Thursday, August 07, 2008

"Four Generals and an Admiral: The View from the Top"

Excerpts from the "Report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence" that Babbling dealt with in his excellent post. Note the exasperated tone, and the criticism of the new commands created under "transformation":
On June 2 and June 9 five of Canada’s most senior military officers, led by Lieutenant General Walt Natynczyk, expressed their views on the state of the Canadian military before the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.

Lieutenant General Natynczyk’s appointment as Chief of the Defence Staff was announced on June 5, just three days after he testified. The Committee also heard from four other officers senior enough to be considered for that top job:

• Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, Commander Canadian Expeditionary Force Command
• Vice-Admiral Drew Robertson, Commander of the Navy1
• Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, Commander of the Land Force2
• Lieutenant-General Angus Watt, Commander of the Air Force3...

Members of the Committee are in general agreement that anyone who looks beyond occasional announcements of expensive equipment purchases, and beyond government promises of “stable” military funding into the future will find a most unpleasant reality: chronic underfunding that is going to get worse rather than better under current spending commitments...

Minority Governments Cannot
Make Long-Term Commitments –
Stable or Otherwise

The five senior officers presented a much rosier picture than has been mooted by many Canadian defence analysts, many of whom have expressed concern that Canada’s mission to Afghanistan is putting a severe budgetary and operational strain on the Forces, and that, to date, nothing in announced Government military budgeting is likely to reduce that strain...

...The problem is that the “guaranteed” increase in the DND budget will in fact be a decrease in any year that defence price inflation exceeds 1.5 percent (until 2011), and 2 percent thereafter. It is inconceivable that inflation on defence costs will come in under 2 percent over the next decade. This means that the “guaranteed increases” will almost surely be “guaranteed decreases.”..

The truth is that there is no such thing as “stable, predictable funding” in a parliamentary democracy. The current government is in a minority position. It may win the next federal election or it may not, but if it does not win – and win a majority – all of its funding guarantees go out the window.

Defence Spending as a Percentage
of Gross Domestic Product (GDP

One honest way of determining whether a government is increasing a country’s defence funding appropriately is to measure that spending as a percentage of GDP. This means that, as a country, we tie our defence spending to the wealth we create. Wealth goes up – so does defence spending. Wealth goes down, the reverse. Defence expenditures measured as a percentage of Canada’s annual Gross Domestic Product will continue to plummet under this spending formula. Both the Committee and the Conference of Defence Associations estimate that the Defence Budget in 10 years could fall to as low .89 per cent of GDP8, less than half the NATO goal. The Conference of Defence Associations further estimated that it could plummet to .77 percent of GDP over 15 years – down to a little more than a third of the NATO target of 2 % of GDP agreed to by all member countries...

All three services are hollowed out at the core, short of the kinds of experienced non-commissioned officers and the mid-level officers needed in the training system who can take on complex staff issues from planning to project management. This shortage has been exacerbated by additional demand for “experienced personnel” to fill positions in the new headquarters organizations created by General Hillier’s vision of a transformed Canadian Forces.

Given the concerns over lack of staff – or “bench strength,” as Lieutenant General Natynczyk calls it – it is impossible to understand how the Government could announce a plan, with great fanfare, to increase regular forces by 15,000 and reserves by 10,000 in 2006, then in November 2007 very quietly make the decision to “reprofile” the Canadian Forces by reducing the 15,000 regulars increase to 7,500 and reducing the 10,000 reservists increase to 1,000 and delay the whole process by another year. No wonder Lieutenant General Natynczyk lies awake worrying about lack of bench strength.

This Committee has been on the record for seven years that the Canadian Forces needs 90,000 personnel simply to meet the kinds of demands that respective governments have made of it – let alone take on new tasks.

Transformation Bloating Military Staff

General Hillier’s transformation plan introduced a function-based command structure to the Forces. Previously, the Forces featured a Chief of Defence Staff, a Deputy Chief of Defence staff in charge of all domestic and foreign operations, and a Vice-Chief of Defence Staff who handled long-term planning and internal issues.

The new system called for a Chief of Defence Staff, General Hillier, and four new commands reporting to him: Canada Command, Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command, Canadian Operational Support Command and Canadian Special Operations Forces Command11, each with its own bureaucracy. Those bureaucracies have inhaled top personnel that could have been commanding and training. General Hillier’s staff itself grew to more than 100 personnel, and gained a reputation for micromanaging12 in the other jurisdictions.

For the most part, all of the Commanders endorsed the “transformed headquarters”as a logical method to address operations. Creating two different commands responsible for operations was deemed to be an effective method of dividing and managing missions. Lieutenant General Gauthier, the Commander of Canadian Expeditionary Command (CEFCOM) responsible for all Canadian Forces missions outside Canada, stated that he was continually challenging his staff to find better ways to execute their planning and coordination tasks. He stated that the command was still in transition and some responsibilities had been transferred to different parts of the Canadian Forces as they were not strictly related to “overseas missions.” As a force employer, he did not encounter the personnel, training and infrastructure challenges facing the force generators.

The Force Generators, (Commanders of the Navy, Army and Air Force), while supportive of the new command structure, were less enthusiastic about the requirement to provide experienced officers and senior non-commissioned officers to populate the new commands. This requirement left them short of experience in a myriad of areas of responsibility – from training, to planning, to project management...

More Project Managers Needed [a subject dear to Babbling's heart--see Update at this post]

Another part of the personnel challenge is finding qualified project managers to work on the large number of capital projects already contracted and announced by the Government. The Canadian Forces have come through a period during which there were very few major crown projects, so they lost some of their capacity and capability to manage large projects. If the announced projects are approved, then the Canadian Forces will be required to manage a large number of major crown projects simultaneously. The Air Force and the Navy are facing a number of projects with an inadequate number of experienced and qualified project managers...

The Question: The fundamental question is why are we spending year on a “newly transformed” Canadian Forces that can only sustain soldiers in combat on a continuous basis?

Clearly, transformation has done nothing to solve this problem, and would argue that the new, enlarged staff it created has taken away people that should be being used by the force generators to train new or to work as project managers to obtain new equipment.

When and How Much

Not only is current funding too low, it is not cost-effective. Current funding barely allows Canada to field a fighting force of 1,000 in any given off shore theatre – the current theatre being Afghanistan. There isn’t enough funding to go into any other theatre whatever the need might be to do that. And in the case of Afghanistan, it isn’t enough for Canadian Forces alone to secure the Kandahar Province area.

It is clear to everyone that the Canadian Forces are desperately short of personnel. This is largely outside of the Forces’ control. More funding to assist in mounting an aggressive recruiting program, streamline intake processes and expand training capability are critical to the much-needed expansion of the Canadian Forces.

The Committee’s issues are not with the Forces and those who command them. Our issues continue to revolve around a shortfall in the funding level of the Forces, and timely approval of major capital projects. It is one thing to announce that a project is part of a plan, but if there is no overall plan put forward for the public to assess, then how can anybody decide whether it will really be feasible to do a number of different things within a specified spending envelope?

We applaud the announcement of the Canada First Defence Strategy. But it is not enough to announce a strategy – if there is really any thoughtful planning behind this strategy it needs to be spelled out [emphasis added--I quite agree - MC]. Photo ops aren’t enough on these important issues. Canadians need to see the nuts and bolts of the Strategy to determine whether its various parts fit together...


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