Waiting for Godot, and for Progress on Military Capabilities

By Moderator, 16 June 2022

There are many things that are discouraging in the world these days. But from the perspective of the Canadian Armed Forces, the slow progress on capital projects to replace and update capabilities is probably near the top of the list. Despite promises about increased funding for the military, when the federal budget was released, it was clear that the actual amount was fairly small. A report released in early June by the Parliamentary Budget Officer found that if Canada is going to meet its minimum NATO commitments, it will have to spend far more on defence per year.1 As well, despite promises to speed up procurement, the processes remain painfully slow. The decision on the replacement fighter jets took years, and ended up pretty much where it started. Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships are now coming off the line and into the water, but questions remain about the utility of such lightly-armed ships. The first Joint Support Ship is still not finished and the Canadian Surface Combatants continue to be a distant and ever-more expensive mirage.2 Funding and supplies to support Ukraine have been slow, and anything that is sent to Ukraine may lead to shortages for the CAF. The Canadian military used to be treated with respect, which it deserved because it was able to do the job well. The navy has always been willing to undertake and complete its assigned tasks with what it was given, but this becomes untenable at some point. Equipment can only be maintained for so long, and capabilities can only be stretched so far before they snap and Canada is out of the game. The CAF can be blamed for some shortcomings – its slow progress on addressing sexual misconduct in particular – but progress on procurement is a function of government willingness and attention, both of which seem to be lacking. The government promised Canada would be ‘back’ but back where? As we see with the AUKUS agreement, even Canada’s best friends are leaving us out. It’s hard not to look to the past with nostalgia, as Tristin Hopper does in his article, “When Canada’s Military Didn’t Suck,” available at https://nationalpost.com/news/when-canadas-military-didnt-suck

Notes

  1. Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, “Canada’s Military Expenditure and the NATO 2% Spending Target,” 9 June 2022.
  2. In addition to ever-growing costs to build the CSCs, Irving recently said that it needed funding to make changes to the facility. See David Pugliese, “Liberals Mull Giving Irving an Extra $300 Million to Build Warships,” Ottawa Citizen, 13 June 2022. https://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/defence-watch/liberals-mull-giving-irving-an-extra-300-million-to-build-warships.
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