Canada's Military Posture: An Analysis of Recent Civilian Reports

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The current state of the Canadian Forces (CF) is the result of political, not military, decisions undertaken over the past couple of decades. The decline in capability can be measured in terms of a decline in funding, of delayed replacement of obsolete and obsolescent equipment, of a high operational tempo, of declining numbers of personnel, of consequent low retention rates, and of many other indices. Moreover, this decline in capability has taken place in a context of a rapid advance in military technology and war-fighting doctrine, the so-called revolution in military affairs (RMA). All of the nine civilian reports analyzed in this paper agree that the Canadian Forces have not adapted to the new strategic context in which they are required to operate, that the doctrines and commitments according to which the Canadian Forces are supposed to operate, which stem from the last White Paper on Defence written over a decade ago, are accordingly remote from the realities of contemporary war-fighting. Worse, the reports discussed in this Critical Issues Bulletin note that neither the civilian leadership nor the high military leadership of the CF have dealt with the disconnect between commitment and capability, of which increasing numbers of Canadian citizens as well as specialists are increasingly aware.

This Bulletin discusses first the new strategic realities, then the old and increasingly irrelevant military and foreign-policy assumptions that define CF commitments. The overarching issue, however, is that by allowing the CF to deteriorate so badly, the Government of Canada has increased the dependency of the country on the United States and the robust American military, even while maintaining the position that the absence of a strong Canadian military has somehow enhanced Canadian independence and sovereignty.

The report then summarizes the multi-dimensional decline in the CF, in terms of budget, equipment and, worst of all, in terms of personnel, training, and rotation. Some of this decay is evident in such spectacular problems as the CH-124 Sea King maritime helicopter or the ILTIS Jeep but other, equally significant problems - such as an absence of time for training and recuperation - are expressed only in terms of an increasing unwillingness of the military personnel, particularly trained technical personnel, to extend their limited-term service contracts when they expire and come up for renewal. Moreover, the degree to which CF personnel are rapidly deployed has had a harmful effect on the structure of the Canadian military, changing it from a time-tested hierarchy based on battalion and brigade formations into what one report called a manpower pool.

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