Author Topic: Canada 'just can’t get around' army cuts, Hillier says  (Read 4228 times)

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Sylvain Chartrand CD

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Canada 'just can’t get around' army cuts, Hillier says
« on: September 23, 2013, 09:57:36 PM »
Canada 'just can’t get around' army cuts, Hillier says

VIDEO: Staff
Published Monday, September 23, 2013 7:03PM EDT

The Canadian Forces “just can’t get around” the need to reduce the number of full-time soldiers in order to maintain a well-trained, capable army while meeting the demand for a slimmed-down budget, retired general Rick Hillier says.

Newly appointed Defence Minister Rob Nicholson is facing the task of slashing hundreds of millions of dollars in military spending as set out in last spring’s federal budget. The pending cuts have some experts predicting another “decade of darkness,” the term Hillier himself coined in reference to the budget cutbacks of the 1990s under then-prime minister Jean Chretien.

In a wide-ranging interview with CTV’s Power Play Monday, Hillier said he doesn’t believe the army is headed for another such decade, despite the pressure on Nicholson to find big savings in the budget.

But he said that cutting personnel is, in his view, the only way to reduce defence spending while maintaining a strong, stable force.

“If we do this right, we can still have an agile force, we can still have a superbly trained force and we can still have a force capable in this era of threats,” Hillier told host Don Martin.

“But it’s going to be smaller, you just can’t get around it.”

The number of full-time members of the Canadian Forces sits at roughly 65,000, a figure Hillier said should be reduced to about 50,000. He said cuts to personnel make the most sense because payroll accounts for 60 per cent of the defence budget.

Contractual obligations for new planes, vehicles and other material make it difficult to cut the equipment budget, which he pegged at 15 to 17 per cent. Cutting from the remaining sector of the budget, training and operations, would have a devastating impact on the force, he said.

“That means soldiers will sit in garrison and ships will remain tied up at the dock and airplanes won’t fly,” Hillier said. “And I think you have to balance that.”

Hillier said his old “decade of darkness” comment reflected his concern about asking soldiers to do the same job, but with less.

“It’s a massive, massive challenge, and the cuts are enormous,” Hillier said. “And I’ve always believed that any government elected by the people of Canada have the sovereign business to decide how much they’re going to spend on their armed forces.”

In his interview, Hillier said that as the federal government demands cuts to defence spending, it should also do more to support veterans who have come forward to say they have been unable to secure benefits to which they are entitled.

“If I were the prime minister… I would use that throne speech to make a special comment about our veterans to say we are going to turn a page,” Hillier said of the Oct. 16 speech that will open the new session of Parliament.

He urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to specifically pledge to scrap a provision in soldiers’ benefits that claws back money they earn at outside jobs when they are receiving disability payments for suffering wounds in action.

Hillier was quick to note that despite his advocacy, he will not be following the lead of fellow former soldiers who have entered politics, including retired lieutenant generals Andrew Leslie and Romeo Dallaire.

“I’m not going to, but others can,” he said.

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Sylvain Chartrand CD

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Retired generals take aim at Ottawa's handling of defence cuts
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2013, 07:00:42 PM »
Retired generals take aim at Ottawa's handling of defence cuts

Deep cuts planned for training and maintenance

By Evan Solomon, Kristen Everson, CBC News Posted: Dec 18, 2013 6:15 PM ET Last Updated: Dec 18, 2013 7:19 PM ET

Tension is growing between Canada's top generals and the government over how to carry out deep cuts to the military.

CBC News has learned that those cuts are coming for the operations and maintenance budget, which includes training.

Sources have told CBC News the government's plan for the future of the Canadian Forces, known as the Canada First Defence Strategy, was debated at a federal cabinet meeting Tuesday in Ottawa.

The government does not want to reduce the number of solders from current levels of 68,000, nor does it want to cut the budget for high-profile equipment such as planes and ships.

But the military says that leaves only training and maintenance, and that doesn't sit well with some military experts.

Retired general Rick Hillier, the former chief of defence staff, came out blasting the Canada First strategy on Wednesday.

"You're going to devastate the capability of the Canadian Forces" if the military's choice of cuts goes ahead, Hillier told CBC News.

"If all the other things are untouched because you don't want to reduce the number of people, because you're committed to equipment, then you're going to savage the operations and training piece of it, which means that soldiers won't train, sailors won't sail and men and women won't be in their aircraft very much."
Cuts create need for overhaul

Hillier is calling for an overhaul of the entire military strategy — starting with a reduction of the number of soldiers.

Retired general Rick Hillier says the Canada First Defence Strategy needs a rethink to accommodate the military's changing budget. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

"The defence strategy is no longer affordable. You need to re-set. You need to reshape it and you need in fact to come out with a new Canada First Defence Strategy."

The government last year announced total cuts of $2.1 billion to the military's $20-billion budget by 2015.

Those cuts are already being felt.

Sources inside the military tell CBC News that brigades have been sent letters informing them of cuts of 61 per cent to operations and maintenance budgets.

Those cuts mean there will be less money for  food, fuel and ammunition for training exercises.

"Fewer training dollars, and less maintenance money means there's fewer platforms for people to go on an exercise with, and then at a certain point down the road, there's going to be fewer aircraft and fewer ships for the Canadian Forces to actually deploy with," said  Dave Perry, a senior defence analyst with the Conference of Defence Associations Institute.

Perry pointed to a recent announcement by the navy that it can't maintain the number of coastal defence vessels at sea it had previously.
'Fiscal mismanagement'

Generals are not allowed to talk about the cuts openly, because it is a politically sensitive issue that goes to the Conservatives' base of support, but one senior member of the military told CBC News the government is cutting the defence budget while "pretending they are not."

Another former top soldier now working as a policy adviser to the Liberals said he can't understand why the Canadian Forces are short of money when the Department of Defence underspent its budget by $1.3 billion in April.
Retired Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie

Retired lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie wrote a 'transformation' report on the military that attacked the amount of money spent on consultants, before leaving the forces in 2011. He now advises federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. (Murray Brewster/Canadian Press)

"This is fiscal management on a vast scale," said retired lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie, who authored a controversial "transformation" report on the future of the military before he left in 2011.

"Our transformation team, over two years ago, recommended they cut consultants and contractors, which in 2010 was at $2.77 billion per year.

"Since then DND increased spending on consultants and contractors to $3 billion a year," he told CBC News Wednesday. "This is irresponsible."

A Conservative MP was not made available to discuss the issue on CBC News Network's Power & Politics Wednesday.

But Defence Minister Rob Nicholson's office released a statement in response to CBC News's request for comment.

"Our government has made unprecedented investments in the Canadian Armed Forces. In fact, since 2006 we have boosted defence budgets by 27 per cent, roughly $5 billion in annual funding," the statement quoted Nicholson as saying.

"The government will continue to place priority emphasis on meeting operational requirements, training within Canada, supporting the part-time reserves, undertaking national sovereignty missions and caring for ill and injured soldiers."