Published in The Ploughshares Monitor Volume 35 Issue 2 Summer 2014
When the Canada First Defence Strategy was announced in 2008 the government promised that nearly half-a-trillion dollars would be spent on the operations and equipment of the Canadian Armed Forces over a 20-year period. This budget did not include significant supplementary funding for the Canadian Forces mission in Afghanistan, which ended in 2014.
Recent federal budgets have cut into the promised Department of National Defence (DND) expenditures, however, resulting in DND personnel and equipment cuts, and lengthy program delays. Yet, despite reductions to the promised expenditures, Canada’s annual military spending still reaches almost $19-billion and the DND budget remains the largest piece of the federal discretionary-spending pie.
At the same time, other government departments that play major roles in international security—especially the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD)—have borne significant budget reductions. Additionally, the “whole-of-government” approach to international security issues, which was invoked for the Afghanistan mission 2001-2014 and emphasised collaboration by DND, the Canadian International Development Agency (now part of DFATD), and Foreign Affairs, has lost government favour. There is little evidence that Canada is now taking a broad, multidepartmental approach to international security, let alone to related spending.
Major failings in the acquisition of military equipment are now well documented, exposing an untenable military procurement system. Capital spending is too high (for example, the F-35 JSF aircraft), too low (with funds “unspent” at the end of the year) or too slow (the Sea King helicopter replacement). Perhaps the one point of policy consensus is that the system is broken.
The experts to whom government has turned to improve the procurement system have failed to produce new thinking. The 2013 Jenkins Report, for example, returns to questionable assumptions about the benefits of industrial regional programs and the promotion of military exports.