Monday, April 25, 2005

When will they listen?

Babble on.

You spot shadows in the woods and yell 'wolf'. Everyone ignores you.

...government spending on the military has dropped from almost six per cent of the GDP in 1956 to just over one per cent in 2003.

This, according to the author of a Queen's University study, has led to the very real possibility that Canada's military could face extinction within the next 15 years if it doesn't get a serious government commitment. Douglas Bland says there simply aren't enough personnel in the Canadian Forces and insufficient resources to train more.

He also says Canada's equipment is aging into obsolescence, with insufficient plans to replace it. Jack Granatstein, a Canadian military historian, says the study "is depressingly correct." In an interview with CBC News Online in December 2003, he said the military has been ailing for decades. "For the last 35 to 40 years, successive governments have paid no attention to defence spending," he said.

Low, feral canine forms stalk out into the open. You bellow out 'wolf' clear and loud. Still, nobody pays any attention.

Over their ten-year reign Chretien and his colleagues have reduced the Canadian Forces to an effective strength of less than 60,000 personnel, equivalent to a loss of nearly 30,000 men and women since the end of the 1980’s. Even so, the government continued to accept all kinds of overseas commitments with seemingly boundless enthusiasm, thereby placing extraordinary stress on the Forces’ already overworked sailors, soldiers and airmen and airwomen.

When it came to spending on desperately needed new equipment, however, the Liberals proceeded with a far more noticeable degree of caution. Granatstein notes that, in point of fact, capital spending within DND has dried up to practically nothing, and that today expenditures on personnel, operations, and maintenance consume almost 90% of the Department’s budget. With all manner of military gear now reaching the end of its useful life and no money in store for replacements, it’s clear that the Forces are headed for a real crisis within the next decade if action is not taken quickly.

The snarling, snapping pack starts taking down your fellow villagers one by one. At this point, you're screaming 'WOLF, WOLF, WOOOOOLF!', and still your friends and neighbours continue about their ordinary business like sedated automatons.

The current state of Canadian Forces (CF) is the result of political, not military, decisions undertaken over the past couple of decades. The decline in capability can be measured in terms of a decline in funding, of delayed replacement of obsolete and obsolescent equipment, of a high operational tempo, of declining numbers of personnel, of consequent low retention rates, and of many other indices. Moreover, this decline in capability has taken place in a context of a rapid advance in military technology and war-fighting doctrine, the so-called revolution in military affairs (RMA). All of the nine civilian reports analyzed in this paper agree that the Canadian Forces have not adapted to the new strategic context in which they are required to operate, that the doctrines and commitments according to which the Canadian Forces are supposed to operate, which stem from the last White Paper on Defence written over a decade ago, are accordingly remote from the realities of contemporary war-fighting. Worse, the reports discussed in this Critical Issues Bulletin note that neither the civilian leadership nor the high military leadership of the CF have dealt with the disconnect between commitment and capability, of which increasing numbers of Canadian citizens as well as specialists are increasingly aware.

After awhile, it becomes tempting to stop sounding the alarm. It never seems to do any good, so why scream yourself hoarse?

Because duty is not dependent upon results - that's why. And so folks like Stephen Thorne continue their Sisyphean task of dragging public consciousness away from the latest episode of Desperate Housewives for a fleeting moment, and educating Canadians on matters of true import.

Economic impact assessments filed by all three services paint a picture of a decaying military that is, as the navy commander put it, fast approaching the point of "critical mass in its ability to execute its mission."
Both navy and air force say they cannot meet all assigned tasks in 2005-06, with "deficiencies and shortfalls in all areas."

"The result is a decaying infrastructure, a depreciating asset base, increasing personnel issues, and a fleet that faces considerable sustainment issues," writes the head of the navy, Vice-Adm. Bruce MacLean.

"I will not be able to deliver the full mandated level of maritime defence readiness and capability delineated in the Defence Plan."

The air force alone has accumulated a $1-billion infrastructure deficit, its long-term capital shortfall is even greater, and it was going into the current fiscal year $608 million underfunded.

"The air force we have today is not sustainable tomorrow," writes the air force chief, Lt.-Gen. Ken Pennie.

MacLean cites $419 million in navy funding shortfalls this year. The army is $177 million short. The combined projected shortfall for the three services exceeds $1.1 billion this year.
"The cumulative costs of not funding (programs) are not only significant and growing, but oftentimes are hidden insofar as they contribute to skill fade, career stagnation, and asset deterioration beyond economical repair," wrote Hillier, who went from army boss to military chief in February.

"The sustainment base has not been provided the necessary resources." (Bold by Babbler)

How dire must the situation become before Canadians act?


Babble off.


At 1:09 p.m., Blogger Ghost of a flea said...

"How dire must the situation become before Canadians act?"

Sadly, I do not see any situation where Canadians will choose to act. I believe most Canadians agree with the calculation made by our governments - Liberal and Conservative - over the last 40 years. We do not need to shoulder responsibility for defending ourselves when we know the Americans will always be there to carry the expense in blood and treasure. As if that was not enough, we also demand they carry the blame for any uncertainty or failure along the way.

Ok, a Tolkien metaphor to go with your wolf.

I used to believe this state of affairs was a result of ignorance or the fact of the Shire being so far from the front lines. I am coming to believe our Hobbit leadership knows perfectly well what Gondor does on our behalf but that it suits their purposes to blame Gondor for everything from the price of Longbottom Leaf to any stray wolves that come our way. Worse yet, I believe it suits all to many ordinary Hobbits to pretend to believe what our representatives tell us.

At 8:02 p.m., Blogger buckets said...

In the story of the boy who called 'wolf', there was no wolf.

I'm not sure what you're point is, but it seems to me that you believe there is a crisis and a growing one.

Are you sure you've chosen your metaphor well?

(And what _should_ our military be?)

At 9:38 a.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

In the famous story, there was no wolf. In my little story, there's a wolf all right, but no one is listening.

Our military is collapsing, and Canadians don't seem to care.


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