- Feb 8, 2007
- Land of Swine and Maple Syrup
Canadian military to be smaller than Tories promised in 2006
By Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA - The Conservative government's long-standing promise to dramatically increase the size of the Canadian military is being pared back, a federal report shows.
The Defence Department's latest performance report says the 2006 pledge to increase the number of regular reserve soldiers, sailors and aircrew has been revised because of costs and the high attrition rate of serving members.
The initial plan was to boost the size of the Canadian Forces to 75,000 regular members and 35,000 reservists. The increase was to happen in two stages, with the first target of 70,000 active and 30,000 part-time members over five years, and the remainder to follow at some undetermined point.
But the report says the government has not allotted enough money to meet even the short-term target and will have to extend its self-imposed deadline by a year.
"Following a detailed analysis of the resources required to fund all Defence initiatives announced under Budget 2006, sustain the operational commitments in Afghanistan, prepare for Olympics 2010 and support (Canadian Forces) transformation, the expansion was re-profiled to 68,000 regular force and 26,000 primary reserve paid strength by fiscal 2011-2012," says the report tabled in Parliament last week.
The document also warns that if more members than expected choose to leave the military over the next five years, the situation will worsen. Recruiting would then have to be stepped up dramatically or some units may be under strength.
Dan Dugas, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay, said in an e-mail Sunday that it is not only the military that faces recruiting issues.
"The Canadian Forces are facing the same recruiting challenges as other employers: higher rates of attrition, and retiring personnel because of aging demographics," Dugas said. "We, however, are not only meeting but surpassing our recruiting goals."
The Conservatives have said they are the party that rebuilt Canada's defences but the Liberal head of Senate security and defence committee said Friday that claim is turning out to be a sham.
"These guys are talking as though they're friends of the military," said Senator Colin Kenny. "They're talking as though Canada has robust armed forces. They've got huge surpluses, (but) they're setting up the Forces to fail."
Kenny's committee has argued that the country's defence budget should be increased to $35 billion by 2011-2012. But a leaked draft copy of the Tories' Canada First defence strategy shows the Conservatives have no intention of meeting that suggested target, and projects only modest growth in the current $18 billion envelope.
The performance report noted that although the Defence Department has received budgetary increases, it is still required to contribute to the federal government's expenditure reduction plan by giving back an estimated $203 million in budget savings.
"It's bizarre and it's deceitful to be handing them more with one hand and then taking away with another," said Kenny.
Lt.-Gen Andrew Leslie, the head of the army, said keeping members in uniform is a problem the Defence Department is trying to address through promotions and other incentives.
"Attrition out of the army is something we're watching very closely," said Leslie, the chief of land staff, in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.
"We want to present to individuals every opportunity to stay (and) not to get attracted to civvie street."
The military based its revised expansion figures on an average attrition rate of 6.1 per cent a year. But that figure represents all occupations, and in certain fields - such as combat arms - attrition is running between 12 and 13 per cent.
Leslie said attrition in the army is running at a average of eight per cent.
The report shows the Canadian Forces are exceeding recruitment targets but trained members are going out the door just as fast.
The accountability document also noted that most of the new recruits are being funnelled into infantry and armoured units, which leaves other branches scrambling to fill vacancies.
This is no surprise to any one up here wearing the uniform. There have been warning signs for some time now but the CoC seems not to pay attention. I'm not sure the exact figures in my field but I know that it is just as high as the Infantry figures, we lose a lot of young guys/girls; especially the last few years. But we are also near critical retirement years across the CF. Hopefully some one pulls their head out of someones ass and figures out some solutions. :doh: