Re: “Tug of war: defence budget caught between feds’ plans for cuts and calls for increased military spending,” (The Hill Times, Aug. 30, p. 4). The Aug. 30 piece by Neil Moss contained the following quote: “Summa Strategies senior adviser Elliot Hughes, a former policy director to then-Liberal defence minister Harjit Sajjan, said given the scope of the (overall) cuts, he expects the impact on DND to be ‘negligible.’ ‘Nothing is going to be put into place that's going to have any operational impact, or that is going to diminish the safety of women and men in uniform,’ he said.” This is a very odd talking point delivered by a former policy director to a minister of national defence. Anyone who has ever closely examined the defence budget would realize just how inelastic departmental finances can be when considering in-year cuts. Long-term, multi-year programmatic dollars are protected. People—military and civilian—are largely protected. The only places that can really be touched will have a direct operational impact on those in uniform. In the two years I spent as a director of policy in the office of a defence minister, I saw two exercises—one being the failed Defence Renewal exercise, and the second, a bureaucracy-led effort to ensure the department stayed within approved authorities—result directly in negative long-term operational impacts on people and materiel. Items such as the ordering of ordinance, spare parts, downgrading the operational readiness fleets (Navy, Army, and Air Force), cancelling or reducing the size of large-to-medium scale exercises, cancelling “low-value” contracts, and even pushing back maintenance will be some of the only things on the table for the defence minister to cut. Reductions in any of these areas will have a direct operational impact, and potentially diminish the safety of Canadian Armed Forces members. History has proven that the low dollar values cut now could have an amplified effect five to 10 years down the road. Any options presented to Defence Minister Bill Blair need to come with warning labels containing potential operational impacts. Better yet, perhaps it is best not to touch the military at all. It would be antithetical to the government’s national security ambitions, and international and bilateral obligations. Instead, we should be leveraging, promoting, and investing in Canada’s expanding defence industrial base to support our allies—which may just result in the revenue the president of the Treasury Board and the finance minister are looking for. Andrew Bernardo Former director of policy to a minister of national defence Ottawa, Ont.