Saturday, April 19, 2008

MND Mackay concedes Navy, Air Force operational funding problems/Frigate contracts

Further to this post. It really is getting a bit late to keep blaming the previous Liberal government; the strain of current operations in Afstan is a result of the current government's policy. I think that policy is right, but it's now up to the Conservatives to find the money:
The cost of the Afghan war has been eating into the budgets of the navy and air force, Defence Minister Peter MacKay acknowledged Friday, but he blamed years of neglect by the former Liberal government for the Tories’ fiscal balancing act.

He says the "high-activity operations" in Kandahar require the government to put the "resources where they are needed the most," but added that priorities are constantly re-evaluated.

"As you would expect, we make operational decisions that are sometimes perceived as upsetting the balance," MacKay said following an announcement at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.

"But we’re not losing sight for one minute about the need to invest in ships and the need to invest in certain aircraft."

Federal budget documents [see this post] say the war is "affecting current defence planning" and that in some cases the department "will direct funding away from routine equipment and infrastructure maintenance."

The documents warned: "Readiness of the CF (Canadian Forces) may be affected, dependent on the degree of reprioritization required."

MacKay blamed the Liberals, saying his Conservative government "inherited a huge problem" after years of underfunding the military...

Hillier, who announced his departure this week as the country’s top military commander, denied Thursday that the Forces have had rob Peter to pay Paul in order to fund the war, noting the Defence Department has received special appropriations to cover cost overruns.

But the department was reportedly warned last fall by the Privy Council Office — the government’s nerve centre — that the days of special appropriations were over and the cost of the conflict would have to come from the overall defence budget [emphasis added], which was increased by $1.4 billion to $18.2 billion this year.

The magnitude of reinvesting in the military has clearly staggered the Conservatives.

In the last election campaign, the Tories promised to increase the size of the military to 75,000 regular members and 35,000 reservists.

But federal documents drafted last fall show the Tories didn’t set aside enough money to meet the target in the 2006 budget, forcing defence planners to "reprofile" the expansion to 68,000 regular force and 26,000 primary reserve by 2011-2012...
But it looks certain that there will be some capital joy for the Navy (and Irving Shipbuilding Inc. at Halifax):
$3.1b frigate refit coming
Long-term deal means work for hundreds at Irving yard
Now MND Mackay (a Nova Scotia MP) will in a sense simply be re-announcing--with addition of the contract details--what Prime Minister Harper already announced in July 2007. Just by coincidence also in Halifax. Go for the votes, fellows.

Some joy for B.C. too:
Victoria expected to share in $750-million frigate contract


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