Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sajjan: No CFB or CFS closures as part of Defence Review

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch

The Defence Review is now underway but so far Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has ruled out cuts to the two of the most costly areas of the defence budget – military personnel and major infrastructure.

In February, Sajjan stated categorically that the Liberal government would not be cutting any military personnel – in fact he was looking to expand the size of the Canadian Forces he noted. “We are not looking at reducing our personnel,” Sajjan said at the time. “The conversation I’m having right now is about where do we need to increase some of the personnel.”

Salaries and benefits for personnel make up around 50 per cent of the defence budget (that figure also includes public servants).

In addition, on Monday night Sajjan revealed to a Commons committee that the Liberal government has “absolutely no plans to shut down any bases.” Keeping aging infrastructure operating has been a costly affair over the years for the Department of National Defence and base closures, have under the Jean Chretien government, been used to save money. But not this time, according to the minister.

Location of Canadian Forces Bases or Stations (CFB/CFS) across Canada. Department of National Defence. 
Some analysts, however, have argued for closures. In a January opinion article, Doug Bland, past chairman of the defence management studies program at Queen’s University, argued that Prime Minister Trudeau should cut some bases and installations. Here is part of what he wrote in the Victoria Times Colonist: “The defence budget funds 38 large “bases” and smaller “installations,” located in every province except Prince Edward Island. Most were renovated at the beginning of the Cold War to accommodate a permanent military force of about 130,000 personnel, more than twice today’s personnel strength. Each base is expensively supported by numerous non-operational Canadian Forces units and headquarters and personnel needed to manage budgets, maintain public schools and hundreds of “married quarters” and provide other community services and utilities.

Some bases are critically important to the Canadian Forces’ operations and thus to Canada’s national defence; others are not. Keeping open bases with little or no military utility imposes a heavy, unnecessary tax on the defence budget. According to one informed source, the Liberal government could close 12 bases without impairing Canada’s national defence at all.”

Sajjan also indicated to MPs on Monday night that the government’s Defence Review was considering involvement in the U.S. ballistic missile defence system. No word on what the cost would be if that involvement proceeds.

At the same time, Sajjan has acknowledged there is a limit to the government funding for defence.