National Defence is the biggest discretionary spending item in the federal budget and has always been a target for governments trying to cut expenditures, regardless of political party. The recent budget brought down by the current government is no exception.
It would seem redundant to point out that any expenditure cuts to the Armed Forces need to be carefully thought out. Unfortunately the current government views Defence spending as an adjunct to the political process rather then as a basic function of Government. In fact, it would appear that the current government does not distinguish between the Government of Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada. They are quoted as giving the following direction to the Department of National Defence. (1)
"Ceasing activities viewed as priorities by the government of Canada will invite scrutiny into those activities the Army chooses to do at the expense of those items that hold government interest," said the letter, which is meant to guide the army's business planning for the coming year.
"As an example, activities such as the Ceremonial Guard hold particular interest for the (government of Canada) and must be sustained; even at the expense of area programming. Any and all (government of Canada) directed activities will be fulfilled."
David Perry at the Conference of Defence Associations Institute has pointed out in his most recent analysis that even prior to Budget 2013, DND faced a significant fiscal challenge. (2) The existing Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS) was insufficiently resourced to finance its planned capital acquisitions. Inflation as well as the continued inability to spend money on capital acquisition in the year ahead will further reduce the department’s purchasing power. These measures mean that CFDS acquisitions continue to be unaffordable.
An army planning document, obtained by The Canadian Press, shows that land forces expected a further eight per cent hit on operating and maintenance in the coming fiscal plan, in addition to the existing 22 per cent budget reduction. (3)
These latest cuts, estimated in the range of $32 million, will slice into the army's ability to train for operations in the jungle, desert and mountains, and come on top of $226 million in cuts ordered in the government's strategic review and Deficit Reduction Action Plan, says a Jan. 31, 2013 document, written by Lt.-Gen. Peter Devlin.
Three successive budgets have reduced the DND funding allocations directed towards Operations & Maintenance spending. For a more complete analysis check out Colonel (Ret’d) Brian MacDonald’s paper “Waiting for Defence Budget 2013/14”. (4) It is not, however, necessary to analyze the figures to understand them. The governments own figures speak for themselves. (5)
The Government Expenditure Plan and Main Estimates
National Defence: 2013-2014 Estimates
2011–12 2012-2013 2012-2013 2013- 2014
Expenditures Main Estimates Estimates to Date Main Estimates
$19,799,128,095 $19,799,128,095 $20,678,142,610 $17,985,310,381
The Canadian Armed Forces' readiness has already been reduced significantly. Given the governments emphasis on high profile, if not to say ceremonial, projects at the expense of maintenance and training it will only get worse. It is not overly dramatic to point out that these deficiencies may be paid for in blood in the future.
(1) Changing of the guard soldiers about the only ones safe from DND's budget axe
(2) Defence Austerity: An analysis of the Impact to date,
Conference of Defence Associations Institute
David Perry | Defence Analyst
(3) Chief of defence staff prepared for deeper military cuts
(4) Waiting for Defence Budget 2013/14: Fifth of the Canada First Defence Strategy Budgets
(5) The Government Expenditure Plan and Main Estimates
2013–14, Estimates Parts I and IIhttp://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/est-pre/20132014/me-bpd/me-bpd-eng.pdf