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American Forces Press Service

Group Studies U.S.-Canada Defense Relationship

By Capt. Jason Proulx, Canadian Forces Air Force
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2005 In the history of international military cooperation, the North American Aerospace Defense Command Agreement is a notable example.

For nearly 50 years, Canada and the United States have worked together to secure their homelands from aerospace threats. Yet NORAD remains the only bi-national defense organization that comprises both Canadian and U.S. staff on a full-time basis. Given the continuous threats posed by terrorism and natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the question has been raised if establishing other mutual support compacts may be appropriate.

Enter the Bi-National Planning Group, whose job is to answer that question. The BPG, located at the headquarters of NORAD and U. S. Northern Command, examines the nature of the defense relationship between Canada and the United States.

"We look at the way our two countries do business together and identify areas where we think we need to improve," said U. S. Navy Capt. Kendall L. Card, the group's American co-director. "By having proper agreements and plans in place, we would reduce our response time during cross-border emergencies."

For that reason, the BPG has drafted several plans to address missions such as joint and combined defense, as well as aid to civil authorities. The BPG members believe these plans, if adopted, could help save American and Canadian lives in the future.

"While our people make the system work the way it is now, these plans will make their lives a lot easier by reducing the red tape during a response to a crisis," said Canadian Forces Navy Capt. Richard J. Bergeron, the BPG's Canadian co-director.

But operating in a bi-national sphere is not easy, particularly given evolving threats, militaries and the complex nature of Canada-U.S. relations. With the NORAD agreement currently under renegotiation, a relatively new Northern Command coordinating homeland defense and civil support missions in the United States, and the birth of Canada Command, an integrated national command that is the cornerstone of Canadian defense transformation, the BPG has many variables to juggle.

"I'm optimistic that, as events unfold and the dust settles, we will make significant progress toward enhanced military cooperation," Bergeron said. "That being said, we can't rush the process."

(Canadian Forces Air Force Capt. Jason Proulx is assigned to the Bi-National Planning Group.)

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