Jason Kenney says $12B military budget boost a 'huge improvement'

Defence Minister Jason Kenney says the nearly $12 billion boost to the military in Tuesday's federal budget is a "huge improvement" since the Liberal "decade of darkness."

Federal budget promises to restore military spending after years of lapsed spending, cuts

Defence Minister Jason Kenney tells Evan Solomon on Power & Politics that his department's procurement process has been a "mixed bag." 8:03

Defence Minister Jason Kenney says the federal budget's commitment of an additional $11.8 billion in military funding over the next decade is a "huge improvement" over the previous Liberal government's military cuts, despite the fact that the money is backloaded and won't even come into play until 2017.

"That was the real problem with the decade of darkness: a total, total black hole in terms of procurement," Kenney told host Evan Solomon of CBC News Network's Power & Politics, using the phrase coined by former chief of the defence staff Rick Hillier in reference to the era of slashed military spending under the Liberals. 

"Skeptics manage to gloss over procurement successes," he added. "It's a mixed bag, I grant you that. We don't have all the equipment we would like immediately. It does take time to do multi-billion dollar acquisitions. We're trying to ensure these things are run prudently, we don't overspend, we don't get kit or equipment we don't need."

Ukraine, ISIS missions to receive extra funding

The federal budget's military allotment does not include all the necessary funding for the missions in Ukraine or in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Kenney said. Those operations will have access to supplementary funds, he told Solomon.

"Each one of those projects gets additional incremental funding above and beyond the baseline budget of the military," Kenney said. "For example, in the fiscal year we just ended, we spent $20.1 billion even though we started with a budget of about $18.5 billion. There's always additional funding available for those operations."

Kenney has estimated the fight against ISIS will cost $406 million for the fiscal year of 2015-16. The federal budget earmarked $360.3 million for the mission.

The Canadian Forces are also getting $7.1 million this year to put towards training Ukrainian soldiers, although Kenney has said that program would cost $16 million, including a $3-million dollar contingency fund.

Kenney praised the government's commitment to defence, noting it comes at a time when other allies are slashing military budgets.

"The secretary general of NATO told me Canada has been punching above its weight," he said. "The military is not just there to be some kind of abstraction. It's there to be used prudently in key issues related to our national security."

The military is also getting $4 million spread over five years to improve security on bases. In total, the defence department's budget is set to grow by three per cent each year, a boost from the previously-budgeted two per cent growth.

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