21 July 2012

Empty Promises on Canadian Defense Investments?

The Economist has a bleak outlook on plans vs reality in Canadian defense spending.

One of the main ways Stephen Harper, Canada’s Conservative prime minister, has sought to distinguish himself from his Liberal predecessors is by building a modern army ready to fight, rather than merely for peacekeeping. In the 2011 election campaign he promised to fulfil a C$15 billion ($15 billion) contract for 65 F-35 fighter aircraft despite a tough economy. In October he announced Canada’s biggest-ever arms order, for naval and coastguard ships costing C$35 billion. The structure of the procurement was widely praised for avoiding political interference.

But the glow has not lasted. In April Canada’s auditor-general found that the government had misled Parliament, deliberately underestimating the price of the F-35s by almost C$10 billion, by excluding replacement aircraft, upgrades and training and maintenance costs. On July 4th Mr Harper named a new junior minister at the defence department as the deal’s spokesman. But procurement remains awkwardly split between the defence and public-works ministries. One result was that last year the military forfeited C$600m allocated for equipment but not spent.

Last month Walter Natynczyk, the outgoing chief of the defence staff, criticised a delay in signing detailed contracts for the shipbuilding scheme. The navy fears it will fall victim to a C$3.5 billion cut in defence spending over the next seven years. On July 11th the armed forces were given new cause to worry, when the army scrapped bidding on a C$800m lorry contract for lack of funds, minutes before the deadline.

By: Brant

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