Canada unveiled a new defense policy Wednesday that would increase its military spending budget to $32.7 billion over the next decade, citing a need to offer global peace and stability.
The plan would bring Canada’s defense budget up 70 percent from the current annual expenditure of $18.9 billion and would slightly increase its force size.
Officials said the extra funding would bring defense spending to 1.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), just short of the 2 percent goal set among NATO allies. Canada currently spends 1 percent to 1.2 percent of its GDP on defense.
“If we are serious about Canada’s role in the world, then we have to be serious about funding our military,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said at a news conference announcing the plan. “And we are.”
The new spending plan comes as President Trump has increasingly pressed for NATO member countries to increase their military budgets, demanding that they meet a 2014-set goal to put 2 percent of their GDP toward defense.
Last month, he scolded NATO members for not paying their fair share on defense during a ceremony at the alliance’s new headquarters in Brussels, a move that disappointed European allies.
The announcement also follows remarks from Canada Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who on Tuesday told the country’s parliament that a bigger defense budget is needed as the U.S. withdraws from its global leadership role.
Freeland never referred to Trump by name, but said many voters in the U.S. presidential election cast ballots “animated in part by a desire to shrug off the burden of world leadership.”
“The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course,” she said.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement that the United States is “heartened” by the defense policy,” and “welcomes Canada’s marked increase in investment in their military and their continued commitment to a strong defense relationship with the United States and NATO.”
“This new defense policy demonstrates Canadian resolve to build additional military capacity and a more capable fighting force,” Mattis said.
“In light of today’s security challenges around the world, it’s critical for Canada’s moral voice to be supported by the hard power of a strong military.”
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley also weighed in, telling lawmakers Wednesday that Canada has neglected its military for years.
“With respect to many in Canada or in many, many other countries, frankly, they do need to increase their forces,” Milley said during a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing.
“Many of their armies and — not just armies, but navies, air forces, Marines, et cetera, have atrophied over many, many years. And — and frankly a lot of them do need to improve.”
Canada was not the only nation to reveal new defense spending goals…