An evening with Chief of Defence Staff General Tom Lawson transitioned from a lecture on the state of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to a lively question and answer period with a candid story from CIGI Vice President and longtime friend of General Lawson, Fred Kuntz. “You made us promise that if you ever fell in love with brass buttons and polished boots,” began Kuntz, recounting General Lawson’s request, “that we would come and get you out of there.” Given his successful career with the CAF, General Lawson assured Kuntz and the rest of the CIGI audience that his continued involvement was about “so much more than brass buttons.” Exactly how much more was made clear as General Lawson outlined the priorities and values of the CAF and our Canadian men and women in uniform.
In his address, General Lawson outlined the CAF’s four priorities, starting with what he referred to as the underpinning priority: delivering excellence in operations. “If Canadians can’t depend on us,” he said, “none of the rest of the priorities matter all that much.” General Lawson emphasized the importance of having a military that could be counted on by the nation it serves. He reviewed the efforts currently engaged in by the men and women on the Forces and made note of the progress they have fostered during their 12+ years in Afghanistan.
General Lawson walked the audience through the latter three priorities more quickly than the first. From second to fourth, the priorities included preparing the CAF for tomorrow, leading the profession of arms, and caring for members of the CAF and their families. General Lawson emphasized his pride in the state and work of the CAF and his appreciation for the public’s support of Canadian men and women in uniform. He assured the audience that those in the Force continue to be well equipped, not only with regards to arms, but also through the training and development investments provided. This commitment was made in light of recent budgetary restraints. General Lawson responded briefly to the cuts: “Current fiscal context is challenging for each of us here and it’s difficult for many Canadians. The Canadian Armed Forces are no exception. We have to do our job with fewer resources and we have to do this while meeting Canadian expectations.”
While it was anticipated that questions about the 2014 federal budget would persist in the question and answer period, the steady stream of inquiries following General Lawson’s address were diverse and personal, touching on several issues close to the hearts of Canadians, including post-traumatic stress disorder and psychiatric training, the Disaster Assistance Relief Team, military efforts in Afghanistan, and the future of the Cadets. As the evening concluded, guests at the lecture and online webcast viewers had a better understanding of the priorities that defined the CAF, and a vivid picture of the General’s commitment to his post, his country and the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces.