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McCallum Will Not Hire More Soldiers

Posted on Monday, May 26 at 11:28 by polemarch1

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"There is no doubt about the strain on the people, and that is a major concern," Mr. McCallum said in an interview on the eve of today's first anniversary of his appointment as Defence Minister "But if you replace the old kind of equipment with the modern kind of equipment, you need fewer people. And so some people will be freed up to do other things in the military, in the army. In that sense, you won't necessarily have a larger number of people. If you have the same number of people in a reformed army -- where you have more brain compared with brawn -- effectively you do have more resources."

Canada's armed forces, and the army in particular, were hit hard by a decade-long decline in military budgets as the Liberal government fought to eliminate the federal deficit.
The country's military force dropped from 88,000 in 1989 to just 61,000 today. Of those, only 52,000 are considered fully trained, effective personnel.

The army's ranks had fallen to 20,179 as of March, and the chief of land forces said this spring that Canada is barely capable of fielding a brigade-size force of 3,000 soldiers on overseas missions.
The Opposition Canadian Alliance issued a defence policy statement this month calling on the government to restore the size of Canada's regular force to at least 80,000. But Mr. McCallum, who has embraced the concept of "transformation" within the military, said the army's problems are better addressed by updating battlefield technology and replacing Cold War-era equipment like the Leopard tanks, purchased from Germany in the 1970s. He is considering purchasing lighter and more mobile direct-fire weaponry like the Stryker, an eight-wheeled vehicle being introduced into the U.S. military.

Recruitment of new personnel will focus more on attracting soldiers with skilled trades and medical qualifications -- areas where the army has struggled to retain experienced people. "The ratio of brain to brawn is increasing. The army has a picture of a body, and the old army has a tiny little head and huge body," Mr. McCallum said. "The new army has a much bigger head and a smaller body."

Deborah Grey, a Canadian Alliance defence critic, accused Mr. McCallum of taking half measures. She said the army needs a complete overhaul if it is to survive as a combat-capable force.
"Shame on this government that they even talk about serious systemic changes in the military," Ms. Grey said. "They are going to try and slap a new coat of paint on this, and put one more piece of equipment in, and think the whole thing is transformed."

Ottawa is adding $1.6-billion in new funding to the military over the next two years. Mr. McCallum has identified the army as the branch in greatest need of financial assistance, so a larger portion of the new funds will be spent on the land force as opposed to the air force and navy.

The decision to forego the purchase of new long-range military transport planes will allow money to be spent on more pressing equipment needs, he said. "I have gone away from the old tradition where every group is treated more or less equally. We can't afford to do that," he said. "We have to make strategic choices. I have said we are not going to do strategic airlift. That frees up some number of billions of dollars for other things."

Canada is set to deploy 1,800 troops to Afghanistan in August. Mr. McCallum said outdated equipment like the Leopard tanks would be of little use. The Minister said he wants to "get moving" on the purchase of wheeled direct-fire vehicles, but could not provide a timeline or expected cost.

Note: From the National Post
CREDIT: Kevin Frayer, The Canadian Press

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