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$600 million in 'readiness' cuts for DND?

OTTAWA - It seems the only soldiers who might be safe from the coming federal budget axe are the ones who parade around Parliament Hill in the changing of the guard ceremony for tourists in the summer.

A leaked document says the Canadian Army will be caught in a barrage of major reductions in the coming fiscal year that's over and above the Harper government's established deficit-fighting strategy and program review.

The planning document, obtained by The Canadian Press, shows that in addition to an existing 22 per cent cut, land forces face an additional eight per cent hit on operating and maintenance in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget to be presented Thursday.

The new reductions, estimated to be in the range of $32 million, will slice into the army's ability to train and run contrary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's call for the military to have "more teeth and less tail."

Yet, despite the budget ravages, the army is under pressure to maintain the pet projects and pageantry admired by the Conservatives, who once promised stable and predictable funding.

The document, penned by army commander Lt.-Gen. Peter Devlin, says activities such as the Ceremonial Guard hold particular interest for the Government of Canada and must be sustained, even at the expense of area programming.

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