– Canadian government plans to spend US$420 billion over the next 20 years to revamp the country’s military
– The stable and predictable funding will allow the government to allocate resources and enhance capabilities necessary to meet defense needs and combat 21st century threats
– The Canada First Defense Strategy strongly emphasizes interoperability with the United States military
In June 2008, the Canadian government quietly released the details of its extensive plan to increase the size of its military, including spending US$490 billion over the next 20 years to ensure Canadian soldiers are well-equipped, well-trained, and highly active.
Specific details of the plan, known as Canada First Defense Strategy, were posted on June 19, 2008 on the Department of National Defense’s website with little warning that the document would be released. However, attention was brought to a new military and defense strategy in May 2008 when Canadian Prime Minister (PM) Stephan Harper announced his government had a new strategy for the country’s military, but released few details.
At the time, critics said the strategy was nothing more than a speech, particularly because PM Harper failed to offer documents to substantiate his statements. However, released a little more than a week ago, the Canada First Defense Strategy offers a new look at the country’s armed forces and its defined missions.
The Canada First Defense Strategy provides a detailed road map for the modernization of the Canadian Forces, producing a first-class, modern military that is well trained, well equipped and ready to take on the challenges of the 21st century. According to the government, the military must maintain the ability to conduct six core missions within Canada, North America, and the international arena, sometimes simultaneously. The missions include:
– Conduct daily domestic and continental operations, including in the Arctic and through NORAD
– Support a major international event in Canada, such as the 2010 Olympics
– Respond to a major terrorist attack
– Support civilian authorities during a crisis in Canada, such as a natural disaster
– Lead and/or conduct a major international operation for an extended period of time
– Deploy forces in response to crisis elsewhere in the world for shorter periods
The 20-year plan includes an annual spending increase of two percent starting in 2011 that will boost the defense budget to US$30 billion in 2027-2028 from the current level of US$18 billion. The US$490 billion expected to be spent over the next 20 years will include US$250 billion on personnel, with the military’s numbers increasing to 70,000 regular members and 30,000 reservists. This would represent an 8,000-member increase in the regular army and a 5,000-member increase in reservists. Another US$140 billion will be spent on training and maintenance of equipment, as well as an additional US$40 billion on military buildings and infrastructure.
Major cuts to the defense budget in the 1990’s have done considerable damage to the capabilities of the country’s armed forces, resulting in an overall degradation of equipment, affecting all three services. While a series of episodic increases between 1999 and 2005 helped the budget to grow in real terms, it was not predictable and negatively affected the overall modernization of the Canadian Forces.
One of the main objectives of the Canada First Defense Strategy is to establish stability and predictably in defense funding, providing a firm foundation for the rebuilding of the country’s military. The stable and predictable funding will allow the government to strategically allocate resources and enhance capabilities necessary to meet defense needs and combat 21st century threats.
The commitment to long-term funding and to the detailed procurement strategy will provide new opportunities and greatly benefit Canadian defense industries, which will ultimately allow companies to align their long-term manufacturing, support, and research and develop programs to meet specific military requirements.
With the emergence of new and difficult security challenges, including failed and failing states, civil wars, and transnational terrorism, Canada was slow to adjust to these new realities. Until this new proposal, under-investment in the Canadian Forces left the military unprepared to deal effectively with the increasingly complex global environment, especially as developments that occur abroad can have a profound impact on the safety and interests of Canadian citizens.
For Canada, the Afghanistan mission has demonstrated the importance of having a military that can operate far from its borders on a sustained basis and in a dangerous environment. The lessons from the mission will be incorporated as the military adjusts its doctrine and capability requirements outlined in the Canada First Defense Strategy.
Canada is the latest country experiencing a force transformation that will ultimately allow its armed forces to become more mobile and be able to quickly deploy to global hot spots, as well as dealing with potential disasters within its borders.
Additionally, the plan illustrates a strong emphasis on interoperability with the United States military, both for the defense of North America and missions abroad, something that will likely be welcomed in Washington.