A Conservative defence policy

The new Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer, didn’t talk much about defence during his campaign, but perhaps he’ll listen just a bit.

One of the few prime responsibilities of the nation-state is to safeguard its own existence … it’s liberty, its freedom of action ~ domestic and foreign ~ and its sovereignty over the lands and waters (and airspace over both) it claims as its own. The state of its military forces is one vital tool for this.

My contention is that Canada’s defences have been sadly neglected by …

… plus a couple who weren’t around very long.

324431fullWe committed, in NATO, to an aspirational goal of spending 2% of GDP on our national defence ~ a sum that makes strategic and economic sense for most NATO members but is very difficult to “sell” politically because Brits and Canadians and Danes and Germans and, and, and much prefer butter to guns. Of course, we need to have both … we cannot afford the guns we need unless our economy is producing enough butter to pay for them.

In my opinion the place to start is by explaining the global strategic situation to Canadians, calmly but accurately, and then explaining what capabilities the country needs to protect Canada’s vital interests from the various threats.

I explained, before, that there is more than one way to look at the military ~ most people look at numbers: how many ships? how many planes? how many tanks and soldiers? how much money? But there is another way: to look at attributes. No matter how politicians (and admirals and generals) try to fudge the numbers there is not, it seems to me, any way to avoid concluding that, at the very least, Canada’s defences are less than well organized.

Slide1Perhaps the start point for a Conservative defence policy is to stress the attributes: to tell Canadians that we are going to have tough, superbly disciplined, well trained and adequately equipped sailors soldier and aviators who are well led and properly organized.

Tdownloadhe next step might, somewhat counter-intuitively, be to cut DND and the CF: to, very carefully, with a surgeon’s scalpel, not a fire axe, cut away the layers of bureaucratic and gold braided fat that are, most assuredly, there. Savings in people, especially can be applied to three high priority tasks:

  • Reforming the defence procurement system to make it efficient, effective and responsive to political and national security requirements;
  • Reforming the reserve forces by cutting the command and control (C²) bloat, giving them new, better equipment, increased full-time support and meaningful, achievable, sensible tasks; and
  • Restructuring the regular forces to have (temporarily, until budget increases allow for new growth) fewer but (nearly) full strength ships, units and squadrons  especially service support (logistics) units.

Then, beginning in, say, 2021, a smaller, lean and mean, defence staff (civil and military) and defence procurement agency can be given more and more money, years after year, for, say, 20+ years until defence spending more than doubles, to be used, carefully, on a list of cabinet priorities ~ on what the country needs, not on what some admirals and generals and senior civil servants or even ministers want.

3 thoughts on “A Conservative defence policy”

  1. All makes sense, Ted. But as you remember, whenever we cut the number of units (battalions, ships etc) in order to fully man and maintain the remainder, we never quite get around to fully manning and maintaining – in fact we reduce both in the next part of the cycle. And then (“The return spring reasserts itself”. Remember that?) in the next cycle we again reduce the number of units. And then we underman and undermaintain, supposedly in order to keep the new lower number of units. And then… so I’d be reluctant to recommend starting that cycle, because it looks to politicians too much like an excuse for further budget cuts rather than an opportunity for growth.

  2. Good god, what a conclusion everyone in the world would get twitchy if the Canadians were well led, well armed and had a decent procurement system, then to expect politicians that were that intellectually honest. the world would think that we were up to something.

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