Ottawa, ON - The Department of National Defence is adjusting budgets to key priorities, and as a result, the Army will shift spending in some areas in order to ensure sufficient funding for operational training and new equipment. The Canadian Forces are experiencing a high operational tempo both internationally and domestically, and competing priorities have resulted in funding pressures this fiscal year. Funding is being adjusted both on a departmental level and within the Army in order to ensure that key obligations are met.
In announcing these measures, the Chief of the Land Staff, LGen Andrew Leslie, said the Army’s “absolute priority” is to prepare soldiers for the combat mission in Afghanistan and other deployed and domestic missions, as well as to ensure that equipment recapitalization projects remain on track. The Commander said the Army must focus on what it has to do, not what it might wish to do.
“We have achieved life-saving and battle-winning standards in training - other spending cannot be allowed to erode those standards,” LGen Leslie said.
The Army’s annual budget is now $1.6 billion. Approximately $80 million is being moved to higher CF priorities this fiscal year. Funding adjustments are being spread across the Army to ensure that key priorities are met. In order to achieve this, the Army will:
- reduce planned activities and training for soldiers not immediately preparing for operations, including non-urgent exercises and adventure training;
- delay non-urgent maintenance and repair of infrastructure and equipment;
- delay procurement of non-essential items including some commercial vehicles;
- reduce administrative travel and conferences;
- reduce information technology expenditures on items such as computers and cell phones; and
- reduce the number of full-time Reservists.
The CLS has cancelled his own overseas travel until the start of the next fiscal year in April 2010. Business-class travel has been cancelled for all ranks, including the CLS, and will only be authorized under special circumstances such as for wounded or injured soldiers who may require extra room on flights.
Much of the attention surrounding this issue has focused on the proposed reductions to Class B positions. The number of full-time Class B Reservists has increased significantly in the past several years to near historic highs. The number of Class B Reservists working with the Army in November 2008 was approximately 3,430. In November 2009 this number increased to about 4,750. The Army will reduce this number by about 300 in the short term. Full time Reservists continue to provide an invaluable contribution to the day-to-day running of the Army, but the rapid growth of full time positions has come with a cost. This added expense, combined with a high operational tempo and the Army’s requirement to support higher DND priorities, creates a situation where Army expenditures are in danger of exceeding the overall budget. This situation is being addressed by the Army leadership through variety of measures. Because personnel costs represent a significant portion of the Army’s budget, and due to the recent and unprecedented growth in Class B contracts, some trimming in this area is unavoidable.
The Army could face further reductions in the numbers of Class B Reservists in the next fiscal year, although no decision has yet been made. The money that is being saved through these reductions will go towards training for those about to go on deployment and to the equipment and vehicles needed to provide those soldiers with the mobility and protection they need.
The Commander said the Reserves are an integral part of the Army team deploying shoulder-to-shoulder with Regular soldiers and carrying a sizeable burden of Canada’s domestic and deployed operations. Nevertheless, sound financial management involves difficult decisions and unfortunately, one of the areas affected are the Reserves.
“We understand that this these reductions will mean that certain things will not get done and there is risk in such an approach,” LGen Leslie said, but again emphasized that the Army must focus on its top priorities in order to be prepared for whatever tasks and missions lie ahead. In order to sustain the Army’s level of excellence in operations, “we will all have to move beyond watching every dollar to scrutinizing every penny,” he said. “Our soldiers deserve the best possible training to maintain the world class standard they have set on operations.”
Photo: MCpl Vaughan Lightowler, Army News, Petawawa