of development for the Finnish Army, while the strategic projects of the Navy and Air Force are to begin in earnest at the turn to the 2020s.
“From the army’s point of view, we must also look towards the future beyond strategic projects. The next time that army capabilities become outdated will be in the 2030s. Building capabilities takes on average ten years. Already at the beginning of the 2020s, we should be able to see the alternative solutions towards which we will have to begin to move”. Major General Hulkko said.
“Also in the future, national defence will be built upon general conscription. Personally, I see no other alternatives. Together, we must continue to do our utmost, so that as many Finnish men and female volunteers as possible enter military service and honourably complete it. This is not a demand stemming only from military need, it is also of great benefit to our entire society”. Major General Hulkko emphasised.
The change in the international security environment has placed significant expectations also on the army. As part of the Defence Forces, and in cooperation with other authorities, the army must continuously be prepared, and have the capability to react to traditional military threats as well as to more complex threats than earlier.
The army’s participation in military crisis management and the significantly increased amount of international cooperation are part of displaying and developing the credibility of national defence. Lieutenant General Toivonen emphasised the exceptional dedication to their tasks of the army’s personnel.
“I would like to thank everyone serving in the army for their efforts in furthering our readiness capability. The army’s salaried personnel and conscripts are an important resource both in disturbances in normal conditions and in case of unexpected changes in the security environment. The army’s extended capability rests naturally on our reservists”. Lieutenant General Toivonen said in his speech.
“With great gratitude I would like to commemorate the sacrifices made by our veteran generation. Without their struggle and post-war rebuilding, Finland would be very different from what it is today. I am certain that the chain of defenders of our independent fatherland will carry on strong also in the future”, he continued.
The change of command ceremony included the unveiling of the portrait of the retiring commander Lieutenant General Toivonen, a luncheon for invited guests and the handover ceremony in the courtyard of the Mikaeli concert and congress centre. All of the army’s brigade-level units were represented at the ceremony. After the ceremony the Conscript Band of the Defence Forces performed for invited guests in the Mikaeli concert hall.
RIGA – The Canadian nation understands why Canadian soldiers had to be sent to Latvia, Latvian Ambassador to Canada Karlis Eihenbaums said.
He said that for Canadian militaries it was a natural thing to participate in missions outside their country. Moreover, Canada was one of the first countries to strongly condemn Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in Ukraine.
“For them it is not a problem. They are willing to be the first, to go where the situation is the hardest because they know they are on the right side and there’s no doubt about it,” the Latvian ambassador said, noting that Canada perceived the NATO mission in Latvia as a high moral obligation based on shared democratic values.
Canada was glad to become the lead nation for the NATO multi-national battalion deployed to Latvia and, because of its own ethnic diversity, is a natural for the task, Eihenbaums said. Canada is also glad about an opportunity to practice cooperation with European allies, he said.
“The key words are solidarity and additional security guarantees. We have to do our homework ourselves, and we are doing it very well, but their presence has symbolic and practical meaning,” the Latvian ambassador said.
The National Security Agency has never seen the field of signals intelligence change as rapidly as it is right now, said agency director Navy Adm. Mike Rogers at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado today.
Washington Post columnist and best-selling author David Ignatius interviewed Rogers and Robert Hannigan, the former director of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, on the state of signals intelligence.
Rogers has worked in signals intelligence his entire 31 years in the Navy. He said technology is driving the rate of change in the field and enemies are embracing the advantages it provides. “I have never seen target sets change their communications profiles, to constantly upgrade their technology — whether it be a nation state or a group like [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] or al-Qaida,” he said. “The rate of change in our profession and the need for us to stay ahead of that keeps growing in complexity and speed.”
The measure of effectiveness for signals intelligence agencies is the ability to generate value, the admiral said. “If we focus on generating value for the citizens of the nation we defend [and] doing it within a legal and policy framework, that generates confidence in the citizens we support,” Rogers said.
Hannigan agreed, saying the history of signals intelligence is the history of reinvention as technological changes are rapidly fielded. “The pace of change we’ve seen in the past five or 10 years is out of proportion to anything we’ve seen before,” he said. “And it’s going to get faster.”
Rogers stressed that the nation needs to have a conversation about the mission and means in the era of terrorism. Just in the last five years, there have been terrorist attacks around the globe — in Boston, San Bernardino, Paris, London, Brussels, Copenhagen, Kabul and Baghdad, to name a few. “Social media has been a key component of these events,” the admiral said. “You never like the fact that it takes a trauma and the loss of life to drive people to looking at the problem set differently.”
ISIS wants to break America’s will, he said. “They believe we are inherently weak, that we can’t stand the pressure,” Rogers said. “[ISIS] believes if they contest our ability to lead normal lives … they will break our will.”
Defeating this goal has spurred a dialogue between the intelligence community and major information companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Yahoo. But this is a conversation that needs to grow, not just in the United States, but also in like-minded countries, he said.
“Our challenge as a nation is we are now in a position in the digital age where technology has outstripped our legal framework,” the admiral said. “Traditionally, within our legal construct there has been mechanism for the government to access communications with an appropriate court order.”
The digital age has placed many of those communications outside the realm of existing laws. “We, collectively, as citizens, need to sit down and figure out what are we comfortable with here,” Rogers said. “What’s the level of risk and access that we want the government to have? Under what circumstances and who should control it. Are there specific criteria we should emplace so this isn’t something done capriciously,” he said.
“I’ll be the first to admit that you don’t want an intelligence professional like me making that decision,” the admiral said. “That is not in our nation’s best interest.”
Rogers said any discussion should be guided by two questions: “What can government do?” and “What should government do?” The first is a technical question about what is possible, he said. But the more important question stems from that technical question, the admiral said, because what can be done is not the same as what should be done.