Thursday, May 4, 2017

Canadian Armed Forces suffering from Years of Underfunding

This article was published yesterday by the Toronto Star. For a more in-depth analysis of where the CAF is underfunded - please read - If the Government is Thinking Stimulus; Invest in Defence - published in September 2016 - outlining the $100B needed for the CAF in the next 5-10 years.

By: Bruce Champion-Smith, Toronto Star 

OTTAWA—Years of underinvestment are taking a toll on Canada’s military with no funding earmarked for key capabilities such as new surveillance aircraft, helicopter upgrades and bulldozers and tank transporters.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will use an Ottawa speech Wednesday to paint a stark picture of the financial crunch facing the military — a message that could reinforce Washington’s call on Canada to boost defence spending.

The speech is meant as a prelude for a Liberal announcement expected in the coming weeks that will lay out a new defence policy for the country and with it, the promise of long-term spending.

That new policy was meant to look ahead at the kind of threats Canada’s military needs to be ready to cope with in the future.

But the review will also confront a less well-known challenge facing the military — “the hollow state of affairs that are not about tomorrow’s threats,” a government official told the Star.

Sajjan’s event on Wednesday will serve as a reality check and could set the stage for a national debate on funding for the military — and how much more the armed forces should get.

“We’re starting from a hole that is not commonly understood,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The evidence of that is the list of “core, bread and butter” capabilities within the Canadian Armed Forces that need to be upgraded or replaced and yet have no funding set aside.

These include a projects for a new “multi-mission aircraft” to replace the CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft by 2026; a mid-life upgrade for the Cormorant helicopter; future aircrew training program; bulldozers, forklifts and other ancillary equipment for the army; logistics vehicles such as tank transporters; enhanced satellite communications in the Arctic.

While political debates rage over big-ticket purchases of new fighter jets and warships, defence department officials warn that many other required projects have yet to be funded. Those add up to “tens of billions of dollars” for existing capabilities that the military does and “must continue to do.

“There’s been insufficient investment and insufficient long-term planning,” the official said.

Sajjan’s message won’t be framed as a partisan jab as the Liberal government acknowledges that funding woes for the military have developed “over a long period under successive governments.”

The new Trump administration in Washington has been leaning on NATO allies, including Canada, to boost their defence spending.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used his first NATO summit in Brussels in March to press allies to detail their strategies to reach the goal of spending two per cent of GDP on defence.

Tillerson wanted NATO member nations to have those plans developed by the time leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meet for a summit later this month.

Canada spends about 1 per cent of GDP on defence, which would mean having to double its $19-billion military budget to the NATO target.

But the Liberal government is hoping to release its defence policy review — and the pledge of more defence spending — before the NATO summit, giving Trudeau a good news message to take to the meeting.

The defence policy review will be a significant announcement for the government and plans are underway to have cabinet ministers speak at events across the country to lay out details of the review.

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