Captain (N) Elizabeth Steele’s talk on Thursday, May 6 at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, entitled “Women in International Security—Operational Support to Canadian Military Missions,” was based on a wealth of experience as a member of the Canadian Navy since 1983 and as a logistician since 1986. Approaching the subject broadly, she addressed the current system the Canadian Forces uses to keep its troops supplied, imminent challenges it faces in the Afghan theatre of operations, and long term planning both domestically and globally.
With Canada’s 2011 withdrawal date from Afghanistan rapidly approaching, simply transporting the enormous amount of military materiel back to Canadian shores is a daunting task. Steele framed it as both an operational issue, in so far as the physical transport itself, as well as a policy one, in that in some cases it may simply make more sense to sell or donate the equipment rather than move it.
Steele also delved into the issue of arctic security. As the climate warms in the north, new shipping routes are emerging and ice roads are disappearing. Keeping Canadian Forces equipped and stocked in the north poses new challenges, some of which will be met with regional hubs and increased airlift ability.
Finally, the talk examined the global logistical plan currently being rolled out by the Canadian Forces. Centred around hubs of various sizes, the plan provides for regional resupply depots, ranging in size from warehouses to active facilities, in order to facilitate force projection and humanitarian work abroad. During an interesting question and answer period, Steele suggested that these hubs might ultimately be coordinated with DFAIT as part of a broader integrated initiative.