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The Hill Times has an article on a recent report on the readiness/capabilities shortcomings of the Canadian military.
The actual report (which is pretty detailed) can be found here.
Operational shortcomings, aging equipment, and culture in crisis: new DND report a ‘depressing reading’ of state of military, say MPs
For the first time, Canada's Armed Forces is revealing its inability to fulfill its concurrent operations obligations set out in the Liberal government's 2017 defence policy.
BY NEIL MOSS | November 22, 2023
A recent report sheds new light on the disarray in the readiness of Canada’s military, which is unable to meet its concurrent operations requirements as key equipment continues to age, and personnel shortage pains persist.
The report also found that nearly a quarter of members of the Armed Forces self-identify as victims of harassment, and more than 15 per cent as victims of discrimination.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, the Liberal government has emphasized the need to retool and strengthen Canada’s defence, including a 2022 budget commitment to produce a still-awaited update to the defence policy. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland (University–Rosedale, Ont.) said more than 18 months ago that “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also reminded us that our own peaceful democracy, like all democracies of the world, depends ultimately on the defence of hard power.”
But the recently released 2022-23 Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) departmental results show that Canada’s military is in as dire a situation as ever.
For the first time, DND publicly revealed in its departmental results that Canada, “based on overall readiness levels,” is “currently unable to conduct multiple operations concurrently per the requirement laid out in” the 2017 defence policy.
“It’s going to get worse until it gets better,” said Liberal MP John McKay (Scarborough–Guildwood, Ont.), chair of the House National Defence Committee. “The problems are deep-seated and they’re endemic, and the environment is getting evermore serious. And I think [the report] makes for pretty depressing reading.”
“The trendline on the report is definitely not in the right direction, and the threats are much greater over last two years,” he said, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the challenge to Taiwan’s sovereignty, and the risk of the Israel-Hamas war becoming a regional conflict, which he remarked would become a drain on American resources. Such a situation could leave Canada with vulnerabilities that it doesn’t currently have, McKay said, which could include leaving an Arctic flank that is “severely exposed.”
McKay said Canada can no longer afford the luxury of underinvestment in its defence, development, or diplomacy.
“I just don’t know when the penny drops for the Canadian public,” he said. “This can’t continue, not if we expect to have a force that is able to defend us.”
As laid out in 2017’s Strong, Secure, Engaged policy, the military is required to be able to defend Canada, including conducting concurrent domestic operations, fulfill its NORAD tasks, as well as “contribute to international peace and stability” through two “sustained” deployments of 500-1,500 personnel; one “time-limited” deployment of roughly six to nine months of 500-1,500 people; two “sustained” deployments of 100-500 personnel; two “time-limited” deployments of 100-500 people; a deployment of the Disaster Assistance Response Team; and a “non-combatant evacuation operation.”
Canada’s largest military presence abroad is in Latvia, where it has around 1,000 troops leading a NATO mission, which is planned to rise to 2,200 by 2026 as the battle group is upgraded to a brigade. But Canada has rebuffed calls to join or lead a multilateral force to address the humanitarian crisis in Haiti. Ottawa still has yet to pledge a 200-member quick reaction force for United Nations peacekeeping—a promise it had initially made in 2017. Currently, it has 52 personnel deployed across seven UN peacekeeping missions.
The department gives itself an “actual result” of 40 per cent in fulfilling its concurrent operational deployment obligation. A DND spokesperson said the figure “speaks to the percentage of the total number of various concurrency scenarios that could be supported based on the readiness of available forces to fulfill the direction in” the 2017 defence policy.
Previous iterations of departmental results going back to 2018-19 show that 100 per cent of operations were capable of being conducted concurrently. The 2022-23 results note that the metric was “updated to provide a more accurate assessment of the current realities the department faces.”
“Readiness of CAF force elements has continued to decrease over the course of the last year aggravated by decreasing number of personnel and issues with equipment and vehicles,” the departmental results note.
Defence Minister Bill Blair (Scarborough Southwest, Ont.) told The Hill Times that he recognizes that there are “challenges” with the military’s readiness.
“It’s important to recognize—and we do—that we have to continue to make investments in the Canadian Armed Forces so they have the resources, the people, and the capacity they need to respond to many challenges at home and abroad,” he said during a Nov. 20 scrum.
As Canada has faced domestic and international pressure to spend more on defence, DND is facing a $1-billion cut as the federal government reins in spending across all departments, according to a CBC report.
“I’m delighted that people actually read the departmental results report this year,” Blair remarked. “We’ve had a number of those reports, and I invite you to go back to look at them.”
The Hill Times previously reported on fleet readiness concerns outlined in the 2021-22 departmental results and in the preceding 2020-21 report.
In the most recent findings, the percentage of the Armed Forces that are ready for operations is 61 per cent, a decrease from 71 and 71.7 per cent in the two previous fiscal years (the target is 100 per cent by March 1, 2025).
The readiness of the land, sea, and air fleet continues to deteriorate or stagnate, as 56 per cent of the land fleet is serviceable to meet training and readiness requirements (the target is at least 60 per cent), 51.2 per cent of sea fleets meet their readiness requirements (the target is at least 60 per cent), and 43.8 per cent of air fleets fulfill their needs (the target is at least 85 per cent).
The report notes the Army’s land fleets missed their serviceability target due to “several key fleets parts obsolescence and ageing issues.” The Navy’s Halifax-class fleets and Kingston-class vessels fulfilled their requirements, but the Victoria-class submarines and the Harry DeWolf-class Arctic Offshore Patrol ships did not. The Air Force fleets did not meet their requirements due to “ongoing personnel shortages, introduction of new fleets, and aging fleets and inadequate maintenance infrastructure.”
Bloc Québécois MP Christine Normandin (Saint-Jean, Que.), her party’s defence critic, said the readiness issues send a bad message to Canada’s allies, as well as to Canadians domestically.
“With personnel readiness at such a low level, it’s kind of impossible to have missions that are attractive. The less attractive missions you have, the less recruitment you can make. The less recruitment [you have], the less attractive missions you can have. It’s really a vicious circle,” she said.
Normandin said the planned cuts will have an additional negative impact on the “problematic” results.
“Even before there’s cuts, it does have a negative impact. I’ve heard a lot of soldiers telling me, ‘We feel like we’re neglected.’ It doesn’t help on the recruitment issues,” she said.
The recently released document also sheds light on the personnel crisis, noting that an attrition rate of 12 per cent in 2022-23 is outpacing recruitment amid an applicant crisis, which has “hindered” attempts to grow the Armed Forces. The results show that 70 per cent of occupations within the military have “critical shortfalls” (the target is five per cent or less).
Retired major-general Denis Thompson, a former commander of Canada’s special operations forces, said the Armed Forces must be made relevant with modern equipment to fix the readiness and personnel crises.
“If you build it, they will come,” Thompson said. “At this point in time, it doesn’t appear that we’re serious about doing it.”
“Unless you make the investments, the Canadian Armed Forces will just get smaller and become less and less capable, and become less and less relevant on the world stage,” he said. “We need to understand that it’s one of the elements of government power that gets us a seat at the table. We’re not the middle power we used to be. We seem to be sliding further and further into irrelevancy because we don’t invest—not just in the Canadian Armed Forces, but in Global Affairs, and other departments that have international reach. We’re just not serious anymore.”
Nearly a quarter of CAF members victims of harassment: reportAs efforts continue to reform the culture of the Armed Forces, the departmental results show that more needs to be done to fix the situation, said NDP MP Lindsay Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe, Ont.), her party’s defence critic.
“I hear a lot of stories and the on-the-ground feeling—people tell us their experience—but when you are hit with those numbers [in the report], it’s even more stark,” she said. “You can’t ignore that.”
The report found that 24 per cent of CAF members self identify as victims of harassment (the target is 11.9 per cent or less), an increase from 20.8 per cent in 2021-22, and 15.5 per cent in 2020-21. The report notes that increases “do not always indicate an increase in instances,” asserting that it could be a sign of more people having increased trust in the system and coming forward.
It also found 15.7 per cent self identify as victims of discrimination (the target is 9.2 per cent or less), a slight increase from 14.8 per cent in 2021-22, and 14.5 per cent in 2020-21.
There were 443 reported incidents of sexual misconduct in the CAF in 2022-23, compared to 444 in 2021-22, and 431 in 2020-21.
For civilian members of DND, 14 per cent self-identified as victims of harassment, and eight per cent as victims of discrimination.
Mathyssen said despite missing the targets, they aren’t rigid enough to stamp out harassment and discrimination in the military.
“[The targets] are still too high,” she said, but remarked that systemic change is a process that will take longer. “But, the fact that even though they’re too high, they’re still not meeting them, my heart sinks a bit. And it just means we have to double down and work harder and invest in the solutions, [and] put forward the changes we know we need to see.”
The Hill Times
The actual report (which is pretty detailed) can be found here.