DND halts non-es­sen­tial spend­ing

The Niagara Falls Review - - NATIONAL -

and in­fras­truc­ture; and $1.3 bil­lion in re­quired fund­ing to NATO and other in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions or pro­grams.

Sev­eral in­sid­ers told The Cana­dian Press that the belt­tight­en­ing is the re­sult of years of deep cuts fol­lowed by min­i­mal in­creases, even as the mil­i­tary has been called upon to do more and more.

Canada has more mil­i­tary per­son­nel de­ployed abroad now than at any point since Afghanistan, and would sur­pass Afghanistan if the Lib­er­als pull the trig­ger on a new peace­keep­ing mis­sion in Africa.

It is also ex­pected to ded­i­cate a grow­ing amount of re­sources to­ward cy­ber-se­cu­rity and space.

Yet the $14-bil­lion op­er­at­ing bud­get re­mains about $2 bil­lion less now than it did when the com­bat mis­sion in Afghanistan ended in 2011.

The past year saw the de­fence depart­ment’s op­er­at­ing bud­get in­crease by about $140 mil­lion, even though it was ex­pected to spend $200 mil­lion more on in­ter­na­tional mis­sions.

Pre­vi­ous fi­nan­cial pres­sures have had a vis­i­ble im­pact. The army has idled sup­port ve­hi­cles, the navy has left ships in port to re­duce main­te­nance costs and the air force has cut back on fly­ing times.

One in­sider, speak­ing like the oth­ers on back­ground be­cause he wasn’t au­tho­rized to com­ment pub­licly, com­pared the new cost­cut­ting ex­er­cise to a search for loose change to pay for rent.

He and oth­ers spoke of hav­ing to post­pone or can­cel meet­ings with for­eign coun­ter­parts, at­ten­dance at in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences, and even Spring Break cour­ses for cadets.

While some of the ac­tiv­i­ties have been resched­uled un­til af­ter the new fis­cal year starts on April 1, there are fears that will only ex­ac­er­bate the pain next year un­less the depart­ment gets more funds.

The mil­i­tary is sched­uled to get an ex­tra $550 mil­lion to its op­er­at­ing bud­get thanks to an au­to­matic in­crease the for­mer Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment ap­proved and the gov­ern­ing Lib­er­als have said they will con­tinue.

But de­fence an­a­lyst David Perry of the Cana­dian Global Af­fairs In­sti­tute says it won’t be enough to cover the depart­ment’s ex­ist­ing short­falls and emerg­ing costs as­so­ci­ated with peace­keep­ing and cy­ber-de­fence.

“The ex­tra money will help mit­i­gate it,” he said, “but it’s not go­ing to to­tally ad­dress their is­sues be­cause they’ve got a num­ber of other fund­ing pres­sures.”

Any ex­tra money on top of that will likely have to wait un­til later in the year as gov­ern­ment sources have in­di­cated Wed­nes­day’s bud­get will not in­clude any sig­nif­i­cant new cash for the mil­i­tary.

That means any new money is in­stead ex­pected to be an­nounced in the fall, af­ter the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment re­leases its new de­fence pol­icy.

COM­BAT CAM­ERA

Cana­dian sol­diers from Char­lie Com­pany, 3rd Princess Pa­tri­cia Cana­dian Light In­fantry, pro­vide se­cu­rity while con­duct­ing a re­act-to-con­tact sce­nario last weke at Ho­hen­fels Train­ing Area, Ger­many.

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