McCallum waits for word on defence budget

After making every pitch he can think of to increase the amount of money Canada spends on the military, Defence Minister John McCallum said Friday it's now up to the prime minister and finance minister to make a decision.

"The time for asking for money is over. The budget will be with us in a few short weeks," McCallum told reporters.

"It is true I have made no secret of the fact that I am requesting funds, but I've stopped talking about it. I've talked about little else in the last six months."

The Canadian Forces are stretched too thin, he said, with soldiers being asked to take part in too many overseas missions. Ottawa also has to recruit more young members, and replace aging equipment.

Although the Department of National Defence is trying to fix some of these problems by reallocating some of the $12 billion it receives from Parliament every year, more money is needed, McCallum said.

He won't put an exact figure on how much more is needed, but has suggested $1 billion would be a big help.

In the meantime, the former bank economist has pledged to get his department to spend its money more efficiently. He estimates about $200 million could be found through "internal savings."

Last fall, a Senate report suggested Ottawa give the military another $4 billion as well as a respite from foreign assignments for two years.

Finance Minister John Manley's budget is expected to be tabled in late February.