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Culture of Secrecy Over DND Spending?


Army.ca Veteran
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(from the Ottawa Citizen - any comments?)

'Culture of secrecy' blankets DND spending
Canadians kept in dark over state of military, auditor general says
Mike Blanchfield
The Ottawa Citizen

The Chretien Liberals are fostering a "culture of secrecy" by keeping Parliament in the dark about the capability and budgetary requirements of the Canadian Armed Forces, say top officials with the federal auditor general's office.

"Parliament has not been provided with a full appraisal of the capability of the Canadian Forces," said yesterday's report card on the Defence Department by Auditor General Denis Desautels.

The report makes particular note of the fact that the House of Commons public accounts committee recommended that Defence provide Parliament with a detailed assessment of the military's capability and whether it had the means to buy expensive new equipment to meet its goals.

However, the government rejected the recommendation as impractical.

A senior auditor general official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that decision is indicative of the growing political trend in Ottawa by the Chretien Liberals to control the flow of, and access to, information that could be politically damaging to them.

The lack of a detailed assessment of the forces is depriving the public of information necessary for an informed debate on whether military spending is adequate, the official said.

"The government is not providing the public with essential information to be able to discuss the highest level of defence management issues: Is the budget big enough?" said the official said. "I think there is a culture of secrecy."

The official drew a direct parallel to Monday's scathing report by Information Commissioner John Reid, who lambasted Prime Minister Jean Chretien's top staff for undermining the Access To Information law by intimidating his investigators when they tried to uncover hidden documents.

"Our recent political culture (says) why give the opposition and critics information that would be used to criticize you," the official said. "Nobody in our political culture wants to step up to the line and say, 'here's an objective portrait of where our department should be.' "

The auditor general noted the Defence department annually lacks about $750 million to buy equipment and maintain a level of readiness.

The Liberal government cut defence spending by 23 per cent between 1994 and 1998. Although it has given the military a modest spending increase, including a four-year, $1.9-billion increase in last year's budget, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Maurice Baril, recently warned that he would have to cut as many as 3,000 troops to balance his books.

Gen. Baril needs to pay for new hardware, such as maritime helicopters and high-tech upgrades for existing equipment so Canada can remain compatible with its NATO allies.

"According to departmental business plans, the department would require $11 billion in capital funds over the next five years, but would receive only $6.5 billion, resulting in a $4.5-billion shortage," the audit states.

As they have tried to find ways to do more with less, forces brass have been "hampered by a lack of adequate policy guidance, clear priorities and performance information. ... We also found that other countries were doing better at linking capital spending to policy objectives and were providing more information to their legislatures."

However, unlike the practice of other countries, the Liberals rejected giving Parliament a "comprehensive defence review and assessment," saying it was impractical or "already addressed by various public documents."

The auditor general said the other public documents on which the Liberals chose to rely were filled with platitudes with little useful information.

"Only vaguely worded statements are provided, such as 'we have exceeded expectations,' 'the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces are working hard to meet the challenges they are currently facing' ..."

"The chief of Defence staff's annual report on the state of the Canadian Forces does not assess the overall state of equipment and provides only a list of new equipment received."

Meanwhile, a separate audit uncovered major shortcoming in how the military managed major equipment purchase projects. "Only one project out of six met our expectations for risk management," the audit says.

The audit cited one case in which a $750,000 vehicle-launched grenade had to be scrapped because it proved "potentially lethal to the troops using it."
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(also from the Ottawa Citizen - I‘m a long-standing Belzile fan, by the way):

A Defence of more spending
The $2 billion already added is welcome, but it‘s not nearly enough.
Lt.-Gen. Charles Belzile
Citizen Special

National defence, and the armed forces which provide it, need to rank as one of the highest priorities of government. It is a central component of the national framework which assures our security and well-being, and promotes Canadian interests and values elsewhere in the world.

The Conference of Defence Associations has recently released a study, Stability and Prosperity: The Benefits of Investments in Defence, which shows in detail that investment in defence is a necessary expenditure which benefits all Canadians, either directly or indirectly.

With the sudden end of the Cold War, and collapse of its accompanying bi-polar framework, the world has entered a watershed of uncertainty. Globalization of economic and financial affairs is moving ahead quickly, assisted by the information revolution.

World security continues to revolve around the interests of the most powerful nations, but a host of non-traditional threats such as crime, pollution, exploding populations, etc., will produce a complex and volatile mix. Overall, the situation is made more dangerous by the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

Military forces must also grapple with the immense changes imposed by the "Revolution in Military Affairs" generated by high technology. Finally, a doctrine of humanitarian intervention, the human security agenda, is evolving to address problems of instability within and between nations, and an assortment of humanitarian disasters.

Canada needs to stay engaged internationally and play a leadership role, both to advance its national interests and to discharge its international responsibilities, especially in enforcing and keeping the peace. This implies maintenance of flexible combat-capable armed forces, able to be deployed rapidly worldwide.

The federal government‘s main estimate for fiscal year 2000-01 allocates $11.2 billion to the Department of National Defence (DND), roughly 1.1 per cent of Canada‘s Gross Domestic Product. Although the sum appears large, evolving world events, the ensuing high operational tempo of the Canadian Forces, and neglect of Canadian Forces over three decades, mean it is still well short of what would be required to rebuild the defence establishment to serve Canada‘s national interests.

Canada has recently become less influential in international affairs, which can be linked to its recent military shortfalls. This has impacted negatively on both Canadian diplomacy and trade.

It is therefore appropriate for the government to rehabilitate and invest in the DND budget so as to restore the Canadian Forces to a reasonable level of operational effectiveness. A start was made in the federal budgets for 1999 and 2000 after cuts of some 23 per cent since 1995. In particular, the 2000 budget allocated an additional $2.3 billion to DND.

However, the range of shortfalls is so extensive and deep that this sum amounts to only 50 per cent of what is needed to stop the erosion of the Canadian Forces. It will address only the most critical items.

The additional funds are welcome, but another $2 billion needs to be added over the next few years to halt the serious decline of the Canadian Forces, including the Reserves. Unless this is done, even the existing weak Canadian Forces will continue to be unaffordable, and further cuts to military capabilities will be necessary.

The first priority of any national government is to provide security for its citizens. The Canadian Forces are the primary instrument created to discharge this responsibility. The DND budget is disbursed in support of that mandate by having the Canadian Forces engage in domestic and international military operations.

Domestically, the focus is on countering the non-traditional threats noted earlier, and on maintaining national sovereignty over Canada‘s sea, land and air space, mainly in alliance with the U.S. The Canadian Forces also make numerous contributions to public safety by operating search and rescue facilities, and by rendering assistance during natural disasters, etc.

Internationally, the Canadian Forces engage in operations, normally under the United Nations, NATO or a coalition of allies, to reverse aggression and enforce or maintain the peace. These actions contribute to the well being and prosperity of Canadians by establishing stability to support beneficial trade relations and international development. They also contribute to humanitarian objectives in support of democracy and an end to human suffering.

Canada also has an economy more dependent than most on foreign trade. In fact, both exports and imports are equivalent to 70 per cent of GDP, as against 24 per cent in the U.S. and 21 per cent in Japan. Moreover, some 85 per cent of Canadian trade is with the United States. That means Canadian prosperity is linked closely with U.S. prosperity and by extension world stability.

For these reasons it is important not to consider the Canadian Forces to be competing with social programs for money. Rather, the two complement each other for the benefit of all Canadians. Social programs rely on prosperity, and the Canadian Forces contribute to the maintenance of stability, which is a vital precondition for our prosperity.

The Canadian Forces, both Regular and Reserve, are an essential component of the framework of our nation. The Canadian Forces assist in defining Canada as a sovereign nation and provide an array of vital benefits to the Canadian population. In this light, and in view of the budget surplus, the Canadian Government can and should provide an additional $2 billion to DND.

Lieutenant-General Charles Belzile (ret‘d) is chairman of the Conference of Defence Association in Ottawa.
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Or to quote (paraphrase, if I have it wrong) WS Churchill who said it rather succinctly: "Everyone has an army - their own or someone else‘s."