More so than any other previous defence white paper, one aspect of the Jean Chretien Liberal government's first defence policy paper is consistent with the times: it has a more recent date on it.
Reluctantly one has to admit that this alleged oracle for the next 15 years does reflect the present-day government's main concern. After a year of consulting with (seemingly) each and every one of some 28 million Canadians -- and their dogs, cats and cows -- it wallows, as ever, in the miserable concept of the "D" word. D-E-B-T.
"The new policy respects the government's commitment to reducing deficit," said Minister of National Defence David Collenette, last Friday. As a blueprint for the future the new defence policy paper cuts the capital defence budget by some $15 billion over the next 15 years.
Air Command will take it on the chin to the tune of some 25 percent in reductions. The number of operational fighter aircraft will be reduced, annual flying hours will be cut back, and personnel will be reduced. The CF-5 fleet, with an estimated life expectancy to 2000 after an extensive refit, will be retired. The Canadair-built fighter-trainer entered the Canadian inventory in 1968.
"To enable us to meet defence requirements in the post-Cold War era, the Department Of National Defence and the Canadian Forces will fundamentally change the way they do business in the coming years," said Collenette. That is made bluntly obvious by the white paper's planned job cuts.
Adding to high unemployment levels, and continuing the trend of the past four decades, the strength of the Canadian Forces Regular Force will be further reduced from the current level of 74,900 to 60,000 over the next five years. The CF's primary Reserve Force will be reduced to 23,000 from 29,400, meanwhile civilian staff cuts will also be extensive, in the vicinity of 12,500. The Department of National Defence's personnel cuts will eventually total 33,800.
NDHQ will experience some significant cutbacks and reductions through the remaining 1990s, as will others of DND's various support operations. Collenette says the government hopes that the savings will be better spent on combat forces.
Mobile Command, the "army", will get a booster shot in the arm; three thousand extra troops will theoretically make the army more capable and more flexible to meet the growing demand for ground forces in Canada's bid for Global Security as part of its various collective security alliances. "Peacekeeping" is the byword. The army will also get new armoured vehicles to match its blue helmets.
New armoured personnel carriers are on the government's shopping list
although that has happened before without result. The white paper recommends
that new APCs be in service by 1997.
"We will have a military in step with the 21st century, protecting Canadians and upholding our values and vital security interests, domestically and internationally," said Collenette last Friday.
For Maritime Command, our navy, slightly used Upholder-class submarines have become a key target on Collenette's shopping list. What's this? The Liberals are now going to buy submarines? Well, they always said we needed diesel-electrics, not nukes.
John Major and Malcom Rifkind have been contemplating selling off as many as half a dozen of the British-designed SSKs. The Chretien government likes the idea. Canada's waterlogged Oberon-class submarines should have been paid out some time ago, perhaps because they are prone to leak badly. But the white paper says the government will only explore the possibility. Well, you don't have to be a modern-day Christopher Columbus to know that the Pinta, Nina and Santa Maria are no longer up to the task. We have debated the old Oberons' replacement with suggestions of everything from Rubis to Trafalgars, hybrids to Walrus's, and gosh knows what else since the early 1980s. We are now considering the "possibility"? We trust the Chretien government will consult with Washington to make certain the Jesuits approve the concept, before consulting with Canadians. Why not make it an election issue? Or just buy the damn things.
After dumping overboard a billion dollars or more from DND's helicopter budget and after killing one year ago a Major Crown Project and a Crown contract to buy replacement helicopters for the CH-124A and the CH-113, the Liberal government has announced that it has discovered an urgent need to buy replacements for the Sea King and Labrador fleets. How do you feel?
It should at least please Maritime Command to know that aircraft to replace the Sikorsky-built CH-124A Shipborne helicopters -- at a cost yet unknown -- are to be in service by 2000. That timing also applies to replacements for the Boeing Vertol-built CH-113/113A search and rescue helicopters.
Both aircraft types up for replacement were introduced into service in 1963. The CH-113 Labrador and 113A are derivatives of the Boeing Vertol BV107/UH-46. The CH-113A was originally an olive drab army machine named the Voyageur, but was subsequently converted to search and rescue operation. The name was dropped. The intended successor to these venerable relics along with the CH-124A was to have been a Canadianized version of the EH Industries EH-101, a modern three-engined maritime machine considerably larger than the Sea King.
Don't entirely rule out an inexpensive Bell helicopter solution to the present replacement problem. The Liberal's have said they will do the job for much less cost than the Tories' EH-101 project. And the Grits are more than $1 billion in the hole at the starting gate.
Don't let these tales of ambitious(?) capital equipment programmes blow your mind. An average one-billion-dollars-per-year will be cut from DND's already haggard procurement budget. Statutory costs to run the department will also drop as force size is reduced over the next few years.
In all, this butchery done on National Defence at the end of 1994 is the best piece of axe work since the Tory budget of April 1989. The Canadian Forces is becoming The Incredible Shrinking Whipping Boy as the Canadian national debt grows and grows and grows. The 1994 white paper is kind of a sad statement of reality. At a time when Canada is deep in debt, it has lost interest in national security. The new policy is not unexpected.
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