Budget "adjustments" miss obvious defence spending waste

We've have the planes; who needs people?

We have the planes; who needs people?

As noted in an earlier post, all three branches of the Canadian Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force) are currently conducting budget “adjustments”, amounting to $190 million, that have to be made by the end of March.

As part of this process, the Army is “adjusting” its budget by $80 million, and the Reserves are reportedly taking the brunt of the adjustment.  “The main thing for the Reserves is that training has stopped,” comments one reservist quoted on David Pugliese’s Defence Watch. In some cases ongoing courses, including the BMQ (Basic Military Qualification, a course every member of the Canadian Army needs), have been shut down at the last minute.

Reservists arguably play an important role in Canada’s armed forces, such as assisting regular army personnel to respond to a major terrorist attack, or supporting civilian authorities during crises such as natural disasters.  They help to protect Arctic sovereignty (through the Canadian Rangers). And, back in the day when Canada was a major contributor to UN peacekeeping, reservists frequently volunteered to be deployed overseas on peacekeeping missions. (Today, they constitute a significant proportion of our personnel in Afghanistan.)

The purpose of the adjustments is to redirect spending to higher priority areas within the Department of National Defence. It makes sense to regularly review departmental spending plans to ensure that money goes to the highest priority projects and unnecessary spending gets weeded out.

But is this really the most sensible way to re-prioritize a $21-billion military budget? Even within the armed forces it’s a controversial idea of priorities.  DND’s plan to spend $2 billion or more on Close Combat Vehicles, to be delivered long after the end of the Afghanistan mission, might be a better place to start.

Photo by Robert Taylor, Creative Commons license 2.0

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