CSE Establishment and Strength

CBNRC/CSE has gone through four distinct phases in its establishment and strength during its history. (For year-by-year estimates of CSE's establishment and personnel strength, see CBNRC/CSE Establishment and Strength: 1946-1995.)

First Phase

The first phase, beginning with the organization's birth in 1946 and ending approximately in 1961-62, was marked by continuous, rapid growth. By the end of this period, CBNRC had grown from an initial authorized establishment of 179 and an initial strength of 62 to an authorized establishment of approximately 590 and approximately full staffing of that establishment (roughly 585 in 1961-62). Many of these staff members came from Britain's GCHQ. Indeed, Canada recruited so heavily from GCHQ during the late 1940s that CBNRC chose Mary Oliver, who was primarily a personnel officer, to be its first liaison officer to the organization (1949-1950). By early 1950 so many British recruits had been hired into important posts at CBNRC that the Canadian staff began to complain that CBNRC stood for Communications Branch - "No Room for Canadians" and eventually a virtual hiring freeze on British personnel was instituted.

Increases in CBNRC's authorized establishment came in at least three steps during this initial phase. The first increase, in late 1947, added 48 positions (for a total of 227) to cope with the INFOSEC responsibilities CBNRC acquired at that time.

The second, a pair of increases authorized during the winter of 1950-51, added a total of 222 positions "to cope with a large-scale extension of CB's SIGINT responsibilities." [1] An additional increase of 20 positions early in 1952 probably was also part of this increase in CBNRC's SIGINT establishment, as the Canadian government continued to respond to the deepening Cold War.

Finally, the third increase or, more likely, set of increases (about which there is little information) came in the mid- to late-1950s, adding approximately 120 positions to CBNRC's establishment, for a total of nearly 600 (the exact figure may have been 587). This third set of increases probably reflected both continued growth in CBNRC's SIGINT responsibilities, particularly with respect to Soviet air force and air defence activities and North American air defence, and continued growth in CBNRC's INFOSEC responsibilities, including the addition of Electronic Emission Security (ELSEC) responsibilities in 1959 and TEMPEST responsibilities early in 1960. [2]

Second Phase

The second phase in CBNRC/CSE's establishment and staffing lasted from about 1961-62 to the late 1970s and was marked by stability. Although there is only one indication available about the size of CBNRC's authorized establishment during this period (587 "Total Man-Years Authorized" in 1973-74 and 1974-75), it is clear from available staffing figures (587 in 1962-63, 572 in 1978-79, and little variation in between) that few if any changes were made during this period. (This is not to say, however, that changes were not made within CBNRC/CSE. In fact, at least two internal reorganizations were undertaken during this period, in addition to the transfer of CBNRC to the Department of National Defence.)

Third Phase

The third phase of CSE's establishment and staffing began, apparently, in the late 1970s and ended early in 1991. This phase, coinciding with the renewal of the Cold War and the reported adoption of a "harder line" towards allied agencies by NSA, was characterized by renewed growth. Between 1978-79 and the end of 1990-91, CSE's staff grew from 572 to 896 (peaking at 907 in January 1991). Once again, there is very little information available concerning the size of CSE's authorized establishment. Nevertheless, the growth that occurred in CSE's staff makes it evident that the organization's authorized establishment was increased by at least 50 per cent during this period, from somewhere in the range of 550-600 (587?) to approximately 900. The episodic nature of CSE's growth suggests that this increase in establishment took place in five steps. (The following estimates are based on an analysis of the variations in CSE's monthly staff figures, as reported by Statistics Canada. Since other factors could account for some of these variations, and there is no independent evidence of the date and size of increases in CSE's authorized establishment, these estimates must be considered tentative only.)

The first increase, to approximately 600, seems to have been made in the late 1970s, possibly late in 1978 or early in 1979. It is possible that CSE's authorized establishment was already at the 600 level, in which case this minor ``increase'' might simply reflect greater success in maintaining CSE's strength at the level of its authorized establishment.

The second increase, to approximately 645, seems to have been made early in 1981.

The third increase, to approximately 670, seems to have been made in mid-1983. The 1983 increase probably was related to the revitalization of CSE's cryptanalysis effort; it was at approximately this time that CSE management approved an extra 14 person-years for CSE's cryptanalysis section.

The fourth increase, to approximately 720, seems to have been made in mid-1985; this increase roughly coincided with CSE's move into the field of satellite communications interception and processing, and it may have been related to this development. At roughly the same time, the government made the decision to construct a major addition to the Sir Leonard Tilley Building, nearly doubling the size of the building.

Finally, the fifth increase, to approximately 900, seems to have been made in mid-1987, possibly as one of the decisions made during the defence policy review related to the White Paper released in June of that year. One of the reasons for this increase seems to have been to enable some CSE analytical sections to establish "quick reaction reporting teams" and to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (Prior to 1988, only the CANSOC and CSE's communications and computer sections were 24/7 operations.)

Of course, none of these increases was instantaneous: it took approximately three years, from 1987 to 1990, for example, for CSE to grow from 720 to its new establishment of about 900.

As during the 1950s, the 1980s increases in CSE's establishment seem to have been tied both to CSE's SIGINT responsibilities and to its INFOSEC responsibilities. Specific SIGINT changes included the probable adoption of greater responsibility for the processing of material intercepted at Alert (coinciding with the completion of the High Arctic Data Communications System in 1982); the modernization and enlargement of CSE's cryptanalytic activities; the adoption, starting around 1988, of a 24-hour, 7-day operating schedule by a number of analytical sections; and the already-mentioned (and still continuing) move into the field of satellite communications interception and processing. INFOSEC changes included, among others, the implementation of the federal government's STU-III secure telephone capability, and the creation in August 1988 of the CSE System Security Centre "to augment the computer security expertise of the RCMP and DND and to provide new capabilities for the evaluation of computer and network security products for the Government of Canada."

Final Phase

The final phase of the evolution of CSE's establishment and staffing, its post-Cold War phase, has only just begun. In February 1991, the government reported that it was reviewing Canada's foreign intelligence program "to ensure it continues to meet the Government's needs. Issues such as the identification of foreign intelligence priorities, methods of collecting foreign intelligence, and procedures for assessing intelligence are all being re-evaluated in order to maintain the effectiveness of the program." At roughly the same time, early in 1991, CSE's staff shrank to about 875 (it stabilized at about this number in the middle of 1991 and fluctuated between 852 and 886 in the two succeeding years). It is not clear whether this minor reduction was the result of a post-Cold War reduction in authorized establishment or simply the result of staffing fluctuations due to changing skill requirements. In May 1995, the Deputy Clerk, Security and Intelligence, reported that CSE's current strength is approximately 900 full-time equivalents, suggesting that CSE's authorized establishment remains at 900.[4]

CBNRC/CSE Establishment and Strength: 1946-1995

Numbers represent average during fiscal year (April 1 to March 31) except as noted; author's estimates represented by question marks.

Fiscal year    Staff

          62 initial strength, 179 authorized establishment
1946-47   73 (March 1947)
1947-48   95 (October 1947); 227 authorized (late 1947)
1948-49   123 (1949)
1949-50   175?
1950-51   225?; 393/449 authorized (November 1950/March 1951)
1951-52   286 (early 1952); 469 authorized (early 1952)
1952-53   350?; 304 (July 1952)
1953-54   385?; 363 (July 1953)
1954-55   420 (March 1955)
1955-56   460?; 587? authorized (mid- to late-1950s)
1956-57   475?
1957-58   490?
1958-59   490?
1959-60   520?
1960-61   560?
1961-62   585?
1962-63   587 (March 1963)
1963-64   572 (March 1964)
1964-65   590?
1965-66   590?
1966-67   590?
1967-68   590?
1968-69   600 (March 1969)
1969-70   590?
1970-71   590?
1971-72   590?
1972-73   590?
1973-74   593 (March 1974)
1974-75   593 (March 1975)
1975-76   549
1976-77   598
1977-78   569
1978-79   572; 600? authorized (late 1970s?)
1979-80   597 (July 1979-March 1980 average)
1980-81   603; 645? authorized (early 1981?)
1981-82   624
1982-83   640; 670? authorized (mid-1983?)
1983-84   648 
1984-85   666; 720? authorized (mid-1985?)
1985-86   670
1986-87   705
1987-88   727; 900? authorized (mid-1987?)
1988-89   784
1989-90   849
1990-91   896
1991-92   866
1992-93   875
1993-94   875
1994-95   900?
1995-96   900?


[1] Kevin O'Neill, ed., History of CBNRC, 1987, Chapter 3, p. 7, released in severed form under the Access to Information Act.

[2] History of CBNRC, Chapter 17, p. 37 and p. 43.

[3] Statement by Deputy Clerk, Security and Intelligence, to Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, 2 May 1995.

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