Canada and the United States: Our defense partnership

About the Canadian Defence Liaison Staff (Washington)

Located within the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) maintain the Canadian Defence Liaison Staff, a field unit of the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff.  The senior Canadian Defence Attaché, a Major-General (or Rear Admiral), the Chief of the Canadian Delegation to the Inter-American Defence Board, and the CAF defence attachés from the air, sea, and land environments provide military advice and appropriate support and assistance to the Canadian Ambassador. 

In support of the unique Canada-U.S. defence partnership, defence attachés liaise directly with the Pentagon and their other American counterparts, linking Canada’s Department of National Defence with the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Mission of CDLS Washington is to facilitate successful Canada-US defence relations, and to improve Canadian Armed Forces’ engagement in the hemisphere, ultimately enhancing inter-operability as a key component of excellence in Canadian Armed Forces contingency operations.

The unique Canada-U.S. military relationship can be defined as a partnership in North American defence and global security. At any given time, there are more than 700 CAF members serving in the U.S.. Approximately half are committed to the NORAD mission, while the remainder serve as liaison and exchange officers, or as students pursuing post-graduate military or civilian academic studies. In addition, more than 100 U.S. Armed Forces personnel are currently participating in exchange positions with the CAF in Canada.

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The Canada-U.S. Defence Relationship

The United States is Canada's most important ally and defence partner. Defence and security relations between our two countries are longstanding, well-entrenched and highly successful. The closeness of the Canada-U.S. defence partnership provides both countries with greater security than could be achieved individually.

Given the common defence and security requirements, it is in Canada’s strategic interest to remain a reliable partner in the defence of North America and steadfast in its commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). As like-minded Allies and close operational partners, Canada and U.S. meet regularly at the Ministerial level, in bilateral and multilateral fora, such as the NATO Alliance, as well as at the Chief of Defence Staff and senior Defence officials levels. From joint training exercises to personnel exchanges, strategic policy discussions, and operational cooperation, our countries share a broad-based, dynamic, and mutually beneficial defence relationship.

As outlined in the Canada First Defence Strategy, as a strong and reliable defence partner the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are prepared to: conduct continental operations, including through the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD); carry out training and exercises; remain interoperable with the U.S. military; and respond to crises at home and abroad, including by assisting domestic civilian authorities, if necessary.


The Principal Bilateral Defence Forums, Arrangements and Agreements with the U.S.

Permanent Joint Board on Defence (PJBD)

Established in 1940 to discuss and advise on defence policy issues related to continental defence and security.  Since 2001, the Board’s membership has expanded to include representatives from Public Safety Canada and the Department of Homeland Security.  The Canadian and U.S. co-chairs report the bi-annual discussions directly to the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of the United States.

Military Cooperation Committee

Established in 1946 and meets bi-annually as the primary strategic link between Canadian and U.S. joint military staffs.

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)

Established in 1958 with a headquarters based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, NORAD is a Canadian and U.S. bi-national organization tasked with aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning for North America. Traditionally, the Deputy Commander of NORAD has been a senior Canadian Armed Forces officer.

The Combined Defence Plan

Synchronizes military efforts from both countries into one coherent bilateral military defence plan.

Tri-Command Framework

In September 2009, NORAD, U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), and the Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) formally agreed to strengthen the collective ability of Canada and the U.S. to defend North America. The Framework underscores the fundamental relationship between Canada and the U.S., and describes how the three commands will cooperate and mutually support one another in defending the continent.

The Canada-U.S. Civil Assistance Plan

Signed February 2008, and renewed in January 2012, to facilitate the support of military members from one nation to the armed forces of the other nation in support of civilian authorities during an emergency such as a natural disaster.


About the Canadian Armed Forces

Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members are proud to serve Canada by defending its values, interests and sovereignty at home and abroad. They support freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights around the world.

The CAF are headed by the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), General Jonathan Vance, Canada’s senior serving officer. He is responsible for the conduct of military operations and to ensure that the CAF is always ready to carry out the tasks that Parliament assigns through the Minister of National Defence.

What we do

The mandate of Canadian Armed Forces is:

·         Protecting Canada and defending our sovereignty.

·         Defending North America in cooperation with the United States, Canada's closest ally.

·         Contributing to international peace and security through operations around the world, most often in partnership with allies from other countries.

1. Protecting Canada

Every day thousands of members of the Canadian Armed Forces contribute to protecting Canada by:

 •Patrolling our coasts

 •Monitoring our skies

 •Leading search and rescue missions

 •Assisting civilian rescue authorities with disaster relief (forest fires, floods, avalanches, hurricanes, etc.)

2. Defending North America

Canada helps to defend North America by working with the United States, our closest ally, at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to monitor and defend continental airspace and ocean areas.

3. Contributing to International Peace and Security

The Canadian Forces contribute to international peace and security through operations around the world. Canadian Armed Forces personnel are currently deployed overseas on operational missions. On any given day, one third of the deployable force are preparing for, engaged in, or returning from an overseas mission.


Navy, Army and Air Force

The Canadian Forces serve on the sea, on land, and in the air, with the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army, and the Royal Canadian Air Force.


The Royal Canadian Navy

The Royal Canadian Navy is the maritime component of the Canadian Armed Forces. It protects Canada’s interests by:

 •Safeguarding our maritime approaches

 •Exercising sovereignty over our waters

 •Protecting our offshore natural resources

 •Supporting search and rescue missions

•Supporting international operations helping to maintain global stability

The Royal Canadian Navy is composed of approximately 8,400 full-time sailors and 5,100 part-time sailors.


The Canadian Army

The Canadian Army is the land component of the Canadian Armed Forces. It protects Canada’s interests by:

 •Providing land surveillance and combat-ready forces

 •Providing assistance to civil authorities when needed to maintain public order and security;

•Assisting with natural disasters including earthquakes, floods, storms, forest fires and other emergencies

 •Supporting international operations helping to maintain global stability

The Canadian Army is composed of approximately 21,600 full-time soldiers, 20,000 Reservists, and 5,000 Canadian Rangers.


The Royal Canadian Air Force

The Royal Canadian Air Force is the air component of the Canadian Armed Forces. It protects Canada’s interests by:

 •Defending Canadian airspace

 •Conducting maritime and northern patrols

 •Supporting search and rescue missions

•Airlifting military personnel and supplies

•Supporting international operations and helping to maintain global stability

The Royal Canadian Air Force is composed of approximately 13,365 full-time and 2,035 Reserve airmen and airwomen.