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The Final Report of the Canada-United States Bi-National Planning Group

by Doctor Biff Baker

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The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 significantly changed the international defence and security environment, and they highlighted the need for enhanced cooperation between nations to protect their citizens and their economies. This need is critical for Canada and the United States, whose 9000 kilometre common border separates two culturally like-minded nations, whose economies are intertwined more closely than any other two nations in the world, and whose history of mutual support as friendly neighbors and allies is long and distinguished. In the aftermath of 9/11, the North American Aerospace Defence Command’s (NORAD) mission was re-focused,1 and a Canada-United States Smart Border Agreement2 was brought into being within three months.

Bi-National Planning Group

The attack also prompted senior officials to discuss means of improving the safety and security of citizens of both nations. One result was the creation of a Bi-National Planning Group (BPG) through an agreement signed into being in December 2002 by the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the United States Secretary of State. This agreement, and its terms of reference, tasked the BPG to develop detailed bi-national maritime, land, and civil support contingency plans and decision-making arrangements in the event that threats, attacks, incidents, or emergency circumstances required bi-national military or civil/military responses to maintain the security of Canada or the United States.3

Key Recommendations

Since the Bi-National Planning Group was not to be a decision-making body, its focus was to find opportunities for improvement, and then to provide concepts of operation and/or recommendations on issues needing to be addressed. A brief overview of key BPG findings and recommendations follows.

The Bi-National Planning Group found that, from a national perspective, both Canada and the United States have articulated the need for enhanced security cooperation in their national strategy documents, as well as in the Security and Prosperity Partnership signed by Canada, the United States and Mexico last year. However, it felt that an overarching vision for continental defence and security organizations was missing.

Hence, the Bi-National Planning Group encouraged the development of a combined vision statement by the governments of Canada and the United States, to provide direction and authority for enhanced coordination and cooperation among our foreign policy, defence and security organizations.

It felt this combined vision should be implemented by a Canada – United States ‘Comprehensive Defence and Security Agreement,’4 with a continental approach to CANUS defence and security, while simultaneously maintaining an open invitation to participation by other countries. This new agreement would provide guidance, direction, and authority to NORAD, Canada Command, US Northern Command, and select security organizations for the development of plans, the conduct of seamless bi-national information sharing, the development of communications architectures, the conduct of joint, combined, inter-agency training and exercises, and the development of coordination mechanisms – including agreements brokered among the military stakeholers and the homeland security and foreign policy communities.

The recently signed agreement expanded the NORAD mission from aerospace warning and control to include maritime warning, thereby tightening a seam between these two domains. Articulating a vision for the Canada-US key stakeholders is the next logical step towards enhancing the defence and security of North America. Embedding this vision into a ‘Comprehensive Defence and Security Agreement’ would bring unity of effort5 and direction to bi-national defence, security, and foreign policy organizations. It would help shift paradigms and outdated cultures, resulting in more effective plans, policies, procedures, and exercises. As a result, the people of Canada and the United States would become less vulnerable to man-made threats, as well as those of natural origin.

In addition to development of a Combined Vision and a Comprehensive Defence and Security Agreement, the BPG also recommended:

  • the provision of a deliberate planning agreement articulating specific responsibilities, the goals needing to be accomplished, and how often Canada-US plans should be updated;

  • the development of a nation-to-nation information sharing agreement, shifting defence and security partners from a ‘need-to-know’ to a ‘need-to-share’ paradigm. Supporting plans, processes and procedures would be developed in support of this information sharing agreement;

  • the development of a communications-needs definition, which will help eliminate operational gaps, shortfalls, and duplications amongst NORAD, Canada Command and US Northern Command across the air, maritime, and land domains;

  • the development of a common interagency, intergovernmental, and bi-national Combined and Joint Mission Essential Task List to support a joint and combined, multi-year exercise program that would synergize efforts in defence and civil support.

All 32 comprehensive recommendations can be read in the BPG’s Final Report, which is available in PDF format at www.canadianally.com/bpg or www.usembassycanada.gov.

Future Coordination

Prior to termination of the Bi-National Planning Group’s mandate on 12 May 2006, copies of the Final Report on Canada-United States Enhanced Military Cooperation were provided to Foreign Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence, and the United States Departments of State and Defense. The key strategic-level recommendations were also briefed to the Permanent Joint Board on Defence (PJBD) and the Canada-United States Military Cooperation Committee (MCC). Additionally, the critical theatre-strategic and operational-level recommendations were coordinated with NORAD, Canada Command and US Northern Command, so that momentum on this important work will be continued by these organizations, which have both the responsibility and the authority to defend our two nations.

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Doctor Biff Baker is a Senior Analyst from the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), which provides contracted research support to the Bi-National Planning Group through US Northern Command.


  1. Per Canadian National Security Policy, dated April 2004, “Since September 11, NORAD has adapted to the new threat environment by increasing its operational readiness and by addressing threats within and outside North America.” (NSP, Page 36). Available at: <http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca/docs/Publications/NatSecurnat/natsecurnat_e.pdf>.
  2. Canada and the United States are actively engaged in implementing the 32-point Smart Border Action Plan. Since the signing of the Smart Border Declaration and Action Plan in December 2001, significant progress has been made to enhance the security and efficiency of our shared border. Available at: <http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/can-am/main/border/ 32_point_action-en.asp>.
  3. See Lieutenant-General Rick Findley and Lieutenant General Joe Inge, “North American Defence and Security in the Aftermath of 9/11,” in Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Spring 2005, pp. 9-16), for a description of BPG initiatives.
  4. Evolving from the long-standing Canada-United States relationship, the continental approach used throughout this document refers initially to the defence and security of the north half of the Western Hemisphere, and it maintains an open invitation to participation by other countries. From a BPG perspective, the envisioned continental approach throughout this report does not violate sovereignty or impair the national interests of any nation, nor does it preclude bi-lateral agreements.
  5. This key recommendation supports the intent of Canada’s International Policy Statement (IPS) and the US Quadrennial Defense Review Report (QDR). Canada’s International Policy Statement: Defence aim is to, “improve coordination with other government departments and interoperability with allied forces, particularly the United States, through smart investments in evolving technology and doctrinal concepts, training opportunities, and exchange and liaison programs.” IPS, Page 12. It also supports the QDR, which “recommends the creation of National Security Planning Guidance to direct the development of both military and non-military plans and institutional capabilities. The planning guidance would set priorities and clarify national security roles and responsibilities to reduce capability gaps and to eliminate redundancies. It would help Federal Departments and Agencies better align their strategy, budget and planning functions with national objectives. Stronger linkages among planners in the Military Departments, the Combatant Commands, and the Joint Staff, with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and with other Departments, should ensure that operations better reflect the President’s National Security Strategy and country’s policy goals.” QDR, Page 85.