Defence Policy promises more funding, better threat anticipation

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Defence Policy promises more funding, better threat anticipation

UPDATED June 7, 2017 1:12pmET

Canada’s new defence policy promises to increase annual spending up to $32.7 billion on a cash basis by 2027 ($24.6 billion on an accrual basis), with the goal of deploying in “multiple theatres simultaneously, while also bolstering disaster relief, search and rescue, contributions to peace operations and capacity building.”

This translates to over $60 billion in new spending over the next two decades, according to the government, though with $2.3 billion of that over the next three fiscal years.

The document repeats the pledges to replace Canada’s CF-18 fighter fleet – but now with 88 jets instead of 65 to meet NATO and NORAD commitments — and to fund 15 Canadian surface combatants and two joint support ships.


The cordon once provided by three oceans and a powerful American neighbor has weakened with technology and new forms of conflict, according to the document:

Increasingly, threats, such as global terrorism and those in the cyber domain, transcend national orders. These trends undermine the traditional security once provided by Canada’s geography. Defending Canada and Canadian interests thus not only demands robust domestic defence but also requires active engagement abroad.”

This “new approach” to defence will focus on better threat anticipation – including intelligence, surveillance, and real-time information. More money is promised for cyber and space operations, and the launch of an innovation program for defence research and development.

The policy includes domestic defence and simultaneous deployments to international missions of up to 1,500 personnel.

As for the United States, “this relationship is critical to every aspect of Canada’s defence interests and economic prosperity … Beyond the continent, Canada will continue to collaborate internationally with the United States, consistent with Canadian interests and values.”


Defence spending is now expected to represent 1.4 per cent of GDP by 2024-25, an increase from this year’s 1.2 per cent but still below NATO’s two-per-cent objective.

Those numbers now includes defence-related funding within other departments such as the RCMP, Shared Services Canada, Treasury Board, and Public Services and Procurement. Using the old calculation would result in a 1.22-per-cent figure by 2025, compared to 0.94 per cent for 2016-17.

However, spending on major equipment is forecast to reach 32 per cent, above NATO’s 20-per-cent target.

The government claims this is the most “rigorously costed defence policy in history” and fully funded.

There is also a promise to revise and simplify the defence budget process for better accountability, and to reduce lapsed funding from year to year.

However, money for capital spending can still be “re-profiled into future years,” the case in recent federal budgets.

Canadian defence spending for 2016-17 is currently estimated at $18.9 billion (cash basis).


As for human capacity, the regular force and reserves are to be both increased by five per cent (3,500 regulars to reach 71,500, and 1,500 reserves to reach 30,000), with the reserves becoming more integrated into the over military structure. (Included is a pledge for females to represent 25 per cent of the military by 2026.)

More positions are promised for cyber functions and military/civilian intelligence.

Spending promises include:


  • investment in ground-based air defence, combat support vehicles, heavy logistics vehicles and light utility vehicles, and training simulators
  • light force expansion for “complex operation theatres, such as peace operations
  • expanded capacity and size of special operations forces
  • ATVs, snowmobiles, and semi-amphibious vehicles for Arctic operations
  • better capacity to operate in remote regions
  • better IED detection and upgraded light armoured vehicles


  • investment in remotely piloted systems that allow for surveillance and precision strikes
  • replacement of the current RADARSAT system
  • replacement of CC-150 and CC-138 fleet (tanker transport and utility transport), replacement of maritime patrol aircraft (CP-140), updated fighter air-to-air missiles


  • five or six Arctic offshore patrol ships
  • modernization of four Victoria-class submarines
  • upgraded lightweight torpedoes
  • better intelligence and surveillance capacity

Other highlights:

  • Income tax exemption for troops deployed on international operations, up to the pay level of lieutenant-colonel
  • A new 1,200-member “CAF Transition Group” to help members recover from illness or injury, or move into civilian life.
  • A $198.2-million commitment to establish a “Total Health and Wellness Strategy”
  • Completion of a life-cycle cost estimate for all new major capital projects
  • A streamlined defence procurement process, with the goal of reducing approval times by 50 per cent and allowing National Defence to manage 80 per cent of all contracts ($5 million and below)
  • Gender-based analysis of all defence activities
  • Recruitment focus on women, Indigenous peoples, and visible minorities
  • Reducing the time needed to enroll in the armed forces
  • An additional 200 personnel for the Medical Services Branch
  • A joint National Defence and Veterans Affairs Suicide Prevention Strategy
  • Completion of implementing the Deschamps Report recommendations on harassment
  • New teams across Canada to address gender-based violence
  • Better access to psychological services for members and families
  • Better support for relocation expenses and issues
  • New roles for Reserve Force units, such as: light urban search and rescue, CBRN defence, cyber and intelligence operations, and combat capabilities

Watch the full news conference with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Transport Minister Marc Garneau, and Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff:

Read the full report:

Watch more analysis from David Perry (Canadian Global Affairs Institute) and Elinor Sloan (Carleton University):

-Andrew Thomson

Top photo: Canadian National Vimy Memorial