The Royal Canadian Legion on the Defence Policy Update

Published April 19, 2024

Gone missing: Timely and aligned implementation

OTTAWA, April 19, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Royal Canadian Legion is sharing additional thoughts related to the federal government’s recently released Defence Policy Update, in the wake of the 2024 federal budget. As with its response to the budget, the Legion is encouraged by the commitments but troubled by what it sees as a lack of immediacy in implementation, and therefore possibly disastrous results for our country operationally if processes and timing do not align with current requirements.

“If our country does not urgently tackle the critical issues that face our defence department the results will primarily affect our still serving Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members,” says Bruce Julian, Dominion President. “Ultimately this could mean highly increased risk in the field, and unnecessarily negative outcomes physically and mentally for our troops.”

The update does a great job of highlighting major security factors that Canada needs to consider, including climate change, the Arctic, Russia and China, new technologies, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing.

The policy objectives are clear. The commitments also represent a significant increase in defence spending, the best since 2015. There are positive plans for new capabilities in the areas of intelligence and cybersecurity and in purchasing new aircraft and other defence systems.

When considering the full context of the policy update however, there is much to be worried about.

To begin, most of the spending commitments will not be fulfilled until after the next election and as far off as 20 years from now. CAF members need new gear, tools, and training today, not in 20 years.

This, which was an “urgent” policy update, took two years to complete and only calls for the “exploration” of some significant capability options without setting firm deadlines. The pledges made still do not meet Canada’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) commitment; and without a major evolution of the current procurement process, it will ensure Canada will not hit its target.

While new funding is mostly focused on capital equipment, upcoming budget cuts are focused on operations and maintenance - which will likely affect readiness: already a current problem. There is a huge disconnect here. The impact of funding pressures and cutbacks will fall squarely upon recruiting, retention, and training.

While the policy update does attempt to address recruitment and retention, and overall quality of life, implementation realities mean things are likely to remain status quo in the near future. For example, the CAF is 16,000 personnel short, and the policy update indicates it will take eight years to resolve. This shortage is not a new development, and the Legion questions why it is taking so long for noticeable movement in this obviously crucial area. Further, there appears to be limited effort to ensure retention. Despite a stated military housing shortage of 7,000 the proposed plan - $300 million over 20 years – provides little urgent relief. Dedicated military housing is needed now not in the future.

The Legion also notes that while there is a government commitment to produce a National Security Strategy every four years, the last one was in 2004. No strategy = no timely and aligned processes = undue pressure on our CAF members.

Overall, this reality is especially problematic because as the Legion recently illustrated, some of the policy items outlined are contingent upon other timely actions to have a tangible effect:

  • The timely delivery of needed new equipment is just around the corner, but there will likely be insufficient personnel to operate it.
  • Excellent initiatives and commitments are planned to modernize the CAF’s Navy, Air Force, Space and Cyber components, but its regular and reserve Army will remain in a poor state of readiness without sufficient changes.
  • There is a welcome increase in defence spending but it comes alongside the reality of defence budget cutbacks, so the funding increase is not what it looks like.
  • There is a crucial and positive proposal to fix the outdated procurement process, but still no actual completion date for a planned – and urgently needed - procurement strategy.

“I can’t repeat this enough,” says Julian. “We need to take action now, not in five, ten or twenty years at which time the situational environment may have changed and then we’re possibly back to square one or worse.”

For more information on the full list of Legion priority areas, please visit:

About The Royal Canadian Legion
Founded in 1925, the Legion is Canada’s largest Veteran support and community service organization. We are a non-profit organization with a national reach across Canada as well as branches in the U.S. and Europe. With 250,000 members, many of whom volunteer an extraordinary amount of time to their branches, our strength is in our numbers.

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