New Chief of Defence Staff RCAF General Tom Lawson during the Chief of Defence Staff Change of Command ceremony at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa Oct 29, 2012.
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
Gen. Tom Lawson took over as chief of defence staff (CDS) Monday. He admits he begins his job at a time of "tighter funds."
"There is very little fat," he said. "What we need to do now is continue to hold onto as many capabilities as we can while narrowing the headquarters within which we're maintaining those capabilities."
His comments came after a change-of-command ceremony that saw Prime Minister Stephen Harper give Lawson a pointed reminder that the military needs "more teeth and less tail."
That's a phrase retired lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie used in a 2011 report about saving money by cutting Ottawa desk jobs and finding other efficiencies.
It's also a phrase that bothers NDP defence critic Jack Harris.
"That's a signal that there's going to be...some cuts, significant cutbacks within the military," Harris said.
Lawson wouldn't speculate on where he'd find savings, noting that his orders don't currently include reducing the size of the Forces.
He also acknowledged that finding a replacement for Canada's CF-18 fighter jets is a challenge, but says his role is only an advisory one.
Lawson is Canada's 18th CDS, taking over from the retiring Gen. Walt Natynczyk during a low-key ceremony at the Canadian War Museum with none of the elaborate trappings former chief, Rick Hillier, favoured.
Hillier rode in on a tank four years ago to hand things over to Natynczyk.
During his speech, Natynczyk praised Canada's military then gracefully handed the reins to Lawson.
"My duty is complete," Natynczyk said. "The nation is secure and it's time to hand over my responsibilities to a great officer."
Lawson appears to relish the job.
"Sweetheart, the adventure is going to last a little bit longer," Lawson said to his wife after accepting command.