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Future Force Design

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Photo credit: © Canadian Army/Government of Canada

Photo credit: © Canadian Army/Government of Canada

The Canadian government plans to develop and design the future force through a deep understanding of the future operating environment and security risks to Canada and Canadian interests. It aims to enhance Defence’s ability to identify, prevent, adapt and respond to a wide range of contingencies through collaborative innovation networks and advanced research.

Planning highlights

In response to an increasingly complex security environment, effective innovation is critical to ensure the Department of National Defence (DND) is successful in achieving a modern and prepared armed forces and supporting its public safety and security partners. DND/Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) will provide ongoing operational research and analysis support for decision-making, to understand the future security environment and consider the effectiveness of options for defence capabilities and force structure. In addition, through the Defence and Security Science and Technology Program, DND/CAF will continue to invest in promising technologies which can improve effectiveness against current threats and enhance resilience in the face of emerging threats. Specifically, this includes investments in countering autonomous systems, detecting and countering opposing force operations in the information environment, and detecting, identifying and tracking hypersonic weapon systems.

As DND implements its new integrated program priorities, it will establish and build on partnerships and engagements with industry, academia, government and international partners.

In fiscal year (FY) 2023-24, National Defence will turn its focus to implementing Canada’s North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) modernization plan, with many initiatives entering the identification or options analysis phase. National Defence will also deepen its engagement with industry, Northern, and Indigenous partners, as well as the United States, on a project-by-project basis. Where investments take place in the North, DND/CAF will continue to engage with Northern provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments.

Photo credit: © Canadian Army/Government of Canada

Photo credit: © Canadian Army/Government of Canada

In June 2022, the Minister announced Canada’s plan to enhance its contribution to NORAD, and associated funding. This represents the most significant upgrade to Canada's NORAD capabilities in almost four decades. NORAD modernization is a series of required initiatives with immediate to long term projects that will support NORAD and the CAF’s ability to protect Canadians against new and emerging military threats to Canada and North America more broadly. It will also help support the CAF’s engagement abroad, while reinforcing North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)'s western flank at a time when autocratic regimes are threatening the rules-based international order. In FY 2023-24, the Defence Team will:

  • Explore means to engage industry in a strategic manner;
  • Enhance cooperation with key international and domestic partners in climate change, artificial intelligence, space domains, quantum technologies, and other emerging fields;
  • Prioritize partnerships that enable continental defence and NORAD modernization;
  • Enhance cooperation with the United States;
  • Optimize the global science and technology (S&T) cooperation portfolio with existing partners and explore cooperation with new allied nations; and
  • Enable the stand-up of the NATO Centre of Excellence on Climate Change and Security and the NATO Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic Regional Office.

Over five years starting in FY 2021-22, significant investments are being made to support the research and development aspects of NORAD modernization. These investments will lay the groundwork for NORAD’s future through the exploration of cutting-edge technologies that can deter, detect and defend against evolving threats to the continent.

More specifically, investments announced in Budget 2021, will proceed through FY 2023-24 in the following areas:

  • Research on system-of-systems solutions for NORAD modernization;
  • Polar over-the-horizon radar research;
  • Research in next generation digital high resolution space-based radar;
  • Research in defence against hypersonic threats; and
  • Research in space low-earth orbit architecture for defence.

Assessment of the long-term military future operating environment helps to determine the likely characteristics of future conflict, warfare, and warfighting. Future operating environment analysis accounts for both adversary and allied considerations and provides a measure against which Canada must maintain with respect to military capability development. It is imperative that CAF force development and design processes are optimized to ensure the most efficient and effective use of national resources, maintain interoperability with allies, meet treaty and allied commitments, and outpace adversaries.

DND/CAF Force Development and Design activities will continue the implementation of Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada's Defence Policy, and will support all Force Development and Design activities included in the upcoming Defence Policy Update.

With new capabilities comes the need for employees and CAF members with special skill sets. The Cyber Operator military occupation has been created, and initial occupation training is at steady state. Focus will now shift to the development of intermediate and advanced training for cyber operators, beginning with the development of a cyber-security foundations program to be taught in conjunction with the Computer Security Laboratory of the Royal Military College’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

In FY 2023-24 the Defence Team will work toward growing the military (Regular and Reserve Forces) and civilian workforces with a view toward expanding personnel dedicated to defensive cyber operations, offensive cyber operations, the Cyber Mission Assurance Program, and intelligence support to cyber. Taken together, the continued refinement and maturation of the cyber forces in the aspects of attraction, recruitment, training, and career growth will assure a sustainable pan-DND/CAF capability.

Photo credit: © Canadian Army/Government of Canada

Photo credit: © Canadian Army/Government of Canada

Gender-based analysis plus

Gender-based analysis plus (GBA Plus) findings will continue to be an important component of developing and designing the future force. In addition, as capabilities development is modernized in traditional domains and as new domains are added, intersectional gender perspectives will be critical to the development of effective in-spectrum and cross-spectrum success. Important efforts in this area include:

  • The Canadian Special Operations Forces Command will continue to conduct, apply and monitor GBA Plus findings and conclusions for specialized military asset acquisitions and materiel support activities. The implementation of Key Performance Indicators inherent to GBA Plus governance with each project will enable the tracking of Statements of Capability Deficiencies specifically associated with gender and diversity, enabling the live monitoring of the GBA Plus effectiveness throughout the design and procurement process; and
  • Defence Research and Development Canada’s Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program has launched several challenges that employ a GBA Plus lens and are aimed at improving outcomes for Defence Team members in relation to mental health impacts, as well as increasing the representation of women in the CAF. One such challenge, originating from Military Personnel Command and launched 2018 under the Competitive Projects element, aims to recruit, retain, and reach 25 percent representation of women by 2026. Under this challenge, the Defence Team is looking for recommendations as to how the CAF can increase the recruitment and retention of women, including in non-traditional occupations in which women are under-represented.

As part of efforts to implement the Government of Canada decision on NORAD modernization, Defence will continue to ensure that GBA Plus considerations are captured and that intersectional gender perspectives are integrated as initiatives progress. With northern initiatives and investments expected to be critical to fulfilling this commitment, the Defence Team will continue to ensure that these efforts are underpinned by meaningful dialogue and engagement with key stakeholders, including northern, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis partners, to ensure that various viewpoints and priorities are incorporated into this work. The Defence Team will take a distinctions-based, nation-to-nation approach to engagement and consultation throughout this engagement process. As complementary proposals and advice are developed for Government consideration, the Defence Team will ensure those considerations and perspectives are reflected through the policy development process.

United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Defence has committed to contributing its expertise to advance the recently announced development of the NATO Centre of Excellence for Climate and Security in partnership with Global Affairs Canada.

In FY 2023-24, the IDEaS program will continue to work with Canadian innovators on the following challenges in support of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

  • Goal 6 Water and Waste – Prototype development for the Pop-up City Contest: Launched under the IDEaS Contest element, innovators are developing solutions to integrate energy, water, and waste management systems to support the CAF’s relocatable temporary camps which are deployed in national and international operations;
  • Goal 7 Clean Energy – A Cold Wind Blows: Seeking smaller, ruggedized wind turbines for the Arctic. Launched under the Competitive Projects element, the challenge seeks to address a DND need for ruggedized wind turbines for the Arctic, to reduce the reliance on diesel fuel-generated power;
  • Goal 9 Infrastructure and Innovation – Green Heat: Low carbon energy generation for heating existing buildings. Launched under the Test Drive element, the objective of this challenge is to acquire, install, and operate a large-scale low-carbon energy generation and storage system for heating an existing building. This will assess the effectiveness and costs of such a technology for the modernization of the entire DND infrastructure portfolio to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, thus contributing to the Government of Canada’s mandate that its building and facilities operations be carbon neutral by 2050; and
  • Goal 13 Climate Action – Less GHGs on the seas: Practical solutions to measure and record energy consumption. Launched under the competitive projects element, the challenge seeks innovative solutions to accurately measure fuel and load energy consumption and GHG emission data across the Royal Canadian Navy fleet.


The IDEaS program was designed to complement DND’s internal research programs expertise Competitive Projects with a view to solving defence and security challenges and will provide $1.6 billion in financial and human resources over a 20-year period. IDEaS fosters creativity and ingenuity in Canada by bringing together networks of experts, providing support and opportunities to innovators, and facilitating the integration and adoption of new capabilities for the CAF and the, public safety and security communities.

The IDEaS Test Drive element launched “Green Heat: Low Carbon Energy Generation for Heating Existing Buildings Test Drive” to acquire, install, and operate a large-scale low-carbon energy generation and storage system for heating an existing building. The Test Drive assessed the effectiveness and costs of such a technology for the modernization of the entire DND infrastructure portfolio to reduce GHG emissions.

The IDEaS Test Drive presents innovators with the opportunity to sell their non-commercial S&T solution to DND/CAF for the department to evaluate it in a real world/operational environment. This experimentation fulfills the obligation under the IDEaS program of allowing an innovator to propose a new S&T solution, work to develop it, demonstrate it, and achieve a sale with the Government of Canada which lends credibility to its solution and offers a chance at commercial success. It allows the department to learn and compare what it is doing now, versus what it could do better with clear results at the end. In FY 2023-24, two new Test Drives have been approved under the “What is in that Full-Motion Video” challenge and the “Detecting and Responding to Hostile Information” challenge.

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