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Lagassé: What will be the impact of the $1.1 billion cut to National Defence?

By: /
2 April, 2012
By: Philippe Lagassé
Assistant professor of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa

The immediate impact of the defence budget cut will not be all that significant. As David Perry from the Conference of Defence Associations Institute notes, the reductions will likely affect operational readiness, namely resources devoted to preparing the CF for international deployments. But beyond that, it is difficult to be confident about what the budget means for national defence.

Indeed, a good deal of uncertainty surrounds the Harper government’s approach to defence management and military expenditures.

This much we know: the cuts announced in the budget are on top of efficiencies that will be sought by the government’s strategic review of all departmental expenditures; the defence department is already having trouble spending all the money it is being allocated in a given year; the 2% annual increase in defence expenditures will continue in spite of the cuts; and the $3 billion in delayed capital expenditures would likely not have been spent in the next few years anyhow.

But a number of question remain. What concrete efforts will DND and the CF undertake to increase their overall efficiency? We know that infrastructure savings will be sought and that there will be an attempt to cut down on contracting costs, but the fate of the military’s command structure and prohibitive personnel expenditures are unclear. It is now fairly evident that the defence department cannot afford all the procurements announced in the 2008 Canada First Defence Strategy. How will DND address this problem? Will the department reallocate funds to the capital budget over the long term to make up for the funding shortfall? Or will the CF replace fewer platforms?

Simply put, the cuts and delays announced in the budget don’t tell us much. We will need to see wait for further information from DND/CF to know what awaits the military over the next few years. And if the intention is to initiate significant reforms and efficiencies, we will probably have to wait a few years to appreciate what it will all mean for the long term.

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