Canada’s Waning Role of Pride and Influence
Mar 15, 2004

True to tradition, Budget 2004 has yet-again ignored DND’s desire for an integral Strategic Airlift capability. With this in mind, you may recall some recent government comments:

  • Prime Minister (PM) Paul Martin affirmed “I believe that we should increase defence spending… we have to invest in both military personnel and also equipment – no doubt about that. That also is going to require further military spending.”
  • The 2004 Speech from the Throne stated: “We want for Canada a role of pride and influence in the world… it is time to… meet our responsibilities, carry our weight. Our foreign policy objectives require a meaningful capacity to contribute militarily in support of collective efforts to safeguard international peace and security. Some things however, need not wait for the (defence) review – because they are urgently needed, or because the right course of action is already clear. To this end, the Government will make immediate investments in key capital equipment, such as… replacements for the (40 year old) Sea King helicopters.”
  • The Honourable David Pratt, Minister of National Defence, while SCONDVA* Chairman, recommended that the government “increase the annual base budget for DND to between 1.5% to 1.6% of GDP [over] three years.” He also recommended that DND acquire “heavy lift transport aircraft and replace older models to ensure the strategic… capacity required to rapidly and effectively deploy the ­personnel and equipment required for overseas operations… [plus] meet the domestic needs of Canada.” The Minister advised a minimum infusion of C$1.5 billion yearly, although private sector institutes and the Liberal Senate Defence Committee advise greater increases.
  • February 2004: At a CDIA Seminar, Minister Pratt confirmed the defence review will look at deployability. “The government must be able to swiftly send our personnel and equipment where they’re needed, whether it’s across the country or around the world.”
  • The PM’s post-Budget affirmation – “We must focus on national security and our armed forces. The demands on our military are not only increasing in number, they are changing in nature. We must adapt and we must be ready.”

These reaffirm well-documented National Defence (DND) urgent requirements for an integral outsize/oversize Future Strategic Airlift capability of six C-17 equivalent strategic airlifters for C$2,320.639M required to replace 40-year-old CC-130Es, plus an immediate substantial infusion to DNDs base budget to reduce the rust-out of ageing equipment and prevent rising maintenance costs from squeezing the ­procurement budget.

Integral strategic airlift for the Canadian Forces (CF) could be a source of pride for all Canadians, especially if Canadian troops and equipment were seen arriving on Canadian airlifters instead of chartered Russian/Ukranian transports (with first year of Op Athena requiring a minimum US$65M chartered airlift), and a way to serve both our own national interest in this dangerous world, such as rapid deployment airlift for JTF2 and DART that is currently lacking, instead of the embarrasement of a Hercules fleet that flies less-than half the time.

Yet Budget 2004 provided a mere C$245M in supplemental top-up funding in FY04-05 to cover ongoing mission costs, plus C$30M annual ‘tax-relief’ for personnel overseas – a clever ‘Bait and Switch’ tactic to appease overstretched personnel and disguise the fact that there was no ‘base’ FY04-05 increase. The only positive was yearly C$300M in accelerated capital spending from FY05-06 onwards to cover accelerated procurement of FWSAR aircraft – but no Strategic Airlift mention.

Astonishingly, an Alberta consortium’s innovative BC-17X Canadian CAMAA (Commercial Application of Military C-17 Airlift Aircraft) joint venture bid, submitted with tacit pentagon-level USAF support, was seemingly ignored – even with potential massive C-17 cost increases after February 2006. DND acknowledges the “proposal certainly attempts to… provide the CF with the sort of airlift capability that meets our country’s needs and within our budget allocations,” while in December 2003, the Chief of the Air Staff advised the con­sort­ium that the Canadian CAMAA solution “may be a candidate to meet our future airlift needs,” with the Director Air Requirements confirming “that a project to procure airlift capability is under development and, in due course, a competition is anticipated.”

The Canadian CAMAA solution would allow DND to acquire the C-17 equivalent guaranteed capability of eight BC-17X (134% capacity of six C-17s), for some 70% of the six C-17 option cost – just C$400M more than maintenance of present inadequate Hercules fleet until 2038.  Canadian CAMAA provides significant 30-year life cycle cost savings exceeding C$14B, allowing DND to recapitalize its ageing Air Mobility fleet by 2009, while rectifying severe personnel shortages ­identified under Project Transform.

The Canadian CAMAA proposal – best value at lowest cost – should grasp the attention of a Liberal government whose leader affirms “a dollar misspent is a dollar unavailable for health care or education.”

The poor optics of procrastination, potentially spending additional billions for Strategic Arilift down-the-road, should Canadian CAMAAs window disappear by early-2005, in conjunction with a reluctance to expedite replacement of ageing Hercules (labelled the new Sea Kings by Global News), should read very poorly to a voting Canadian public.

Mark Romanow is a defence analyst, and can be reached at
*SCONDVA: Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs.
© FrontLine Defence 2004