Sunday, 16 December 2018


Canadian Defence Matters has argued in the past that a suitable number of firearms should be purchased as an “interim” measure to deal with a newly discovered capability gap. (One no doubt caused by a previous Conservative government’s mismanagement of the Small Arms Modernization Project).

 It would appear that this is what is to happen. It has been reported that an Army Interim Pistol (AIP) project which is expected to sustain Army capability for up to 10 years, until the GSP project can plug the entire capability gap resulting from the Brownings’ withdrawal has been initiated. 

With an approved budget of just under $5 million, taxes included, the AIP project is for the purchase of 4,738 weapons, including 508 for depot retention, all deemed “critical to meet the operational capability requirement of Regular Force units.” But if support for the Reserves, which is one of the stated goals of Canada’s defence plan “Strong Secure Engaged”, is included then this would boost the overall buy to 7,627 once 2,580 are added for the Reserves and 309 for depot inventory. This number would represent about half of the pistols currently allocated to the entire CAF. 

It is also reported, although no mention of the Army Interim Pistol project can be found on any government website, that it will take two years to complete this purchase. It should also be noted that if the CAF were to purchase 7,627 firearms from a budget of just $5 million then the average cost for each weapon would be about $655.00. This seems unlikely.

Perhaps what is necessary if an interim-interim pistol project?  Rather than take two years to purchase an indeterminate number of weapons why not take the five million dollars in hand and use it immediately to purchase 5,000 Sig Sauer P320’s (the civilian version of the U.S. Army’s standard sidearm) at commercial rates.
These weapons could be used as ‘gap fillers’ until the Army Interim Project can find a weapon to be used until the Small Arms Modernization Project can meet its 2035 deadline.

Of course time it is vital that a competition for all aspects of the Small Arms Modernization project should be held, later in the government’s mandate of course. Therefore, to re-enforce the interim nature of these interim weapons, they should be designated as a Provisional Interim Substitute Transitional Ordnance-Limited Service or “P.I.S.T.O.L.S.” in all future discussions.


ARCHIVED - Small Arms Modernization

Gun shy: A protracted procurement to replace the general service pistol
Dec 4, 2018 | Equiment, News, Procurement

Strong, secure, engaged : Canada's defence policy.


Sunday, 2 December 2018


It has recently been announced that, at least provisionally, the Type 26 frigate from BAE Systems has been chosen as the winner of a competition to provide a design for Canada’s next generation of warships. In keeping with the finest traditions of Canadian procurement programs this announcement was followed shortly afterward by a court order to postpone the award of the $60B contract because the warship design selected may not meet the stated requirements.

  The Department of Defence (DND) and the government had originally decided that budget constraints necessitated the selection of a "Military Off-The-Shelf" (MOTS) product to limit the risk of escalating costs and delays. In such a competition, a government chooses amongst existing designs. This strategy suggested that a fixed-price contract for an adaptable MOTS product would be pursued.

As James Hasik has pointed out the Type 26 frigate from BAE Systems is not a MOTS product. No Type 26s are yet in service anywhere, so the risks and costs that typically attend the selection of an unproven and untested ship should have been considered as critical determinants in the competitive process.

At this point it would appear that those doing the selection have undermined the integrity of the process by choosing a design which will inescapably multiply the risk, cost and delays to the largest defence procurement in Canada's history.

Warships are expensive investments in national security. Today, a multi-purpose frigate can cost more than $2 billion; a price that most navies find puts constraints on the number of warships which can be procured. This is particularly true of the Royal Canadian Navy which is restricted by government edict to ships built in Canadian ship yards at what are, in international terms, uncompetitive rates.

It has become obvious that Canada will never have the navy which our military professionals believe we need as long as Canadians continue to elect governments which will not budget the amounts necessary to achieve the goals of either self-sufficiency or national security. This is particularly true of governments who prise political expediency over fiscal responsibility.

Given that our navy must be built within the narrow budget allocated for maritime defence the question becomes not “can we build the navy we need” but rather, “what is the best navy we can get for the money available”? This means looking at the mix of ships that budget and personal and politics allow for and deciding which will come closest to achieving the goal of having sufficient naval forces.

Currently the government plans to build 15 surface combatants designed to be capable of meeting multiple threats in both open oceans and complex coastal environments, ensure that Canada continues to monitor and defend its waters and contribute significantly to international naval operations. It has been stated that these ships are to replace the Royal Canadian Navy's Iroquois-class destroyers and Halifax-class frigates. No coherent rational has ever been given to explain how the number of frigates deemed necessary was arrived at. The suspicion is that it is simply the largest number the Navy thought they could get.

The RCN needs more than surface ships however. In order to meet Canada’s defensive needs, the RCN must have an effective submarine capacity. Canadian submarine interests can be divided into three categories: the defence of Canada and North America; supporting Canadian expeditionary deployments; and supporting Canada’s interest in global maritime stability. In the final analysis without submarines Canada cannot have the vital maritime situational awareness as to who is operating in our waters.

According to a 2017 Senate Report “Submarines are likely to remain the dominant naval platform for the foreseeable future, and hence are an essential component of a balanced combat effective navy.” According to that same report “An enhanced submarine capability is vital for the Royal Canadian Navy. The current fleet of four Victoria-class submarines is inadequate to provide an effective presence in three oceans and a much larger fleet is required. Since about one-quarter of any submarine fleet is often in a scheduled refit or maintenance period, only three out of four vessels are operational. This modest capability is divided between two coasts. Moreover, the Victoria-class submarines do not possess an under-ice capability making them an ineffective instrument in Canada’s Arctic. A modern submarine fleet will allow Canada to defend its own coasts, sea lanes, ports and harbours from sea mines and under water threats, while simultaneously contributing to NORAD and NATO operations in a high readiness state.”

Undeterred by these facts it is reported that the government has rejected a Commons defence committee recommendation that the Victoria-class subs be replaced with new submarines capable of under-ice capabilities. They are quoted as saying that: “The government has also committed to modernizing the four Victoria-class submarines to include weapons and sensor upgrades that will enhance the ability of the submarines to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and deliver necessary improvements of platform and combat systems to extend operational capability to the mid-2030’s”.

Writing in the Canadian Naval Review Michael Byers has noted that “Instead of hiding behind another round of refits, the government should face up to the fact that Canada’s submarine capability is running out of time. As Chief of Maritime Staff Paul Maddison told the Senate National Security and Defence Committee in 2012“I would envision initiating a next-generation submarine discussion within the next three or four years to ensure there is no gap in submarine capability, which is what we faced in the 1990s.” In other words, a decision is urgently needed.”

The enforced halt to the Canadian Surface Combatant program may give us a last chance to reconsider the mix of ships appropriate to Canada’s needs and budget. In the same article Byers points out that the cost of a modern submarine is approximately one quarter that of the kinds of frigates Canada is procuring. This would suggest that by cutting just one or two surface ships from our current program of record would give Canada a force of up to 8 modern submarines along with more than a dozen multi-purpose surface warships. Such a force would appear to be at least as useful as, and much more militarily effective than, the force we are currently on track to acquire.  

Unfortunately submarines are not built in Canada. Nor, after watching Australia’s example, is it likely that we should wish to do so. It would of course be perfectly possible to purchase submarines from Western allies and ensure that servicing and maintenance could be done in Canada by Canadian based companies.

The reason that this is unfortunate is because it has become obvious that the government regards military procurement programs as job creation programs. As long as the government and the public are content with this state of affairs than there is little hope that a rational and balanced naval fleet can be achieved.

If national security and military efficiency were ever found to be of use in determining military budgets then maintaining an increased submarine fleet, even if at the expense of the surface fleet, would become a valid option.  

Lockheed Martin selected as preferred designer for Canada's next generation of warships

Feds ordered to postpone award of $60B contract because warship may not meet requirements such as speed

Commentary:  Getting It Right For The RCN And Canadian Taxpayer - By James Hasik

Shipbuilding projects to equip the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard


Canadian Forces says submarines can operate until mid-2020s - but still no details on how fleet will be upgraded

Canada’s Submarines are Sunk Costs
Michael Byers

$100 billion babies: Defence reveals true cost of new submarines for taxpayers

Babcock receives extension to Victoria In-Service Support Contract

Saturday, 10 November 2018



Once again as Remembrance Day, November 11, approaches we see the phenomenon of ‘poppy creep’. This is the growing trend of all the good and great to wear a poppy as early and as ostentatiously as possible. Before even the last trick-or-treater has disappeared, the talking heads of media and politics will have donned their yearly poppy regalia.

It has become something of a race in our culture to see who can show the greatest respect by being among the first to be adorned with the red flower. One hopes that it is not just because we all find it much easier to make the annual token show of respect then to actually think about or, even more unlikely, do anything for the military veterans of Canada’s wars.

Poppies themselves have symbolized death in war since at least the Napoleonic wars, but it was John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” that helped to popularize that meaning of that flower internationally.

The field poppy itself is an annual plant which flowers each year between about May and August. Its seeds are disseminated on the wind and can lie dormant in the ground for a long time.

The spring of 1915 was the first time that warm weather had begun to warm up the countryside after the cold winter at war in 1914-1915. In the region around Ypres in Belgian Flanders the months of April and May 1915 were unusually warm.

The once-rich soil in the fields along the Western Front had become infused with lime from the enormous artillery bombardments, leaving it barren where nothing would grow.Except for the poppies.

This is what happened in parts of the front lines in Belgium and France. Once the ground was disturbed by the fighting, the poppy seeds lying in the ground began to germinate and grow.

The bright red flowers, as delicate as they are, grew by the millions, thriving amid the destruction and often overgrew on the mass graves of soldiers.

In April of 2015, Guelph, Ontario’s John McCrae — a doctor and professor of medicine at McGill University who quickly enlisted with outbreak of war — had spent 17 gruelling days caring for the wounded and performing surgery on Canadian and Allied troops at the Second Battle of Ypres in western Belgium.

Exhausted and distraught by the loss of a close friend, seeing the sea of red poppies that had sprung up in the disturbed ground of the burials around the artillery position he was in, he jotted down a poem on a scrap of paper.

The familiar lines of McCrae’s poem have become some of the most famous words written in relation to the First World War.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below

While that poem has become famous his was not the only attempt to use poetry to find reason in the madness of war.

British poet, Isaac Rosenberg wrote the poem called “Break of Day in the Trenches” that implicitly contrasts the appearance of the poppy with its black center and floppy burst of red leaves to a gunshot wound frozen in time.

The darkness crumbles away.
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet’s poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies.
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver—what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in man’s veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe—
Just a little white with the dust.

The dark but realistic view of war embodied by that poem and that poppy behind the writer’s ear is, by the grace of God, not familiar to most of us who stuff  a few dollars into the tray at Tim Hortons and wear our plastic flowers to show our membership in the community of those who “care”.

So when you see a poppy on November 11th remember that it isn’t about the person wearing it or about you, it is about death and dying and a horror that you are spared from because of the men and women who stood on guard for thee.

School children in Canada are reminded every year of John McCrae's poem " In Flanders Fields" and the poppies that are worn for remembrance day. The poppies, and to a lesser extent the poem, are common on November the 11th all over the Commonwealth.

Those symbols and even the date, are not as commonly commemorated in the United States. This is unlikely because the wearing of the poppy and it's connection to "In Flanders Fields" are an American invention. 

The idea for the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy was conceived by Moina Michael in November of 1918 while she was working at the YMCA Overseas War Secretaries headquarters. While reading a magazine she came across a page that carried a vivid colour illustration for the poem "We Shall Not Sleep" (as the poem was miss-titled in the United States)

The lush illustration in the Ladies Home Journal, an advertisement for the surgical supply company Bauer and Black, featured a Philip Lyford painting of American doughboys rising to heaven. It was, by current standards, overly sentimental. Ms. Michael's reaction to it was also more in keeping with the attitudes of that time then with our own. She made a personal pledge to ‘keep the faith’ and vowed always to wear a red poppy of Flanders Fields as a sign of remembrance and as an emblem for “keeping the faith with all who died.”

After the war was over, Michael returned to the University of Georgia and taught a class of disabled servicemen. Realizing the need to provide financial and occupational support for these servicemen, she pursued the idea of selling silk poppies as a means of raising funds to assist disabled veterans. In 1921, her efforts resulted in the poppy being adopted as a symbol of remembrance for war veterans by the American Legion Auxillery, and by Earl Haig's British Legion Appeal Fund later that year.

Moina Michael's response to " In Flanders Fields" is in stark contrast to the ideals which inform our own, more enlightened, age. It is widely understood now that the correct attitude to the current generation of  veterans is to wear a poppy for a week or so around the beginning of November and take a minute or two of silence on the eleventh. 

This is the most that can, or should, be expected of the general public. The government is in charge of caring for veterans, although to be fair it is not considered to be a particularly important issue during elections. As long as the whole subject is kept out of mind for the rest of the year, the government is seen to be doing it's duty and as for the rest of us, we wear a poppy in November.

Not content with "keeping faith" Moina Michaels was moved to write a poem in response to Capt. McCrae's ode. 

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red

We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

 November 11 is the date we traditionally remember our veterans. The Red Poppies that are so commonly worn have come to mean less about the war that spawned them, or the wars that followed, or the political leanings of those who wear them, but rather they have become a show of respect for veterans.

 The truth is that things don’t change much for soldiers or veterans, including the way we think about them, or don’t think about them at all, when it isn’t November 11th.

 Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, born September 8, 1886 died September 1, 1967 was one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry described the horrors of the trenches, and attacked the patriotic pretensions of those he held responsible for the war.

Suicide In The Trenches

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

When we take a little time to remember the men and women of our Armed Forces on November 11th, we should spend some of that time remembering that, for some, the battles go on long after the war has ended


 In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John Alexander McCrae, MD (November 30, 1872 – January 28, 1918)

McCrae served in the artillery during the Second Boer War. When the United Kingdom declared war on Germany at the start of World War ICanada, as a Dominion within the British Empire, was at war as well. McCrae was appointed as a field surgeon in the Canadian artillery and was in charge of a field hospital during the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915. McCrae's friend and former student, Lt. Alexis Helmer, was killed in the battle.

Lieutenant Alexis Helmer was an officer in the 2nd Battery, 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery. On the morning of Sunday 2nd May Lieutenant Helmer left his dugout and was killed instantly by a direct hit from an 8 inch German shell. What body parts could be found were later gathered into sandbags and laid in an army blanket for burial that evening.

Lieutenant Helmer was buried on the 2nd May. In the absence of the chaplain, Major John McCrae conducted a simple service at the graveside, reciting from memory some passages from the Church of England's 'Order of Burial of the Dead'. A wooden cross marked the burial place.

 Lieutenant Colonel Morrison who served in the same unit later wrote about the small burial ground where Alexis Helmer was originally buried. As he described it: “A couple of hundred yards away, there was the headquarters of an infantry regiment and on numerous occasions during the sixteen day battle, we saw how they crept out to bury their dead during lulls in the fighting. So the rows of crosses increased day after day, until in no time at all it had become quite a sizeable cemetery. Just as John described it, it was not uncommon early in the morning to hear the larks singing in the brief silences between the bursts of the shells and the returning salvos of our own nearby guns.”

The day after the funeral for Lt. Helmer Major McCrae was seen writing the poem while sitting on the rear step of an ambulance the next day while looking at Helmer's grave and the vivid red poppies that were springing up in the burial ground. Some say that McCrae was so upset after Helmer's burial that he wrote the poem in twenty minutes in an attempt to compose himself.

John McCrae suffered from severe asthma all his life, In January, 1918, while commanding No. 3 Canadian General Hospital(McGill) at Boulogne, McCrae contracted pneumonia. He died six days later. His flag-draped coffin was borne on a gun carriage and the mourners – who included Sir Arthur Currie and many of McCrae's friends and staff – were preceded by McCrae's charger, "Bonfire", with McCrae's boots reversed in the stirrups.

Every generation has had their own interpretation of the last verse of the poem. Are we fighting for Peace, or just to defeat the Hun? Who is the foe? What do we owe the fallen?  Do we keep faith by simply asking the questions, or is more required of us?

Every generation has to find their own answers, on this Remembrance day we think about those who decided that the answers included making the ultimate sacrifice

November 11 is the date we traditionally remember our veterans. The Red Poppies so commonly worn have come to mean less about the war that spawned them, or the wars that followed or the political leanings of those who wear them but rather they are a show of respect for veterans. When we take a little time to remember the men and women of our Armed Forces, we can spend some of that time remembering how we think about them when it isn’t November 11th.

The poem “Tommy” by Rudyard Kipling was first printed in the Scots Observer in the first half of 1890, and later published in “Barrack-Room Ballads and Other Verses” in 1892.  While Kipling remains controversial in some circles for his defence of the British Empire much of his work is still surprisingly relevant.  With its language only a little updated his poem “Tommy” could easily apply to Canadian soldiers today.


I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
    O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
    But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
    For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
    But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
    The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
    O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
    Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
    But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
    The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
    O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
    While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
    But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
    There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
    O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
    For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
    But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
    An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
    An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

It is important to remember that things don’t change much for soldiers or veterans, including the way we think about them, or don’t think about them at all, when it isn’t November 11th.

Friday, 14 September 2018


 It can be argued that, as a “junior partner” since World War 2, Canada has followed the British and American lead in security and defence, subordinating its national interest to the goals of our allies and alliances.

There are good reasons for Canada to have followed this approach in the past. Following the lead of our allies appears to improve Canada’s standing in the world, especially amongst peer allied nations, and allows Canada to exercise some leadership in international affairs.  This increased leadership role allows Canada to further its interests through diplomacy. These policies also make it possible for the Government of Canada to highlight perceived successes abroad so as to increase popular support for its foreign policy and raise awareness of the role of the Armed Forces in maintaining security.

However this is not the only policy option available. As a sovereign power Canada can set its own strategic priorities.  Moreover, by continuing the historical pattern of letting alliance leaders determine its’ strategy, the case can be made that Canada is abdicating its responsibility to protect its own national interests.

The Canadian Armed Forces spend time and resources estimating the capabilities and kinds of forces they may confront in the future. The need to assess the probable opposition is driven by the requirement to determine what resources will be necessary to meet those threats. The time has come to start making the same estimations about the capabilities and intentions of those allies who, at least in the past, we have expected to be fighting alongside. These assessments should be driven by the same need to determine the resources necessary to meet the goals of the Government of Canada.

We are approaching the point at which it becomes necessary to take a more active role in safeguarding our own security interests.  As quoted in MacLean’s Magazine while discussing his book “America: The Farewell Tour” author Chris Hedges is quoted as saying: “America is an empire. So we’re much more fragile than nation-states, non-imperial countries. You see that throughout history: the ancient Greeks invading Sicily, and their entire fleet sunk, thousands of soldiers killed and their empire becoming unsustainable; or in 1956 when Britain tries to invade Egypt after the nationalization of the Suez Canal, retreats in humiliation and thereby triggers a financial crisis and the end of the pound sterling as a reserve currency, marking the death of the British Empire, which had been on a slow descent since the end of World War One. The dollar as the world’s current reserve currency is running on fumes. The moment that’s over, American financial supremacy is instantly finished. It will be very similar to the aftermath of the Suez disaster—something like that is always characteristic of late empire. And the fragility of an empire means that when collapse comes it’s almost instantaneous. You look back at the rapid final fall of the old Soviet Union. A failing empire is like a house of cards that just comes down—it’s not a slow descent. We know from history what happens. It’s not a mystery.”

This is not just speculation. The U.K.’s Global Strategic Trends describes a 2045 People’s Republic of China (PRC) with an economy more than double that of the United States ($62.9 trillion versus $30.7 trillion) and noting that even today, the PRC military may already be “close to matching that of the U.S., perhaps exceeding it in some areas.”  Studies show that the trajectory of PRC growth means that it poses a far greater economic challenge to the United States than did Soviet Russia, Imperial Japan, or Nazi Germany.

There is a growing understanding that the ability of the United States to afford the kind of resources it spent over the Cold War years on furnishing defense for its allies will inevitably become more challenging over the balance of the twenty-first century. From 1940 to 2017, U.S. government debt averaged 61.70 percent of GDP. For 2017, that debt ratio soared to 105 percent of GDP, a level not seen since 1946. The United States today has accumulated more government debt than any other country in the world and is approaching the point at which it can no longer afford to finance its allies’ post WWII traditions of not taking on more responsibility for their own defense.

Even absent the collapse of the American ‘empire’ the time of lone American superpower status is passing. Relative U.S. economic and technological decline may translate into significant strategic and military challenges more rapidly than many expect, leaving allies like Canada with the requirement to modify their foreign and defence policies.  

Such a reappraisal is not just a prescription for increased defence expenditure.  A brave new world in which Canada takes a greater responsibility for its own security may well result in a decision that commitments should be more in line with capabilities.

In the past Canadian Forces have taken part in operations that were only vaguely related to Canadian interests, not committing to those kinds of operations in the future would free up resources to take part in more nationally-relevant operations. Maintenance and readiness have both suffered from over-stretch. Reducing the number of extraneous deployments would decrease costs and increase readiness.

More care in selecting operations, based on realistic commitments and driven by changing geopolitical realities, would let Canada set its own priorities and allow the Armed Forces and our allies to plan based on actual capabilities.

Canadians like to see themselves as citizens of middle power that ‘punches above its weight’. It is not true. There are 195 assorted nations in the world. In terms of economy Canada has roughly the tenth largest in the world. In terms of defence spending in dollar terms Canada is the fourteenth largest spender in the world. Even in population Canada is bigger than 157 of those 195 countries.

Canada is not a small country; we are not even a middle power. Canada is a large country that actually punches well below its weight. The time is rapidly approaching when we will no longer have the luxury of pretending otherwise.

America: The Farewell Tour

Global Strategic Trends – Out to 2045

Andrew Krepinevich, Preserving the Balance: A U.S. Eurasia Defense Strategy,

Reality Check: NATO's Defense Budget Woes Won't Disappear

Economy of Canada

List of countries by military expenditures

Countries in the world by population (2018)