Military needs billions
When will politicians face reality on massive defence money needed?
By DAVID AKIN, QMI Agency Last Updated: January 13, 2011 Article Link
Deep in the bowels of National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa, bureaucrats are quietly pulling together pricing information to buy more giant Boeing C-17 transport planes.
Canada already has four C-17s — acquired with some controversy — in 2007.
Brand new, they have a sticker price of around $400 million. But some planners in the air force have noted the U.S. no longer wants to buy all the C-17s it had ordered from Boeing, which means there’s a good chance the Yanks might be in a mood to let one of its allies, like us, buy some off them at a deep discount.
Now, just to be clear, the senior generals of the Canadian Forces, let alone Defence Minister Peter MacKay or the federal cabinet, are not pushing a program to commit billions more for the C-17s, particularly while the government is trying to push through its controversial multibillion-dollar purchase of new F-35 fighter planes.
Still, the revelation that low-level planners at defence are even jotting notes on the backs of napkins about acquiring anywhere from two to six more C-17s is a reminder that our two leading political parties, the governing Conservatives and their Liberal challengers, are largely avoiding what ought to be a crucial and important debate leading up to the next federal election.
Simply put: Our Canadian Forces needs billions and billions of dollars worth of new gear — not just new fighter planes — but no one has any clear plans to pay for what they need, particularly in a time of global fiscal restraint.
Alternately, one party or the other could stand up and, as Conservatives have done in Britain and Democrats did in the U.S., start announcing big-time cuts to military acquisitions and other programs.
Instead, we’ve been watching Conservatives and Liberals argue bitterly about the merits of purchasing the F-35 fighter plane, though both largely agree we will need some kind of new fighter plane to replace our fleet of excellent-but-aging CF-18s.
Whatever plane we choose is going to cost us billions. How will we pay?
And is that most urgent need? Is that the top spending priority?
What about new search-and-rescue capabilities? As one defence insider put it, the equipment we have has the capability for the search part but there are too many scenarios where we simply don’t have the gear for the rescue part.
We need new technology for surveillance and monitoring, particularly in our resource-rich north. The solution there could be a combination of satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles and surveillance aircraft to replace our aging CP-140 Auroras.
Again: This will cost billions.
Or we could outsource search-and-rescue to private-sector companies and likely save a pile.
Our navy needs new ships, the most expensive of which would be one or two joint-support ships, a type of vessel that can take on multiple configurations to be, for example, a troop carrier or a supply ship. It’s a vital tool for just about any mission the CF might be given. This could be the most expensive purchase of all.
That’s just a small part of a long list. As we get set for Budget 2011 and a possible election, politicians should be straight up with voters and with those in uniform about the kind of military we want — and are prepared to pay firstname.lastname@example.org