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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - October 23, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta 40 THE LETHBRIOOE HERALD WtdnMday, October 23, 1974 Armed forces caught in cost freeze By STEPHEN SCOTT OTTAWA (CP) The armed forces have been rung down to dead-slow ahead for the next few months while the govern- ment decides on how and where to cut costs, informed sources say. All but the essential operations have been cancelled, mean- ing that ships will spend more time than usual at the dock, planes on the ground and trucks in the parking lot. Exercises scheduled for as far south as the Caribbean and as far north as the Arctic Circle, among others, have been cancelled as the forces attempt to live with an inflation hit budget As described by one informed source, the situation at least until next April will see men sitting out looking at equipment they cannot use because of costs while wondering if mod- ernization will ever get off the ground It is known that when elements of the Canadian Airborne Regiment return to Edmonton from Cyprus in December, they will not even be allowed to practise parachute jumping. Aircraft and ships will be used to a minimum com- mensurate with safety Air crews must spend a minimum time in the air and engines, to be kept up to efficiency, must be used Spending deferred Meanwhile, spending on such things as replacement for aged trucks, some of which have been rattling around for 20 years, has been deferred along with other equipment. And hiring of casual civilian labor, about persons a year usually, is to be drastically, cut to reduce spending The squeeze is on until the government brings down its budget for the 1975-76 fiscal year, beginning next April. By that time the government will have decided how much money it is willing to spend in maintaining an "elite" force that Defence Minister James Richardson says must be cut in size but be well equipped. The government must decide which military tasks can be reduced so that this smaller force can operate effectively. Some sources almost wince when they discuss how far the economy screw is being twisted. They say even reserve fuel tanks may be partly empty by the end of the winter. They add that there is no way the forces can operate in such a restricted fashion much past April. The squeeze is the result of million in cost-cutting in- stituted by Gen J A Dextraze, chief of defence staff, as he bought the government time to work out an economy program The government allowed this year's defence expenditures to rise to about 5 billion from about billion but some of that increase had to go to a inflation allowance that public servants and the military received in the spring. The way it is explained by some sources, the military was warning the government early this year that it was heading for financial trouble because of inflation. The government, with a minority Parliament and an impending election, took no concrete action. Allowed shrinkage They say Gen. Dextraze took what apparently was un- ilateral action in allowing the size of the forces to drop about 3.000 below authorized strength as an economy device. But these sources say Mr Richardson virtually pulled the rug from under the general by making permanent what the general had planned as a temporary measure. The general planned to rebuild his was shown in a letter he wrote to his troops in an overhauled recruiting system he had ordered instituted. In October, Mr. Richardson lowered the boom. He said the forces must be better equipped and smaller and recruitment would be allowed to lag He acknowledged that they were overworked now because of personnel shortages and that tas- king would have to be reduced. He said the cabinet was con- sidering what tasks must go. The authorized level of the forces is in excess of But generally about 1.500 of these are not counted as being part of the effective strength of the forces. Today the forces are down to slightly more than Mr. Richardson has said for the rest of this year the size will be allowed to be in the area. He has said is not a magic number that must be adhered to. Mr. Richardson has' indicated that he sees the job of cabinet as pruning a little from the military's basic tasks of internal security, defence of North America. NATO and peacekeeping. He has said he would like to bring home a few hundred Ca- nadians from Cyprus, an action sources say would have little meaningful effect on the military economic situation. Sources say some of the alternatives before cabinet are not easily digestable. For instance they include: closing The military has more bases than it can use now and it is costing money. With a smaller force the bases are even more redundant. But bases are politically sensitive as they provide income for cities and constituencies. layoffs, cutting the number of men in uniform also cuts the number of now supports them: this at a time of high unemployment. "free" services. Nobody has ever computed how much the military gives away by diverting a ship or a plane or a truck from its regular work to do something for another instance fisheries or environment. Sources said there could be considerable saving if this was cut or it could be charged for in some way. Public apathetic Some express surprise at the apparent apathy of the public to the present situation and to the prospect of cutting the already small force to something smaller. They wonder why Canadians don't question why. with their enormous coastline, commitments to NATO, North American air defence and peacekeeping, there is an armed force a little bit larger than that of the Netherlands In terms of percentage of the gross national product spent on maintaining forces Canada is No. 13 among the 14 NATO military nations Opposition spokesmen say the morale in the forces now is Jow Sources say if this is so it is because the forces are caught in the position of not having sufficient modern equip- ment and not being able to afford to use what they do have. The forces were allowed to run down dunng a three-year budgetary freeze that ended in 1973 But spending since then has not been consistent enough to get the forces up to date, the sources say. Even ammunition supplies ran down dunng the freeze. One source said he isn't sure but he thinks the same thing may be happening again Handmade wooden auto Cabinetmaker David Bunts, 48, sits at the wheel of his handmade wooden showpiece1 he says cost him worth of material and worth of time. The 10-foot long auto, a blend of a variety of woods, is mounted on a specially-built trailer in the yard of the owner's shop. Metric system savings may on I weigh I costs EDMONTON (CP) Savings from conversion to the metric system may out- weigh the costs, says R. L. Hennesey, executive director of the Standards Council of Canada. Most companies are com- plaining about the cost of converting but he said it must be realized that by 1980, the estimated date for conversion in Canada, "most companies will have to convert to some new system anyway just to prevent obsolescence." 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