The very sad, to me, anyway, news that just retired General Jon Vance and his replacement, Admiral Art McDonald are both being investigated for sexual misconduct and that Lieutenant General Chris Coates had an inappropriate relationship with an American lady …
… while he was Deputy Commander of the combined (Canada-USA) North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD), which made his service there problematical for the US military hierarchy, leads some folks to wonder if the top ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces are not due, likely long overdue, for a shakeup. I don’t mean quite as far as the satirical Beaverton recommends 😉, but a shakeup, and some “new blood,” all the same.
The problem might be that the “club” of admirals and generals is too close because we have such a small military force. Maybe Canada’s most senior admirals and generals are more than just colleagues. Many went to Military College together and then served together in joint staff appointments; they became friends and perhaps they turned blind eyes to each other’s problems and even failings. Maybe Admiral McDonald and all of Vice Admirals C.A. Baines and H.C. Edmundson and Lieutenant Generals F.J. Allen, C.J. Coates, W.D. Eyre, O.H. Lavoie, A.D. Meinzinger, J.P.A. Pelletier, and M.N. Rouleau are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
(Can you believe that the Canadian Armed Forces ~ 67,500± full time, regular force and 36,500± part time (reserve force) members ~ has a dozen four and three star officers,* while the Israeli Defence Force ~ 67,000 full time, regular force and 102,500 full time conscripts and 465,000 reservists and with a defence budget slightly larger than Canada’s and nuclear weapons ~ is led by one, single Rav aluf (a lieutenant general)? The Israeli Chief of Staff is assisted by many, to be sure, Alufs (rear admirals/major generals) and Tat alufs (commodores/brigadier generals), but the nation’s rules allow for only one Rav aluf at any time except during a general war.)
Now is the time to be more like Israel.
It is time, I believe, for Prime Minister Trudeau to tell ALL of the currently serving four and three star admirals and generals to retire, forthwith. He should recall a recently retired officer~ one suggestion would be Lieutenant General (Ret’d) Guy Thibault, a formed Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, who is generally regarded as an exemplary officer and whose name, as far as I know, was never tarnished by even a hint of scandal (I’m sure there are other suitable choices but some, like recently retired Vice Admiral Mark Norman might not be politically acceptable) ~ to return for a brief (say 18 months) fixed tour of duty to reorganize and reshape the Canadian Armed Forces. The prime minister might tell this temporary Interim Chief of the Defence Staff to be guided in some part my former Lieutenant General (and Liberal MP) Andrew Leslie’s report on transformation, which called, inter alia, for a less top-heavy command and control (C2) superstructure.
The Interim CDS’ mandate should be to:
- Put in place a programme to renew the military ethos, which, it appears to many, is not serving us well at the senior rank levels;
- Renew the Command and Control superstructure of the Canadian Armed Forces to make it much leaner ~ the CDS to be a three star officer and there to be no more than, say, 65 commodores, admirals and generals on full time, regular service (one flag officer or general officer for every 1,000 service members still seems generous);
- Select, from the surviving commodores, brigadier and major generals and rear admirals, three new three star officers (vice admiral/lieutenant general): a Deputy Commander in Chief for NORAD, a Canadian Military Representative to NATO, and a temporary Associate Chief of the Defence Staff who will be in the Interim CDS’s choice for her or his replacement; and
- Renew the officer promotion system, starting at the very bottom, to ensure that proven ability and merit, alone, determine who gets promoted above junior officer level, who gets to attend the various staff colleges, who gets command of ships and units and who, then, gets promoted to flag or general officer level.
That seems more than enough for even the most able man or woman to accomplish in 18 months.
But, and this is a key “but,” let’s please remember that adultery may be a sin, but it is not a crime … not yet, anyway. But, there are some things that are wrong: obviously, coercion is wrong, and it is even worse when sex is involved. Misuse of power, of command authority especially to establish (initiate) or maintain a “relationship” is wrong, too. We, the government, the media and the Canadian people, should not be engaged on a witch-hunt, but we should be looking for ways to prevent wrongdoing and that includes covering up the wrongdoing of friends and colleagues.
There is an old, and usually misquoted Chinese maxim which says that a crisis can also be an opportunity. That the Canadian Armed Forces are in the midst of a crisis seems undeniable, to me. The question is: can this also be an opportunity to make some needed and useful changes? I believe the answer is yes, and IF (which I doubt) the prime minister of Canada gives even the tiniest of damns about the military ~ beyond play acting ~ and the defence of our country then he will seize the opportunity.
* I have been criticized for using the “American” star designations rather than saying “three and four leaf” or something similar or using the NATO (OF-1 to OF-9) system. The “star” terminology was in use, in the Canadian Army, anyway, for as long as I can remember and I think most people understand what it means. But, yes, Canadian admirals and generals do have maple leaves as their rank insignia.