Canadian Armed Forces (CAF); Strong, Secure, Engaged?
Today, June 6, 2019 is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied forces landing on the beaches of Normandy, hence a good time to both remember those Canadians that made the ultimate sacrifice, and to survey the current state of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Of the 4,400 Allied soldiers who died on June 6, 1944 Canadian soldiers represented 359, 8% of the total allied soldiers killed in battle on the 1st day (5,000 Canadians perished during the full Normandy campaign). The full 14,000 Canadian contingent at Normandy during Operation Overlord were volunteer soldiers. Talk about an out-sized contribution! Canada’s population was 12 million in 1944. Since the end of WWII and the formation of the United Nations in ’45, Canada has contributed 125,000 troops to peacekeeping efforts globally, with 130 fatalities, the 2nd highest of any country contributing troops to “peacekeeping”, a term applied to UN military intervention operations.
Canada’s Dept. of National Defence (DND) has the largest annual expenditure of any government department, by good measure, at $25.5bln ($26.3bln is spent on debt service, as a point of reference). This $25.5bln number represents 7.5% of the federal budget and 1.2% of GDP. NATO recommends a 2% of GDP spend for member states, which would be $42.5bln (+68% from the current $25.5bln budget), for reference. Number 2 & 3 departments, Indigenous Services Canada and Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) spend $11bln combined.
A roadmap for improvement has been mapped under Hon. Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defense, which includes;
- >6.5bln to DND budget over the next 6 years. Total budget $62.5bln in 20years. Total budget $32.7bln 2026/27. New $155 million for a Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. 88 new jets ordered. Equipment budget +32% by 2024–25.
Current state of play;
An excessive portion of the annual operating budget is spent on salary and pensions.
Canada would struggle to deploy:
-One squadron (16 planes) of 35 year old CF-18’s (88 new jets on order,as noted)
-More than 3 of 12 frigates.
-A sustained brigade of 5,000 soldiers.
Cutting defense budgets in peacetime is an obvious inclination, but a foolish barter when one considers the heightened global perils we currently face. We don’t choose when & where conflict rares its’ head, and we ignore the mounting risks at our collective peril.
The USA currently funds 22% of the UN budget and 28% of the UN peacekeeping budget. US administrations from 1985 have protested the apparent largess and payment of UN dues have been partially withheld, to the point of the United States having risked losing their UN voting rights. The US remain a voting member despite a $1.3bln IOU outstanding. Canada’s UN dues of $76 million are fully paid up for 2019.
Gauging scope for improvement, even within the current $25.5bln budget, is not difficult. It is important to try and fix the big things first. The teams have morphed somewhat, but it is still Allies versus Axis and if Canada want to retain a seat at the big person table, there is a baseline level of capability that must be met. We currently fall short of this threshold in my view (and that of my campaign members with direct military experience/background).
Fellow Commonwealth member Australia (on a comparable budget to Canada), along with countries like Singapore and Israel have adopted a force structure and funding approach that is leading to better readiness outcomes. For Canada, this would mean less budget spent in HQ (Ottawa) and hiring new recruits on a contract basis (i.e. 1 yr training, 2 years active duty, with funds allocated to further their education and/or trade), after which the top decile would be offered permanent positions as career officers and NCO’s. Over time, this would reduce the growth rate in the pension liability of the Canadian Forces (CF) ensuring more $ for improved, measurable readiness capability. There are 176,000 current and former members of the Public Service — Armed Forces and RCMP.
Canada’s current contribution to UN peacekeeping, less than 75 (not a typo) of 70,000, is at the lowest level since 1956. In 1956 Lester B Pearson managed to execute perhaps the biggest global diplomatic win as Canadian Foreign Minister (and eventually PM), successfully convincing other member nations via a compact 78 word proposal in front of the UN General Assembly to avoid war with Egypt in what is now termed “ the Suez Crisis”.
Commitments have been made to get Canada back to a peacekeeping force of 750.
A plan to meet this Canadian peacekeeping contingent commitment, within a reasonable time frame, could include nautical Cape Breton, specifically the Canadian Coast Guard College (CCGC) in Westmount, NS;
In addition to the 4 year cadet training for service in the Canadian Coast Guard, which includes a Bachelor of Technology (Nautical Science) from Cape Breton University (CBU), the Coast Guard College could diversify into peacekeeping training. This would be undertaken as a subordinate unit of the Canadian Army Doctrine and Training Centre. Currently, peacekeepers are trained exclusively at the Peace Support Training Centre (PSTC) at CFB Kingston, in Ontario. On a similar force readiness basis to the CAF, noted above, peacekeeping volunteers (both male and female) would be trained for a period of 1 year, upon which graduates would be issued a peacekeeping certificate. Top decile performers would be offered additional training and active UN peacekeeping duty while others could form a peacekeeper’s reserve while advancing their education/trade. With 243,000 km. of coastline and key shipping lines to be monitored and protected, a coastal centre of excellence could well get us on tact for Strong, Secure, Engaged.
We have both the facility (with an expansion underway) and the spirit (NS Highlanders, aka North Novies) all we require, incrementally, is the resolve. Caleb Gibbons #JCG19