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February 25, 2004

Even allowing for hyperbole...

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...the military situation in the Great White North is Not Good. Unless you are a classic lefty-lib, in which case it is a Great Thing. No quick easy fixes there, either. And closing the northern bases (which do have military significance to the US) isn't something done lightly. If they are truly shut down, the elements are going to tear them apart quickly and they'll be expensive to replace.

Some excerpts from the National Post article by Chris Wattie:

'Bankrupt' Forces may shut 5 bases Internal reports say $500M shortfall may cause closures from Winnipeg to Labrador

Canada's army, navy and air force are facing a funding shortfall of up to half a billion dollars, defence sources told the National Post, and the military is recommending drastic measures to make up the difference, including closing some of the largest bases in the country...

...The military sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the reports foresee a situation so dire that they recommend curtailing operations, dry-docking ships and mothballing vehicles or aircraft and closing at least four Canadian Forces bases.

Unless additional funding is awarded by the government, the air force is suggesting closing bases at Goose Bay, Nfld., Bagotville, Que., North Bay and Winnipeg, the sources said.

Further, the air force report says that unless its fleet of ageing CC-130 Hercules transport planes is replaced or modernized, the main transport base at Trenton should be closed within 10 years. "There won't be enough Hercs flying by then to justify keeping that base open," one air force source said.

The navy predicts it will not be able to live up to treaty obligations to NATO and other alliances and cannot carry out enough patrols of Canadian waters to comply with agreements with other government departments such as Immigration Canada or Fisheries and Oceans.

"We will not be able to meet our domestic defence obligations," one naval officer said.

The army is said to be in the worst financial state of all three branches of the Canadian Forces. "Everyone knows that the army's broke and has been for a couple of years," said one military source familiar with the reports...

"This is a look forward ... at what they need in order to keep the army going," he said. "Nobody has ever seen a bankrupt military in a developed country.... This year I predict we will see that in Canada."

I might argue that point among some of Europe's smaller forces.

The Liberal government reduced defence spending by 23% and cut the number of regular military personnel to approximately 60,000 from 80,000 between 1993 and 2000. There were 120,000 people in the Canadian military in 1958.

In 2003, the defence budget was increased $800-million to $12.7-billion, the single largest increase since the Liberals came to power. But that still left the total below that of 1991, when the Mulroney Conservatives committed troops to the Gulf War and the defence budget stood at $12.8-billion.

Of course, the reason Canadians (and to a slightly lesser extent, Europeans (including neutrals like Sweden) can operate this way to sustain their socialist spending habits? The 1st (US) Armored Div, 1st (US) Infantry Divsion, 1st (US) Cavalry Division, 82nd (US) Infantry Division (Airborne), 101st (US) Infantry Division (Air Assault), 1st (US) Marine Division, (US) Air Combat Command, 5th (US) Fleet, and even more of late, the 49th (US) Armored Division (TxARNG), 69th (US) Infantry Division (Va/MdARNG), 48th (US) Infantry Brigade (Enhanced) GaARNG, and all the other elements comprising the US military - and the US taxpayer, who funded that edifice, and continues to do so, and has the economic surplus to do so - while these other nations don't or won't. Nothing personal here guys - I've worked with warriors from many nations and most do amazing things with not very much - but those socialist governments live in a world made possible by the US taxpayer and their shield, the US Department of Defense. All for the privelege of being lectured by many of them.

Recognizing that the Post is not a liberal rag, and has it's own 'tilt', there are those in Canada that make the point nicely:

"They shouldn't even be in this position," he said. "They shouldn't be having to look for nickel and dime savings when the government is blowing hundreds of millions on sponsorship programs."

Typical of any government, liberal or conservative, Ottawa is resisting release of the reports, no doubt waiting until a political response has been crafted, or a suitable news event that will drown the report.

Mr. Hill called on the government to make the three reports available immediately. "This flies in the face of this Prime Minister's stated commitment to being open and transparent," he said.

While there is grumpiness among the press about not having what they want now - as you get further down the article, I find that I'm right. In response to requests under Canada's equivalent to the Freedom of Information Act, Judith Mooney, the Department of National Defence official responsible for handling those request has refused, citing them as 'draft' documents (which will be true until the moment they are published, just like in the US - and it is awaiting a political response:

...Although that would delay them until after the release of the federal budget, which is expected on March 23, she said David Pratt, the Defence Minister, was not involved in the decision to withhold the reports until then. Mr. Pratt did not reply to repeated requests for comment on the reports.

Perhaps so - but you don't get to a job like that without being able to read between the lines, eh Judith? Don't get me wrong - I understand her position completely.

In previous years, the assessments have been made public.

Previous governments were almost proud of the reports of dilapidation, too. This government is going to have to deal with it.


...The (Janes Defence Weekly) article said the navy asked for an additional $50-million to bridge the funding gap, but received only $6.7-million. The air force expected a $104-million shortfall but received about $7-million. The army had a larger gap between what was expected of it and the funding available, and received $85-million in extra money.

Now we get treated to the ever-depressing spectacle of a general officer patently dissembling, because no one likes the truth. Our guys and gals with flag rank do it too.

Major-General Terry Hearn, the chief of finance for the Canadian Forces, acknowledged the military has had "issues" with funding over the past four years.

But he said the department is implementing a long-term plan to stabilize its finances. "We'll become sustainable over the next couple of years," he said. "We have long-term strategies to deal with these issues ... [but] we're not going to solve them next year."

If my experience in rebuilding the US Army in the '80s is any guide, it ain't happening in 4 years, either.

Lastly, we close with a comment from a politician who just suffered a blinding flash of the obvious:

Peter Stoffer, a New Democrat MP whose Nova Scotia riding includes a large military base, called the government's refusal to release the reports "very suspicious."

"If anyone out there honestly believes that access to information will be any easier under this government, they are fooling themselves," he said. "They say one thing and do another."

I invite comment from any of my Canadian (well everybody, but...) readers. For those who might have comments but don't wish to make them public, drop an email. All confidentiality will be respected. I know what it means to serve.

Lastly, if any disarm at any price liberals have stayed with me thus far - the fallacy in the "being disarmed means peace" paradigm is laid bare in the time period 1918-1939. It only takes one side to break the agreement. Then your choices are rearm or surrender. And those wars have proven to be pretty costly. Not that being armed to the teeth hasn't proven costly, either. But at least there is a "No, I don't feel like surrendering today" option.