Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Members of the standing committee, it's great to see all of you again. Bonjour.
Today I'm pleased to be here to discuss the supplementary estimates (C) for 2017-18 and the interim estimates for 2018-19 for the Department of National Defence and the Communications Security Establishment.
Here with me, as always, is my deputy minister, Jody Thomas; Lieutenant-General Parent, Acting Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff; the Chief of the Communications Security Establishment, Greta Bossenmaier; and key senior members of the defence team.
Before getting to the main subject of today's gathering, let me say a few words about my recent announcement of our government's decision to deploy Canadian personnel to Mali in support of the United Nations mission in Mali.
In response to a formal request from the United Nations, Canada will deploy an aviation task force of medium-utility and armed helicopters for up to a 12-month period.
This contribution is aligned with the government's renewed commitment to the United Nations peace operations and “smart pledge” approach, and it will address a critical capability requirement for effective stabilization of Mali and the wider Sahel.
The Canadian Armed Forces have been instructed to begin their planning for this.
Turning now to the supplementary estimates (C), the department has requested approximately $780 million to cover costs to be incurred during the remainder of the current fiscal year. Some of that funding will contribute directly to our people, and that is how I would like to begin my remarks today.
We call upon Canadian Armed Forces personnel for some of the most difficult tasks needed to keep Canada and Canadians safe and secure. We ask them to deploy for very long periods of time, to leave their families and the comforts of home. Every day, we rely on their loyalty, their strength, their courage. They know that they may face unique stressors during and after their military careers, but they don the uniform to keep Canada safe and contribute to a more peaceful world. They are steadfast in their service to Canadians, and so must we be in supporting them. That is why caring for the women and men of our armed forces is the primary focus of our new defence policy—“Strong, Secure, Engaged”, SSE—and a part of these supplementary estimates as well.
As part of these estimates, we are requesting $17.5 million for the DND/CAF for the total health and wellness strategy. This initiative will give Canadian Armed Forces members access to a comprehensive, first-rate health care system. The strategy addresses both physical and mental well-being, and it focuses on promoting healthy behaviours both in the workplace and at home.
We are also ensuring our people work in healthy environments, free of harassment. You are well aware of Operation Honour, the Canadian Armed Forces mission to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour in the military. National Defence is also doing its best to ensure members of the armed forces and their families live in a healthy environment as well. That is why we are seeking $800,000 to increase support to family crisis teams and to members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families affected by domestic violence.
As you may recall, the government has also announced its joint CAF/Veterans Affairs suicide prevention strategy, as well as our intention to introduce a pension for life.
Only by providing the Canadian Armed Forces with the utmost care and treatment can we expect them to continue doing the invaluable work they are doing. They deserve our unwavering support.
Turning now to SSE, in supplementary estimates (C), we are requesting $435.4 million in additional funding to continue implementing the defence policy. Of that amount, $417.8 million will go to support SSE's overall program activities. These are activities like operations and readiness training, CAF recruitment and retention programs, and cybersecurity initiatives. These are baseline activities and requirements—things our department and armed forces need to do day to day.
The $100,000 we are requesting for the defence engagement program is an important step toward meeting our policy commitment to bolster academic outreach. Through conferences, round tables, and workshops the DEP will inform and challenge the policy assumptions and thinking of the department and the Canadian Armed Forces. It will do this while fostering the next generation of Canadian security and defence scholars in the process.
Moving beyond SSE, we are requesting $277.6 million for CAF international operations. As I believe everyone here understands, our safety at home requires our engagement in the world. More than 1,800 Canadian military personnel are deployed on 16 operations worldwide. These include Latvia, where the Canadian Armed Forces are leading a battle group as part of NATO's enhanced forward presence; Iraq, where the Canadian Armed Forces are contributing to the global coalition to counter Daesh; and Ukraine, where the Canadian Armed Forces have trained over 6,200 Ukrainian soldiers. New funding in these estimates for operations Reassurance, Impact, Unifier, and Artemis will ensure Canada maintains its commitment to international stability and security.
In terms of other line items, National Defence is carrying forward $12.2 million from the last fiscal year as contributions toward Canada's share of the NATO military budget. NATO is a cornerstone of our national security. In funding it, we are bolstering the stability of the transatlantic region to which Canada belongs. NATO offers us more than security. It gives us access to military equipment and infrastructure. It gives us an additional source of strategic information and analysis. It gives us an equal voice in important decisions that affect security and stability in North America, Europe, and regions beyond.
Our commitment to NATO remains ironclad. The recently released NATO annual report for 2017 shows that Canada has increased its defence spending by almost 5%. We continue to make investments in Canadian security, and to work with our allies to support a peaceful and prosperous world.
Essential to our stability and security is ensuring that the Canadian Armed Forces have modern facilities and equipment. We have been criticized in the past for how quickly we are, or are not, spending money on these projects, but major acquisitions are complex, and they take time.
Criticisms notwithstanding, the department is making progress on a number of major purchases. Notably, we are making the most significant investment in decades in the Royal Canadian Air Force. The $5.9 million we are requesting in capital funding will go toward both running the competition for 88 advanced fighter aircraft to replace the current fleet, and toward purchasing fighter aircraft and parts from Australia as an interim measure.
Let me also touch briefly on a few of the smaller line items.
More than half of our current infrastructure is more than 50 years old, which is why we are seeking $6.2 million for 10 construction and repair projects on CAF bases and other defence properties.
As announced in our defence policy, we are also requesting $6.2 million to launch IDEaS, “innovation for defence excellence and security”. The program will encourage private sector innovators, big and small, to try their hand at providing the armed forces with solutions to complex defence challenges.
These estimates also include $9.7 million for National Defence's role in Canada's hosting of the G7 summit, where the armed forces will deploy more than 2,000 personnel in support of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about the transfers in these estimates. National Defence will be receiving $3.9 million in transfers from other departments, and transferring $8.5 million to other departments. One notable example is the transfer of $5.8 million to Global Affairs in support of the counterterrorism and capacity-building program. This program provides countries, such as Lebanon and Jordan, with the tools, technology, and equipment for confronting terrorism, as well as training programs for their personnel and support in building much needed infrastructure.
On a closing note, I will address the interim estimates. The interim estimates are part of the government's commitment to provide more coherent information to Parliament. They enhance the transparency of the review process, and align the federal budget and estimates.
CSE requires $147 million to cover costs related to program expenditures for the first three months of the 2018-19 fiscal year. With these funds, CSE will continue to conduct its critical foreign intelligence and cybersecurity activities.
DND requires $4.8 billion for the same period. These funds will allow us to cover the day-to-day operating costs—salaries, utilities, and maintenance—while continuing to implement the major initiatives I have mentioned. This $4.8 billion represents one quarter of the total main estimates that will be finalized and tabled by mid-April.
The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces are committed to ensuring that the money we manage has a positive impact on our most important asset, the women and men in uniform. I am very proud of the historic investments we are delivering through our defence policy. We will continue building on both the government's priorities and those of the Canadian Armed Forces through smart investments. I just want to say that we are just getting started.
Thank you very much. I'm open to questions.