For an Extra $130 Bucks….

Update On Canada’s Military Financial Crisis

II. The Operational Crisis:

       Insufficient Funding for Operations, Maintenance and Infrastructure  


The Operations and Maintenance budget of the Canadian Forces is manifestly inadequate.  Flying hours, at sea days, inventory of spare parts, live firing exercises etc. have all been pared to the bone to save money. The impact of this lack of adequate Operations and Maintenance funds quickly became evident at nearly every base and unit visited. On a number of occasions during its fact-finding visits, the Committee was told that the infrastructure of military bases (and the bases of the Army in particular) was inadequate, either because of dilapidated facilities or non-existent facilities. Lack of funds to re-habilitate, maintain and to build infrastructure at military bases is another fallout from the lack of funds budgeted for operations and maintenance. While not restricted to Army bases, the issue of infrastructure was raised much more insistently at Army bases that at Navy or Air Force bases.  

The Committee heard testimony on lack of funds for operations and maintenance at the following bases in particular:


CFB Esquimalt

At the Headquarters of Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC), the Committee was given a number of examples of the impact of the reduced budgets. For example, the surveillance role of MARPAC has been reduced because its most effective tools, the Aurora aircraft overflights, have been cut back to 2-3 patrols a week. The units of other NATO countries average 125 days at sea, but Canada’s navy on average only budgets enough fuel for 60 sea days a year. Inadequate budgets and lack of personnel mean that only 60% of the fleet can be kept at the highest level of readiness. 443 Squadron has only six Sea King helicopters to support Maritime Forces Pacific. Of these, one is unavailable. At Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) officers and men complained that newcomers found family housing very expensive, both on and off base.


17 Wing Winnipeg

At 1 Canadian Air Division, Canadian Region NORAD Headquarters, cutbacks in funding have reduced every kind of training – individual, group, national and international. As a result, the general level of readiness has declined, with only a small number of pilots at the highest level of readiness (i.e. combat ready in both air-to-ground and air-to-air roles).

Training for a number of types of missions has been discontinued. CF-18 pilots no longer practice low-level flying as one way of complying with the reduction in annual flying hours to 180 from 210. In the early 1990s, the norm for CF18 pilots was 240 hours per year.

Similarly, flying hours for Aurora pilots have been reduced. Use of simulators, and the elimination of anti-submarine training, are the rationales given for the reduction in flying hours of the pilots and crew of Aurora patrol aircraft.


CFB Halifax

The Committee was told that the combination of reduced equipment and fewer personnel had led to tension about the tempo of operations and the quality of life at Maritime Forces Atlantic. At the time of our visit, however, a shortage of technicians was an even more visible grievance than the overall shortage of money. At an informal meeting with members of the Committee, service personnel complained about the length of time it took to get needed equipment.

The Committee also heard from both officers and enlisted personnel that the military housing in Halifax is substandard. The Permanent Married Quarters (PMQs) were built in the 1950s to the standards of the 1940s. As a result, about 70 per cent of the officers and enlisted personnel either owned or rented in Halifax. There was not much demand for the smaller military apartments because of local market conditions, and many were consequently unoccupied. In general the other ranks the Committee spoke to believed that the military units were not worth the rent charged – frequently more than the cost of buying a local house.  There was agreement, however, that there was still the need to make larger 3 and4 bedroom apartments available.


CFB Gagetown

Colonel MacLeod, Commander 3 Area Support Group, told the Committee that there was a shortage of single rooms, even in the winter, and 200 staff had to live two or three to a room. In the summer the situation was much worse and both staff and students had to live in tents. The base infrastructure was deteriorating and some buildings were actually dangerous. There was no money available to carry out the $100 million of renovations base training areas needed.

Another serious problem was the shortage of spare parts and ammunition for new equipment. In particular, it was extremely difficult to provide “sustainment” logistical support of parts and ammunition for overseas deployments. Lack of spare parts and ammunition leads to lack of adequate training, which not only leads to substandard performance on the battlefield and in other emergencies, but also leads to qualified people giving up and leaving Canada’s armed forces.


CFB Kingston

Major  Hall, Deputy Commandant of the School of Communications and Electronics, told the Committee that the School trains CF personnel on how to set up, operate and maintain radio, telephone and computer communications in Canada and abroad.

The Committee learned that as a result of the halt in recruitment as the Forces downsized in the 1990s, the School lost one of its major buildings. Now, with the ramp up in recruiting and the requirement to increase training output, it is desperately short of space, dealt with in the next section of the report. This lack of space has had a negative impact on the morale of staff and students alike.

Current capacity in the Performance-Oriented Electronics Training program is 180 positions. Although it is planned to increase the number of seats to 384, there is  demand for 550-600 spaces.

It is difficult to overemphasize the debilitating effect of insufficient training capacity, and the Committee got an earful about what the effects have been. Reduced training meant no low-level technicians for a number of years, which means insufficient numbers of low-level technicians gaining the experience necessary to become supervisors. The average age of technicians rises, and when they become discouraged about lack of capacity to do their jobs and get out, there is no one to replace them. There is simply too much work for too few people.

Following the briefing the Committee visited  classrooms and spoke with instructors and students before having lunch with some of the students. The loss of a building in the 1990s has forced the school to jam its parade square with about 20 temporary, portable structures. An additional 12 double trailers are on order and will be located at another site. A garage has been converted into classrooms, but it leaks and is referred to as the “swimming pool”.  Although potable, its water supply is an unsightly brown colour.  Funds are so short that old, unused buildings cannot be torn down. Students share accommodation – four to a 16  by 16 foot room.


2 Electronic Warfare Squadron, Kingston

At a stand-up lunch with enlisted personnel of the Squadron, the members of the Committee learned a great deal about the ineffectiveness of forces equipment and the frustrations that ineffectiveness engenders.

The Intelligence Gathering System, for instance, has never worked to its promised capacity. The firm that originally supplied it went out of business, and never actually put the equipment into production.  With no spare parts, a second unit is being cannibalized to keep three in operation.  The electronics often malfunction after cross-country movement. Many of the system’s coding and coding functions have been obsolescent.

Many of the system’s coding and decoding functions have become obsolete. Modern digital systems – the kind used by American troops – “frequency-hop” as an added measure of security. The soldiers pointed out, however, that even if they got modern equipment, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission restricts the military to assigned bandwidths. Without frequency-hopping, it is more difficult to develop code-breaking skills, to make Canadian communications secure, and to coordinate operations with allies.

Personnel told members of the Committee that they could make the Intelligence Gathering System work if they were allowed to bypass the procurement system and buy off-the-shelf parts, some of which were readily available at the local Radio Shack. They also told us that off-the-shelf parts would also have the advantage of being relatively inexpensive and easily replaced.


CFB Borden

At Canadian Forces Recruiting Group Headquarters, members of the Committee had an informal lunch with junior non-commissioned members. While the latter would clearly appreciate higher levels of pay and /or signing bonuses on re-enlistment, their major complaints concerned the difficulty of getting on training courses, plus their lack of opportunity to do enough of the things they had joined the Forces to do – take part in live field exercises, fire weapons, etc.  This, in tandem with the unrealistic tempo of operations, was causing a good number to decide against re-enlisting when their time was up. The attitude toward bonuses was ambivalent – the feeling was that their appeal was primarily to those who intended to re-enlist anyway.

At 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group the officers told the Committee that, if the Brigade had more money, improvements to the base infrastructure would be a priority.  For example, the Battalions have been ordered not to keep their Light Armored Vehicles outdoors, but there are no funds available to build indoor storage. Nor is there a proper building to house the computers needed for training. 

8 Wing Trenton

At 8 Wing the Committee learned that the fleet of Hercules transports is aging faster than the Senate. Most were acquired between 1964-1967. Planning must be based on the assumption that, at any given time, about one out of four will not be available because they need maintenance and repair. There are five different models with two different engines to service and repair. According to technicians, a lack of spare parts keeps planes on the ground unnecessarily. In their opinion, two days should be the maximum time it takes to get a spare part, but that is certainly not the case now.

At the informal lunch with Squadron staff, members of the Committee continued to explore the reasons why highly trained personnel were not re-enlisting. Responses: pilots cannot fly and airlift missions must be turned down because aircraft are not available. Mechanics and technicians have to wait for spare parts or do not have the equipment necessary to carry out maintenance quickly. Their frustration is compounded because they say the parts or equipment they need frequently could be purchased locally.


CFB Petawawa

2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group officers told the Committee that if the brigade had a bigger budget, their priority would be field exercises and on ammunition for live fire training, both of which have been severely restricted. In their opinion, lack of resources (the capacity to fire live ammunition, missiles, etc.) and the feeling that personnel are not being as challenged in the Army as they had expected, are major reasons why many trained soldiers fail to sign up for a second 3-year term.  The other ranks with whom the members of the Committee lunched raised many of the same issues. Many soldiers believe that they are no longer allowed to practice their profession to the limits of their ability – whether as infantry (lack of exercises, live ammunition, ), armoured corps/artillery (obsolescent equipment, lack of opportunity to exercise, practice gunnery,.), or mechanics/technicians (lack of spare parts, insufficient training, .). Members of the artillery, armoured corps, and air defence expressed uncertainty about the future of their trades in the Canadian forces.


The Black Watch

The Black Watch, like the other militia units, is starved for equipment as well as operational and training funds. The very success of the current recruiting drive could make the situation worse because the proposed increase in the strength of the militia has not been funded, nor have funds been allocated for the equipment and stores necessary to train the new recruits.

The Black Watch was short of just about every kind of equipment and much of what they had was obsolescent, if not obsolete. Members of the Committee heard comments about the lack of modern personal kit for male and female recruits and about the lack of training equipment and training aids to make the theoretical part of recruit training and introductory trades training interesting.

The “hands on” or practical parts of courses cannot usually be given at the armoury. The soldiers and their instructors must go to a militia training base to get experience on small arms ranges, to practice section tactics, etc. A shortage of live ammunition compromises the value of the training.

III. The Capital Equipment Crisis:

Canada’s Antique Road Show

It is no secret that the big difference between the U.S. military and the military forces of the rest of the world is the stratospheric leap the Americans have made in the sophistication of their equipment. A country the size of Canada cannot expect to keep up with the technological advances of the world’s one remaining superpower, nor can it afford to allow a huge gap to develop between its own capital equipment and the advanced equipment of its allies. That gap exists, and it is growing not only with many of Canada’s allies, but with its potential enemies as well. Canada cannot afford a state-of-the-art military, but it can afford a sophisticated and effective military with some state-of-the-art equipment.

Capital equipment deficiencies were brought to our attention at several bases:


CFB Esquimalt and  CFB Halifax

At CFB Esquimalt and CFB Halifax the Committee concluded that at least two capital programs must go ahead without delay if Canada wants to continue deploying the Navy on foreign missions. The first is the Maritime Helicopter Project to replace the Sea King helicopters. The second is the Afloat Logistics Sealift to replace the Protecteur class replenishment ships.



Outside the patrol range of Aurora aircraft, the Sea King helicopter acts as the eyes and ears of the fleet. The Sea King is now obsolescent and only an exceptional but time-consuming and expensive maintenance and repair program keeps it airworthy.

The Commanding Officer of 12 Wing CFB Shearwater assured the Committee in the strongest possible terms that the Sea King was and could be kept safe to fly. Nevertheless, the helicopter has become increasingly unreliable and spends half of its time out-of-service due to breakdown, repair and maintenance. 

Without reliable helicopters, the Pacific and Atlantic fleets are increasingly at risk in zones of active operations.  Unquestionably, the Maritime Helicopter Project is the most urgent capital equipment project.  Almost nine years after cancellation of the order for EH 101 helicopters to replace the Sea Kings, the government has still failed to let the necessary contracts.

Ground crew in Shearwater told us that the continuing “starting and stopping” of the Maritime Helicopter Project was killing motivation in the unit. One day, crew would hear that the MHP would be operational by 2005, only to hear a day later that the project would be delayed for still another two years. These people take pride in the role they play, but they are clearly succumbing to frustration over the lack of a definite schedule for the MHP.  


We were repeatedly reminded of the Navy’s lack of “roll-on, roll-off” sealift capability to  move heavy equipment  and support deployed task groups..  The Navy only has two tired support ships – “oilers” – with limited capacity, making it extremely difficult to move troops and equipment in and out of emergency situations.”  The Navy presented the government with a plan to develop a roll-on, roll-off capacity in 2001, but there has been no word as to whether the plan will be approved.


Canadian Air Division – Winnipeg

We were told that the Canadian Forces’ airlift capacity is also in need of review to determine whether it is currently adequate and likely to be adequate into the future.

Units of the Regular Army have been withdrawn from coastal provinces and concentrated in CFB Edmonton (Alberta), CFB Petawawa (Ontario), and CFB Valcartier (Quebec). There is a new premium on moving Army units by air in the event of an emergency – particularly an emergency that substantially disrupts road and rail communications between inland bases and coastal communities.

A Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) is based on the Joint Operations Group, CFB Kingston. Its equipment is stored at CFB Trenton and 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group of CFB Petawawa is required to be ready within 12 hours to deploy a Company headquarters and four platoons – about 200 personnel – to a disaster site anywhere in Canada or the world.

The Committee was surprised to learn that it took about 26 flights of Hercules military cargo planes to move the DART equipment and personnel, an airlift requirement that could be met by about 4 flights of an Antonov class transport aircraft, which Canada is forced to rent when troop-moving emergencies arise. It was just as surprised to learn that only between one half and three-quarters of Canada’s fleet of Hercules aircraft are serviceable on any given day. As a result, in the event of an emergency, days rather than hours would elapse before the DART could be fully operational on either coast.



While Canada’s military has committed funds to upgrade the CF18, the timeframe to complete the project has been spread out over several years. There is only enough money to upgrade 80 of the 119 CF18s in inventory.



The Aurora upgrade program has been approved, but like the CF18 program, it will take several years to complete. Furthermore, there is not enough money to upgrade all of the Auroras.  

8 Wing Trenton

The troops at Trenton told us that recent upgrades to Hercules aircraft have at least produced a “common cockpit configuration” of the various models that Canada uses. However, these early-model Hercules aircraft are fast becoming tired and antiquated. There was a feeling that forcing the Canadian military to rent strategic lift for use in moving troops and equipment diminished the country’s military credibility.

It was recommended that there be a complete review of all transport capabilities to fit missions with appropriate aircraft. It was noted, for example, that using Hercules aircraft for search and rescue was extremely hard on the aircraft due to the type of flying required by SAR. A number of “purpose-designed” SAR aircraft with lower operating costs are available on the market. Purchasing them would reduce the overall operations and maintenance costs of the SAR operation. While everyone enjoyed flying the Airbuses purchased from Canadian Airlines, there was considerable dismay at the money wasted converting civilian aircraft costing less than $60 million apiece into military aircraft for something in the neighbourhood of $200 million.


CFB Gagetown/CFB Petawawa

There was a general sense that while new Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) had been purchased, the number is woefully short of fulfilling needs, forcing the army to upgrade some of its M113s. Half-measures seemed to be the order of the day: for instance, new wheeled equipment was supposed to be housed under cover, but the project purchasing this equipment did not provide funds to build garages.


2 Electronic Warfare Squadron, CFB Kingston

Electronic Warfare troops told us that their equipment had never even made it past the experimental stage before the company that built it went bankrupt. So they were working with “electronic test models” that were not only difficult to get spare parts for, but that were incompatible with the equipment of Canada’s allies.


The 1994 White Paper on Defence: 
Promises Not Kept

Our report would not be complete without pointing out that the state of disrepair in which  the Canadian military finds itself  today would not have evolved over the past decade if the Government of Canada had followed the recommendations of the 1994 White Paper on Defence. The Canadian Forces’ personnel, equipment and capabilities fall far short of what was called for in the White Paper, which set forth an intelligent plan, certainly not an extravagant plan.

The White Paper, ostensibly a blueprint for government strategy, promised that Canada’s armed forces


“ . . . will remain prepared to deploy on UN operations, contingency forces of up to a maritime task group, a brigade group plus an infantry battalion group, a wing of fighter aircraft, and a squadron of tactical transport aircraft.  Were these forces to be deployed simultaneously, this could conceivably involve as many as 10,000 personnel.  Within this upper limit, Canada will increase its commitment of stand-by forces to the UN of two ships, one battle group, one infantry battalion group, one squadron of fighter aircraft, a flight of tactical transport aircraft, a communications element and a headquarters element.  If deployed, simultaneously, this would represent a commitment of 4000 personnel.”


That represented a commitment to the Canadian people that their defence forces would be capable of deploying and sustaining approximately 4,000 personnel deployed on UN missions overseas on a continuing basis. That never happened. Canada has never maintained 4,000 personnel overseas in the intervening years, because the personnel and resources were never developed to meet that commitment. Twice – in Bosnia and Afghanistan – Canada set out on ambitious field efforts, only to be forced to withdraw because of lack of capacity to sustain those efforts.

The White Paper stated that the Canadian forces “will be able to deploy, or redeploy from other multilateral operations, a joint task force headquarters and, as single units or in combination, one or more of the following elements:

·       a naval task group comprised of up to four combatants (destroyers, frigates or submarines) and a support ship with appropriate maritime air support  [Afghanistan demonstrated that Canada cannot sustain this commitment for more than one rotation of troops].

·       three separate battle groups, or a brigade group (comprised of three infantry battalions, an armored regiment, and an artillery regiment, with appropriate combat support and combat service support) [Canada has never been able to sustain this type of commitment.  Bosnia and Afghanistan demonstrated clearly that Canada’s military can hardly manage to support half of this commitment].

·       a wing of fighter aircraft with appropriate support  [The last time Canada sent an augmented squadron of aircraft (28) was during the Gulf War in 1990/91. Capacity subsequently dwindled to the point that the Canadian military was hard pressed to sustain a small squadron of aircraft (8-10 planes) during the Kosovo bombing campaign. A wing of aircraft is at least 36 aircraft, with appropriate aircrew and support].

·       one squadron of tactical transport aircraft  [Canada has never deployed a squadron of tactical transport since the Gulf War – our present commitment to Afghanistan is two aircraft and support].

·       single elements or the vanguard component of this force – within three weeks – and be able to sustain them indefinitely in a low-threat environment and, within three months, the remaining elements of the full contingency force [until the CF possesses its own integral strategic air and sea transport, it will never be able to deploy within the required time, nor does the Canadian military possess the resources to have any hope of sustaining such a Vanguard force for more than six months].

The White Paper said Canada’s military would also:

·       earmark an infantry battalion group as either a standby force for the UN or to serve with NATO’s Immediate Reaction Force [at least Canada’s current military has sufficient resources to earmark an infantry battalion – deploying one under current conditions of over commitment  and underfunding would be another matter] .

·       have plans ready to institute other measures to increase the capabilities of the Canadian forces to sustain existing commitments or to respond to a major crisis  [there is a major crisis at hand, but no apparent measures to meet it].  


A Nation Diminished

Canada did a commendable job during the 20th century in two particular areas – helping defend the world against chaos and tyranny while defending the security and culture of its people, and establishing a national presence on the world stage. To a large extent the two went hand in hand. Canada’s military performance over the century significantly increased our country’s stature in the eyes of the world.

It is ironic that while Canada’s population is growing and its economy is robust, the country’s stature is being diminished by a refusal to pull our weight militarily in an increasingly unpredictable world. With loss of stature comes loss of influence in world affairs.

The first role of any government is to protect its people. Canadians are not being adequately protected – the refusal to properly fund a reasonable degree of military security amounts to nothing more than rolling the dice. Like homeowners who don’t insure their property, the gamble is that nothing bad will happen and that skimping on insurance will pay off in other ways.

The Government of Canada is privileged to preside over a nation of many treasures, however, it is skimping on their protection. It is also skimping on its obligations to its allies.

Our friends are watching. Our friends are not impressed. Neither should the citizens of Canada be impressed. There is an old saying: Every country has an army – its own, or someone else’s.

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