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BeitragVerfasst am: Mo Apr 25, 2005 05:16:59 
Titel: Budget woes!
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Budget unlikely to assuage underfunded, overstretched military: documentsat 14:27 on April 24, 2005, EST.STEPHEN THORNE OTTAWA (CP) - Canada's armed forces are so underfunded and overstretched that the government's much-lauded budget commitments may not come close to fixing them, suggest documents released to The Canadian Press. Economic impact assessments filed by all three services paint a picture of a decaying military that is, as the navy commander put it, fast approaching the point of "critical mass in its ability to execute its mission." The navy is docking ships, the air force is grounding planes and the army may someday be unable to meet overseas commitments without significantly more cash, say the documents, obtained under access to information. All services are short-staffed - the navy and air force most of all - but it is the army that will receive the bulk of new recruits in the next five years. Both navy and air force say they cannot meet all assigned tasks in 2005-06, with "deficiencies and shortfalls in all areas." "The result is a decaying infrastructure, a depreciating asset base, increasing personnel issues, and a fleet that faces considerable sustainment issues," writes the head of the navy, Vice-Adm. Bruce MacLean. "I will not be able to deliver the full mandated level of maritime defence readiness and capability delineated in the Defence Plan." The air force alone has accumulated a $1-billion infrastructure deficit, its long-term capital shortfall is even greater, and it was going into the current fiscal year $608 million underfunded. "The air force we have today is not sustainable tomorrow," writes the air force chief, Lt.-Gen. Ken Pennie. MacLean cites $419 million in navy funding shortfalls this year. The army is $177 million short. The combined projected shortfall for the three services exceeds $1.1 billion this year. February's federal budget promises $12.8 billion in new defence spending over five years, but only $500 million of that comes this year in a one-time infusion, primarily for infrastructure maintenance. And while another $600 million is slated to come next year, the big money doesn't arrive until years four and five. Most is pegged for new kit and other elements of the plan set out in last week's defence policy statement. However, with the budget yet to pass in Parliament and the minority government teetering on the brink of defeat, the documents paint a bleak picture of an already-beleaguered military slipping into a fiscal abyss. Drafted before the budget and policy statement, they talk of unprecedented personnel and equipment shortages, decaying infrastructure and assets, and a plethora of deficits and red ink. A disclaimer attached to the service impact assessments says that, while the documents do not reflect February's new budget numbers, "demand will always exceed supply" in most government organizations. "It is no different at Defence," it says. "The management of resources will always require that choices be made." Neither Defence Minister Bill Graham nor the military finance chief, Maj.-Gen. Doug Dempster, could be reached for comment. But officials said the budget will help and Defence hopes to soften the blow by shedding antiquated equipment, focusing efforts and reallocating resources. The service chiefs - including the new chief of defence staff and former commander of the army, Gen. Rick Hillier - sound desperate. "The cumulative costs of not funding (programs) are not only significant and growing, but oftentimes are hidden insofar as they contribute to skill fade, career stagnation, and asset deterioration beyond economical repair," wrote Hillier, who went from army boss to military chief in February. "The sustainment base has not been provided the necessary resources." MacLean says the navy "faces the dilemma of not having enough people to meet minimum requirements and not enough, or limited resources to provide them with the necessary tools to also do their jobs fully." The air force is "beyond the point where even constant dedication is sufficient to sustain the capabilities needed to meet assigned Defence tasks," writes Pennie. "The AF remains fragile due to chronic underfunding and asymmetric cuts to personnel. Our Wings and Squadrons are too hollow to sustain the current tempo of operations." Pennie says the air force is "still struggling with the draconian personnel cuts of the previous decade." "It seems quite evident that the AF was cut too deeply in the past, such that present establishments cannot cope with the operational and training tempos that we face today." Some problems appear slated to get worse before they get better. Last week's policy statement charts a vast Forces reorganization and sweeping new responsibilities for the three services, including greater roles in continental defence and security for the navy and air force. It promises to address infrastructure decay, equipment deficits and manpower shortages. But it says the "vast majority" of the 5,000 additional full-time recruits it promises will go to the army - not the other services. back
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