North American and Arctic Defence and Security Network (NAADSN) / Réseau sur la defense et la sécurité nord-américaines et arctiques (RDSNAA)

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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; and
  • educating the next generation of policy thinkers and analysts.

Researchers will 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.

Herculese and Caribou

Network Objective

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 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 focuses 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 promotes 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 critically analyzes 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 examine the Evolution of North American Defense, the future of the North Warning System, and national missile defence. Another major theme explores 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 carefully monitors and analyzes the capabilities and intentions of revisionist powers (including their changing interpretations of international laws and norms), and suggests 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.

Key Network 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 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 (ASWG), 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)
  • 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 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.

Our Network

Our team consists of scholars from a dozen disciplines, including anthropology, Canadian Studies, defence studies, environmental studies, history, geography, international law, international relations, political science, public administration, sociology, and strategic studies. We also have partners with a diverse array of military, public service, and private sector backgrounds.

The main administrative hubs are Trent University (Ontario), École nationale d’administration publique (Quebec), and University of Manitoba (Prairies), but our network spans all the regions of Canada.

For more on individual network members, please see the NAADSN website.

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.

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 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.

NAADSN / RDSNAA funds 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 are 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 are 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.

The network will also supports 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 are 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 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 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 take place within a supportive team environment.

Conferences and Workshops

For upcoming conferences and workshops, please see the NAADSN website.