Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Keep the muscle

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In an effort to get more bang for the buck, or more teeth and less tail in military parlance, the Canadian Armed Forces is reassigning up to 4,800 military and civilian workers to "high-priority areas."

It's part of a fat-cutting exercise intended to save about $1.2 billion annually in the $20-billion defence budget, which the Harper government wants to slash by more than $2 billion during the next few years.

It's hoped that by redeploying military personnel the Forces will still be ready and capable to respond to crises around the world when needed, but some observers are worried the current downward trend could leave the military as moribund and hopeless as it was in the 1990s.

The government has already announced, for example, it is postponing plans for new Arctic icebreakers, while proceeding with the construction of new supply ships to replace Canada's two aging replenishment vessels.

Unfortunately, the new ships won't be ready until at least 18 months after the old platforms are retired, meaning Canada will have to rely on the charity of its allies to supply its navy at sea.

Other planned military procurements, such as a new combat vehicle and new fighter jets, are also in limbo.

Countries around the world are cutting their military budgets, but the challenge in Canada is to ensure the Armed Forces retain its operational muscle. As history has shown, the cost of catching up is usually far greater than the short-term savings achieved through neglect.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 15, 2013 A10

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