26 October 2010

Canada Needs To Trim Military Infrastructure

The Canadian Forces will need to cut back on its current infrastructure spending in order to find the funds needed for upcoming major equipment purchases like the F-35 stealth fighter.
Across the country, the 23 Canadian Forces bases and a host of stations, posts, and support units are what connect men and women in uniform to the society they defend. For small towns and rural areas, they are a key driver of the local economy; for regions, part of the community. And for politicians, they're a way of life they're wary of messing with.

Some former military figures argue the Canadian Forces could get by with as few as a dozen bases. But can Stephen Harper's minority government, always facing a nearby election, risk the politics of closing bases such as CFB Borden in Simcoe County, Ont., where former Tory Helena Guergis is running as an independent?

The conundrum is that if Canada's military doesn't cut bases, it will have to trim people, or training, or planes, or ships. All the plans, including expanding the forces and purchasing a shopping list of equipment - fighter jets, navy ships, maritime-surveillance planes and more - can't be paid for with the money now set aside. Operating costs - personnel, training, maintenance, buildings, and bases - will eat away money to replace equipment.

"It's a sure-fire route to obsolescence, irrelevance, and rust-out," says retired Navy Commodore Eric Lerhe, now an analyst critical of the Forces' overhead costs.

After deep cuts in the 1990s when equipment aged and the forces were downsized, Canadians have seen defence spending increase substantially - up 40 per cent since 2004. But hard long-term choices still have to be made. The Forces will have to cut infrastructure and administration. Even so, buying the fighters the air force wants now might mean passing on ships the navy needs later.

Deficit pressures and a slow economy loom. Those who call for vastly increased spending are unlikely to be satisfied. Barring a major public shift, the political reality is we're unlikely to spend much more. Mr. Harper's pro-military Conservatives trimmed spending-increase plans in their 2010 budget.
By: Shelldrake

No comments: