Defence Policy,
Foreign Policy,
& Canada-US




Canada First  Defence Strategy – Government/DND Document – 18 June 2008

Government of Canada  /  Department of  National Defence



To deliver on the Government’s level of ambition, the Canadian Forces must be a fully integrated, flexible, multi-role, and combat-capable military. They must also contribute as a core element of a whole-of-government approach to addressing both domestic and international security challenges.

Among other considerations, the Government’s decisions on rebuilding the Canadian Forces are informed by experience gained in recent missions in Canada and overseas, including in Afghanistan.  Indeed,  the Afghanistan mission has demonstrated the importance of having a military that can operate far from home on a sustained basis and in a difficult environment,  and that is capable of quickly adapting to evolving threats and changing conditions on the ground.

These lessons will continue to be incorporated as the military adjusts its doctrine and capability requirements in the future.

Operational experience has demonstrated that the best way to give the Government maximum flexibility in countering the full spectrum of security challenges is to maintain balance across the four pillars upon which military capabilities are built  –  personnel, equipment,  readiness,  and  infrastructure.  The Canada  First  Defence  Strategy addresses the needs of the Canadian Forces across these pillars, building on progress achieved since 2006.

Canadian Forces Personnel

1. Personnel

At the end of the Cold War, the Canadian Forces had a total strength of approximately 89,000 Regular Force personnel. While this number declined to below 60,000 in the 1990s, the military’s operational tempo significantly increased over the same period, placing extreme stress on Canadian Forces personnel. Operational fatigue, combined with the demographic reality of an ageing workforce, resulted over time in a "hollow force." Faced with new demands and the need to respond to new and unforeseen crises, the Canadian Forces require more recruits of higher quality with the right knowledge and skills.

While its strength has increased, at current manning levels of about 64,000 Regular and 26,000 Reserve personnel, our military is still hard pressed to carry out core operations at home and abroad.

Canada First Defence Strategy

Previous initiatives:
The Government will remedy this situation by funding significant personnel growth. Budget 2006 provided funding to increase the effective strength of the Regular Force to 68,000 personnel and the Reserves to 26,000. These additional personnel will help sustain international operations in coming years, as well as supporting the Canadian Forces'contribution to security efforts at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Sustaining a Major Operation

Maintaining 2,500 Canadian Forces personnel in Afghanistan requires a pool of over 12,500. This includes 2,500 personnel in theatre for six months, 5,000 at different stages of training for upcoming rotations and 5,000 recovering follow- ing their deployment, affording the soldiers a minimum of 12 months between deployments.  About 10,000 additional civilian and military personnel are required in Canada to support the mission.

What is new:
The Canada First Defence Strategy provides the resources needed to expand the Forces to 70,000 Regular Force and 30,000 Reserve Force personnel. This will give the Canadian Forces a total strength of 100,000 to achieve the Government’s defence objectives in Canada, on the continent and internationally, as well as positioning them for future growth. This expansion will allow the military to strengthen key joint and enabling capabilities, including medical and maintenance technicians, surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence specialists, and special operations forces. This will be a significant undertaking. The cost of increasing military strength by 1,000 regular personnel is about $150 million annually  –  and this does not include the associated equipment, infrastructure, and training.  Overall,  just over 50 percent of National Defence’s budget is spent on personnel.  [See Chart 3a.]

Investing in People

Being a credible partner in the defence of North America requires the Canadian Forces to:

   •  People are Defence’s most important resource. Both the Department and
      the Forces rely heavily on the work and expertise of dedicated personnel to
      ensure the operational effectiveness of the military.
   •  Rebuilding the Forces into a first-class, modern military means recruiting the
      "best and the brightest" that Canadian communities have to offer.
   •  Recognizing the demographic challenges that will be facing the Canadian
      workforce in the coming decades, Defence will continue to strive for excell-
      ence by:
       •  Recruiting and retaining quality candidates that reflect the face of Canada;
       •  Providing world-class technical training and advanced education;
       •  Encouraging the continued development of a knowledge-based workforce;
       •  Providing personnel with the highest level of health care possible; and
       •  Integrating a motivated and effective Defence team comprising Regulars,
          Reserves and civilians.

2. Equipment

Serious and significant cuts to defence funding in the 1990s resulted in an overall de- gradation of the Forces'equipment, affecting all three services. For example, the navy had to dispose of one of its three replenishment ships and one of its four destroyers; the air force eliminated almost half its aircraft, including Chinook helicopters which are now being urgently re-acquired for use in Afghanistan; and the army lost a significant portion of its fighting and utility vehicles. In today’s dangerous operational environ- ment, the Canadian Forces need robust and modern equipment to fulfill their roles.

Looking ahead, several major equipment fleets will reach the end of their operational lives within the next 10 to 20 years, and will need to be replaced. Decisions on acquir- ing critical new systems to replace these ageing fleets must be made in the near term.

Canada First Defence Strategy

Previous initiatives:
Over the last two years, the Government committed significant resources to rebuilding the Forces and made decisions related to the most urgent equipment needs while continuing the analysis suppporting the Canada First Defence Strategy. During that period, the Government made significant commitments to acquire urgently needed equipment. This included C-17 [CC-177] Globemaster strategic and C-130J [CC-130J] Hercules tactical transport aircraft,CH-47F Chinook helicopters, Joint Support Ships and trucks to increase the deployability of the military, modern Leopard II  [ Leopard 2A4 and 2A6M ] tanks and mine-protected vehicles to enhance its combat-capability, and Arctic/offshore patrol ships to help the Forces operate in our northern waters.

These acquisitions are building a solid foundation for the continued modernization and strengthening of the military and will enable it to conduct operations more effect- ively and safely, both at home and abroad. However, more work remains to be done to ensure that the Forces have all the tools they need to do their job over the long term.

What is new:
Through this 20-year plan, based on a detailed assessment of  [CF] requirements, the Government has committed to renewing the Forces'core equipment platforms. These will preserve maximum flexibility in countering the range of threats facing Canada and include:

Destroyers and Frigates
Starting in 2015, 15 ships to replace Canada’s destroyers and frigates. While all these vessels will be based on a common hull design, the frigate and destroyer variants will be fitted with different weapons, communications, surveillance and other systems. These new ships will ensure that the military can continue to monitor and defend Canadian waters and make significant contributions to international naval operations.

Fixed Wing Search & Rescue Aircraft
Starting in 2015, 17 fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft to replace the current ageing fleet of Buffalo and Hercules aircraft. The new platforms will help improve the military response to Canadians in distress across this country's vast territory and oceans.

Starting in 2017,  65 next-generation fighter aircraft to replace the existing fleet of
CF-18s. These new fighters will help the military defend the sovereignty of Canadian airspace, remain a strong and reliable partner in the defence of North America through NORAD, and provide Canada with an effective and modern air capability for inter- national operations.

Maritime Patrol Aircraft
Starting in 2020,  10-12  maritime patrol aircraft  to replace  the  [ CP-140 ] Aurora  fleet. The new aircraft will become part of a surveillance "system of systems" that will also comprise sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles, and satellites and keep Canada's maritime approaches safe and secure, including in the Arctic.

Land Combat Vehicles and Systems
The progressive acquisition of a new family of land combat vehicles and systems that will provide a robust and flexible capability for Canada’s soldiers on high-risk missions abroad. The earliest investments in this project will provide enhanced capabilities for use in Afghanistan.

Replacing these core platforms will require investments ranging between $45 billion and $50 billion in acquisition capital costs. Under accrual budgeting principles, these costs will be amortized over the useful life of the equipment, which extends beyond the time-frame of  this  Strategy.

In addition to these major fleet replacement programs, Defence will continue to make ongoing investments in other capital projects to improve and replace key existing equipment and capabilities. These projects will focus on individual weapons, commu- nications equipment and smaller support vehicles. Defence will also look at acquiring radars and satellites to improve surveillance capabilities, especially in the Arctic.

Translating scientific advances into military capabilities is crucial to success in oper- ations. The new equipment that will be acquired, including the fleet of land combat vehicles and systems, the ships to replace the frigates and destroyers and the next- generation fighter aircraft, will incorporate advances in technology. New command and control elements will exploit advances in information systems, including minia- turization.

3. Readiness

Readiness refers to the Canadian Forces'flexibility and preparedness to deploy in response to Government direction. It encompasses the resources needed to maintain equipment, conduct training, and prepare units for operations. Over the last 15 years, the military have been forced to economize in this area. Fewer resources for training and spare parts, coupled with an increasing operational tempo and ageing equipment eroded the Canadian Forces'preparedness to undertake operations on short notice.

Until recently, the resources allocated for the National Procurement budget, which covers fuel, ammunition, spare parts and maintenance, covered only 70 percent of demand, significantly impeding the Forces'ability to train and maintain high readi- ness levels.

Canada First Defence Strategy

Previous initiatives:
The Government recognizes that, if they are to be effective in such difficult and diverse environments as the Arctic and Afghanistan, the Canadian Forces need adequate resources for training, spare parts and equipment. Recent budget increases have begun to reverse the decline in readiness and have funded more exercises for
the army, more days at sea for the navy, and more flying hours for the air force.

What is new:
The implementation of the Strategy’s 20-year plan will further enhance the readiness of the Canadian Forces. Planned, rather than ad-hoc investments will improve and increase training for personnel. In addition, such funding will provide further relief
and ensure that more personnel are trained to required levels and that more equipment is available for both training and operations. Through this Strategy,  the Government
is building a military that can deploy more quickly and effectively.


Since the early 1990s, readiness resources have been cut to pay for higher priority operational demands. This has resulted in:

   •  a 30 percent reduction in sea days;
   •  a 40 percent reduction in the average number of hours that planes fly
      each year; and
   •  the ability to train only 30 percent of land forces at high readiness.

The Canada First Defence Strategy will help reverse this trend by allocating enough resources to ensure that Canadian Forces personnel and their equip- ment are ready to deploy when and where they are needed.

4. Infrastructure

National Defence is the single largest property holder in the federal government, owning approximately 21,000 buildings, 13,500 works (including 5,500 kilometres of roads, jetties, training areas, etc.) and 800 parcels of land covering 2.25 million hectares (four times the size of Prince Edward Island). More than half of Defence’s infra- structure is over 50 years old and much of its portfolio was not designed for today’s operational requirements. National Defence is also the custodian of a number of heritage buildings and has a strong program to promote environmental stewardship, including thorough cleanup and remediation initiatives.

Following budget cuts in the 1990s, the resources earmarked for infrastructure main- tenance and replacement were reduced significantly. As a result, much of National Defence’s infrastructure is ageing and in poor repair, and will require refurbishing or replacement over the coming years.

Canada First Defence Strategy

Previous initiatives:
Beginning in 2006, the Government began to address the infrastructure issue. For instance, the new equipment acquisitions, such as the C-17 Globemaster and C-130J Hercules aircraft, include funding for associated infrastructure projects. This means that the cost of new hangars and other facilities directly related to these capabilities has already been taken into account in the overall cost of these projects. This new approach will reduce pressure on the broader infrastructure budget.

What is new:
To ensure that the Canadian Forces have the facilities they need, the Canada First Defence Strategy includes measures that will result in an overall improvement in the condition of defence infrastructure over the long term. In particular, our military will benefit from new investment and the ongoing implementation of a national approach to responsible stewardship and risk management.

In concrete terms, Defence will move from spending an average of 2.5 percent of realty replacement costs annually from 2000 to 2006, to an average level of just under 4 percent annually over the next 20 years. Sufficient resources will also be set aside for the future acquisitions required under this Strategy to build or upgrade associated infrastructure.

Overall, the Strategy aims to replace 25 percent of existing infrastructure over 10 years and 50 percent over the next 20 years. In coming years, National Defence will also further improve the management of its heritage sites and continue to promote and exercise environmental stewardship in the conduct of its activities.

Investment Plan

The Canada First Defence Strategy provides an affordable roadmap that encom- passes initiatives in all four pillars of military capability. To ensure that the invest- ments outlined in this document are brought forward in a coherent way, National Defence is developing a comprehensive, multi-year  Strategic Investment Plan.

This Plan will assist National Defence in implementing the Strategy by helping to manage the complexity involved in balancing resources across the four pillars, including the sequencing of key projects so that equipment is not delivered without the necessary personnel to operate it and the infrastructure required to support it.

It will integrate funding demands from across National Defence into a single, coherent plan, and ensure that the timing of major investments corresponds to the availability of funds. This will not only minimize the risk of capability gaps, but will also ensure affordability over the next 20 years.

The first version of the Plan will be submitted to the Treasury Board Secretariat in November 2008 as part of a pilot project associated with that agency’s new Policy on Investment Planning, which aims to "contribute to the achievement of value for money and sound stewardship in government program delivery through effective investment planning."

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