This may not be breaking news, but it’s a problem that has been formally addressed by the Standing Committee on National Security and Defence, and in particular, by Committee Chair Senator Colin Kenny.
The first in a series of three reports, Wounded: Canada’s Military and the Legacy of Neglect (subtitled Our Disappearing Options for Defending the Nation at Home and Abroad) assesses the current state of Canada’s military and tries to pinpoint how and why the CF has deteriorated in size, scope and strength.
While it may appear clear to most in the defence sector, Kenny says that an undertaking like the Wounded report was needed to articulate the challenges facing the CF — challenges that Kenny’s committee is committed to tackling.

Legacy of Neglect
“The state of the Forces deteriorated to a point where it became glaringly obvious to everyone concerned,” Kenny says. The committee interviewed a wide range of experts, from the military, civilian and academic sectors, to gain a wider understanding of a problem that most people already knew existed.
“We had some fairly basic objectives that we wanted to clearly demonstrate in the first report,” he explains. “The first was that the Canadian Forces were not sufficiently funded to meet the tasks that the government was giving it, and to address the plan that (Chief of Defence Staff) General Hillier had developed with (Minister of Defence) Mr. Graham and the prime minister.”
Kenny adds that the committee concluded there were not enough members in the Canadian Forces, and the report was intended to drive home the message that this shortfall was occurring in an organization that should not be regarded as just another department of government.
He also points out that it took time for things to get to their current state.
“This didn’t happen this year or last year. This has happened over a couple of decades,” he says. “The most significant drop-off comes almost immediately after the last policy statement [in 1994]. Had the funding been there that was anticipated at the time, I think we would be in a lot better shape than we are now, but the government had different priorities. There was a widespread belief that the government had to get the deficit under control and it went about it with vigor.”
Kenny says that while the funding for the military decreased greatly during this period, the CF’s commitments were ever-increasing.
“During the period of these cuts, the Canadian Forces had an extraordinary amount of activity without corresponding funding. As a consequence, replacements and proper updating of equipment did not take place.”
Lack of available personnel is also a major issue, according to Kenny. In the Wounded report, the standing committee argues that Canada’s current operating personnel level of 51,704 is 40 to 45 per cent lower than what is required, given the workload it has taken on over the past 10 years.
According to Kenny, in a post-Cold War world, many thought that Canada would need less defending. The opposite has proven true, he says — where there used to be one or two clearly defined enemies, there are now several far more subversive threats. The report is quick to caution Canadians against complacency in the face of global terrorism.
“It has become apparent to the government that the end of the Cold War did not bring a peace dividend — in fact, it brought greater world instability,” he explains. “For a short period after the Berlin wall fell, there were politicians going around saying … ‘We can now reallocate funds into other places.’ Well, they were very shortsighted. They didn’t realize that with the Cold War came a certain stability and a certain amount of predictability.”

Not Just Another Expense
Kenny argues that this lack of foresight, coupled with the ranking of military spending on past governments’ priority lists, has caused the CF to suffer.
“Defence is essentially a discretionary expenditure and it’s a relatively large amount of money … so the defence department took what we felt were very significant reductions, in light of the fact that the government continued … to send it off on operations around the world.”
Wounded acknowledges that the defence budget, while inadequate, is indeed the government’s single largest discretionary expenditure. The report also points out, however, that when compared against virtually locked-in budget items — such as contributions to the Canada Pension Plan — defence funding is more vulnerable to cuts than other government departments.
“You cannot and should not treat (defence) as another department of government,” Kenny says. DND faces unique challenges, the report contends. The spending decisions made by DND could mean life or death for a soldier on a battlefield. While other government departments would suffer from funding cutbacks, the consequences for DND are potentially far more drastic, which is why defence should be looked at in a unique light, Kenny says.
“We think that until that’s acknowledged it will be very difficult to have the Canadian people well served,” he adds.
But funding alone is not enough. Kenny also points to the current procurement process as a hindrance to the CF’s recovery.
“We have an extraordinary number of issues that are taken account when a purchase is being made that have very little to do with the military value or effectiveness of the purchase,” he says. “We find that, for example, a military purchase can easily become a vehicle for delivering regional economic support.
“If you want to do (that), you should send the region a cheque,” Kenny continues. “It’s quite inefficient to do it through military spending. It also distorts the use of the military budget — people think it’s being spent on defence and, in fact, it’s going for a different purpose altogether. We have a great many departments with their finger in the pie…”

For the Good of All Canadians
Kenny does see reason for optimism, however.
“For the first time in my experience, the chief of defence staff, the minister of defence and the prime minister all personally rolled up their sleeves in preparing a policy document that the prime minister clearly has endorsed,” he says.
The most recent Canadian budget, which promised $12.8 billion for Canada’s military was welcome, but not nearly sufficient. Of the promised funding, only $1.1 billion is scheduled to come in the next two years. Given the state of the CF, and the current instability of the federal government, Kenny says that a stronger and bolder commitment is needed.
“The committee thinks that the policy that has come forward is a good one, and we endorse it, and we support it,” he explains. “You won’t see any criticism of that in the report — in fact, to the contrary, the committee thinks that that’s a very positive step.”
“But as we go through it and as we take a look at the implications of it, we see the requirement for a very significant increase — virtually a doubling — of the budget,” Kenny continues. “What we haven’t done is apply a timeline to that. But it’s clear that if the model that’s described in the policy is to take effect, then we’re going to have to see a greater dedication of funds.”
While some Canadians may still need convincing, Kenny says that action is required to correct the mistakes of the past and to ensure Canada’s future freedom.
“We think that this is an insurance policy that is very important to pay,” he says. “Our concern is that government, now and in the future, has severely limited options in providing Canadians with the protection and security they need. And that’s the only purpose of having an armed forces, to give Canadians a service.”
According to Kenny, the people who will benefit most from a strong Canadian military are not those within the system, but rather those that the system is designed to protect.
“We’re not talking about spending for the sake of the military,” he says. “We’re talking about providing Canadian citizens a protection of their interests, a protection for them physically; an opportunity to ensure that Canada is sovereign and can look other nations in the eye, and demonstrate that we’re carrying our fair share of the burden of ensuring world peace. And to do that we believe that there has to be a significantly larger investment.”
Kenny is also quick to point out that there is reason to be optimistic — and to stay vigilant.
“I feel passionately about this,” he concludes. “I can’t imagine a more important task for the federal government … to do than to ensure the safety and security of the nation, to ensure that it remains a sovereign state, and to ensure that it has the respect of other nations in the world.”

For more information on the first installment of the Wounded report, and on the next two reports, visit