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CSIS and Coast Guard appear before Senate National Security Committee (Part 3)

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Senator Atkins: Do you get many ex-navy officers?

Mr. Lachance: We do get some personnel from retired navy people, yes.

Senator Atkins: So there is a Coast Guard school.

Mr. Lachance: There is a Coast Guard college, yes, in Sydney.

The Chairman: How are you doing with your operating budget? Has it been cut back? We hear reports that you are not steaming the same number of hours you were last year. We hear reports that there are Coast Guard individuals who do not have adequate uniforms. We have heard that you had to break off an exercise on the West Coast with your American counterparts because you ran out of money. They thought the exercise went rather well until you had to stop because you did not have enough money.

Tell us whether you have enough money. Tell us where it is pinching because we know you do not have enough.

Mr. Lachance: We certainly have a capital problem.

The Chairman: You cannot buy new ships, is that right?

Mr. Lachance: Not enough, that is correct.

The Chairman: If you were buying new ships, how many would you be buying a year? In a perfect world, if you were to go ahead with your business plan as projected, do you need one or two a year, if you are to replace your existing fleet?

Mr. Lachance: Yes. We would be buying maybe four or five a year, and perhaps more.

The Chairman: When was the last time you bought one?

Senator Atkins: Do you get many ex-navy officers?

Mr. Lachance: We do get some personnel from retired navy people, yes.

Senator Atkins: So there is a Coast Guard school.

Mr. Lachance: There is a Coast Guard college, yes, in Sydney.

The Chairman: How are you doing with your operating budget? Has it been cut back? We hear reports that you are not steaming the same number of hours you were last year. We hear reports that there are Coast Guard individuals who do not have adequate uniforms. We have heard that you had to break off an exercise on the West Coast with your American counterparts because you ran out of money. They thought the exercise went rather well until you had to stop because you did not have enough money.

Tell us whether you have enough money. Tell us where it is pinching because we know you do not have enough.

Mr. Lachance: We certainly have a capital problem.

The Chairman: You cannot buy new ships, is that right?

Mr. Lachance: Not enough, that is correct.

The Chairman: If you were buying new ships, how many would you be buying a year? In a perfect world, if you were to go ahead with your business plan as projected, do you need one or two a year, if you are to replace your existing fleet?

Mr. Lachance: Yes. We would be buying maybe four or five a year, and perhaps more.

The Chairman: When was the last time you bought one?

Mr. Lachance: We are buying some right now. They are 47-footers.

The Chairman: When was the last time you bought an icebreaker?

Mr. Lachance: 1987.

The Chairman: How old is your oldest one?

Mr. Lachance: The Louis St. Laurent which was built in 1968.

The Chairman: What is this business about not getting enough cruising time or going at a speed slower than you might normally go at to conserve fuel, is there anything to that? Is that just stuff in the press or is it actually happening?

Mr. Lachance: Given that it is quite cold outside, the ice season is severe and the price of fuel has gone up, those are conservation measures to keep operating within budget.

The Chairman: Have you had any restrictions on your budget? Have you been told that you have to find money out of the budget for fiscal 2003-04, or for fiscal 2002-03, money that you thought was yours at one point and is not yours now?

Mr. Lachance: Not that I am aware of.

The Chairman: So the reductions we hear about involving your ops tempo are not true; is that right? We have had cold winters before. We assume you always go slower in winter.

(take 1920 follows: Mr. Meisner: We have had budget reductions…)

40182 February 17, 2003

Mr. Meisner: We have had budget reductions since project review in 1995-96, and we are still living within those reductions. I do not think there has been any reduction last fiscal year or this fiscal year, to date.

The Chairman: What about sailors who do not have adequate uniforms and are wearing their own clothes because they cannot come up with a complete kit? Do all of your crew have complete kits?

Mr. Lachance: Most of them. Oh yes, they do.

The Chairman: Most of them, or all?

Mr. Lachance: Some may not have them due to shortage of stock or things like that, but there is enough.

The Chairman: You do not attach much weight to the press stories we have heard that report a shortage of clothing and equipment for members of the Coast Guard? That is not true?

Mr. Lachance: There may be cases, but that is not widespread.

The Chairman: Are you telling us that generally speaking it is a rare exception?

Mr. Lachance: Yes.

The Chairman: What about the story of the operations with the Americans that had to be stopped midway because you people ran out of gas? Is that true?

Mr. Lachance: I am not aware of that one.

The Chairman: It did not happen?

Mr. Meisner: I am not saying it did not happen. We are just not aware of it.

The Chairman: It hit all the papers. Could someone check into it. In the last three months an American Coast Guard commander came back and said, “Those Canadians are terrific guys but they have a funny kind of government that doesn’t give them the money to do the job.” I am paraphrasing, but that was the essence of it, and it was reported sometime since November. The essence of the story was that partway through an exercise the Canadian Coast Guard, not because of operational needs but because of financial needs, could not complete the exercise.

Senator Forrestall: I would like to have some information that you can send to us later. Could we have a brief description of the bulk of the work done by the bulk of the helicopters? I would like to know how you get to remote locations where there are weather stations — lighthouses, foghorns or automated systems — and how you get to manned stations. Is that the bulk of their work?

Mr. Lachance: They are used for navigational work and to maintain lighthouses and light stations. They are also used in support of icebreakers in the Arctic. Icebreakers do carry helicopters when they go up in the Arctic for ice reconnaissance and general shipboard duty. There are very few wharfs in the Arctic, so one way to shuttle between shore and ship is by helicopter.

Senator Forrestall: Do you have an icebreaker in the Arctic today?

Mr. Lachance: No.

Senator Forrestall: We did not winterize one there last year?

Mr. Lachance: We did winterize one in the polar ice pack with Project SHEBA three years ago.

Senator Forrestall: Do we have any working relations with your Russian counterparts in the Arctic waters with respect to pollution, for example?

Mr. Lachance: No.

Senator Forrestall: Do you ever speak or meet with them?

Mr. Meisner: Yes.

Senator Forrestall: In what capacity would you do that?

Mr. Meisner: There is an organization called the Pacific Heads of Coast Guard Agencies comprised of ourselves, the United States, Russia, Korea, Japan and China, that meets twice a year to have a dialogue on common areas of interest. It is not formalized through an MOU. They basically have meetings and discussions.

Senator Forrestall: Am I right in assuming that it is only the Russians and the Canadians who are in the Arctic with icebreaker capability?

Mr. Lachance: The Americans have gone into the Arctic.

Senator Forrestall: Is the icebreaker that they built up there?

Mr. Lachance: They had the Polar Sea and the Polar Star in the Arctic.

Senator Forrestall: Are they there now?

Mr. Lachance: No. They do not have the capability to operate in winter.

Senator Forrestall: They do not?

Mr. Lachance: No.

Senator Banks: Does anyone?

Mr. Lachance: The Finns do not. The Russians probably have.

Senator Forrestall: We do not exchange information with them?

Mr. Lachance: No.

Senator Forrestall: Is that a good thing or a bad thing, or does it matter? Obviously it is not important. I would have

thought it was important.

Mr. Meisner: I am not sure if it is a good or a bad thing. We do have conversations and dialogue with them, but not joint operations.

Senator Forrestall: Is the Canadian Coast Guard doing any monitoring or scientific work with regard to the thawing up there?

Mr. Lachance: We do provide a lot of support to scientists going to the Arctic to measure climate change and such things. We do carry scientists on our vessels to the Arctic, either on an opportunity basis or in a dedicated fashion. The old Franklin icebreaker is currently being refitted and will be converted into a scientific platform to conduct scientific experiments in the Arctic in the summertime.

Senator Forrestall: Do we have any programs on stream for the coming season?

Mr. Lachance: I believe we do for the next season, yes.

Senator Forrestall: Will there be one major program or a series of programs?

Mr. Lachance: There will probably be a series of programs. The Franklin will be a dedicated vessel, but we probably have other opportunity basis programs that will take place, as they do every summer.

Senator Forrestall: Are there any oceanographic vessels up there, or is there such a thing any more?

Mr. Lachance: No.

Senator Forrestall: Is there an oceanographic fleet?

Mr. Lachance: No.

Senator Forrestall: Have they all been scrapped?

Mr. Lachance: The Hudson is still operating, but she does not go north.

Senator Banks: Do you give consideration to whether we can continue to claim sovereignty in a place that we cannot be? I am talking about our navigable waters claim, which is disputed by some who say, “No, those aren’t yours; they are everyone’s.” Do you consider that in your policy decisions?

Mr. Meisner: No, not really. That is a question better left with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Senator Banks: In answer to an earlier question you said that generally speaking members of the Coast Guard stay in the region in which they were recruited. I suspect that you might have had called to your attention, if you did not read the 2002 report of the Auditor General last year, that she commented that there was not really a Coast Guard but rather a bunch of regional Coast Guards that do not have much to do with each and that she thought it would be more efficacious if they had more to do with each other and if there was a more centralized management.

What is your reaction to that criticism? Have you reacted to that criticism? Do you agree with it and, if so, have you started to correct it?

Mr. Meisner: I believe that the comment of the Auditor General was that we are operating like five Coast Guards, not that we actually are, and that there are certain things that we need to put in place to make it operate more as a single national entity.

(Take 1930 follows — We have not responded to her…)

DC/Defence/40182/February 17, 2003

(Take 1930 begins, Mr. Meisner continuing… national entity.)

We have not responded to her report yet.

Senator Banks: Was she partly right?

Mr. Meisner: She is partly right. We have five regions with distinctions; you will have differences in each region, which contribute to operating differently. We also have similarities in every region that makes us work as one united Coast Guard. There are pros and cons to her observation.

Senator Banks: Is there planning afoot to address those observations?

Mr. Meisner: We just received the report a couple of months ago and we are in the process of developing an action plan to respond to it now. That has not been done yet.

Senator Banks: When that is done, please let us know.

Do we have a complete radar picture of our coasts on your watch?

Mr. Meisner: Not that I am aware of. DND has a radar picture, as well. I am not sure what the completeness of the two organizations is.

Senator Banks: If you were to send a communication about a shipment or person of interest; is that communication secure?

Mr. Meisner: I would have to check into that.

Senator Banks: Would you let us know that, as well?

Mr. Meisner: Certainly.

The Chairman: I wish to hank the witnesses, for appearing before us. Their presentation has been instructive.

We appreciate having heard your views and to have had an overview of the work you do and the responsibilities of the Canadian Coast Guard. We intend to pursue some of these issues further. We look forward to having you back before the committee to assist us in our examination. It is possible that we may ask to visit some of your facilities to have a better look at them. The information you have given us will be useful to the committee when it travels to the United States, particularly, the differences you have drawn to our attention between the American Coast Guard and the Canadian one. On that subject, if we could have a short precis of where we are the same and where we are different, that would be useful.

To those of you at home following our work, within the next two or three minutes we will be hearing from Ward Elcock, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Next week, our witnesses will be Mr. Ron Bilodeau, the security and intelligence coordinator for the Privy Council Office. Mr. Keith Coulter from the Communications Security Establish will join him. The last witness that day will be Mr. Paul Kennedy, the assistant deputy Solicitor General.

If you have any questions or comments please visit our Web site at http://www.sen-sec.ca We post witness testimony as well as confirmed hearing schedules. Otherwise, you may contact the clerk of the committee by calling 1-800-267-7362 for further information or assistance in contacting members of the committee.

Honourable senators, our next witness is Mr. Ward Elcock. Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.

We will continue our briefings on Canada-United States relations in preparation for its trip to Washington to meet with members of Congress and administration officials during the last week of March.

(Take 1940 begins, the Chairman continuing: Before we hear from…)

MJ February 17, 2003

(1940 — The Chairman continuing after: and Security.)

Before we hear from our next witness, I would like to welcome Senator Jack Wiebe, from Saskatchewan, who is one of Saskatchewan’s leading citizens. He has served as Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan. He has also been a member of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly and a highly successful farmer. He is currently the Saskatchewan Chair of the Canadian Forces Liaison Council.

Senator Wiebe is the Deputy Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, which is currently looking at the impact of climate change on farming and forestry practices across the country. He also sits on the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, and on the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs.

Earlier this evening, we heard from the Canadian Coast Guard and we discussed how their existing mandate and role could be focused on the defence of Canada’s coasts and harbours. In a few minutes, we will hear from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS.

These briefings are essential to the preparations that the committee is making for its fact-finding trip to Washington in late March, where we will discuss common security concerns with members of the United States Administration and with our Congressional counterparts.

Our next witness is Mr. Ward Elcock, Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Mr. Elcock, thank you for being available this evening to answer the questions of committee members.

Mr. Ward Elcock, Director, Canadian Security Intelligence Service: Mr. Chairman, I will try to answer to the best of my ability any questions that you may have.

Senator Forrestall: I have a couple of questions pertaining to the budget of CSIS, which was to increase in December 2001 by 32 per cent over a five-year period.

Current estimates suggest that part of that increase will be held back, if not taken away. Is there an explanation for the apparent reduction in the projected CSIS budgets in 2003-04, from $259 million to $253.7 million; and in 2004-2005, from $268 million to $261.6 million? Excluding capital costs, that will have to be done with respect to instruction and to the attendant normal increases in operational costs. Is it fair to say that your budget is frozen and will continue to be frozen?

Mr. Elcock: No, I am not sure what the senator is referring to. The budget increase we received is over a five-year period. I am unaware of any freeze in what we will receive or of any reduction in what we will receive.

Senator Forrestall: I am pleased to hear that. I had heard differently but I am pleased to hear your positive comment.

Mr. Elcock: There has been no freeze, as far as I am aware, unless there is something that I have not heard about; and that would surprise me.

The Chairman: People coming before this committee are often the first to find out.

Mr. Elcock: Our sources of information are usually pretty good.

Senator Forrestall: I would like to ask you many questions about just that. One of the criticisms that somebody will ask you about tonight is why we cannot do some intelligence work offshore for other than our own account.

By May 2002, the budget of 2001 had allowed CSIS to rebuild its human resources to 2300 from a low of about 2000. Is that correct?

Mr. Elcock: We now have about 2100 staff. It is my guess that, by the time we are finished, it will be closer to 2400 staff. Guessing the exact figure is difficult because it is an imprecise game. It will also vary over time because there is always a certain ebb and flow of the people you have and the skills that you want.

The department’s human resources will number approximately 2400.

Senator Forrestall: How many of those would have less than five-years training or experience?

Mr. Elcock: Obviously, the greater proportion of the people that we are hiring in the current period will have, since they are being hired in the five-year period, will have five years or less.

Senator Forrestall: As your baby boomers disappear and your new recruiting begins, the department will have many new people on staff. I do not know how many will retire in the next seven to eight years but I am concerned about how you will replace them. How is recruitment shaping up? Are you able to attract new recruits and are you able to retain them?

Mr. Elcock: We have not had a problem since the inception of the service in 1984. We had a constant policy of hiring regardless of whether we were reducing or increasing our staff numbers. We have continued to hire to ensure that we did not have gaps in our population.

Obviously, some of the former RCMP officers are now reaching retirement age, as are some of the baby boomers.

(1950 follows — Mr. Elcock continuing: ** There are obviously places…)

BA February 17, 2003

(Take 1950 begins, Mr. Elcock continuing – some of the baby boomers)

*** There are obviously some gaps in places. For example, the RCMP ceased hiring for a period before 1984, so people were not being hired for the security service in that period of time.

However, we do not envisage any extraordinary challenges. We have never had any problem in finding a flow of people from whom we can get good highly qualified candidates, and we do not foresee any problem in the future. Since September 11, in particular, the number of people who apply has gone up.

Senator Forrestall: I am pleased to hear you mention your success in this regard. I would like to ask you about recruiting and retaining members in some of the critical ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Muslims, the Palestinians, the Sikhs and the Sunni. How are you doing in that field?

Mr. Elcock: It is important for us, as a service, to represent the country and draw our people from across a number of ethnic backgrounds. Canada is, increasingly, a multi-ethnic country. We do not hire a specific group of people to target the same specific group of people. We hire so that the population of the service is representative of Canadian society. To the extent that we need specific language skills or that kind of assistance, we would hire for that specifically, and have had no trouble doing so. Indeed, one of the advantages of being a multi-ethnic country is that it is not hard to find a broad range of language skills, which often is not the case in some other countries. We have not confronted any problems in that respect.

It is sometimes difficult to recruit people from some communities to work in a service like CSIS. They may come from a country where the security or intelligence services are less popular than they are in Canada. As a result, they may not be willing to join a service like ours. However, we have had a fair amount of success in attracting people from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds and we try to do that to the extent we can.

Senator Forrestall: As the nature of our country changes, it seems important that we recruit, and encourage the trust, of these people.

Mr. Elcock: That is absolutely the case, Senator.

Senator Forrestall: I am pleased to hear you say that. I will leave the criticisms aside.

With respect to manpower and what not, you seem to be painting a rosy picture here. Do you see any pitfalls ahead? We are going off to the U.S, and you can always pick up the phone and tell them what you want them to say to us.

Mr. Elcock: I suspect that I would have as much success with senators or congressmen in the United States as I would have here with parliamentarians or senators.

The Chairman: You would be spectacular.

Mr. Elcock: You have asked me a couple of questions, senator, and the answers are relatively positive in the sense that we do not have, as far as I know, any problem in our budget at this juncture. One can always use more money if there is more money there; but the reality is that our present challenge is to absorb the money we are in the process of getting from the original December budget following from the events of September 11.

In terms of people, our situation has been generally pretty good. There are challenges but they are not extraordinary challenges. We do, however, as a country and as a service, live in interesting times. The effects of September 11 are still being felt. Al-Qaeda has not disappeared. There is a level of threat that gives all of us cause for concern and we may be on the verge of a war that may have its own problems. It is not exactly a rosy picture, but we are in the business of trying to look at those things, assess them and gone on rather than being panicked by them.

Senator Forrestall: I will pass on that, except to say there will be no war this week because the Senate is not sitting.

The Chairman: To clear up the question of financing, Senator Forrestall was referring to the CSIS 2001 public report where budget and staffing levels were extended out to 2006-2007. It looked like an increase of $196 million to $205 million in 2001-2002, followed by constant funding and constant staffing at the 2004 level into the future, with the exception of some money for inflation and capital costs that are not clear to us. Have we got the right picture of your funding?

Mr. Elcock: If you are referring to the funding that came out of the December budget, that was not a regular amount. It tends to fill out in later years.

The Chairman: Are you saying there is a balloon element to it, as you get closer to 2007?

Mr. Elcock: Yes, it is not equal tranches through each year. You cannot assume it will automatically go up the same amount year after year. It is over a five-year period, but the money is provided in varying amounts. I do not recall the specific breakdown.

The Chairman: If you were an investment banker, you would say it is a balloon payment.

Mr. Elcock: In a sense, yes.

The Chairman: Thank you. That was unclear in the information coming from the report.

Mr. Elcock: At that time, it was unclear precisely how it would come to us. However, these things become clear with time.

Senator Forrestall: Or how it impacted on your annual allocation.

The Chairman: We have been hearing stories that folks are stealing your best people.

Mr. Elcock: Certainly, in the period after September 11, there are a number of departments who have new needs for people with the kind of experience that CSIS officers have. There was a spike for a short period of time in terms of the number of people looking for jobs. However, it was not an extraordinary spike. Generally speaking, our departure rates have been very low — especially in comparison to private industry — and they have slowed in the last few months. Our retention rate has been good in the last while. I would hardly say we have lost our best people, or very many of our best people.

The Chairman: Are you saying that the ones that have gone have been the second- or third-rate ones?

Mr. Elcock: No, I only meant that we have not lost very many people.

The Chairman: The rumours we heard seemed logical because it seems cheaper to buy the knowledge and experience than it does to train it and acquire it. How long does it take you to train someone to be competent in the fields you specialize in? Can someone do that in year one, or does it take three years or five years? At what point are you confident that you have an agent who is capable of operating relatively unsupervised?

Mr. Elcock: It depends what you mean; there is not an absolute. In technical terms, the initial training period for our officers is essentially five years, This is the time when officers are on probation, when we put them through a period of training and education classes and so on. At the end of that period, they are fully incorporated into the service.

That said, even in the first year, anybody who joins the service is working on a desk and making a contribution after a period in a classroom. Obviously, not quite the contribution that somebody who has 10 or 15 years experience will make, but they are in the process of making a contribution. Indeed, some of our younger officers have skills that allow them to make contributions very early on.

The Chairman: But if you have a choice of a surgeon with one year out of medical school or 10 years experience…?

Mr. Elcock: There is no question that we would rather have people instantaneously do their five-year qualifications and be at a five-year or ten-year level. However, it takes a period before they are fully competent and experienced enough.

The Chairman: However, the surgeon analogy is not a bad one from your point of view?

Mr. Elcock: We do not cut people open, but obviously somebody with 10 years’ experience is preferable to somebody with less.

The Chairman: Has it been your senior people who have been going — who have this 10- or 15-year experience — or has it been the one-year people?

(Take 2000, Mr. Elcock follows: As I said, in the last while)

IM February 17, 2003

(1950, The Chairman: Has it been your senior people who have been going who have this 10 or 15-year experience or has it been the one-year people?)

(2000)

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