As every Government Department seeks ways to economize to meet new Government austerity targets, the Department of National Defence among them, the following excerpts show that periods of austerity are not new to the canadian Armed Forces. Of course, anyone who was serving in the 1980s will remember the last such period, when some unit budgets were so tightly controlled that asking to borrow the use of a photocopier was often replied with by the question: "Did you bring your own paper?"
Austerity was now the order of the day. Interspersed at regular intervals among the files of National Defence Headquarters for 1931-33 are the chits by which its senior members meticulously indicated the disposition of street car tickets for transportation between the Woods Building and the various ports of call on official business in the capital. Any extra expenditure, however slight the project or small the amount, came before the Chief of the General Staff for his personal consideration and decision. "I think that the O.C. [Camp Borden] has made a case for the dish washing machine, the mixing machine, and the toaster in addition to the bread slicer," General McNaughton wrote to the Quartermaster General on 23 March 1931, "and that on its merit this proposal should be approved." ["Memorandum by the Chief of the General Staff for Quartermaster- General," 23 March 1931, McNaughton Papers (C.G.S., 76)] Less fortunate was a proposal that the men's barracks at Borden should be converted into officers' quarters The Minister "thinks that after the 1st May [the officers] should be able to manage under canvas for six months," a General Staff officer wrote plaintively to McNaughton in January 1932, "and that, in the meantime, they must shift as they are at present. If the personnel attending training courses … cannot be furnished with improvised accommodation, then he says some of the courses must be cancelled…" [Lt.-Col. H.H. Matthews to MacNaughton, 28 Jan. 1932, Ibid.] A few days later he reported that "a proposal is now being put before the Minister to fix up the interior of the Men's Barrack Block and kitchen accommodation at a cost of about $6,000… This seems a reasonable solution of the difficulty, but it is possible the Minister may not sanction the spending of even this amount of money just now."" [Lt.-Col. H.H. Matthews to MacNaughton, 3 Feb. 1932, Ibid.] And, on 9 February: "The Minister continues resolutely to refuse to authorize any expenditure which he thinks can be postponed. Consequently no real progress has been made regarding the fixing up of accommodation for the Air Force officers at Camp Borden…"" [Lt.-Col. H.H. Matthews to MacNaughton, 9 Feb. 1932, Ibid.] – James Eayrs, In Defence of Canada; From the Great War to the Great Depression, 1964
The "rust out" of vehicle fleets, i.e., the loss of vehicles through wear and tear before replacements are acquired, and the deleterious effect of same on the training of soldirs are not new problems either:
Since the withdrawal of harness from practically all the militia batteries, the guns have become completely immobile. No adapters have been issued, which makes it impossible to move them with trucks which could be obtained locally, nor would authority be granted even if we had the equipment in any of the larger centres, because the guns are not equipped with the rubber tires which are necessary to make it reasonably safe to move the field pieces over hard roads. As a result, all we can do is train the gunners on guns which almost assume the role of garrison pieces, and train the other specialists independently. It is true that very valuable preliminary training can be carried out before going to camp, but it is not very effective in teaching a gunner his real job, which is that every member of the battery takes his part in directing the shell fire of the battery at a given target… [Drew to D.M. Sutherland, 3 Dec 1931. Bennet Papers] – James Eayrs, In Defence of Canada; From the Great War to the Great Depression, 1964
The question for those who continue to serve always remains: "How best to maintain required levels of training of essential skills in an environment defined by reduced resources and budgets?" This is the new challenge for a generation of soldiers and commanders that enjoyed great support, of all kinds, during a decade of combat operations.