Forces: January 5, 2002


Years of military budget cuts from 1993 through 1998 left the Canadian forces with a huge maintenance backlog and a low availability rate. Even with modest increases in recent budgets, the budget for next year ($7.2 billion in US dollars) is at least 10 percent under the levels actually needed. Some 13 percent of maintenance positions are vacant, and another 15 percent are filled by people who are not qualified for the jobs they hold. Only 29 percent of the Sea King helicopter and 42 percent of the Aurora patrol plane fleet is ready to fly. The Canadian Air Force had to borrow batteries for its F-18s from the Spanish Air Force to conduct its patrols over the Balkans in the Kosovo War of 1999. Accurate figures are not available because the maintenance data after April 99 was lost when computer systems were upgraded. Despite these problems, the Canadian government has effectively refused to increase defense spending. While a nominal increase of $760 million was passed, this is phased over five years. It includes money spent on the Canadian contribution to the Afghanistan campaign, and money spent for various security measures not under the Department of National Defense. Some $300 million is provided for procurement this year, but under rules so bizarre that most of it will have to be returned to the treasury. Just under $100 million is provided to double the size of the secret anti-terrorist Joint Task Force 2, but since the 250 new personnel must all be sergeants (which are already in short supply in the Canadian military) it is unclear how this increase can be accomplished.--Stephen V Cole




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