Thursday, December 15, 2005

When it comes to defence, Liberals need to shut the hell up

Babble on.

In an effort to educate a woefully underinformed colleague of mine this morning, I ventured onto the Liberal campaign site. I was browsing through Liberal press releases for some information on the supposed handgun ban. I say supposed because all they have promised to do is "invite provincial and territorial government participation to make the ban national." You figure Alberta's going to sign up? How 'bout the Yukon or NWT or Nunavut? Yeah, me neither.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about today. I told you that so I could tell you this: in my search, I stumbled across Paul Martin's response to the Conservative defence announcement the other day.

The best word I can find to describe it is pathetic. Where to begin?

First, Mr. Harper said the Conservatives would double funding to the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART).

But his party has historically dismissed DART as unnecessary expense, even opposing sending DART to provide humanitarian aid after the recent earthquake in Pakistan. His critic, Helena Guergis dismissed DART as a “photo-op” that costs 10 times more than relief provided through non-government organizations.

So Harper was supposedly against it before he was for it. Paul Martin knows the feeling: a newfound enthusiasm for DART doesn't hold a candle to Martin's 180-degree reversals on major policy items like the GST or free trade.

But let's look past the optics for a moment: do the Liberals have any objection to the substance of the announcement? Do they think doubling funding to DART is a waste of money?


Yeah, didn't think so.

Mr. Harper also announced his new plan would also include increasing heavy air lift capacity by buying larger aircraft.

Heavy airlift capacity has one purpose: the deployment of a quick response – for military or humanitarian reasons.

[insert gratuitous link between Stephen Harper and Iraq here]

Mr. Harper’s should come clean and explain why he believes Canada needs this kind of airlift capacity: is it for military or humanitarian purposes?

My God they're ignorant.

Heavy airlift is no more for a "quick response" than any other means of transportation. The truth is that airlift is ideal for situations where sea or land transportation won't work. For example, if Canada needed to move men and materiel to a landlocked country, one to which we had no land connection such as - oh, let's pick one out of thin air - Afghanistan, then heavy airlift would be useful. In fact, that's why the Liberals rent Antonovs for our missions abroad.

I'm not even going to dignify the false choice between military and humanitarian purposes for the proposed aircraft with a response, since even an underprivileged and developmentally backward child (one raised by his or her parents, according to the Liberals) can see our military would use heavy airlift for both.

Funny thing is, it's not just the Conservatives who think we need strategic airlift. It seems the Canadian Senate needs to "come clean" too:

Canada’s geography is such that the Canadian Forces will more often than not find themselves responding to a crisis – either domestically or overseas – from a great distance. This requires the capability to move personnel and materiel in as few trips as possible. If we are going to have responsive Armed Forces, we need to be able to get them where they need to go in a timely manner.

There are two facets to the capability of strategic lift – airlift and sealift – and Canada is sorely lacking in both.

I could quote more sources that (unlike the Liberals) actually know what they're talking about, but (again unlike the Liberals) my readers don't have their heads planted inextricably in their rectums, so no more convincing is required. And thus we move on.

In contrast, the Liberal government is focused on supporting Canadian troops. Budget 2005 provided $12.8 billion in new money for defence – the largest increase in the last 20 years.

I believe I pulled the curtain aside on that particular Wizard of Oz claim here and here. I have yet to hear or read a credible challenge to that debunking, but you're welcome to try.

The Budget 2005 commitment also includes $7 billion in new equipment for the Canadian Forces including new Joint Support Ships, new Search and Rescue Aircraft, the Mobile Gun System and new Maritime Helicopters.

Wait a minute! The only one of those capital equipment projects with a solely humanitarian purpose is the new SAR aircraft. The JSS and the Maritime Helicopter are at least nominally dual-use, but the Mobile Gun System is a weapons system, pure and simple. "Come clean!", indeed.

These actions are proof of the Liberal government’s commitment to making sure the Canadian Forces have the money and tools they need to do the job we ask of them.

Yeah, about that, here's the thing: the Conservatives would do every single positive thing the Liberals already announced...and then some.

You see, what the Liberals are doing simply isn't enough:

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.
The service chiefs — including the new chief of defence staff and former commander of the army, Gen. Rick Hillier — sound desperate.

“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 Gen. Hillier, who went from army boss to military chief in February.

“The sustainment base has not been provided the necessary resources.” (Babbler's disgusted emphasis)

Read the whole thing, but take a Gravol first. Those familiar with the military bureaucracy will tell you that for even one general officer to use such blunt language means the situation is truly dire. For all three service heads to use such language in a single year is not only a sign of the coming Apocalypse, it means they can hear the galloping hoofs of the Four Horsemen close behind them.

The Liberals have no credibility on National Defence. They never did. And with asinine pronouncements like this one, they never will.

Babble off.


At 11:21 p.m., Blogger Anna said...

One just has to look at the Liberal response in the run up for the no-confidence vote to see where their loyalties lay and it is not to defending Canada. When Gen. Hillier wanted to press ahead with new transport aircraft and helicopters, PM Martin's government was giving him a green light. But when it became clear nothing of local Canadian content would fit the bill and the looming non-confidence vote, well suddenly PM Martin's government was not keen on the plan.

So Canada is deploying to Afghanistan with no helicopters for in-theatre support and no military trasnport aircraft to take them there in the first place. Why? Mulroney's government sold off the CH-47s to Holland who has lost two in Afghanistan. And 19 of the 32 Hercules transports are so old they are unsafe to fly. And the Liberals sat on the offer from the United Kingdom which was offering ten almost new C-130J Hercules.

So when it comes to defense, the Liberals need to sit down and be ashamed. The Canadian military of just ten years ago no longer exists because of Liberal mis-management.

At 10:14 a.m., Blogger WithTheShadows said...

1. The military is getting royally screwed by the government. They announce the same things over and over again, yet we receive no new money, and we can tell, based on the budgets, that nothing new is happening. In fact, supposedly there will be a claw back (at least in LFWA) this year.

2. The military is getting screwed even worse by its commanders, or at least the army is. Do you know how many new commands (big headquarters levels) are being created? No, neither do I, but it is too many. Everything from the special forces command to the Canada command to the Pacific command... I cannot even comprehend what is happening. Two examples should demonstrate how the higher ups in the military are wasting our money:

a. National Defence Headquarters employs 11500 personnel. That is more than 1/5th of our total regular forces; and

b. Brigade HQ at the reserve level (at least the one Bde HQ I know of) account for more than 40% of Brigade level pay, not including the summer, for reserve Brigades. The Minister of National Defence said to me, "While, I do not know what the correct level of spending is for a Headquarters versus other units." Well I damn well know, and Bde HQ takes up too much goddamn money. A civilian might not really understand this comment, so I will try to explain. If a reserve Brigade has 1300 people in it, there are maybe 60 at HQ that work full time and do not deploy on combat training (reserve Bde HQ are non tactical HQ). Those people take up 40% of pay. Amazing eh? A few statistics that are even worse for the reserves:

(1) a Lieutenant Colonel should command an infantry battalion or artillery regiment, which should include 400-600 pers. A reserve Lieutenant Colonel commands 70-200 personnel. A Lieutenant Colonel should employ four or five Majors. You would then have one Major for every 150-200 personnel at the unit level. In the Reserves, you have one Major for every 30-40 at the unit level. The same goes for Chief Warrant Officers and other snr NCOs; and

(2) personnel working at Bde HQ in British Columbia only work four days a week, from Tuesday to Friday. They get half an hour in coffee breaks, an hour for lunch, and an hour of physical training each day. As a result, they work, in total, five and a half hours each day (of actual time at their desk). Not everyone works this amount. Some work far more and are absolutely dedicated to their job. They are true soldiers. They also work Thursday nights, which is an extra three hours of work. And maybe one Saturday a month as well. They get extended (two hour) coffee breaks on Wednesdays and sometimes Friday afternoons off. Wonderful eh?

3. So if you want to know why the military has problems, it is not just the fault of the government. It is the fault of every commander that tolerates the amazing waste that occurs at nearly every level, from National Defence Headquarters down to the individual unit, and sometimes even the sub-unit level (do we really need to sign a pay sheet to pick up the damn phone?).

At 10:24 p.m., Blogger Cathy said...

hmmmm babble on.

At 7:13 p.m., Blogger AwaWiYe said...

WTS is grossly incorrect.

First, the new command structure is a redesign to embed jointness, not to provide additional layers of command. If you want to understand why this is a good idea, watch the movie "Tora Tora Tora" and pay close attention to the behaviour of Short and Kimmel and their staffs.

It's a mathematical impossibility that 60 people in a CBG HQ could be consuming 40% of the reserve pay envelope for that brigade. If there are 1300 people, the part-time pay is probably on the order of 34,000 funded days. If all 60 of the HQ people were paid out of reserve funds (the Regular members are not), it would amount to about 22,000 funded days. That would be approximately 40%. But, again, the Regulars aren't included and some of the full-time reservists on the brigade's dime are in fact employed directly by the units.

Third, having known quite a few people working in a CBG HQ for several years (I was not one), I can't imagine how many weekend and summer events and taskings you must have ignored to make up your mythical 5-1/2 hour work day. Try comparing the total time they must put in instead with an approximately 1820-hour work year (8 hours a day less stat holidays and time off).


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