Mil­i­tary is not strug­gling: Vance

National Post (National Edition) - - CANADA - The Cana­dian Press


LEE BERTHIAUME OT­TAWA • The coun­try’s top sol­dier has pushed back on sug­ges­tions the armed forces is strug­gling from a lack of cash, say­ing he’s not con­vinced it is mak­ing the most of the money it al­ready gets.

Yet chief of de­fence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance says he is also ea­ger to see the gov­ern­ment’s new de­fence pol­icy, which has promised to put the mil­i­tary on a strong fi­nan­cial foot­ing over the long term.

“The here and now is fine, we’re de­liv­er­ing,” Vance said in an in­ter­view with The Cana­dian Press. “But go­ing for­ward, that’s when the gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted to sus­tain­able, pro­gres­sive armed forces.”

The ques­tion of mil­i­tary spend­ing has taken on a life of its own over the last year, af­ter U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump called on NATO al­lies to con­trib­ute more to their own de­fence.

Canada cur­rently spends about one per cent of its Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct (GDP) on de­fence, which is half the agreed-upon NATO tar­get of two per cent and puts it in the bot­tom half among the al­lies.

Rather than in­crease de­fence spend­ing, how­ever, last week’s fed­eral bud­get saw the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment de­lay hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in planned equip­ment purchases by sev­eral years.

Vance said de­fence of­fi­cials asked for the de­lay be­cause sev­eral projects weren’t ready for the money, which De­fence Min­is­ter Har­jit Sa­j­jan’s of­fice has blamed on a short­age of pro­cure­ment staff.

“The re­pro­fil­ing was our choice,” Vance said. “I know peo­ple have a hard time be­liev­ing that, but it is true. There’s no point giv­ing us bil­lions when we can’t spend it.”

Of­fi­cials have in­sisted the money will be avail­able when it’s ac­tu­ally needed in fu­ture years.

One of the big ques­tions posed by de­fence an­a­lysts, how­ever, is whether there will be enough money to sus­tain the mil­i­tary over the long term.

Vance noted the gov­ern­ment is work­ing on a new de­fence pol­icy, which is ex­pected in early May and which the bud­get promised will be rig­or­ously costed and sus­tain­able.

“We’re wait­ing for the de­fence pol­icy re­view and that in­vest­ment,” he said. “That’s go­ing to be the ex­pres­sion of in­vest­ment by the gov­ern­ment of Canada.”

In the mean­time, the gen­eral said de­fence of­fi­cials are look­ing at the cur­rent $19-bil­lion bud­get to en­sure it is be­ing used as ef­fec­tively as pos­si­ble.

Vance ac­knowl­edged that there are some ar­eas of the Cana­dian mil­i­tary that need more money, start­ing with its crum­bling bases, ar­mouries and other in­fra­struc­ture.

“But my gut instinct right now tells me we have way too much in­fra­struc­ture in the armed forces for the size that we are,” he said.

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