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Canadian General Walter J. Natynczyk meets with the Globe and Mail editorial board on January 21, 2011. (Fred Lum)
Canadian General Walter J. Natynczyk meets with the Globe and Mail editorial board on January 21, 2011. (Fred Lum)

At the editorial board

Walt Natynczyk on the record Add to ...

Walt Natynczyk, Canada's Chief of Defence Staff, visited The Globe and Mail editorial board on Friday. Following are some excerpts from that conversation



Canadians have many priorities, and we may not have the same kind of economic growth in the future. Can we still have as large a military?

In the Budget 2010, the government said that [costs had to be contained] And we're doing a strategic review. We're currently working on a plan ... We're looking at our overhead ... This is iterative. I've given [Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, in charge of transformation in the Canadian Forces]guidance last summer; we had a major conference of general flag officers in December; we've put a lot of ideas to the group ... I hope that we have a plan in place for the summer.

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What about the F-35s? Do you have trouble justifying that kind of massive investment for a new fighter that's yet unproven, with all the other hits you may have to take as an organization?

In my 35 years of service, we had never had a blueprint for the Canadian forces. In May 2008, the government issued a blue print called the Canada First Defence Strategy. It gave us a funding line over a 20-year period, and we recognize that there will be changes to that. It has four pillars that have to be in balance: people, capital, readiness, infrastructure ...

When you consider the F-35s ... it is in the same plan that has the air, land and sea in balance. We have been working with the other countries, with Lockheed Martin since 1997 ... We had allocated the amount of money that we believed required for the purchase of 65 aircraft, which was, in the rest of the Canada First Defence Strategy, the minimum essential operational requirement ...

From my perspective, the F-35 is the best aircraft with the best value in Canada ... it's a win-win, because there's so much investment, and so many other countries are joining, that the cost per unit is the cheapest for any fourth or fifth generation aircraft. And so the price ... is on the order of $70- to $75-million.

If that price goes up, we go below the minimal essential number of aircraft. Because I've got two bases, Bagotville, Que., and Cold Lake, Alta., and I've got north and coastal areas larger than any other country than Russia. And I've got to do that while being interoperable with our allies.

When we buy equipment, you can never predict where it's going to go. I was on a Leopard One tank when it was on warranty in Germany in 1979, thinking we were going to fight the Soviet Union. I never thought that the first time it would fire a round in anger would be in Afghanistan.

[There are]some documents released by the Ombudsman's office this week that you should have the chance to react to. You're familiar with the Sand Trap investigation, where more than 100 Canadians have already testified to that investigation. What surfaced in these access to information documents is. He feels that more and more of his peers are encouraged to commit "war crimes" by the chain of command. That's a sensational and damning allegation. What is that about and how do you react to that?

We hold the Canadian Forces leadership to the highest standards. And when I say leadership, I'm talking corporal to general ...

When allegations come in, I need to make a decision based on fact ...

We have a very, professional independent police organization called the NIS ...We also embed civilian police in that organization ...

Wherever allegations come in, the first thing is that the police does an investigation, and they have an independent authority to lay charges, if they believe a criminal act has occurred.. Once they've gone on with their business, then I launch a board of inquiry, to see if there's any systemic administrative action I need to take, to make sure this does not re-occur.

If, at any time during the Board of Inquiry investigation, there's reasonable belief a criminal act has occurred, the Board of Inquiry stops, and the police come back. I let that process run out, then I deal with the facts ...

Man for man, woman for woman, unit for unit - our special forces are as good as the Special Air Service of the UK; Delta Force in the U.S.

Success is where they roll in on a mission, they wake someone up in the middle of the night. Success is running an operation where they don't fire a bullet.

At the same time, I take all allegations seriously ... The last thing I can do is put pressure on the board to complete the process early ...

I can't tell you [the numbers of soldiers in JTF2] It's a capable force. Their priority mission is Canada.

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