The Senior Appointment CPO1/CWO as a strategic actor for the Canadian Armed Forces

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Concernant l’auteur

Le PM1 Spinelli est présentement employé comme Chef de base. Ses fonctions lui ont permis d’ajouter une profondeur à bon nombre des sujets abordés dans le présent document. L'équipe de commandement est l’un de ces sujets, car il travaille en étroite collaboration avec le commandant de la base et est l’un de ses plus proches conseillers. Il est impliqué dans les politiques de la base, car il doit s'assurer que ces dernières sont alignées avec celles de la Marine royale canadienne. La nature stratégique de son rôle est donc clairement en ligne avec les questions abordées dans cet article.


The essay will explain how some of the theoretical concepts in the Senior Appointment Program (SAP) will influence my role and responsibilities as a Senior Appointment (SA) CPO1/CWO. I have chosen four topics that I found to be most beneficial and interesting to me throughout the distance learning phase of the SAP. These topics are the Command Team, Organizational Change, Canadian Defence Policy and Domestic Operations. I will look at all these theoretical concepts at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.

I will analyse the SAP reading material and explain how it has reinforced my understanding of these concepts. I will also look at the future for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and analyse the potential financial and equipment challenges that we could face in the years to come. Future CAF operations demand that institutional leaders have increased situational awareness, enhanced cognitive skill sets, and a more comprehensive understanding at the strategic levelNote de bas de page 1. My essay will also provide examples on how the CPO1/CWO represents a vast depth of experience, wisdom, a high standard of professionalism, of ethical behavior and knowledge and of integrity in the CAF todayNote de bas de page 2.

Command Team

A Command Team is comprised of a unit’s most senior officer and CPO1/CWO who together as a team ensure the unit meets all the objectives and mission requirements while making every effort to maintain a positive working environment. Command is the purposeful exercise of authority over structures, resources, people and activitiesNote de bas de page 3. Senior Leadership teams provide high level leadership and guidance to the operational and tactical levels which requires the CPO1/CWO to have a clear view of the big picture and an in-depth understanding of the context of the organizationNote de bas de page 4. The CPO1/CWO must carry out many important functions. However, the most important function is to provide sound advice to the Commander when there is a tough decision to be made. The CPO1/CWO must also have a complete understanding of the Commander’s intent in order for the Command team to function correctly.

The strategic level is quite different from the other levels at which Senior Non-Commissioned Members operate. At this level, the Command Team evolves into a Senior Leadership Team where the Commander engages with the political level to determine how national priorities are to be converted to institutional excellenceNote de bas de page 5. In this setting, the CPO1/CWO must be cognizant of the issues and challenges faced by the Commander. One good example of this is when we are in a planning process to build new ships, the CPO1/CWO must have a complete understanding of the manning and equipment requirements well in advance so he can provide sound advice if called upon.


I will start my analysis by stating that there are three defined leadership levels within the CAF: tactical, operational, and strategic. Leadership at each level requires specific preparation, Professional Development and competenciesNote de bas de page 6. For CPO1/CWO, the tactical level is for the most part an easy transition because it is in many ways the best known environment and a typical one in which a CPO1/CWO has ample experience to carry out that function. As they move into the higher levels (operational and then strategic), CPO1/CWOs must continuously improve their awareness of a fast changing operating environment and offer recommendations to commanders in order to “operationalize” these changesNote de bas de page 7. At the operational and strategic levels, it can be an awkward transition because in several cases the CPO1/CWO is out of his or her comfort zone. This in itself requires the CPO1/CWOs to be more educated and actively engaged in informal learning. It also requires the CPO1/CWOs to have a complete understanding of how the CAF interact with and is guided by Government priorities.

Organizational Change

Change is a constant in any organization. The emergence of new structures, the acquisition of new equipment with different capabilities, the adoption of new technology, or the development of new processes or doctrines are normal evolutionary changes for any organizationNote de bas de page 8. For example, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) is in the process of building new Arctic Patrol Vessels in order to meet the future needs of the Government. This will be a huge change for the Royal Canadian Navy to adapt to, considering new equipment and flexible crewing (Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Special Operations Forces (SOF)) in order to meet mission requirements. Organizational change, either planned or unplanned, can come in many forms, generally identified by the principle change initiative. Modern Transformation is really the holistic change that results in a fundamental shift in either what an organization does, or the way in which it accomplishes its objectivesNote de bas de page 9. In that respect, the change provoked by the new vessels will affect the RCN as a whole and this requires a broader view of change by the CPO1/CWO. By far the most important and difficult task for the change leader is that of developing the team, getting all onboard with the vision and intent to implement the change and keep the team motivated towards the changeNote de bas de page 10.


When considering change, it must be understood that initiatives must be implemented according to some framework that ensures maintenaining a coherent and effective organizationNote de bas de page 11. In my opinion, the main role of the CPO1/CWO in an organizational change process is to communicate the message effectively so that troops are properly informed. He or she must ensure that the right message is sent and that the troops understand the long and short term effects of the organizational change. There will always be the positive and the negative when change is being implemented. It is important to focus on the positive keeping in my mind the troops need to be aware of the potential negative aspects. People react to change differently especially when it affects a long standing culture. The CPO1/CWO must keep a close eye on moral when change is happening and when moral is negatively affected the CPO1/CWO must engage the Commanding Officer and develop a communications plan to bring the team back together on the same track.

In the future, the demands of organizational change will be considerable, more so for military organizations, and will require leaders to maintain the energy for the change initiativeNote de bas de page 12. It is very important that the CPO1/CWO continue to educate and update him or herself with projects in the future. Once the plan for change is implemented, the CPO1/CWO must ensure the plan is being followed and keep people informed on the progress.

Canadian Defence Policy

The Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS) is the Government’s strategic direction and defines clear roles and missions for the CAF.Note de bas de page 13 It outlines how the military should be prepared to support the government’s broader national security and foreign policy objectives by maintaining the ability to act when called uponNote de bas de page 14. The Canada First Defence Strategy is supported by a strategic investment plan based on commitment to provide predictable funding increases over a 20-year period. Therefore, if the CAF gets this reliable funding over a 20-year period, it will certainly be setup for success in the future. When you combine all the Navy, Army and Air Force procurement, maintenance and personnel requirements over the next 15–20 years, the bill will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 billion dollars.

The Canada First Defence Strategy sets out a detailed plan to modernize the CAF. It directs balanced investments across the four pillars upon which the military capabilities are built: personnel, equipment, readiness and infrastructureNote de bas de page 15. Operational readiness is a key component in any military, and as stated, readiness is the degree of preparedness and responsiveness of our forces that allows one to deploy them with little notice in response to government directionNote de bas de page 16.


The Canada First Defence Strategy is a complex policy balancing a multi-billion-dollar budget between the three elements over a 20-year period. This is a significant challenge. Not only do we need the right equipment, but we also need the proper training so the CAF is ready to support all six of the core missions in the future.Note de bas de page 17 It is very important that the CPO1/CWO understand the strategic objectives of the government. The CPO1/CWO must also keep up to date with changing priorities and changes in the military budget in order to remain informed and to be able to deal with these changes.

The CPO1/CWO must also see the big picture when it comes to the four pillars so he or she can provide sound advice to the Commander when critical decisions have to be made. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a predictable world and we don't have a crystal ball. The big challenge is managing the budget and procurement priorities if we don't get the predicted funding. Having the right equipment to support operations can’t be understated and over the years, we have seen projects delayed or canceled affecting operational effectiveness. We need to have a plan B and a plan C in the case predictable funding falls of the rails. With this said, the CPO1/CWO must remain flexible and be prepared to change course if required.

Domestic Operations (The Arctic)

Canadian Forces Joint Publication 3-2 Domestic Operations (CFJP 3-2) is a supporting joint publication fundamental to understanding how CAF conduct operations within and along the maritime approaches to Canada. It outlines the capabilities of the CAF to conduct the four domestic operations: routine daily operations; support of a major international event in Canada; respond to a terrorist attack; and support civil authorities during a crisisNote de bas de page 18.

During the SAP course the question came up about defending Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic. This was an excellent question because it is a real concern for Canada in the future. The shrinking of the Arctic Ocean’s vast ice sheet promises a bonanza of oil, minerals, water, fish and other marine life for a resource hungry world. Countries like China are well aware of the resources in the Arctic. We also know that China is experiencing water shortages right now. The Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS) does include the Arctic; however, this is still a real concern for the government in the future.


The CPO1/CWO must have a sound understanding of the hierarchy and connection between the three levels of military doctrineNote de bas de page 19. The CPO1/CWO must understand interdepartmental and interagency action in a whole of government approach for international operationsNote de bas de page 20.

The Arctic region is a vast area to defend. Our territory north of the 60th parallel, at about four million square kilometers, is bigger than India, the world’s seventh largest countryNote de bas de page 21. So the CPO1/CWO needs to be fully up to speed on the present capability of the CAF when it comes to operations in the Arctic. The big question is do we have the manpower and equipment to sustain this? The way the CAF is set up today, I would have to say no. If there was major threat today in the region Canada would definitely require assistance from other agencies or countries depending on the threat. The CPO1/CWO must understand interagency and out of country support mechanisms because we are limited when it comes to defending Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic. The climate presents several challenges for troops to train and operate in for extended periods of time. The sustainment of deployed assets is another big challenge to contend with, especially when you add in the distance factor.


My goal was to point out key areas of responsibilities for the Senior Appointment () CPO1/CWO, both for today and the future. This essay summarized four areas of the Senior Appointment Program: Command Teams; Organizational Change; Canadian Defence Policy; and Domestic Operations.

The command team studies made me really understand the difference of leadership and knowledge requirements for the CPO1/CWO at all three levels (Strategic, Operational, and Tactical). For the CPO1/CWO organizational change is a skill and knowledge that needs to be updated on a regular basis. Understanding Canadian defence policy is a must for all senior leaders, especially for CPO1/CWOs. As far as Domestic Operations are concerned the CPO1/CWO needs to be fully up to speed on the present capability of the CAF, most notably when it comes to defending Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic.

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