Doing the wrong thing, the wrong way for the wrong reasons

The Star reports that the “Canadian Armed Forces aims to fix its recruitment system to foster diversity … [and] … The effort includes a comprehensive effort to connect with and recruit more women, new citizens and members of the LGBT community.

Let me be clear that fixing the recruitment system would be a god thing. It is long overdue and it is a laudable goal. Equally, fostering diversity in the military is a good idea. Ditto for reaching out to “connect” with more women, new citizens and the LBGT community. There is nothing at all wrong with any of those things.

The first question is: Why? I am about 99.9% certain that no one, not General Vance and not General Lamarre have given any serious thought to what kinds of people we will need to crew or ships and aircraft and staff or regiments, battalions, squadrons and platoons by, say, 2025 or 2050. Until that fundamental question is answered then anything and everything General Lamarre plans to do will be a waste of time and money. We, Canadians, need to know that we have the right sorts of people in our ships, flying and fixing our aircraft and serving in the ranks of our combat and support units … the “right sort” does not mean female or aboriginal or black or gay ~ it means “right” in terms of age, aptitude, physical and mental fitness, “trainability” ( a word I may have made up to suggest the capacity to learn how to do difficult and complex tasks, often under extraordinarily difficult, even fearsome conditions) and and commitment. Some of the people we are likely to need, especially in the navy’s, army’s and air force’s highly technical trades are going to need very long, very expensive, very valuable training before they can be gainfully employed … we need to select, recruit, train and socialize those people into a military in which many, even most will want to make a career.

That leads to the second question: In what sort of military?  Will the military of 2036 be so like the one of 1966 that the same rank/trade and conditions of service regime that Paul Hellyer put in place back then still be suitable? Will we still be sailing steam driven destroyers designed in 1950 as we were when Minister Hellyer put our current personnel structure into place? Will we still be repairing CP-107 Argus aircraft as we were when Mr Hellyer’s system was designed? Do we. therefore, still need the same sorts of people, albeit more “diverse,” being trained to do and then doing the same sorts of things in the same sorts of ways? I don’t know … and I suspect General Lamarre doesn’t either, but he should before he starts spending millions to “fix” something that needs replacement rather than just an overhaul.

The follow on, third question, with which I will deal in more detail, starting tomorrow, relates to the size and shape and, indeed, the very raison d’être of the Canadian Armed Forces. The right choices about the people the Canadian Forces will need to recruit and train relates to what we, Canadians, expect our military to do on our behalf.

For the moment, I suggest that Generals Lamarre and Vance should, indeed, reach out an connect with more and more and more Canadians and while they are doing that they should put a “tiger team” of commodores and colonels and warrant officers and sergeants together to “scope out” the military we will want and need in 2035 and 2065 and then design a personnel system for 2026 and 2046 and 2066 which may need to be very, very different from the one Paul Hellyer put in place in 1966. That would be doing the right thing in the right way and for the right reasons, too.

But,  as United States Army General Ben Hodges, the commanding general, United States Army Europe, is quoted as saying: “changing an organization is a bit like moving a cemetery – the people already there aren’t much help.

 

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