By Micaal Ahmed
On June 7, 2017 the Government of Canada released the result of its Defence Policy Review, which had a significant focus on the defence intelligence community across the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. To shed more light on the intelligence section of the CAF, Esprit de Corps’ Micaal Ahmed met with Rear Admiral Scott Bishop, Commander of the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command and Chief of Defence Intelligence, for a one-on-one interview.
Esprit de Corps: What led to the transition from the Chief of Defence Intelligence organization to the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command?
RAdm Bishop: Intelligence, obviously, has been a part of military operations since the military started. Intelligence is critical to conducting operations. And intelligence has always been the future of National Defence Headquarters. But, prior to CF Intelligence Command standing up, it was treated like a staff function — at the strategic level. We were working for the chief of defence staff, deputy minister and the minister of National Defence. It was treated like a staff [position]. And there was a recognition that, given the growing importance of intelligence to the operations that we’re doing, that intelligence would be better served by making it an actual Level I command. This gives Intelligence Command the authority to manage its own resources, and be a distinct entity on par with other commands across the Canadian Forces — Army, Navy, Air Force, Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC), [Canadian] Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) and Military Personnel Command, and now we’ve got CF Intelligence Command.
Esprit de Corps: How would you describe the role of the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command?
RAdm Bishop: We have a lot people across the forces working in intelligence, so it’s not just the folks in CF Intelligence Command. Each one of the services — Army, Navy and Air Force — has an entity in their organization focused on intelligence. Joint Operations Command and Special Operations Forces Command also have an integral intelligence function. In CF Intelligence Command, we’re at the strategic level. So, we’re providing some support to Canadian Forces operations — working with CJOC and Special Forces Command — but we’re also servicing the decision-making needs of the chief of defence staff, the minister and the deputy minister.
Esprit de Corps: How is the group organized?
RAdm Bishop: It’s a military-civilian command. So, right now, it’s about 35 per cent civilian, 65 per cent military. We’re all working together on the intelligence problem. We have most of our civilians doing analysis work — taking various bits of intelligence that has been collected, fusing it together and providing information to decision-makers. On the military side, the majority of our folks are working in the Canadian Forces Intelligence Group, which is essentially providing those intelligence products that the analysts are using: imagery, mapping and charting, meteorology, human intelligence.
Esprit de Corps: What resources does the group possess in terms of offices and staff to carry out its mandate?
RAdm Bishop: In CF Intelligence Command it’s about a thousand people, working not just in National Defence Headquarters, but we have other people in buildings around Ottawa. We have people in Kingston — we have a couple of units there — and we have folks across Canada in small units. And we have a budget of a little over $80-million for running our normal business through the year. So it’s a pretty sizeable group, but compared to the other commands, it’s pretty small. [If] we compare ourselves to the Army, the Air Force, or Military Personnel Command, Intelligence Command is pretty small. Of all the Level I commands, as we call them, CF Intelligence Command is the smallest.
Esprit de Corps: What about the relationship with the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) and Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)?
RAdm Bishop: We do a lot of cooperation with our partners in Canada, in terms of talking to each other about what we’re doing. Obviously, each one of those intelligence enterprises in Canada has its own mandate, and those mandates are highly respected. The one thing I would state: While interacting with our other partners in the Canadian government like CSIS or Communications Security Establishment or the Intelligence Assessment Secretary at the Privy Council Office, we don’t have the mandate to collect [intelligence] against Canadians. We’re strictly focused on defence intelligence issues, generally in support of operations, or looking at the defence landscape and providing assessments to decision-makers about how we see the world.
Esprit de Corps: Thank you Rear Admiral Bishop. Before concluding the interview, we have a few “rapid fire” questions.
What was your first pet? A dog. I had a golden retriever, and my wife had a black lab when we met.
What was your first car? Chevy Impala, which consumed more oil than gas.
What was your nickname growing up? Bill, like Billy Bishop.
What is your favourite sport? Ice hockey for sure
What is your favourite team? Montreal Canadiens
Do you prefer reading books or watching movies? I prefer books. I seldom watch movies.
What was your first job? Working at McDonald’s when I was 14. I got to work in the first McDonald’s in Canada.
What is your favourite book? Guns, Germs and Steel [by Jared Diamond].
What is your favourite TV show? I have a lot which my wife considers to be in poor taste. I like comedy shows, some of the animated ones I watch a lot.