Re-thinking one military rank

I am on record, more than once, as an advocate for cutting slashing the number of HQs in the Canadian Armed Forces and the numbers and ranks of the staff officers in them. I think the Canadian military could function at least as well, and probably better with, say, a 25 to 50% cut in the number of admirals and generals and navy captains and army and RCAF colonels.

I have tended to “blame” Canadians for, somewhat mindlessly, even slavishly following the American model just because it is American and they, the Americans, have the biggest, most powerful military machine in world history.

A friend and colleague, who has considerable experience working with the Americans has noted, in response to my concerns, that the US military ‘system’ works surprising well for such a huge organization and that it was patterned after other very large armies (France, especially, and Germany) while we, Canadians, inherited, a command and control (C²) superstructure from the Brits that, like Topsy, just “growed” in Britain, in response to a military that tended to deploy small military forces all over the world and that valued command accountability over everything else.

My counterpoints are:

  • The Commonwealth staff system worked well enough with very large armies, like Montgomery’s 21st Army Group (250,000+ soldiers) and Slim’s 14th Army (nearly 1,000,000 soldiers!); and
  • The Canadian Army is, generally, a small army that deploys, often in “penny packets,” all around the world and “command accountability” is, or should be required above all else.

It is “command accountability,” rather than what the Americans seem to have which I 9-1996-08-14
would call “system accountability,” that I think should matter most. I suspect that some Canadians got “gun shy” when the (generally wasteful and useless) Somalia Inquiry finally got near the nub of the problem Slide1and began to hold commanders to account. One of the “outcomes” of the Somalia Affair was, I believe, a demand, from the political centre, for greater control of the military … in a command and control (C²) system the two elements, command and control, need to be balanced and when one is strengthened too much it usually is at the expense of the other. In my opinion control of the Canadian Forces is very, very strong but command is not strong enough: it is too diffused, there are too many “commands” ~ some of which as just staff branches with new names ~   and, in some cases, too low in rank.

B821944012Z.1_20150427201334_000_GUL1FKBHU.2_Contentharjit-singh-sajjan-11My one, single, concrete proposal for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is that he should restore the ranks of the Canadian Army’s regular force brigade group commanders to BGen ~ a simple decree from him, through General Jon Vance will do the job, no “study” is needed. The combat strength of the army is concentrated in the three regular force brigade groups ~ it is nonsense that command of these three large formations was reduced to colonel some years ago when the ranks of useless staff officers in pointless HQs were growing.

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