Military Organizational Change and Emerging Technology: Lessons for Canada


Military Organizational Change and Emerging Technology: Lessons for Canada

1 Jan 2024

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are currently reacting to new threats from a global strategic environment that is becoming increasingly dangerous. Hostile adversaries such as China and Russia are pouring investments into their militaries, challenging Canada and its closest allies around the world. These challenges reaffirm the importance of military power and of the role that the CAF needs to play internationally and for continental defence. The CAF must modernize to respond to these new threats, and has recently recognized the need for such modernization and change.1 Change in a military organization raises several interconnected questions. When, why, and how do military forces transform during war and peacetime? Understanding the process of change helps to explain why militaries that are often portrayed as inherently conservative and resistant to change do nonetheless transform themselves under certain conditions.2 One of the most popular themes in the study of military change looks at how new technologies have forced military organizations to transform themselves. This process is often referred to as “innovation”, and emphasizes how major organizational changes have occurred to a military’s goals, force structure, strategies, or operational approaches.3 The invention of nuclear weapons revolutionized the U.S. military during the late 1940s and 1950s. The resulting innovation led to major policy shifts in how defence resources were allocated, itself leading to the creation of new platforms like the ballistic missile armed nuclear submarines. Whole new visions of how war could be waged had to emerge.4 Today’s threat environment is arguably the most disruptive it has been since the emergence of nuclear weapons in the early Cold War era. The United States is currently considering a new “Offset Strategy” to help guide its defence policy through the new global strategic environment. In the past, the U.S. developed defence strategies that have attempted to exploit various new technologies to offset the threat of international rivals and adversaries.5 As the U.S. undergoes this process, Canada, as a close military ally, needs to keep pace to remain a viable partner. Falling behind would put Canada’s alliances at risk. The U.S. will lead this transformation, but Canadian officials must understand the path of innovation to minimize gaps in technological capabilities. In an international strategic environment that is in a constant state of flux and uncertainty, states like Canada must plot a course to pursue innovation so we can avoid misusing resources and maintain a military that can be as lethal and effective as needed during future conflicts
united states canada defence policy defence policy perspective defence resources alexander salt defence innovation


Alexander Salt

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