The Canada-United States Military-to-Military Relationship — Overview

The Unit­ed States is Canada’s most impor­tant ally and defence part­ner. Defence and secu­ri­ty rela­tions between our two coun­tries are long­stand­ing, well-entrenched and high­ly suc­cess­ful. The close­ness of the Canada‑U.S. defence part­ner­ship pro­vides both coun­tries with greater secu­ri­ty than could be achieved indi­vid­u­al­ly.

Giv­en the com­mon defence and secu­ri­ty require­ments, it is in Canada’s strate­gic inter­est to remain a reli­able part­ner in the defence of North Amer­i­ca.

As a strong and reli­able defence part­ner, the Cana­di­an Forces (CF) is pre­pared to con­duct con­ti­nen­tal oper­a­tions, includ­ing through North Amer­i­can Aero­space Defense Com­mand (NORAD); car­ry out train­ing exer­cis­es and remain inter­op­er­a­ble with the U.S. mil­i­tary; and respond to crises. The prin­ci­pal bi-lat­er­al defence arrange­ments and agree­ments are:

  • Per­ma­nent Joint Board on Defence (PJBD) – estab­lished in 1940 to dis­cuss and advise the Cana­di­an Prime Min­is­ter and the U.S. Pres­i­dent on defence pol­i­cy issues relat­ed to con­ti­nen­tal defence and secu­ri­ty.
  • Mil­i­tary Coop­er­a­tion Com­mit­tee – estab­lished in 1946 as the pri­ma­ry strate­gic link between Cana­di­an and U.S. joint mil­i­tary staffs.
  • North Amer­i­can Aero­space Defense Com­mand (NORAD) – estab­lished in 1958 to mon­i­tor and defend North Amer­i­can air­space. In 2006, a mar­itime warn­ing func­tion was added.
  • The Canada‑U.S. Civ­il Assis­tance Plan – signed Feb­ru­ary 2008, and renewed in Jan­u­ary 2012, to facil­i­tate the sup­port of mil­i­tary mem­bers from one nation to the armed forces of the oth­er nation dur­ing a civ­il emer­gency.
  • Tri-Com­mand Frame­work – signed Sep­tem­ber 2009, out­lines how NORAD, Unit­ed States North­ern Com­mand (USNORTHCOM), and Cana­da Com­mand oper­ate and coop­er­ate.

The unique Cana­da-Unit­ed States mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship can be defined as a part­ner­ship in North Amer­i­can defence and glob­al secu­ri­ty. There are cur­rent­ly more than 700 CF mem­bers serv­ing in more than 30 U.S. states. Approx­i­mate­ly half are com­mit­ted to the NORAD mis­sion, while the remain­der serve as liai­son and exchange offi­cers or as stu­dents pur­su­ing post-grad­u­ate mil­i­tary or civil­ian aca­d­e­m­ic stud­ies.

At the Cana­di­an Embassy in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., the CF main­tain the Cana­di­an Defence Liai­son Staff, a field unit of the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff. The senior Cana­di­an Defence Attaché, a Major-Gen­er­al (or Rear Admi­ral), and Chief of the Cana­di­an Del­e­ga­tion to the Inter-Amer­i­can Defence Board, and the CF defence attachés from the air, sea, and land envi­ron­ments pro­vide mil­i­tary advice and appro­pri­ate sup­port and assis­tance to the Cana­di­an Ambas­sador. In sup­port of the Canada‑U.S. defence and secu­ri­ty part­ner­ship, Defence attachés liaise direct­ly with the Pen­ta­gon and their var­i­ous Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts, link­ing Canada’s Depart­ment of Nation­al Defence with the U.S. Depart­ment of Defense.

U.S. Mil­i­tary Part­ners

North Amer­i­can Aero­space Defense Com­mand

The North Amer­i­can Aero­space Defense Com­mand (NORAD), based at Peter­son Air Force Base in Col­orado Springs, Col­orado, is the U.S. and Cana­di­an bi-nation­al orga­ni­za­tion whose mis­sions include aero­space warn­ing, aero­space con­trol and mar­itime warn­ing. Aero­space warn­ing and aero­space con­trol per­tain direct­ly to air sov­er­eign­ty and air defence for North Amer­i­ca; while mar­itime warn­ing entails the shar­ing of aware­ness and under­stand­ing of the activ­i­ties con­duct­ed in the U.S. and Cana­di­an mar­itime approach­es, mar­itime areas, and inter­nal water­ways.

In 2006, a revi­sion to the NORAD Agree­ment cre­at­ed a per­ma­nent arrange­ment and removed the require­ment for for­mal renew­al every four years. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, the Deputy Com­man­der of NORAD has been a senior Cana­di­an Forces Offi­cer.

Unit­ed States North­ern Com­mand

U.S. North­ern Com­mand (USNORTHCOM), head­quar­tered at Peter­son Air Force Base in Col­orado Springs, Col­orado, is Cana­da Command’s coun­ter­part for domes­tic oper­a­tions in the U.S. The USNORTHCOM area of respon­si­bil­i­ty includes air, land, and sea approach­es to the con­ti­nen­tal U.S., Alas­ka, Cana­da, and Mex­i­co. The Straits of Flori­da, por­tions of the Caribbean region, includ­ing Bahamas, Puer­to Rico, and the U.S. Vir­gin Islands, are also includ­ed.

The Com­mand was estab­lished in 2002 to pro­vide com­mand and con­trol of home­land defence, and to coor­di­nate defence sup­port of civ­il author­i­ties. The USNORTHCOM defends the home­land and its cit­i­zens, and con­tributes to con­ti­nen­tal defence, just as Cana­da Com­mand does across Cana­da.

Unit­ed States South­ern Com­mand

U.S. South­ern Com­mand (USSOUTHCOM) – with head­quar­ters in Mia­mi, Flori­da – is a joint, inter­a­gency com­mand rep­re­sent­ing the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, and fed­er­al agen­cies that share sim­i­lar mis­sion objec­tives, includ­ing the Depart­ment of State, and the Drug Enforce­ment Admin­is­tra­tion and Cus­toms. Neigh­bour­ing nations, such as Cana­da, are key part­ners in plan­ning and con­tin­gency oper­a­tions. The Command’s area of oper­a­tions includes Cen­tral and South Amer­i­ca, the Caribbean and the sur­round­ing waters south of Mex­i­co.

Cana­da Com­mand and USSOUTHCOM con­sult reg­u­lar­ly on a col­lec­tive response to region­al and trans-nation­al secu­ri­ty chal­lenges, such as pre­vent­ing and reduc­ing illic­it cocaine and hero­in traf­fick­ing through detec­tion, mon­i­tor­ing, and track­ing drug traf­fick­ers. To inter­dict the flow of drugs, USSOUTHCOM con­ducts sur­veil­lance of the air and mar­itime routes to the U.S. and oth­er coun­tries.

Unit­ed States Coast Guard

The Unit­ed States Coast Guard (USCG) is a mar­itime, mul­ti-mis­sion ser­vice branch of the U.S. Armed Forces with a unique mar­itime law enforce­ment mis­sion, with juris­dic­tion in both domes­tic and inter­na­tion­al waters. Its roles include mar­itime home­land secu­ri­ty, mar­itime law enforce­ment, and search and res­cue.

The CF and USCG oper­a­tions reg­u­lar­ly inter­face in three prime areas: search and res­cue, illic­it drug sur­veil­lance and inter­dic­tion, and ille­gal migrant inter­dic­tion.

In Feb­ru­ary 2011, a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforce­ment Detach­ment con­duct­ed oper­a­tions, for the first time, from a Cana­di­an Navy ship, HMCS Toron­to. The ves­sel and crew, under com­mand of Cana­da Com­mand, was oper­at­ing in direct sup­port to the U.S.-led, mul­ti-nation­al effort to inter­dict drug traf­fick­ing in the Caribbean Basin. Sim­i­lar oper­a­tions took place along the Pacif­ic coast.

Joint Inter­a­gency Task Force South

Joint Inter­a­gency Task Force South (JIAFT(S))is a mul­ti­ser­vice, mul­ti-agency task force based at the Naval Air Sta­tion Key West in Flori­da and is a sub­or­di­nate orga­ni­za­tion to the USSOUTHCOM. Its pri­ma­ry mis­sion with­in the USSOUTHCOM area of respon­si­bil­i­ty is to inte­grate and con­duct inter­a­gency counter drug and oth­er illic­it traf­fick­ing oper­a­tions with the pur­pose of inter­rupt­ing and stop­ping the flow of illic­it traf­fic, in coop­er­a­tion with part­ner nations includ­ing Cana­da.

JIATF(S) coor­di­nates the employ­ment of U.S. and allied ships and air­craft, their crews, and law enforce­ment agen­cies for the detec­tion and mon­i­tor­ing of sus­pect air and mar­itime drug activ­i­ty in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mex­i­co, and the east­ern Pacif­ic. It col­lects, process­es, and dis­sem­i­nates counter-drug infor­ma­tion for inter-agency oper­a­tions ded­i­cat­ed to inter­dict­ing the flow of illic­it drugs.