Canada First Defence Strategy

15 July 2008

Building on a proud history and a storied contribution in times of war and peace, the Canadian Forces are entering a new age of inspired international contributions.

This past May, Prime Minister Harper and I were in Halifax to announce the Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS), the result of two years of planning by our government for an unprecedented long term vision for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces. I was privileged to take an active role in the formulation and completion of this comprehensive strategy, which has been under development for the last two years.

Canadians want a military that can develop and transform its capabilities to maintain excellence in operations at home. The CFDS is the guiding formula to make the Forces a solid partner in defence of our continent and in projecting leadership abroad by making meaningful contributions to operations overseas. We are rebuilding the Canadian Forces after years of political neglect to face the uncertainties and the challenges of the 21st century.

Our government has promised to deliver the tools that the Canadian Forces need to do their job. This strategy is the first step in fulfilling that promise. In order for Canada to have the flexibility in countering complex security challenges we must strike a balance across the four pillars upon which military capabilities are built – ­personnel, infrastructure, equipment, and readiness. We are making significant investments in all these capabilities to provide the tools needed for success. This formula will give the CF the pragmatic and powerful way forward and allow us to answer the call in places where we are needed.

Personnel – Faced with the need to respond to new challenges, Canada needs a larger armed force made up of people with the right knowledge, skills and training. To effectively meet future challenges, the strategy calls for troop strength to expand to 100,000 (70,000 Regular Force and 30,000 Reserve Force personnel).

Infrastructure – The Strategy includes measures to improve the condition of defence infrastructure that has been allowed to deteriorate. Our government’s aim is to replace 25% of existing infrastructure within the next 10 years, and 50% over the next 20 years.

Equipment – Short-sighted and serious cuts to defence funding in the 1990s resulted in the degradation of the Forces’ equipment with a significant negative effect on our capabilities. We have set out to restore and strengthen these capabilities. The CF needs robust and modern equipment to fulfil the clear roles the government has given them, and planning must be done now. The CFDS outlines how we will replace core equipment that will reach the end of its usefulness in the next 20 years; destroyers, frigates, maritime patrol aircraft, helicopters, fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft, heavy lift and fighter aircraft and land combat vehicles.

Readiness – The effectiveness, flexibility and ability to protect Canada’s safety and sovereignty hinges on readiness. Our government is reversing policy changes made by the previous government that resulted in: the ability to train and maintain only 30% of land forces at high readiness; a 30% reduction in sea days; and a 40% reduction in the average number of flight hours. The CFDS reverses this unacceptable situation by allocating resources to ensure that CF units are ready to deploy quickly to where they are needed.

For the first time in modern memory, our Canadian Forces will be able to plan for the long-term because of a clear vision accompanied by stable funding over the 20-year life of the Strategy. This includes an automatic annual increase in defence spending of 2% from 2011-2012 which allows long term planning for major equipment programs, personnel growth and strengthened capability. Over the next 20 years, these increases will expand National Defence’s annual budget from $18 billion in 2008-09, to over $30 billion in 2027-28. In total, the Government plans to invest close to $490 billion in defence over this period.

The Strategy ensures that the military will have the means to conduct six core missions within Canada, North America and globally. Specifically, the Forces will have the capacity to:

  • conduct daily domestic and continental operations, including in the Arctic and through NORAD;
  • support a major international event in Canada, such as the 2010 Olympics;
  • respond to a major terrorist attack;
  • support civilian authorities in the event of a crisis at home such as a natural disaster
  • lead or take an active role in a major international operation for an extended period; and
  • deploy forces in response to crises elsewhere in the world for shorter periods.

In 2010, Vancouver will host the Olympic Winter Games; a major event that will spotlight Canada on the world stage. The Canadian Forces will be in a strong position to support the RCMP and other government agencies. The CFDS ensures that the Forces have the people and the equipment to ensure that the Games are conducted in an open yet secure environment.

Our Government believes that international leadership matters. The Afghanistan mission has demonstrated the importance of having a modern, robust, combat capable military that can operate far from home on a sustained basis in a difficult environment as Canada does its part in a UN-sanctioned, NATO-led mission.

The Canada First Defence Strategy is a major step in the rebuilding of our national capabilities. The Strategy strengthens the CF and gives it the tools to provide security for Canadians at home as well as a stronger voice for Canada in the world. The focus, discipline and dedication are on full display in the Canadian Forces and with good reason can proudly say “we’re back.” Canadians feel a growing confidence and pride in our armed forces and in our extraordinary men and women in uniform as they defend Canada and contribute to peace and stability around the world.
The Honourable Peter MacKay is the Minister of National Defence.
© Frontline Defence 2008