The Department of National Defence has launched public consultations for the development of a new defence policy for Canada. Canadian Defence Matters is attempting to come up with some answers to the ten questions contained in the Defence Policy Review Public Consultation Document 2016
The final question asked by the Consultation paper is in many ways the most important, and the one whose answers should form the basis for a new Defence policy.
Under the section labeled “Questions relating to contributing to the Defence budget” question ten asks “What resources will the CAF require to meet Canada’s defence needs?”
The section goes on to point out that “This new vision for defence must be affordable” and that the Canadian military has been, on average, resourced at around 1% of Canadian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the past decade while noting that NATO guidelines indicate that member nations should aim to move toward spending 2% of GDP on defence.
Perhaps the most important part of the guidelines offered makes it clear that: “Canada assesses its defence spending in terms of the level of resources required to support an effective and capable CAF. Ultimately, the level of ambition we define for the CAF must be properly resourced, which will require clear priorities and strategic decisions about how to invest limited resources with maximum impact.”
Paying for the defence resources we need is paramount. In many ways military spending is a form of insurance. No one likes paying for insurance because, like the military, the chances are that we will never really need it. But if we do need it, like the military, Canada will be very glad that it made the investment.
Just like a homeowner, Canada needs to decide how much insurance we need, how much we can afford, and what are the risks we are facing. Writing almost seventy five years ago in his book “The Military Problems of Canada” about the period between the First and Second World Wars C.P. Stacey, that doyen of Canadian military historians, said “For sixteen years (it would almost seem) no responsible Canadian statesman ever paused to ask himself these simple and fundamental questions: If this peace proves fleeting, what is the nature of the menaces that will threaten Canada? What form of organization would offer the greatest security against them? How far does the existing organization satisfy these needs?”
In some significant ways the domestic attitude towards defence spending in Canada today is not that different from the conditions that prevailed in Stacey’s time.
Like Raoul Dandurand, Canada’s delegate to the League of Nations from 1927 to 1930, it is still the opinion of many that in international affairs Canada is “a fireproof house, far from inflammable materials.” Of course, it is no truer now than it was then.
The majority of Canadians, and their elected representatives, believe that war is discretionary, essentially a matter of choice. Even in the face of everything we know about human nature and everything we have learned from history it is still widely believed that we will always be able to pick and choose our military involvements.
If it were true we could have a very different military then the one we need, one that could put an emphasis on using its resources for a wide variety of useful, if not strictly military purposes. We could have a military that prioritized activities such as domestic search and rescue, infrastructure building, peace keeping and job creation.
But what we need is a military based on a Defence Policy which considers a combination of known threats and strives to maintain the broad range of military capabilities that are necessary to a well-balanced force within a budget that we can afford.
Military capability cannot be created overnight. Unlike insurance, you cannot buy a military at the last minute. Modern militaries are tremendously complex and equipment can take decades to acquire. Even more important are the people, it will take decades to produce the leaders and organizations that can properly use the technology on a modern battlefield.
“What resources will the CAF require to meet Canada’s defence needs?” The resources the Canadian Armed Forces will require to meet Canada’s defence needs are politicians and a general public willing to ask the question; If this peace proves fleeting, what is the nature of the menaces that will threaten Canada? What form of organization would offer the greatest security against them? How far does the existing organization satisfy these needs? and find the resources to pay for the answers.
Defence Policy Review
Defence Policy Review Public Consultation Document 2016