Charlie Pinkerton, writing last week in iPolitics, says that “Having already overseen a significant increase in the number of generals in Canada’s military, the country’s top soldier says more will likely be added once a review he’s commissioned of the Forces’ command structure is complete … [he explains that] … In 2003, there were 81 generals and flag officers in the Armed Forces, according to the Canadian Press. Nine years later, that number rose to 97 (a 20 per cent increase), said a spokesperson for the chief of defence staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance … [but] … Last month, there were 136 generals and flag officers — a 40 per cent increase from six years previous.“
Now, I have been pretty vocal about the bloat, actually dangerously morbid obesity that I see in the Canadian Armed Forces’ command and control (C²) system and superstructure, going so far as to call the argument for even more gold on more and more officer’s sleeves “specious,” rubbish,” and even “bullshit.” In fact, I believe the very first thing General Vance should do is to reduce his own rank by one star!
Let me, first, address two points which General Vance makes and which I understand:
- “He’s been tasked with implementing the Liberals’ modern defence policy — “Strong, Secure, Engaged” — which pushes defence diplomacy as a part of the Canadian military’s international involvement,” and I have been told by a general officer whose word I trust absolutely that in some parts of the Pentagon, where that “defence diplomacy” must be done, the doors are only open to flag and general officers. I accept that General Vance needs some admirals and generals in Washington even though the brainpower and demonstrated ability required are only at the Navy captain/commander and Army/RCAF colonel/lieutenant colonel level. That may account for three or four of the too many (136) admirals and generals; and
- “The number of top generals in Canada tends to fluctuate because, of the 136 generals and flag officers, 15 are temporary, while another 15 are of the reserve force. For example, Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre, who is deputy commander to the United Nations Command, is among the temporary generals … [and] … When Eyre has completed his UN posting, he’ll return, “and that position will collapse, so we won’t have that,” Vance said. “We won’t have that job, nor will we have the inflated number that that represents.”” I do not begrudge General Vance any, not even one of those 15 “temporary” admirals and generals because they, too, are part of the “defence diplomacy” issue which is government, not military policy direction. So we are really talking about a problem that I have with about 115± admirals, commodores and generals for a total force of about 90,000 men and women: 65,000± “regulars” on full time service and 25,000± (far more likely minus than plus) in the part time reserve force. That’s still one flag or general officer (commodore/brigadier general and above) for every 780+ men and women in the ranks and in the officer corps. That’s far too many … and remember that I am “giving” General Vance 20 flag and general officers that I didn’t count in that number.
General Vance says that there are two reasons why the number might grow:
- Canada could become involved in another conflict and he might have a pressing need to put an extra commodore or general or two or three into large coalition or allied headquarters and he might feel that none of the 100+ flag and general officers he has in various Canadian HQs can be spared to stop writing briefing notes and start fighting a war; and
- He has “ordered a study of the potential “repackaging” of Armed Forces branches, which he said might affect personnel in medical, logistics and cyber branches,” and this might lead him to want even more generals.
I find absolutely no merit, not one iota, in either of those arguments. In fact I urge General Vance to start, next week, cutting away the fat in the too many overstaffed, over-ranked and underworked HQs he already has.
Let me be clear, first: I hold General Vance in the highest personal regard; he is a good officer and good man, too … he’s not an “empire builder,” like some others, but, in my opinion, he is also not looking clearly enough at the C² superstructure he inherited; and , second, most of the those 135± Navy admirals and commodores and Army and RCAF generals are good, hard working men and women … the problem is that some of them have too little real work to do and, as I mentioned in one of the linked articles, when you have too many Type A personalities, which most senior officers have, without enough to do they tend to step on one another’s toes and create more problems than they solve.
I urge politicians, Conservative and Liberal, and those in the media who actually know and care about our defence forces to tell Defence Minister Sajjan and General Vance that it is past time for a major review of the complete military command and control system and of the defence management system, too … maybe all of government needs to be reexamined, à la the 1960 Glassco Commission, because it is the foundation upon which some of the military’s over=ranking problem rests.