University studies are critical to the maturation of Canadian security and defence policy. They strengthen the knowledge base and grow the people to provide the leadership in future years. With a few exceptions, however, Canadian universities have not been strong on international security studies. the Vimy Report backed by a strong university-based research program could transform the intellectual landscape.
The university problem had been ameliorated by a 30-year program of the Department of National Defence (the Security and Defence Forum), which funded teaching and graduate research at 12 centres across Canada at a cost of $2.5 million per year. Annually, the program supported some 250 university courses attended by over 10,000 students, and it financed 100-200 research studies generating up to 900 publications. But the program was terminated in 2012 supposedly as a departmental economy measure; in fact, it had irritated civilian officials with studies critical of DND policies. One of these had been Canada without Armed Forces? by Dr. Douglas Bland at Queen’s which drew Paul Martin’s attention in 2003 to the rapid deterioration of the Canadian Forces. Another Let Sleeping Dogs Lie demonstrated how little regard there is in government for advice from outside of government.
The mission of the Campus would be to reinforce and enrich the Vimy Report with a university-based program of research on contemporary security and defence issues. The program would strengthen the knowledge base in Canada on these issues and help to develop Canada’s future leaders in the security and defence field.
The project could take one of two forms. One option might be to reconstitute the Security and Defence Forum using private funds. Another would be to establish a series of research centres across the country, each specializing in security and defence issues most appropriate to their region. Centres in Western Canada, for instance, could focus on Asia-Pacific security issues; others on the Arctic, the Americas, Europe and NATO, cyber warfare, terrorism, failed states, etc.
What would distinguish the new program would be the partnering of leading academics (and their graduate students) with subject matter professionals to conduct research characterized both by academic rigour and recent “field” experience. The impact of such work would be heightened by:
– the higher priority which would be accorded issues of immediate relevance to Canadian interests,
– research focused on subjects likely to require government decisions in the near-term,
– the expeditious conduct of studies (weeks rather than months), and
– feeding the results directly to Parliamentarians and government for maximum impact.
Implementation of the Campus project will require pulling together a team to consider options and develop a strategy and action plan. We invite those who are attracted to the idea of re-establishing the Security and Defence Forum in some manner to let us know of their interest.