Thursday, 6 March 2014


It is widely reported that The Pentagon’s 2015 budget, outlined in the proposal released recently by the Obama Administration, will lead to a smaller military. In what may be a case of too little too late the U.S. is trying to reduce their dept by cutting spending on both defence and non-defence budget items.

It is to be hoped that those responsible in both government and the military are watching events in the United States and planning accordingly.  Unlike the Canadian government the US Government has set out a vision of how budget cuts are likely to impact on the force structures and capabilities of the US military.

It would appear that in future the US military is no longer going to be structured to conduct long term or large stabilization operations. They also accept that technological dominance can no longer be taken for granted in all domains, noting that “ development and proliferation of more advanced military technologies by other nations that means that we are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies, and in space can no longer be taken for granted.”

In Canada there has been little official discussion of Canada’s place in this new ‘New World Order’. It has already been pointed out that although the government has refused to acknowledge it, the Canada First Defence Strategy capital program is no longer affordable, if it ever really was.

This leaves two possibilities, either the Armed Forces will either acquire less capable equipment than they had hoped, or they will acquire fewer platforms than expected. So far it would appear that both the government and the Department of National Defence are leaning towards the latter option.

In the face of new budget shortfalls the DND’s default position will probably prevail: high capability platforms will be bought in fewer numbers based on the assumption that DND will eventually be given additional capital funding to make up for any quantitative shortfalls.

There does not appear to be a policy guiding this decision which suggests that it has not been carefully considered. This in turn means that the government’s already trouble-ridden attempt to replace the CF’s major fleets and the DND’s attempts to maintain readiness are unlikely to succeed as originally planned

If this is to be the case it raises even more questions about the position of the Armed Forces in relation to both its own budget dilemmas and the continuing cuts in U.S. Armed Forces capabilities.  Sir Humphrey at the Thin Pinstriped Line has pointed out (not without a certain amount of schadenfreude at the expense of the Americans) that “The slow reduction of this qualitative and quantitative edge is where there is an opportunity for allies to bring more to the party.”

The question is, what will Canada bring to that party? Sir Humphrey suggests that “as US budgets decline, the opportunity now exists for some allies to take a more influential role. Investing in certain highly niche areas like Cyber, or provision of MPAs, MCMV, aerial tankers may help give them assets which increasingly hard pressed US commanders may welcome. There is opportunity here for allies to acquire and bring real capability to the table, in turn giving them a much more valuable contribution than perhaps previously has been the case.”

Needless to say, none of these assets are even on the acquisition horizon for Canada, and given our inability to procure even the most basic of items it is unlikely that we could procure them in a timely manner even if they were.

Canada’s primary strategic object is to prevent war and its’ security policy must take into account the activities of our major military partner to achieve those objectives. If “managing the Americans” is a constant in Canadian defence policy then our current policy in regards to the U.S. military budget resembles an aging support ship, plodding across the ocean hoping that there won’t be an engine fire because if it should happen, there is no replacement in sight. The metaphor is strained, but we all know how this ends.

Obama scales back military spending, requests defense budget cuts

Secretary of Defense Speech

Recapitalizing the Canadian Forces’ Major Fleets: Assessing Lingering Controversies and Challenges

What do US budget cuts mean for the UK?