Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dream On or Basic Realities: Canadian Senate Defence Report

I don't have time to read the whole thing while I wander around Brasilia asking folks about the role of their Congress in overseeing the military, but I can't help but skim and comment on the Canadian Senate's report on defence.  After all, the big Dave/Phil/Steve project is inspired by how lame Canadian legislative oversight of the military is.

Let me start by reacting to the first part of the exec summary (my comments in blue):
1. Increase spending to the military from the present level of 0.88% of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) to 2% of GDP by 2028;

There is no political constituency for this, nor would DND or the CAF have the capacity to spend it.  This is, as I illustrated, laughable and not much more.
2. Fix the procurement system by adapting current policies so that the department of National Defence, not Public Services Procurement Canada is responsible for military procurement; appoint a lead negotiator and interlocutor for each procurement project valued at over $1 billion and assign accountability and responsibility;
Having a single point of accountability makes sense, but how has DND handled that responsibility before? Is there an awareness that DND would need to be staffed up bigly in order to do this?
3. Do more to coordinate cyber defences and protect critical infrastructure;  Sure, sure.
4. Establish a process for a public review of the military every four years;  Absolutely
5. Build cross-party consensus on issues related to the military and veterans; this does not exist for a reason--the parties are more concerned with point scoring than improving governance.
• That the Minister of National Defence ensure members of the three services meet more regularly with parliamentarians, in committee and in their constituencies to further the understanding of the role of the Canadian Armed Forces and their requirements; [sure] and
• That the Prime Minister regularly brief the Leader of the Official Opposition and the leader of the third party on matters of national security and defence [sure].
6. And called on the Parliament of Canada to establish a Special Joint Parliamentary Committee with the Senate and House of Commons to study and report on Military Procurement; [fine]

All this ignores one of the very basic problems, as Kim Nossal identifies in his book: the parties like using defence and especially procurement as an issue to attack the other.  There is absolutely no sense in Canada that there is a common Canadian interest in defence policy that might lead to some kind of bi/tri-partisanism.  None.  So, the items under 5 are fine, but will not change a thing.

What else does the Senate Defence Report say?
  • Ballistic Missile Defence?  They say yes, and so do I.  It is a political thing in Canada, but realities of NORAD (and of North Korea) mean that joint defence implies this, so time to move on this.
  • Cancel interim fighter jet purchase and fast-track the real decision.  Damn straight as the interim purchase is a bad idea badly explained and very expensive. No need to kick the permanent decision until after the next election.  Just swallow the damned medicine and mix the damned metaphors.   But 120 planes?  I could reinsert that laughing gif as Canada has a hard time getting enough pilots now AND we ain't getting to 2% so we ain't gonna be able to afford that.  Canada hasn't flown 120 planes in how long?  Not going to start now.
  • Attack helos?  Really?  Somebody has been drinking too much of that full spectrum/combat capable koolaid.  Canada can't do everything.... unless we have secret aircraft carriers and ICBM's.
  • Drones? Sure.
  • 12 subs?  Ok, maybe I do have to do this again:

Subs are really expensive.  Also, where is Canada going to find 3x the crews?  I'd love for Cnaada to have a big fleet of top notch new subs.  But Canada is having a hard enough time building ships as it is.  Can Canada build subs?  Probably but only at great expense. Will Canadian politicians be willing to buy subs made elsewhere?  Um, hmmmm....
  • Speaking of ships: 18!  Again, the magic of doubling the defence budget meets getting more of everything.  Where is Oprah when you need her?

To be fair, the Senate report has some good stuff in it, but the 2% and the huge new programs undermine the idea that the Senate is the chamber of sober thought.  My first tweet hinted that they might be on drugs. 

So, will I change my stance for this big project that Canada is on the far, far end of how relevant the legislature is on overseeing defence?  Not yet. 

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