The Defence Review (3)


Professor Stephen Saideman, who holds the Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University, has written a piece, in his blog, about the forthcoming defence review. It appears that he and I share several similar concerns:

  • Is this a real white paper that should have some impact on government policy or is it just busy work to cover up the fact that DND will be cut, again and again and again?
  • Where is the grand strategy that ought to “situate” the review? Fo that matter, where is the “strategic survey” that, at least, delineates the threats we face for the next few years, even for a couple of decades?
  • What are the financial constraints?
  • Professor Saideman worries about the format of the consultations. I, on the other hand, worry if the consultations are, in fact, meaningless because the conclusions have already been written by the PMO.

It’s a bit sad, really, that so many people are so skeptical about this review. It suggests that many people are, like me, convinced that Prime Minister Trudeau’s team has, already, “situated the appreciation” and that Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s team will just be tasked to flesh out the details. It suggests that we have grown too cynical .. and both Conservatives and Liberals are to blame for that.

Professor Saideman has a bottom line: “we will only really know if this defence review is a real thing,” he says, and “not just a paper exercise to keep a campaign promise, if it advocates making hard choices and then the government makes hard choices.” But he assumes that the PMO has already set the “end state” because he suggests that the “hard choices” include:

  • Cutting personnel;
  • Closing some bases;
  • Facing the naval tradeoff of subs vs. surface ships;
  • Shrinking the army a bit; and
  • Buying some but not as many fighter planes of some kind.

And those are all “hard choices” indeed and they will be the only choices if, as professor Saideman suggests, “the costs of stuff and of personnel are going to increase faster than the defence budget,” which, if Budget 2016 is the model, will be true.

A proper defence review is long overdue … many people, including me, fear that this one will not do what the Canadian Armed Forces (and, indeed, Canada) so desperately need done: to set out a coherent, achievable, and sensible, to most Canadians, force structure that reflects the state of the real world and that tells Canadians what they need to do (to spend, in other words)  to protect their vital interests in it.

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