Former military officer wants $1B in defence cuts

The former soldier who’s recommended deep cuts at the Department of National Defence headquarters says the Conservative government has an opportunity to implement historic change.

OTTAWA — The former soldier who’s recommended deep cuts at the Department of National Defence headquarters says the Conservative government has an opportunity to implement historic change.

Retired lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie made his pitch for up to $1 billion in savings before the Senate defence committee on Monday, describing the 43 recommendations in his report as “moderately tough choices” that will require political will to implement.

Leslie, who headed the army throughout most of the Afghan war, was put in charge of designing a reorganized military and his findings, released last month, have created waves.

His report calls for cutting a bloated headquarters establishment in Ottawa where approximately 20,000 uniformed members and civil servants oversee operations as well as administration.

He recommended cuts on the bureaucratic side of DND, trimming jobs at headquarters and reallocating resources in measures that could affect up to 11,000 jobs. Among the suggestions, Leslie says the full-time reservists, called up during the Afghan war into headquarters positions, could be demobilized and returned to part-time status.

Under the plan, the department would cut money spent on outside contractors and consultants.

“I think the only person who agrees with all of my recommendations is me,” Leslie told the committee, acknowledging the rancour with which the report has been received inside the Ottawa headquarters.

“It is up to the government of Canada to either accept or not the recommendations and to actually conduct the implementation and that is, arguably, the toughest part of all. This has to be a government of Canada driven activity.”

The transformation report would “destroy” the Canadian military if fully implemented, retired chief of defence staff general Rick Hillier has warned.

Leslie countered by saying he spent over 30 years in uniform and would never do anything to destroy the Forces, but argued that a fiscal reality of cutbacks is going to kick in, regardless of whether the Forces acknowledges it.