Cablegate: Transforming the Canadian Forces: The Spirit Is Willing...

DE RUEHOT #0049/01 0351608
R 041558Z FEB 10

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 000049


E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/04
SUBJECT: Transforming the Canadian Forces: The Spirit is Willing...

REF: 08 OTTAWA 649; 09 OTTAWA 196; 10 OTTAWA 29

CLASSIFIED BY: Scott Bellard, Political Minister Counselor,
Department of State, Political Section; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (C/NF) Summary. The Canadian Forces are severely stretched and
the ambitious goals set by the Canada First Defence Strategy
continue to encounter delays and budget constraints that will limit
the scope of the projected transformation of the forces. The
government of Prime Minister Harper may refocus available military
resources closer to home, at the expense of future expeditionary
missions such as Afghanistan, despite concern that Canada's
influence on the world stage will diminish significantly
post-Afghanistan. End summary.

""Canada is Back"" - or is it?

2. (C/NF) The ruling Conservative Party of Canada under Prime
Minister Stephen Harper has made military modernization a core
campaign pledge in its successful 2006 and 2008 elections, while
failing to win a majority of seats in the House of Commons in
either election. The party's slogan of ""Canada is back""
nonetheless resonated well with voters, and pride in the Canadian
Forces (CF) is high, despite declining support for Canada's combat
mission in Afghanistan, now slated to end in 2011 according to the
terms of a March 2008 House of Commons bipartisan motion.

3. (C/NF) The ambitious ""Canada First Defence Strategy"" (CFDS),
first announced in May 2008 (ref b), was designed to increase the
readiness of the CF by providing greater resources for training and
maintenance, as well modernizing CF equipment with USD 15.4 billion
in major new procurement programs. Parliament approved CN 5.2
billion in July 2009 to renew the army's fleet of land combat
vehicles, after the Chief of the Land Staff, Lt. General Andrew
Leslie, publicly claimed that the army was at its breaking point
and might need to take a one-year operational break at the
conclusion of the Afghanistan mission. High casualty rates among
Canadian Forces in Afghanistan had been attributable in part to
inferior armored vehicles and the absence of helicopter medivac for
wounded soldiers. General Leslie subsequently retracted his
one-year time-out proposal, citing successes in procurement of key
items, including helicopters.

4. (C/NF) According to media reports, leaked documents from the
Department of Public Works and Government Services to the
Department of National Defence (DND) recently announced that a
multi-billion dollar purchase of Close Combat Vehicles (CCV) for
the army had been put on hold. This is the latest in a string of
delays, setbacks, and shifting budget priorities that have beset
the government's plan to transform and modernize the CF. These
delays in procurement and shifts in priorities come at a time when
the Canadian Forces are severely overstretched by missions in
Afghanistan and Haiti as well as major security operations in
support of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. There is speculation that
the CCV program was put on hold in part because some within DND see less need for it now, given the impending end of the Afghanistan
mission. DND is reportedly scrambling to find over CN 400 million
in savings in order to fund other, higher priority projects.

5. (C/NF) The CFDS had also pledged major purchases of C-17
strategic and C-130J tactical airlift aircraft, as well as CH-47
Chinook helicopters, 1300 medium-sized logistic trucks (down from
an earlier goal of 2300), and Joint Support Ships and Arctic
Offshore Patrol Ships for the Navy. The latter program is an
example of a requirement driven by political rather than military
imperatives, since the Navy did not request these patrol ships.
The Conservatives have nonetheless long found domestic political
capital in asserting Canada's ""Arctic Sovereignty"" (ref c). On the
positive side of the CFDS ledger, the C-17, C-130J, and CH-47

OTTAWA 00000049 002 OF 002

procurements have been executed. The C-17s have been delivered,
and C-130J and CH-47 programs are underway. The first C-130J
delivery to Canada will occur in May 2010.

6. (C/NF) Severe budgetary constraints are likely to continue to
plague CFDS programs. The strategy was predicated on a steadily
increasing funding stream over a 20-year period, which is likely to
prove unsustainable. Personnel costs constitute 52 percent of the
CF's budget. While this figure is lower than some other NATO
militaries, it limits funds available for R&D and equipment

Manpower issues

7. (C/NF) Manpower and recruitment targets set by CFDS have been
steadily revised downward. The latest goal is to increase the size
of the regular forces from the current 66,000 to 70,000 and the
reserves from 25,000 to 30,000. Even the most optimistic
projection predicts an increase of 1000 personnel each for the
regular forces and the reserves by 2011-12, for a total force size
of 95,000. However, current rates of attrition, especially within
the NCO ranks, remain high (over 9 percent in 2008-9), and
recruitment continues to lag behind target figures. The present
overstretch within the CF is such that troops recently rotated out
of Afghanistan are being reactivated for deployment to Haiti, even
though the units were in their mandated 12 months of ""dwell time""
between deployments. Cuts in intake of new recruits were announced
at the end of the year as part of the DND effort to cover budget
shortfalls. Training of those recruits who do join is constrained
by the deployment to Afghanistan of experienced NCOs devoted to
training the Afghan Security Forces.

8. (C/NF) According to LTG Angus Watt, former Chief of the Air
Staff, there are currently only 1350 trained and available pilots
of a desired manning figure of 1600 in late 2008; he lamented this
""pipeline air force."" While the Air Force has made some progress
in closing this gap, the immediate demands of the Haiti mission
meant there were insufficient numbers of trained pilots available
to fly the airlift missions required for the next rotation of CF
units into Afghanistan, potentially reducing the operational
effectiveness of the CF. Depending upon its duration and scope,
the Haiti relief mission could exacerbate the already-high
operational tempo of the forces, contributing to strains on
personnel and potentially worsening the attrition problem.


9. (C/NF) PM Harper has set an assertive course for Canadian
foreign policy, declaring that ""Canada is back"" on the world scene.
However, his ambitions for Canada may exceed his grasp, however, as
changes in demography, economic constraints, difficulties in
procurement, and competing priorities combine to limit his
government's ability to achieve this sweeping military
transformation. The effect is likely to be that military resources
will be redirected, defending ""sovereignty"" in the Arctic and
other Canadian interests, at the expense of future post-Afghanistan
expeditionary missions. Senior Canadian military officials as well
as media pundits have already begun to express concern at a likely
loss of Canada's influence with the U.S. and NATO after the end of
Canada's Afghanistan mission, but so far this concern does not
appear to be on the Prime Minister's or the Conservative Party's
radar scope.

© Scoop Media

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