Saturday, March 17, 2007

Top-heavy military throws spending off-balance

Top-heavy military throws spending off-balance Money poured into bureaucracy instead of missions, retired colonel says
Tim Naumetz, The Ottawa Citizen March 17, 2007

The "brass to bayonets" balance in the Canadian Forces has tipped to the point there is nearly one officer for every three members of the enlisted ranks, Defence Department figures show.

Forty years ago, before years of budget cuts and troop reductions, the ratio was approximately one officer for every five enlisted members, according to a historical comparison the department provided to the Citizen.

The accounts show that in 1964, the Canadian Forces totalled 95,379 enlisted personnel and 18,986 commissioned officers in the regular services.

Last month, the figures were 48,555 enlisted and 14,804 officers.

There are 79 generals, but captains make up the largest single cohort at 5,827.

The result, says a senior military analyst, is that the Canadian Forces spends too much on infrastructure, red tape and bureaucracy instead of the foot soldiers and lower ranks required to sustain a major operation such as the Kandahar battle group in Afghanistan.

Retired army colonel Brian MacDonald said the recent numbers confirm the Forces has done little to adjust the lopsided ratio of officers to enlisted personnel that began after the Trudeau government unified the navy, air force and army into one service in 1968.

The Canadian Forces applied the higher officer-to-soldier ratio of the air force to the other two branches and the imbalance was exaggerated in the 1990s when reductions were implemented through a recruitment freeze, says Mr. MacDonald.

He said the ratio of officers to enlisted personnel is higher in Canada than the U.S. and Britain.

"We have the only army in the world using captains as platoon commanders," Mr. MacDonald said, explaining the normal rank for that job is lieutenant.

Mr. MacDonald added Canada has too many army bases, which creates more demand for officers for administration and infrastructure.

If the Conservative government keeps a promise to establish new "territorial-defence" battalions across the country, the number of bases would increase.

"One of my fears would be that you would be simply creating new administrative structures and your tooth-to-tail ratio might go in the wrong direction," Mr. MacDonald said.

"It costs you a lot more money in pay," he added, saying training and support for officers through their careers is also more costly than for lower ranks.

The Afghanistan mission has exaggerated the effects of low numbers in the ranks and, combined with the recruitment freeze in the 1990s, has made it difficult to ramp up recruitment now because of a shortage of non-commissioned officers for training, says NDP defence critic Dawn Black.

"They talk about wanting to increase recruitment, then they tell you they can't do it to the numbers they want because they haven't got the trainers here, they're in Afghanistan," Ms. Black said.


Dave said...

MacDonald has the luxury of sitting back not assessing everything completely.

He's not totally wrong, but he hasn't taken into account the fact that there was a major hacking of general officers in the late 1990s. The reason the CF has so many captains is because promotion to that rank is automatic and guaranteed if a Lt simply completes all requisite training.

The "tooth to tail" ratio discussed by MacDonald is a different thing than officer/ncm ratio or, as the army called it, "pips to puttees". His use of that term leaves me wondering how much he really knows.

Further, and this glares out, is that Trudeau was NOT the one to unify the armed forces. It was done and signed into law before Trudeau came to power in April 1968. Unification was a Paul Helleyer initiative under the premiership of Lester B. Pearson.

So, both MacDonald and the Ottawa Citizen have made obvious errors which put the remainder of the article in serious question. I might have trusted those numbers if the other errors weren't so obvious.

MacDonald also seems to believe that the "Territorial Battalions" will create more infrastructure. Not likely. MacDonald should have figured out by now that Harper is playing a game of smoke and mirrors. Those organizations already exist - they're just going to get renamed. A reserve corporal can figure that out.

MacDonald's day is done. He's irrelevant.