Debating Defence and Naval Policy (II)

There are many problems with some of the financial analysis that seems to underlie the leaked Conservative defence strategy. While hardly the only problem, the first thing to grab my attention was the reported need for the "savings" gained from getting rid one of our three air defence destroyers and both of our two supply ships two years before the latter are replaced. Essentially, mothballing these will produce no savings in operating costs other than the $5 million in fuel these ships would normally burn a year. The maintenance savings will be negligible as the navy is unlikely to refit them in their last two years of life. The personnel savings are nonexistent as the sailors from them will be required for the replacement ships the Conservatives still promise.

The question one must ask is why savings are being extracted from critical naval capabilities when the Conservatives posted a $7 billion surplus? There are only two possible reasons, and they are not good ones.

The first reason these desperation level savings are being sought is because Afghanistan is costing much more than DND has budgeted.

The second possible reason for desperate measures is that the Conservative government has, despite this NATO commitment, no intention of providing the defence increases promised in the last budget. This leaked document seems to confirm that (in promising) $35 billion dollars in the make believe world of 2025. But after inflation, this is the same inadequate spending level we have today of between 0.9 and 1.3 percent of GDP. As Senator Colin Kenny makes clear, you can only do Afghanistan and reequip the Canadian Forces if you increase defence spending to the 1.8% level - somewhere near what the Conservatives initially promised a year ago. However, a minority government facing election seems to have chosen to short change our men and women in Afghanistan, our ability to guard our coasts, and our military's larger future for some pre-election goodies.

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