Lieutenant-General (Retired) Richard Evraire (Chairman, Conference of Defence Associations):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Conference of Defence Associations, which this year celebrates its 80th year of existence, is very pleased to have been asked to testify before your committee.
Today our 51 associations continue, as have their predecessors since 1932, to consider problems of national defence, to coordinate the activities of our associations on matters of interest to all services of the Canadian Forces, to make such recommendations to the Government of Canada as may appear expedient, and to promote the welfare of the Canadian Forces as a whole.
We are especially delighted to be able to add our voice to the issue of Canadian Forces readiness.
Mr. Chair, my presentation will make the point that recruiting, training and retention of personnel must be very carefully managed if the Canadian Forces are to set and maintain appropriate operational readiness that we define as the timely deployment of the adequate number and type of appropriately trained and equipped military forces to achieve the assigned mission. I will further suggest that appropriate operational readiness will not be achievable if the Canadian Forces do not retain a full and deployable spectrum of military capabilities
My colleague, Col. Brian MacDonald, will then comment on the impact of technology and funding on the Canadian Forces' likelihood of achieving appropriate operational readiness.
The Government of Canada's Canada First defence strategy currently tasks the Canadian Forces with the following six core missions: conduct daily domestic and continental operations, including those in the Arctic and through NORAD; support civilian authorities during a crisis in Canada such as a natural disaster; support a major international event in Canada, such as the 2010 Olympics; lead and/or conduct a major international operation for an extended period; respond to a major terrorist attack; and deploy forces in response to crises elsewhere in the world for shorter periods.
Government-wide fiscal restraint measures may cause the Canadian Forces to consider reducing staffing levels. If this occurs, the government should ensure that any reductions are undertaken strategically, in other words, in a manner that retains key skills and capacity across the defence establishment's demographic profile.
In the 1990s, during a period of considerable fiscal restraint, DND significantly reduced its staffing levels by halting recruitment efforts and providing early retirement or departure incentives to senior personnel. The unfortunate consequence of this measure is that the Canadian Forces and defence civilians now have a skewed demographic profile that features a number of personnel approaching retirement age and a large number of relatively inexperienced recent hires. As a result, the department is short of what should be its largest cohort: personnel with several years of experience but not yet approaching retirement.
Any future changes to defence staffing must ensure that a similar situation does not reoccur. To achieve this, if staffing reductions are required, they must be achieved by a combination of reduced recruiting, natural attrition, and releases that span the department's full experience and age profile. If this is not done, it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to retain adequate readiness targets.
The unforeseen events in the Middle East over the past year highlight the uncertain nature of global developments. Given this unpredictability, the long-standing Canadian policy of maintaining a full spectrum of military capabilities should be maintained. As we can't predict what the future holds, the government would be best served by hedging its bets by preparing for a full range of international and national/continental contingencies.
The government should also maintain its demonstrated commitment to ensuring the deployability of major elements of the Canadian Forces. Recently it has made significant progress on this front by procuring C-17 strategic-lift aircraft and renewing the Canadian Hercules fleet, two measures that facilitate the deployment of Canadian Forces at home and abroad.
To ensure that it can achieve its readiness targets, the deployability of the Canadian Forces must be maintained. It will therefore be necessary for the government to remain committed to renewing the Royal Canadian Navy's fleet, especially its at-sea replenishment capability via the joint support ship project.
Given the core missions assigned to the Canadian Forces in the Canada First defence strategy, will technology advances and funding levels be an impediment to readiness? Chairman, with your permission, my colleague Colonel MacDonald is prepared to respond to that very question.
Colonel (Retired) Brian MacDonald (Senior Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations):
Thank you, General Evraire.
Recent RAND Corporation studies done for the United States Navy and United States Air Force have suggested that increases in combat systems capabilities have led to defence cost increases in the order of 9% to 12% annually.
On the air side, these increases in costs have generated new capabilities, such as those found in fifth-generation fighter aircraft—for example, the F-22 and F-35 in the United States; the Russian T-5O, sometimes referred as the PAK FA; and finally the F-20, which is a Chinese aircraft. These increases in capability can lead to extraordinarily high kill rates against fourth-generation fighters such as the F-15, the F-16, and either our or the Super Hornet F-18 classes.
Now, we saw this in an exercise that took place in 2007. An article in the U.S. Air Force news reported that the F-22's debut in combat exercises was at Exercise Northern Edge in 2006. According to U.S. Air Force data, the dozen F-22s involved achieved an unprecedented kill record of 144 to zero the first week alone, and suffered no losses overall.
On the naval side, the U.S. government accounting office reported in January of 2010 on a U.S. Navy proposal to stop production of the DDG-1000 class destroyers and to restart the older DDG-51 Flight IIA destroyers as a cost-saving measure. However, the new version of DDG-51 would require a redesign to incorporate a new air and missile defence radar, which is necessary to cope with the threat of terminal-guidance ballistic missiles travelling at speeds of up to Mach 10.
What are the costs of the new DDG-51 Flight IIIs? Well, the following table provides procurement costs for the various U.S. options. It does not include, of course, life-cycle costs.
The Flight IIA, the older model, the last-built ship of that series, costs $1.93 billion for each ship. The estimates for the new Flight III destroyers ranged from a low cost of $2.3 billion to $2.95 billion, in comparison with the DDG-1000s, whose costs range from $3.2 billion to $3.37 billion.
Now, Canada too needs to replace our three aging destroyers, and will also have to consider the need to project a naval task force against ballistic missiles or high-speed cruise missiles. The government will have to deal with their cost impact upon the Canada First defence budget.
The next question that comes into view is what is the funding for the Canada First defence strategy like? When we've looked at the rate of technological growth taking place in the potential combat sphere and at the sharply rising costs associated with deploying that technology, we've had increasing concerns about the funding level of the Canada First defence strategy and its ability to deal with the costs of capital renewal. These concerns are driven by the ongoing increases in defence costs, which in turn are driven by the technological increases in combat systems capabilities.
The original plan for funding increases in the Canada First defence strategy budget was for an annual 2% growth to cover inflation—the figure that's consistent with the Bank of Canada's inflation model—plus a 0.6% increment to cover the increases in defence costs. Together they would amount to an annual figure of 2.6%.
Now, more recent comments and testimony by senior defence officials have suggested that a more appropriate figure for defence costs would be in the range from 5.3% to 7% annually instead of the 2.6%. We believe, however, that even these increased estimates may be low given the 9% to 12% defence cost increase estimated in the RAND studies.
Seemingly the defence department has agreed with us, as defence budgets handily exceeded the 2.6% inflation-plus-growth figure, and had grown to the $22-billion range by fiscal year 2010-11. This may be seen in the table that is attached to the text of this document. The table is drawn from the report on plans and priorities for fiscal year 2011-12.
This also included extra funding for the international peace and security operations, in Afghanistan primarily, which reached $2.7 billion in that year. In the following years, the extra funding turned downward with the change from a combat to a training mission. The funding projections suggest a plateau of around $21.3 billion had been established at that point for the defence budget. In addition, capital funding increased substantially, and was projected to reach the $5-billion range in fiscal year 2013-14, which is shown in table 2.
The defence reviews, then, have as well had an impact upon defence funding. The defence budget had been earlier cut by approximately $1.5 billion in the 2010 strategic review, and now we are to have the 2012 strategic and operating review, with the stated objective of further budget cuts of either 5% or 10%.
This would cut the defence budget by another $1 billion to $2 billion. If the new cuts were applied equally across all program activities, funding for readiness would drop by $500 million to $1 billion annually, and funding for capital renewal would drop by somewhere between $250 million to $500 million annually.
We have had, as we say, increasing concerns, even before the 2010 defence budget cuts, that the funding of the Canada First defence strategy might not be adequate to deal with the costs of capital renewal. Our concerns then were driven by this pattern of ongoing sharp increases in defence costs driven by technological increases in combat systems capabilities.
We now have, too, on top of this, the lapsed funding, which, in conjunction with the cuts to capital budgeting and the strategic and operational requirements, leads to further potential cuts in the overall budget.
So potentially, now, we then are about to ask the question of whether or not we have re-entered the period of the “decade of darkness”, the budgetary zero-sum game in which defence funding will be increasingly incapable of maintaining the readiness of both the current and future defence forces.
I think I shall stop it there.
Col Brian MacDonald:
If you examine the pattern of defence expenditure growth during the period of the Canada First defence strategy, we've seen some very substantial increases that were made through the supplementary estimates rather than through the main estimates. So they were not immediately as apparent as main estimates figures. As a consequence of that extra flow of funding, we were able to move to the recapitalization of a number of significant platforms and to have new ones. I would say, for example, that the C-17 has had an enormous impact on the logistics capabilities of the forces, as have the other aircraft that have been bought over that period.
Our feeling is that were that pattern of capitalization continued, we would have a good chance of staying in sight of what's going on in technology. But if that is stopped, or even worse, reversed, we will be in a position that some major platforms are going to be very expensive to replace. This, then, drives the question of what we do now.
I would cite, for example, the F-35, whose numbers have been all over the map and are looking more frightening, depending on who is the latest person to comment. Even greater than that is going to be the problem of dealing with the replacement of the destroyers and frigates. There we are seeing some extremely large numbers. For example, the last Canadian patrol frigate built came in at a price of about $850 million. Now, the figure the accounting office cites for equivalent American destroyers, at this point, is over $2 billion per copy. We are looking at sticker shock problems that are going to be pretty horrendous.
Mr. Rick Norlock:
To continue in that vein, let's say that Canada were to make a decided change, an about-face, or halt its current spending trends. We've gone through one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression, so every government entity, including the Canadian armed forces, has been reducing its expenditures. We don't know exactly what that will mean; however, in a month or so we will know. But let's take the opposite view. Let's go with the view of some of the current government's challengers and say that we should just stop all this military spending or reduce it significantly and concentrate on domestic issues and perhaps some other things, like aid to other countries.
Would I be correct in saying that this would affect our ability to defend ourselves, number one, or to act as an important part of our mutual defence? I'm referring particularly to NATO. You referred to the C-17, which is deployed out of my riding, out of Trenton, and can do a lot of good things both domestically and internationally.
Could you connect the dots? A lot of people think the military is just about fighting. It's actually much more. If you could expand on that, I'd appreciate it.
Col Brian MacDonald:
Well, I would disagree.
Again, if you look at the American concept of a high-low mix of an air superiority fighter, on the low side is primarily an attack fighter but with a dogfighting capability. For example, in the U.S. Navy you had the F-14, the Tomcat, which was the heavy air superiority fighter with a targeting radar. That can pick up something way out there and fire a missile at it and remain dominant in the air. The F-18 was the smaller aircraft that did the general purpose things.
In the situation now, the American concept was that the F-22 would be the air superiority fighter. Certainly the evidence from the exercises I've looked at in Elmendorf Air Force Base--and in fact I spent a couple of days there talking to the F-22 pilots--was that at the end of it the F-15 pilots said they really didn't want to play any more because they couldn't find the F-22s.
If you have a requirement for an air superiority struggle, an air superiority phase, then you have to have that big heavyweight fighter that has the stealth capability. If you don't have stealth capability and you're going to be facing a Russian T-50 or a Chinese J-20, you're sending your pilots up to die.
In that sense, I think the decision to go for the F-35 was a case of there being no other alternative. There is the F-22, whose line is closed, and the Americans won't sell it outside the United States anyway. There is the 50 PAK FA, which is Russian, and I don't see that we've ever bought Russian equipment before, and the J-20, which is the Chinese one, which again has not been a normal supplier of technology.
Mr. Corneliu Chisu (Pickering—Scarborough East, CPC):
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much, General, and thank you very much, Colonel, for your great presentations.
I know a little bit about the Conference of Defence Associations, as I have been following it in the last years. I am former military, with service in peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and also in Afghanistan, in 2007, and I understand very well your concerns and your promotion of the new equipment and so on.
The Canada First defence strategy was released in 2008 as a comprehensive plan for the Canadian Forces. How does a document like the Canada First defence strategy advance Canada's global interest?
I will focus more on the training of the personnel. It is very important. We can have all the equipment in the world, but if you don't have the properly trained personnel, we have a problem.
You probably recall our history in the Second World War. We sent pilots to England to fight for England in the war against Germany. We provided the human resources.
We could have the best equipment in the world, but if we don't have the personnel who are able to manage that, we have a problem. Could you explain how you see the training of personnel in this context of fast-evolving technological warfare?
Col Brian MacDonald:
There is no question that training is a critical part of readiness—no question whatsoever. But when we look at training, we have to look at the division of that training, starting with the recruiting and basic level training and then the splitting off in the various streams to the three services and the sub-components within that.
What is often of concern to us is whether or not adequate phasing of training is able to take place in order to keep the young soldier busy and growing and achieving new successes. As you know, the worst thing you can possibly have is doing nothing and waiting for the next course to start. That is an element that gives us concern.
The other element that gives us concern is the area of collective training: building teams, building platoons, building batteries, building regiments, and ultimately building brigades. That collective training is absolutely critical. That is where you build the teams, where you give the direct exercise in leadership.
A problem the military has is that if you suddenly require a trained battery commander, you can't go out on civvy street and find a trained battery commander who could be taken in directly. Essentially you're taking your people in at the bottom and training them up. It takes 12 years to create a battery commander, and you can't do that in a matter of weeks.
This then really comes back to this part of readiness. Again, if you look at the tables I've provided for you, which come from the RPP, they are divided into program activities so you can see various categories of that. You will see that readiness as a funding area is in the order of roughly $10 billion. If you look at the changes in that, you can see the pattern of where the training is going and where it's not going.
This is a complex area. It accounts for something in the order of half of the defence budget, and it probably should have a bit more than that in it if it had a larger defence budget.
Col Brian MacDonald:
When you are looking at deploying fighter aircraft into the Arctic, you then look immediately at the question of how you're going to have enough gas. Then the responses are, first of all, that you look at the existing forward operating locations, which are in Iqaluit, Whitehorse, and I've forgotten the third one in the centre. This allows you to deploy forward to a base, which is one that has fuel on it, and refuel your aircraft and fly them out of that base at the time of whatever the exigency is.
Alternatively, when you put a fighter aircraft up, you put a tanker up with it. As it goes on its mission and runs to the point where it's now beginning to run out of gas, it simply refuels from the tanker that is there. You can in fact maintain a pattern between us and the Americans of tankers to support a forward-deployed aircraft.
Now, certainly when one looks at the existing forward operating locations, they are in the mid-north, not in the high north. I would certainly think that as we continue to develop Resolute Bay, then the gravel runway that is there should be then upgraded to a proper tarmac runway, and additional tankage put in there so it in fact becomes a high north refuelling location in addition to the ones in the lower north.
From Resolute Bay you can then cover the entirety of the choke point of the Northwest Passage, and you're within reasonable range of being able to go to Alert, if necessary, and to move into the area beyond northern Alert, up to the North Pole, which is now part of the search and rescue responsibility we have agreed to as part of the Arctic negotiations.
Mr. Steven Staples (President, Rideau Institute):
I want to thank you, members, for inviting me to appear today to contribute to your study on the readiness of the Canadian Forces.
I'm joined by my colleague, David Macdonald, who works both for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives as an economist and for the Rideau Institute as a contributor and who wrote The Cost of 9/11, our recent report released last fall, which he will speak to after my remarks.
The Rideau Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan research, advocacy, and consulting group. We were founded in 2006. We specialize in international affairs and we are funded by more than 2,000 individual supporters, by commissioned research, and through our social enterprise, which provides consulting services to leading Canadian non-profit groups and trade unions. We do not receive government funding and our supporters do not receive tax deductions for their donations.
I would like to thank David Macdonald, Bill Robinson, Josh Libben, and Kathleen Aiken for their research contributions to our presentation today.
Your report is timely. More than a decade after 9/11—which was followed by such tremendous changes, growth, and heavy combat by our armed forces—the tide is shifting. In answer to the question you are considering, “Are they ready?”, one might answer “Yes, they are” or “No, they're not.” But I think the answer to the question is a question, which is “Ready for what?” Readiness is a measure against a need. What threats are there to Canada? What are the priorities of our foreign policy, to which the Department of National Defence is one contributor?
As you know, the United States has just announced a new direction for its armed forces, borne out of three factors, according to The New York Times: troubled government finances, the winding-down of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a changing geopolitical environment. We're not exempt from these same factors, so such a review is also needed here in Canada, since we have our own financial challenges to address. Our Afghanistan combat mission has ended, and Osama bin Laden is dead.
As David Macdonald pointed out in The Cost of 9/11, in the last decade, military spending has increased dramatically. Military spending has nearly doubled: 90% in 10 years, or 48% if you adjust it for inflation. When you include other departments, Canada has devoted an additional $92 billion to national security spending over and above what we would have spent had 9/11 not happened and if defence spending had stayed at its then-level: in adjusted dollars, $69 billion.
Some charts were distributed, and I want to draw your attention to chart 1. You'll see that national defence spending has never been higher. Spending is more than $21 billion. In terms of real dollars, we are the sixth-highest spender among the 28 members of NATO and we're in the top 15 spenders globally. Despite a small decline last year, as you see on chart 1, the Department of National Defence is predicting further increases in accordance with the Canada First defence strategy.
I direct your attention to chart 2. Looking at defence spending since the end of the Second World War, when adjusted for inflation, our spending has never been higher, exceeding even the height of the Cold War, when we faced off against thousands of Soviet nuclear weapons and long-range bombers. Can we say we face a greater threat than that today? If not, should we continue spending like we do? The fact is that we are overspending on defence right now, and we lack a clear sense of how to know when enough is enough, when it's the right amount.
I direct you to chart number three in the package, which shows the division of government spending on various departments and transfers. This was provided by the Department of Finance. You can see that national defence now accounts for 7.9% of total government spending. However, when you only look at federal departmental spending as when it is crown corporations, defence is consuming one out of every four dollars available to you.
As Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie pointed out in his CF transformation report, there is substantial room to find savings within the Department of National Defence. Every area of the government that has been asked to contribute in time of need to help our federal finances needs to make a contribution.
Many people I've heard from in the last few days—and more than 400 have sent ideas for this presentation—are worried that their pensions are at risk and social programs may erode. They certainly support a military capable of defending our sovereignty and contributing to international missions, particularly UN peacekeeping operations, but not at the expense of our finances and caring for people here at home. Since we're overspending on defence, social programs can be better protected through national defence spending reductions, while still making an international contribution.
The final chart is number four. It gives some new numbers that we're presenting for the first time today. MIR reports have indicated that the Department of National Defence may be asked for reductions in excess of the 5% or 10% that's been requested by the government from all departments. I think this is reasonable, because our examination of defence and government spending over the last decade shows that while government spending has increased by 40%, defence spending has increased by 60%. That is, defence spending has grown 1.5 times faster than government spending over the last ten years. In one year alone, as Colonel MacDonald pointed out, the defence budget grew by more than 12%.
It's clear that the commitments made in the Canada First defence strategy must be reviewed. Our allies are going through the same process. Many are questioning stealth-plated aircraft programs like the F-35, and Canada can do the same. As Professor Walter Dorn says—I think you're going to hear from him later in your further studies at the Canadian Forces College—there are hawks and there are doves, but what we need are more owls. We need to spend more wisely.
British Prime Minister David Cameron shared a bit of this wisdom in his speech to Parliament last year. I'm sure you were there. He asked you to look at Afghanistan and said that if we had put a fraction of our current military spending on Afghanistan into helping Afghanistan develop 15 or 20 years ago, just think what we might have been able to avoid over the last decade.
We can get into a debate about whether the financial burden borne by Canadians over the last ten years was warranted, but I think we should be asking ourselves if we want to continue spending at this high level. More importantly, what are our needs? Can we take action so that we're ready to meet our legitimate security needs and contribute on the international stage in a manner that Canadians want and support?
As Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie pointed out in his report, if we're serious about the future--and we must be--the impact of reallocating thousands of people and billions of dollars from what we're doing now to what we want them to do to position us for tomorrow will require some dramatic changes.
Thank you, and I look forward to the question period.
I'll turn it over to my colleague, David Macdonald.
Mr. David Macdonald (Senior Economist, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives):
Thank you, Steve.
Thank you for inviting me today.
In the report The Cost of 9/11, which came out in September of last year, I looked at the growing costs not only of defence spending but also of other security programs and public safety programs since 9/11. Some of those programs didn't even exist in 2001, and in fact were created later, as departments were put together and more money was put into them.
The report concludes, as Steve already summarized, that $92 billion has been spent since 2001, in addition to that 2001 base, or about $69 billion in inflation-adjusted terms. We could certainly argue about whether that money was well spent on this burgeoning national security establishment that encompasses certainly the Department of National Defence, but also border security, CSIS, the RCMP, and the Department of Public Safety. But I think the question, as Steve stated correctly, is should we continue to spend at that same level, given that we are now ten years out from 9/11?
In fact the spending has ramped up over this period, with the most significant increases in the last several years. We are now spending $13 billion, in inflation-adjusted terms, more than we spent in 2001, a significant amount on all these national security establishment programs. So I think it's an open question as to whether, in the current economic environment, we should continue to be spending in these areas or in other areas. The government is certainly concerned about deficit reduction, and $13 billion a year is a significant piece of that deficit.
Although this isn't particular to the Department of National Defence, some of the other programs, in particular, have grown substantially and have grown much more rapidly, in fact, than National Defence itself. The Canada Border Security Agency, which didn't even exist in its present form, has grown by almost 200%. Canada's spy agency, which certainly did exist, has grown almost exactly by 200%. But Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, this completely new department that didn't exist at all in its current form, has grown over 400% since 2000.
The question today for us, and for you, is whether we should continue spending at this level, whether we should reduce this level, or whether this money could be better spent in other areas of the federal government.
I'd like to open up the floor for questions for either Steve or me.
Mr. Steven Staples:
Thank you very much for your question.
It's a very good question.
There's an old saying in the defence industry that goes, “The last 5% of performance is 50% of the cost.” I think that's a general rule of thumb that can be taken into consideration for the F-35. The fact is we don't really know what this plane is going to be capable of. Its testing is very early on. In fact, there has been some good news in the F-35 program. Last month they did their first test of flying the plane at night. We now know it works in the dark, which seems incredible, considering that they're already producing these aircraft and they hadn't actually tested them at night yet.
So it's very early days. This is the reason why, as you read this week, the Pentagon's chief officer responsible for purchasing the aircraft declared that the F-35 was acquisition malpractice—that it has gone into production far too early without proper testing. It was all of these qualifications and specifications, and performance was mostly based on computer modelling, which has turned out to be quite flawed. I think there are some real questions about what the performance is going to be of the F-35.
You also asked about this four generation, five generation.... To be honest, I've never found anybody who could explain to me clearly what the first four generations of aircraft were. It seems to be, ironically, a made-up generational number. I don't know if anyone has come before this committee who can explain what the first generation was, or what the second generation was. I've never seen that clarified. It's generally a marketing term.
I think there are questions about our needs. I did the report on the F-35 in October 2010, and at that point we said that first we need to be clear on what our capabilities are and what's going to be required of our aircraft. I think everyone agrees that we need to replace them, but with what kinds of capabilities--and is stealth, in particular, one of those capabilities that's required? The stealth factor limits the performance of the aircraft quite a bit. It limits its range, for instance. You can't put additional fuel tanks on because then it loses its stealth capability. You can't mount weapon systems out on the plane's wings. They have to be all carried inside the aircraft in order to maintain the stealth capability. It's something, for instance, that South Korea, which is about to enter a competition for the replacement of its aircraft, has pointed out as a major problem. They want to be able to use weapon systems mounted outside.
I think there are significant questions around the performance and whether the F-35 is the right aircraft. It can only be solved through a clear statement of the requirements for the replacement of the CF-18s, and we would have to see an open competition.
Mr. Chris Alexander (Ajax—Pickering, CPC):
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thanks for the presentation.
I think what many of us around this table and many Canadians will be taking from your testimony so far, Mr. Staples and Mr. Macdonald, is a call for lower levels of readiness.
We invited you to testify at our study today in the context of a study on readiness. I think we are quite satisfied as a committee that readiness is based on three main factors: highly qualified personnel, plus their training, plus equipment, which may be technologically advanced or not. You're calling for cuts—potentially dramatic cuts—in all areas, which would lower levels of readiness.
What leads you to think that lower levels of readiness would be acceptable or required from the Canadian armed forces in this decade, when we seem to be facing not lessening demands for expeditionary capability, but greater ones, and potentially unexpected ones? There are uncertain situations in the Middle East, peace-building and conflict resolution required in Russia, diminishing commitments, as you said, from some of our allies. These don't mean that there will be less pressure on us, but rather greater pressure to look after our own sovereignty and meet some of the demands that were previously met, throughout the Cold War, by our allies.
Why this call for lower levels of readiness?
Mr. Steven Staples:
Thank you. That's a very good question.
I'm heartened to hear the mention of peace-building and conflict resolution. That's certainly an area we are concerned about.
In terms of readiness, I think many people and our organization have argued that we should be making increased contributions to UN peacekeeping operations, for instance. We have traditionally been a main contributor, and at one point we were the highest-level contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping operations. Right now we're down somewhere around Malawi. According to the latest numbers we have for 2011, you could fit all of our soldiers who do UN peacekeeping missions in a single school bus. We have 35. In fact, we send more police on UN peacekeeping operations--about 163--than troops. So I think that's a shift that would be supported by Canadians. They want our forces to contribute internationally. UN peacekeeping is definitely one of those areas that we want to do.
Mr. Alexander, I'm not suggesting that we be less ready. I believe we're overspending on national defence right now. We've had a tremendous increase over the last ten years of more than 12% a year. It has outpaced government spending by one and a half times the amount of growth. We are now spending more than we were at any point during the Cold War. This seems to be a tap that only turns one way.
Listening to some of the other presentations here, there's always an argument for more and more. But as members of Parliament, you know that there's only one taxpayer, as they say. Every dollar you contribute here means a dollar that you're not able to contribute over there. You have to balance these out. That's your responsibility as elected representatives and as members of the government on your side.
I think we need to be smarter. Certainly reductions need to be made across the board. Defence could bear more of those. I don't see it as being less ready. For instance, we're spending millions of dollars on submarines that are not operational right now, and there's very little chance of them ever being operational. I think that reducing spending on them would not diminish our readiness in any way. I think we've wasted more than a billion dollars on Leopard tanks that we've hardly used and are set for retirement. I'm not sure we actually needed all of them. Close combat vehicles are another issue. I don't think the Canadian government needs to go ahead on them, in addition to the F-35s. I would put them in the same category.
Mr. Steven Staples:
Thank you for that.
We've heard the example of Luxembourg raised before, and I think you may have meant as a percentage of GDP, as opposed to per capita. NATO uses three measurements of military spending in order to compare: one is actual dollars; the second is percentage of gross domestic product; and the third one is per capita spending. Most defence analysts would agree--and I think Brian MacDonald would say the same thing--that the per capita measurement is probably not the best one, because it understates spending by countries like India and China, which have large populations.
Secondly, you can look at a percentage of GDP--that is a very common measurement. Canada's spending as a percentage of GDP was around 1.1% or 1.2%--a respectable amount. That puts us more in the middle of the pack along with Spain, Germany, and Belgium. I'm not sure if it's the only way you would want to look at it, because as one of my interns from Carleton University, whose home country is Pakistan, pointed out yesterday, Pakistan spends 25% of its GDP on defence. I don't think that's the gold standard we want to aspire to.
Our view is that you have to look at the actual dollars. That's how much money you're able to spend on equipment, how much firepower you're able to deliver. I think that is the best measurement.
In the 1990s, the so-called decade of darkness, all countries in the world were reducing defence spending. The Cold War was over. Anybody who kept spending levels up at the end of the Cold War would have been seen as living in a cave somewhere, because of course the Cold War was over: defence reductions were warranted. In fact, some studies we've done have shown that Canada's defence spending declined at a much lower level than the global average did--although you'd be looking at countries like Russia, which really dipped fast, and those would pull the average down, admittedly. So I think that was warranted.
Defence spending started increasing, actually, with Paul Martin's first surplus budget around 1998. As you see on chart 1, it started increasing at that point.
Hon. John McKay:
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you both for coming.
I'd like to engage Mr. Alexander's question further, but I'm not going to. It's always a truism that an army marches on its stomach. The truth of the matter is the military marches on its budget. So as budgets go up, military spending generally goes up. As budgets go down, similarly, military capability therefore goes down as well, which is exactly what's happening in the United States and pretty well every other nation on earth. So the actual lower levels of readiness are going to be dictated by the government's ability to raise funding. If we read the newspapers and listen to what Minister Flaherty and Minister Clement are saying, it's something in the order of 5% to 10% across the board. I have an extraordinary amount of skepticism as to whether that will actually occur, but nevertheless the government is in fact lowering its own level of readiness if in fact there's a direct correlation between money spent and readiness, which is, as you properly point out, not entirely a direct correlation.
However, having said that, I did want to go to what I thought was an extraordinary presentation by Colonel MacDonald earlier. I assume you were in here. He made a pretty vigorous, and I thought far more eloquent defence of the F-35 than anything I've ever heard from a government minister. His argument essentially was that stealth kills non-stealth. He cited some study showing that the unprecedented kill record of 144 to zero justified the acquisition of the F-35.
So I'd be interested in your response to what I thought was a fairly articulate argument justifying the government's, I would say, almost bizarre commitment to this program. If we put aside all of the issues of industrial benefits, and put aside who knows what the price is going to be, and instead focus on the military issue, I'd be interested in your views.
Mr. Steven Staples:
Thanks so much.
I was here for that presentation, and I did find that aspect of the discussion a bit curious, because what he was describing in terms of those numbers of 144 to zero kill rate was not the F-35. He was talking about the F-22, which is an entirely different aircraft.
I know he was trying to make comparisons that the planes were essentially the same and would have the same performance because they are both stealth, which was the inference, but that's not the case. They're completely different aircraft.
For instance, a lot has been made of the number of engines a Canadian plane should have. Our F-18s have two engines. The F-35 has one engine. Now, the Americans have a plane that they won't sell to anybody, which is the F-22. How many engines does it have? It has two engines. So I think you can tell immediately that there is a performance capability gap here between these aircraft. The F-22, in terms of charts that I've seen, in terms acceleration and these kinds of things, really does rank very high. It's a very expensive aircraft. It's the most expensive fighter aircraft ever built, and the production line, as Colonel MacDonald mentioned, is closed. But that's not the plane we're going to buy. The plan is for the F-35, which can't even accelerate as fast as our current F-18s.
Mr. Mark Strahl (Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, CPC):
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
First, I think I saw the gleam in some eyes across the way when you talked about a return to soft power as the exclusive tool in Canada's foreign policy arsenal.
I would say from my perspective that we're talking about real lives here, real people. I have a cousin on the ground in Afghanistan right now as a member of the Canadian Forces.
I recall that when our troops were asked to go overseas previously, since there had been significant reductions in military spending they were sent with open-air Iltis jeeps built on a Volkswagen Rabbit chassis. They were given green forest fatigues to fight in a desert theatre. They were provided with axe handles to fend off wild dogs because we hadn't done the planning in the decade prior to that to allow our military to do the job we asked them to do at the time of need.
So I think to say we don't know what's going to happen so we should cut military spending significantly is very short-sighted. As we've heard when we've been talking about readiness, it's a requirement to have the right people with the right training and the right equipment being able to be delivered at the right time. If you take out the training and the equipment, you can't deliver the troops at the right time and they'll be ill-equipped, as they were when they first went into Afghanistan.
We've had other examples. When the ice storm hit Canada, instead of being able to deploy our troops domestically, we had to rent Russian aircraft to move our people and equipment around the country.
So that would be a commentary on what we can look to as to what happens when we don't plan, when we don't keep a level of investment in our forces that allows us to be mobile and respond to a number of different missions.
I want to go back briefly to when you said the stealth capability of the F-35 is not worth the cost. We heard the colonel say previously that the stealth capability keeps our pilots alive or will do so in these scenarios. So what price do we put on the safety and the lives of our soldiers? Should we be treating that as a cavalier...? Is that not a very real question that should be answered? Do you agree or not that stealth capability will keep our pilots safer?
Mr. Steven Staples:
In terms of defence strategy, there are always three key missions for the Canadian Forces: the first is defence of Canada; the second is contribution to the defence of North America; and the third is international contributions. In our view, we can do all three, and we should be primarily focused on them in that order.
Certainly providing a service to Canadians and an aid to civil order right here in Canada, which would comprise defending our sovereignty, is a key capability that we need to maintain. Search and rescue is also part of that mandate, and that has been sorely lacking in terms of replacements of the Buffalos. Fixed-wing search and rescue on the west coast has been gone for years, yet we've gone out and acquired Leopard tanks and C-17s, and everything else seems to jump the queue over needs for our military right here at home.
I hope there's been more discussion about the search and rescue technician who unfortunately perished waiting for four hours for a helicopter to come and pick him up in the Arctic late last year. I think that exposed a significant gap and oversight within our domestic search and rescue capability. I think we should definitely focus on that.
We are contributing to the defence of North America. We are part of NORAD. I think that will continue. I'm happy, though, that Canada did not join ballistic missile defence and the mid-course ground-based missile defence system. I think that was a wise decision, and I support that.
Contribution to international missions, where it makes sense.... As I mentioned, I think we need to contribute more to UN peacekeeping operations. I would also say that I'm relieved this government has brought missions to votes in Parliament. I think that's an important change and something that Canadians welcome. I hope the government will continue with that.
Mr. Matthew Kellway:
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
To our guests, thanks for coming today.
I'd like to continue on in the same vein as Mr. Staples was responding to that question. One of my frustrations with this study so far has been that we seem to be talking past each other on this issue of readiness. We started off with a long lineup of senior military folks coming to talk to us about readiness. At some point on the definition of readiness, the response was, “We're always ready. Irrespective, in a sense, of the state of our armed forces, we're always ready.” I appreciate very much that attitude, but at some point it doesn't help advance the study.
Then we get this response from the folks who were here earlier today saying we have to be ready for the unexpected, which is to say that we have to be ready for anything. That, too, isn't all that helpful.
Chris suggests that spending has this correlation with readiness. As John pointed out, the more you spend, the more ready you are. Then Mark said, well, the soldier's life is priceless. Agreed, but where does that take us, because we spend—I don't know what we end up spending.
Yet we also heard from the Norwegians when they came here that they actually made a lot of spending cuts in their defence and came to the conclusion and told us here that they came out of that process with more effective defence forces. We've been reading the same from the Americans with their recent cuts as well.
Somewhere in all of this there has to be a definition of readiness that isn't correlated entirely with the money you spend, that isn't just equated with “We've got to protect every soldier's life because they're priceless”. I don't know where that takes us. One obvious response is to take them out of combat if we're putting them in danger.
You made the hawk, dove, and owl reference earlier, which I like very much. What does the owl say about a definition of readiness that's useful for us here, that we can actually use to assess if we're ready? What does it even mean? Could you comment on all of that and relieve my frustration somewhat?
Mr. Steven Staples:
It's difficult. As I say, you could say yes, we are ready, everything's fine, and just carry on. Or you could say no, we're not ready, as some of the previous presentations said, and the answer is a 9% to 10% increase in defence spending year after year, continuing into the future, which I don't think is realistic either.
I think the question, as I said, is being ready for what? It's defining our core capabilities. I think we owe it to our military services to say, as Canadians--we should involve the public in defining this as well--that this is what we see as the threats to our country that we need to defend ourselves against.
We also want to make contributions internationally. I think we're fundamentally internationalist people who support the United Nations. These are the missions and capabilities we want to do. If we can make that make sense within a fiscal framework, we should do that and make sure that our men and women in the armed forces have the equipment to accomplish those missions carefully. We should make sure that we choose those missions and those deployments very carefully as well.
I grew up in New Brunswick. A lot of my friends went into the military. A lot of the military folks are drawn from the Maritimes. That's where I'm from. They volunteered their lives. I have a lot of respect for that. They did that knowing that they would carry out their orders. But they had to be assured that the missions they were asked to carry out were absolutely necessary, essential, and that they were not the first resort but the last resort. That's the kind of social contract we have with soldiers. I think we need to bear that out.
If we don't have a clear definition of what we want our forces to do.... There are bound to be gaps that emerge as various special interests within the military establishment and elsewhere want to get their pieces of the pie funded. In the end, you just end up not doing anything very well. You're spread over too many capabilities.