Mr. Gordon O'Connor (Carleton—Mississippi Mills, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, until the end of the cold war, the two military blocs, NATO and the Warsaw Pact, established a stable international order through their overwhelming military strength and influence with client states around the world. With the fall of communism, international stability quickly evaporated. The long suppressed underlying tensions unfortunately resulted in failed states, ethnic cleansing and terrorism which continues unabated today.
In 1994, the last time the government took a serious look at defence policy, it did not anticipate the threat focus shifting so much so rapidly. The force structure flowing from this flawed policy and the desire to secure a peace dividend resulted in armed forces that are not properly structured, equipped or manned to meet the challenges of today or the challenges in the future. On the contrary, our military capabilities are in a state of ever increasing decay. The forces simply cannot meet the range and size of the tasks assigned them.
To do what the Canadian Forces are currently being asked to do requires a steady state of funding of somewhere between $18 billion and $19 billion a year. The government is currently spending $13.5 billion, or about $5 billion less per year.
For the last 10 years the government has knowingly underfunded the military, preferring to reap the so-called peace dividend in a world that is less peaceful. This benign neglect has consequences which we are living with today.
During the last election campaign the government complained that our party was putting too much emphasis on the military. At that time we committed to restoring the credibility of the armed forces by significantly increasing funding and restoring personnel levels to where they were about 10 years ago.
Our plan included investing in new equipment, ensuring that the current equipment was properly maintained and military personnel had the necessary individual and collective training needed to maintain combat capabilities. This reality is well explained by Liberal Senate defence committee chair Colin Kenny, who stated the following on September 8:
--the Liberals won the recent election with a defence platform that almost seemed pacifist when compared with what the losing Conservatives offered up. Paul Martin's people took a shrewd, calculated risk that most Canadian voters would not see the country's military decline as a priority issue.
Having depicted us as war-like, the Liberal government tossed out the suggestion that it was going to establish a new 5,000 person peacekeeping brigade. This would somehow solve the myriad of defence problems and permit us to play effectively on the world stage.
Although the armed forces desperately need more manpower, the Liberal government's suggestion of creating a peacekeeping brigade is flawed. When we dispatch troops to offshore deployments involving failed states, ethnic cleansing and terrorism, they must be prepared to conduct combat operations to enforce peace and to protect themselves from attack.
Classic peacekeeping was possible during the days of the two large military blocs because they were able to suppress much of the tensions in the client states. This type of action can only occur where there are two sides that can control their forces and they are willing to work toward a political settlement.
Given the conditions in the world today, this type of operation is becoming more and more rare. The majority of offshore deployments involve peace restoration. When our military is involved in peace restoration or stability operations, they must be prepared to threaten the combatants with the use of force, and if hostilities continue, they must be prepared to use force. A soldier standing by with a blue beret and a rifle encouraging people just to talk and resolve their problems will not restore stability.
The proper way to prepare members of our military for their tasks is to train, equip and support them for the most difficult role, which is combat. With very little adjustment they can do lesser roles like peacekeeping. To use a civilian analogy, a security guard can protect a building, but he cannot participate in a police SWAT team. On the other hand, a SWAT team member can guard a building.
As well as believing that the concept of a peacekeeping brigade is a flawed idea, I also believe that the government should not be creating new military formations when the remainder of the forces are underequipped, undertrained and undermanned.
The 5,000 personnel and the money needed for their equipment, some $2 billion, should be used to restore current combat capabilities. To use an analogy, it is like someone spending money on a cottage while his house is crumbling and his car is broken down
The real challenge for the military is not that it lacks a peacekeeping brigade, but that the Liberal Party has starved it of funds over the last decade. It is hard pressed to fulfill any of its current roles because it does not have enough personnel, it is not properly equipped, nor is there adequate logistic and infrastructure support.
The Canadian Forces have an authorized strength of 60,000. It is estimated that it is currently paying about 62,000 military salaries. Because of severe problems in the recruiting and training system, it only has an effective strength of about 52,000. This means that 20% of military manpower is not available for employment. That is an extraordinary amount.
The reserves, which play an important part in meeting our commitments, have for years been promised by the government that they will be expanded and properly equipped. Altogether they number about 20,000 which is inadequate for what they have been asked to do and their numbers have been essentially the same for years.
Overall, the Canadian Forces are too small to meet current defence policy. An example is our over-tasked army. The effective field strength of the army is about 13,500 although some will argue that it is more like 12,500. It is hard pressed to meet its national and international commitments. Each time the government commits a battle group of 1,000 soldiers to some stability operation, the army must identify three additional battle groups to support the commitment.
Once the six month rotations are in training, one battle group is in theatre, one is returned home undergoing rest, retraining and reassignment, a third battle group is conducting collective training and briefings in anticipation of future deployment, and a fourth battle group is assembled to carry on the sequence. If anything less than four battle groups are involved, the soldiers rotate out of country too often and this affects their home life and their desire to stay in the military.
In a field force that can establish at most nine battle groups, one commitment of a battle group involves four. The field army is simply too small to meet the current tempo of offshore deployments and that is why we are pulling back from many of our previous commitments.
As with the navy and the air force, the army manpower has to be substantially increased so that it can meet domestic and foreign tasks. Overall the regular force needs to be restored to the 75,000 to 80,000 range while the reserves have to be expanded to the 40,000 to 45,000 range.
Because of the tempo of operations and the lack of adequate funding, much of the collective training within the armed forces is not being conducted. Most of the training effort and funds are committed to ensuring that individuals achieve their required skills. As a result, group or collective training has suffered.
The military, to be effective, does not act as individuals, but acts as a collective in organizations like naval task groups, air squadrons, and army battle groups and brigades. If this neglected elective training continues the Canadian Forces will slowly lose its ability to conduct meaningful military operations.
Currently, somewhere around 12% to 13% of departmental funding is committed to equipment upgrading and replacement. This is far too low a contribution to achieve the equipment requirements on the long term plan of the department which needs an investment greater than 20%. This means that over time more equipment will have to be abandoned resulting in a much less capable military that will be under increasing strain.
Ironically, the Prime Minister recently bragged about his announcements on defence equipment acquisitions. However, according to the DND strategic capability investment plan, the Prime Minister's announcements fall short by some $20 billion according to the 15 year plan. It is incredible that the Prime Minister can tell Canadians he has fixed the crisis in defence when he has failed to approve the full $27.5 billion plan required for military equipment.
To be clear, the Prime Minister has only approved $7 billion or 25% of what the military needs to meet the policy requirements. By contrast, the Australian cabinet last year approved its military's 10 year, $50 billion equipment plan based on its 2000 white paper and its 2003 defence policy review. Australia recognizes that it needs an effective military. With one of the biggest economies in the world among G-8 nations, should Canada do less?
The lack of investment in new equipment means that much of the current equipment in service in the Canadian Forces is nearing the end of its useful life and beyond. This means that extraordinary maintenance and servicing has to be carried out to keep it operating. This ever increasing demand for funds diverts money from the capital program. The military is caught in the law of diminishing returns. More and more effort is being committed to maintain this shrinking armed forces.
A prime example is the air force, which in 1994 had approximately 700 aircraft with an availability rate of 85%. In other words, at least 580 aircraft could theoretically fly on any one day. Currently, the air force has about 300 aircraft with an availability of 55%, or 165 aircraft available for flight. The air force currently has less than 30% of the capability that it had 10 years ago.
Another example of equipment underfunding is the navy's 12 maritime coastal defence vessels which were originally sold by the government as a means of dealing with mines placed by an opponent near our harbours. Unfortunately, not enough money was assigned to the project and the vessels do not have this capability.
The lack of modern, reliable air and sea transport handicaps Canadian Forces deployments and national policy independence in an era when operations are conducted in far off places. Rapid transport assets are a critical factor for both deployment and sustainment of forces. A few years ago the Canadian Forces took six weeks to deploy 900 soldiers and light equipment to Afghanistan. This is far too long a period.
Support for the Canadian Forces requires that sufficient spare parts, transport, medical personnel and supplies, and knowledgeable technicians are able to service every piece of equipment. Without adequate support even the best combat soldiers cannot perform as required. Unfortunately, all of these categories of support are critically short and the problem increases with each operational deployment due to personnel attrition and aging equipment.
As with equipment, military infrastructure is in a serious deteriorating state. The department typically plans that buildings and structures will last 50 years. As a result, the department must invest about 2% of replacement value per year to keep infrastructure in overall serviceable condition. This standard has not been met for a very long time and therefore the department is facing a bow wave of infrastructure replacement and servicing demands.
Married quarters are a prime example. There are thousands across the country. The great bulk of them are 50 years old or more and need refurbishment and replacement, yet the government does not seem to know whether it should keep them and invest or abandon them. Meanwhile, they continue to deteriorate.
The restoration of Canada's military capabilities will not be without challenges. We believe that the branches of the armed forces should individually and collectively retain or acquire those capabilities that are relevant to current and anticipated missions. We reject the concept of mission roles for the military, like peacekeeping because it is unworkable in practice given the range of demands governments will always place on our forces.
Any attempt to reduce the military to a constabulary force is inconsistent with the demands of the new security environment. A force configured for light policing and humanitarian relief work would be unable to cope with armed groups threatening the stability of a state, to say nothing of terrorist organizations or dictators bent on territorial aggrandizement.
Finally, we ask the government to provide our forces with clear policy direction in the future. As well, it must provide the funding necessary to ensure that the manpower, equipment and support is there to ensure that our military is combat capable to take on the range of tasks that a great nation like ours must do.
Topic: Government Orders