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About Us

NAADSN/RDSNAA addresses three core policy challenges – the Defence role in the Arctic, NORAD modernization and the future of North American defence, and the evolving role of major powers in global strategic competition – and their many intersection points by:

  • conducting leading-edge research with students, emerging scholars, and Northern stakeholders/rightsholders that tests core assumptions and prompts policy innovation
  • convening conferences, workshops, and symposia that bring together diverse stakeholders on issues of core interest to the Defence Team
  • educating the next generation of policy thinkers and analysts

Researchers work in multi-/inter-disciplinary research clusters organized across three scales (circumpolar and international security, defence of North America, and defence of Canada) and specific topic areas. Our network structure is deliberately elastic so that we can respond efficiently to emerging issues and mobilize small expert teams to present relevant and timely advice to the Defence Team.

Network Objectives and Key Outcomes

The objective of this network is to provide timely, relevant, and reliable expert advice on North American and Arctic defence and security topics.

Pursuant to our first theme, we will discern, discuss, and debate what actionable steps DND/CAF should undertake to realize its policy priorities related to Arctic defence and security,. We will continue to critically analyze the security implications of climate change, international strategic drivers (such as evolving Russian and Chinese Arctic interests) and possible levers such as NATO, as well as opportunities for enhanced bilateral partnerships with allies like Norway. Our work on the defence of the North American Arctic will focus on partnerships with the United States/Alaska and the Kingdom of Denmark/Greenland, including enhanced opportunities for sharing best practices/lessons learned. By adopting a nuanced and multifaceted definition of security applicable in a domestic context, our team is also committed to helping DND/CAF better plan and prepare for search and rescue, major transportation and environmental disasters, loss of essential services, and foreign intelligence gathering activities. Our work will promote system-wide, multifaceted solutions to complex security challenges, promoting improved Whole of Government coordination that facilitates rapid, coordinated responses, as well as comprehensive approaches that better leverage private sector and community-level capacity.

Our second overarching theme is the Defence of North America, with particular attentiveness to all-domain situational awareness and innovative options to address capability gaps (both identified and potential). NAADSN research on NORAD will critically analyze the command’s current and future roles in light of renewed strategic competition, emerging technologies, and shifting US defence priorities. If Canada is to remain strong at home and secure in North America, analysis of new threat vectors must be matched by a concerted effort to educate Canadians and Americans about NORAD. Specific initiatives will examine the Evolution of North American Defense, the future of the North Warning System, and national missile defence, and our team will conduct the first GBA+ analysis of NORAD. Another major theme will explore emergency/disaster response (with particular emphasis on Canada-US collaboration), critical infrastructure resiliency, and comprehensive approaches to leverage private and Indigenous sector capacity.

Because Arctic and North American defence cannot be isolated from global dynamics, NAADSN will carefully monitor and analyze the capabilities and intentions of revisionist powers (including their changing interpretations of international laws and norms), and suggest how Canada and its allies can best deter Russian and Chinese aggression, as well as that of North Korea and other rogue state and non-state actors.

Outcomes

  • SSE has committed to “increase CAF presence in the Arctic over the long-term and work cooperatively with Arctic partners.” While SSE provides a road-map for many Arctic initiatives, NAADSN will help discern the best ways to implement and operationalize this policy direction as concrete action, provide immediate access to leading-edge research, and test assumptions about the changing security environment.
  • NAADSN will critically examine and anticipate emerging threats to North America, across all domains (including integrated assessments of new ones associated with emerging science and technology), in the context of continental defence and the CAN-US defence relationship. Building upon our extensive expertise, we will systematically assess how Canada does, can, and should contribute to continental defence; where Canada can best invest to modernize NORAD and facilitate the evolution of North American defence; and how we can increase public literacy about continental defence.
  • Homeland defence is inextricably linked to changes in the global security environment. Our work on the return of major power competition, focusing particularly on Russia and China, will assess implications for Canadian defence relationships and partnerships (particularly with the United States and NATO). Themes include nuclear and non-nuclear deterrence, competition within the gray zone, and Canada’s role in the changing world order.

We will engage with and communicate NAADSN/RDSNAA research to a wide range of contacts within the Defence Team. Formats include:

  • Small expert teams that DND/CAF can call upon to provide context, ideas, and advice on emerging issues within 48 hours of a request for information.
  • An academic sub-working group of the government-wide Arctic Security Working Group, as incorporated in their revised terms of reference.
  • Regularly updated summaries of academic, think-tank, and news media literature on topics of relevance to DND/CAF policy-makers (eg. Russia, China, NATO in the Arctic, Indigenous peoples’ perspectives on security, Arctic shipping trends, search and rescue) available through the ASWG portal and the OPSA website.
  • Contributions to DND’s Expert Briefing Series, briefings to senior officials (ie. commander JTFN and deputy commander NORAD), and ad hoc meetings (in-person and virtual) with individuals or small teams and Defence Team members.

Students and other emerging scholars and practitioners will work closely with other NAADSN members to produce accessible “briefing notes” and short podcasts on threats to North America, Arctic security issues, and continental defence that can serve a public education function and, by extension, can broaden and enhance public dialogue.

Wherever possible, summaries of activities or deliverables will be produced in French and English and, where relevant, in Inuktitut or other Indigenous languages.

Conference and workshop keynote speeches will be shared via YouTube, and proceedings disseminated by social media (where appropriate).

NAADSN members will promote network activities and research findings through Canadian and international news media.

Participation in the Arctic Security Working Group (ASWG)

In 1999, federal and territorial departments and agencies created the Arctic Security Working Group (ASWG) to discuss and exchange information on issues of importance to Canada’s North. Using a collaborative “Team North” approach, the ASWG seeks to strengthen Canadian Arctic safety and security through information sharing and cooperation among federal and territorial government departments and agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations, academics, the private sector, and other stakeholders with an interest in northern issues. The ASWG strives to ensure that it continues to remain responsive to practitioner-level regional issues and events, while simultaneously supporting and influencing respective federal-territorial governments’ northern strategic policies and priorities.

In the course of reviewing the ASWG’s terms of reference in 2017, the membership confirmed the need to “establish subordinate ad hoc sub-working groups on an as required basis to assist in fulfilling its role and function.” In its revised terms of reference, it authorized the establishment of a new Canadian Arctic Security Academic Network to act as a “consortium of academics with an interest in northern safety and security issues. Acting in this capacity, the NAADSN produces regular updates on academic and media discussions/debates about Arctic sovereignty, security, and resiliency issues to support the ASWG network, meetings, and associated discussions and activities.” We also:

  • Provide an update on our respective activites and meetings at each ASWG meeting.
  • Provide advice and recommendations in our respective areas of expertise to the ASWG membership and to the ASWG Co-chairs.
  • Provide the ASWG Coordinators with any documentation from our CADSN network meetings and activities.
  • Provide research in support of priority areas, identified by ASWG.
  • Provide quarterly reports to the ASWG Co-chairs, either in person or secretarially, and provide specific recommendations to the co-chairs in their areas of expertise upon request or as required.

Supporting the Next Generation of Defence Thinkers

The military’s strength comes from its people. Through NAADSN activities, the next generation of defence thinkers have opportunities to gain exposure to different disciplinary methods and perspectives, work in a supportive team environment, and expand their academic and professional networks.

In 2021, we will convene a week-long Arctic Defence and Security seminar in Whitehorse or Yellowknife for up to twelve university students (with preferential treatment given to CAF Reservists), run by 3-4 professor volunteers. In 2022, we will convene a similar seminar on NORAD and continental defence in Winnipeg.

Students and postdoctoral fellows are directly involved in planning workshops and other events (thus developing their financial management and administrative skills), co-creating and presenting research ideas, and receiving feedback from established NAADSN experts. All of the established scholars in our proposed network have proven experience in mentoring students in advance research and publishing for diverse audiences.

Graduate students and postdoctoral scholars continuously monitor and analyze Canadian and international academic, think-tank, and news media literature so that we can provide up-to-date information on topics of interest to DND/CAF clients in a timely and relevant manner. Students with an interest in defence issues are encouraged to pursue experiential learning opportunities.

Postdoctoral Fellows

NAADSN / RDSNAA will fund a one-year (non-renewable) postdoctoral fellowship in each year. In addition to working on projects and events specified in the network overview, postdoctoral fellows will be expected to propose, conduct research, and share findings on their own projects that contribute to our understanding of Canadian defence and security, the defence of North America, and emerging major power challenges or threats to Canada’s interests. In turn, they will be further mentored by NAADSN / RDSNAA members on research for the purpose of acquiring the professional skills needed to pursue a career path of his/her/their choosing.

Where appropriate, we will encourage NAADSN/ RDSNAA postdoctoral fellows to apply for Mitacs elevate or accelerate grants (https://www.mitacs.ca) that would involve spending half of their time with a NAADSN/ RDSNAA faculty member at a university and half of their time with a partner organization from the public or private sector. These opportunities provide a professional skills training component, allow fellows to gain research experience and apply their skills in academic and non-academic environments, and broaden their professional networks.

Graduate Student Research Assistants

NAADSN / RDSNAA will support five (5) graduate student research assistant (GRA) positions each year, thus directly supporting the MINDS mandate to foster the next generation of defence and security experts by funding Master’s and Doctoral students to conduct policy-relevant research on contemporary defence and security topics.

To facilitate their intellectual growth and professional training, GRAs associated with the NAADSN / RDSNAA will be exposed to advanced research techniques, methods and theories (from various disciplines) in a mutually-supportive, team setting. We see NAADSN / RDSNAA activities as a way to support graduate students in their completion of degree requirements through the acquisition of research training and skills, as well as preparing them for subsequent careers in the Canadian Armed Forces, public service, private sector, or not-for-profit sector. GRA responsibilities and training opportunities will include:

  • Preparing briefing notes and producing succinct summaries of leading-edge ideas and debates in academia, think-tanks, and policy communities.
  • Gathering relevant data from published primary sources, such as newspapers, parliamentary/congressional debates, committee meetings, and government policy documents.
  • Managing data to ensure its availability to all of the research team, thus enhancing the students’ digital literacy and teamwork skills.
  • Preparing and presenting or co-presenting research findings at a conference or workshop.
  • Producing website content, podcasts, opinion editorials, and other forms of information sharing for public audiences.
  • Authoring or co-authoring research findings in academic articles or book chapters.
  • Assisting the research team in setting research agendas and timelines.

GRAs associated with the NAADSN / RDSNAA will have opportunities to develop robust research and communication skills essential for academic and non-academic careers, including applied knowledge of advanced methodological and theoretical tools and interdisciplinary approaches, experience in supporting and/or directly contributing to the publication and dissemination of research, digital literacy, data management and analysis, project management, and workshop and conference presentations. All of these activities will take within a supportive team environment.

Our recruitment processes for these positions will seek to ensure a diverse group of GRAs are involved in NAADSN / RDSNAA, including Indigenous peoples and serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces, from across Canada.