Canadian Armed Forces: Bureaucracy defies Parliament

“In the civilian world, we would be the third shift at the Ford plant … or the casual part-time force that has no union, no guarantees, no benefits and no representation.”  -Unidentified reserve officer.
“The bureaucracy is obscenely bloated, far out of proportion for the size of the army”


“… in far too many instances, the headquarters and other overhead grew while ships were being decommissioned, regular and reserve battalions were disbanded and whole aircraft fleets cashed in.”

Disgusting.  If we want to cut the deficit, there is no better place to start than here.

Jeff Goodall.

Bureaucracy calls shots on reservists

National Post:
Christie Blatchford: Sept. 24th, 2011

That Canada’s reserve army routinely gets the shaft comes as news to no one, least of all the country’s long-suffering reservists.

As one reserve officer I know says, “In the civilian world, we would be the third shift at the Ford plant … or the casual part-time force that has no union, no guarantees, no benefits and no representation.

“We’re almost like discretionary spending.”

Still, the report, which was released this week by the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and the Canadian International Council, is nonetheless startling.

Written by distinguished military scholar and veteran Dr. Jack English, it shows how the bureaucracy in Ottawa — an incestuous nest of regular army bosses with turf to protect and intractable civil servants — has consistently ignored or thwarted government directives to increase the size of the reserves.

What’s more, either those defence ministers whose pledges came to nought had the collective attention span of gnats, or they failed to grow a set of nuts sufficient to demand their instructions be followed, or they were simply shifted within Cabinet and the new fellow came in.

Any way you look at it, Dr. English says, the bureaucracy is calling the shots.

In the result, despite pledges to grow the reserves, the militia part-time head count remains still at about 16,500, or, as Dr. English wryly notes, about the size of National Defence Headquarters, or NDHQ as it’s called.

By the way, just getting the damn numbers out of NDHQ is a trick.

David Pratt, the former Liberal MP who wrote another report on Canada’s citizen soldiers for the CDFAI this spring — he takes a different approach, but certainly shares the view that the reserves have been neglected — first asked the Library of Parliament for an accurate count of reservists.

The library approached the Canadian Forces, which in turn essentially said it could go back only three years and couldn’t come up with a proper count.

In referring to this explanation in his report, Dr. English scornfully labels it “typical Byzantine, prevaricating gobbledygook.”

Virtually everyone who has studied the Canadian army, and their number is legion, agrees on a couple of things: The bureaucracy is obscenely bloated, far out of proportion for the size of the army; the citizen soldier, who until called up to full-time service costs only about 20% of the regular one, is a bargain for the taxpayer; the militia is more diverse, ethnically and otherwise, than the regular army.

Easily the most important report was that done recently by Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, an NDHQ insider who knew where to look for the skeletons and who has the courage to call them what they are. His findings buttress the veracity of Dr. English’s report.

As Lt.-Gen. Leslie writes in his executive summary of the myriad studies and reviews that preceded his, “These various efforts have resulted in hundreds of recommendations, some of which are innovative and first class, some of which are not.

“A number are quietly buried in the bowels of filing cabinets as being too hard or too threatening of the status quo.

“The eventual result was usually not what was originally intended, and in far too many instances, the headquarters and other overhead grew while ships were being decommissioned, regular and reserve battalions were disbanded and whole aircraft fleets cashed in.”

In other words, both men conclude in their different language, the bureaucratic tail is wagging the Parliamentary dog.

Part of the difficulty in any discussion about the reserves is that as a force based in armouries spread across the country, they are diffused, and don’t always speak with a single voice.

Part of the difficulty is that there are so many categories of reservists — Class A, the part-timers who serve in Canada; Class B, those employed full-time in Canada; Class C, those deployed on overseas operations — that the civilian brain, or this one anyway, can barely wrap her head around the distinctions.

And part of the difficulty is that the reserves are controlled by the leaders of the regular army. There are no reserve generals; the highest reserve position is a major-general, or two-star, role, and whoever has the job is outranked and outnumbered by the regulars.

This is no slur upon the regular army, troops or officers: Canada’s is among the best-fighting army in the world, as its magnificent performance in Afghanistan demonstrated. And on the battlefield level, with regular and reserve soldiers fighting (and dying) together in Kandahar, the differences disappeared.

But the senior leaders of the regular army have the same self-protection instincts as anyone else, and especially in rough economic times, they’re not likely to go to bat for their part-time brothers.

Canadians ought to care about the state of reservists: It’s these men and women who bring to the profession of arms not just the skills but also the sensibilities of the larger civilian world, who best straddle the divide. They are the living connection between the people of this country and the military, and for that reason alone should be treasured and nourished.

Yet it’s harder now to join up as a reservist — an application that used to take a week to process at the local level now takes as long as four months, thanks to that monstrous bureaucracy — than ever before.

Besides, the notion that the fonctionnaires have done and will do what they like, regardless of government orders, should offend everyone, even those who don’t give a fig about matters military.

National Post
cblatchford@postmedia.com

See original here.

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