Canadian Forces brass defying federal directive to boost reserves


SOF Support
Feb 8, 2007
Land of Swine and Maple Syrup
I'm really interested to hear a perspective from those of you that have experience in Reserve Units, especially in countries where those units are highly effective and deployed as a whole at times; instead of individuals.

I think it is a great idea for the Canadian Forces to handle the need for budget cuts and increase our overall strength for when the need is there. When we entered an official combat role in Afghanistan after our move to Kandahar, we deployed a lot more reserves due to the demand and not having enough Regular Force troops to fill the slots with our rotation timelines. But in order for this to happen and work properly, there would have to be a complete change in how we think of Reserves and how they are employed.

I attached the pdf article written by Jack English that Christie Blatchford uses as her source, it was found here. I haven't read the paper yet but I did scan through it; it's in English and French. ;) So as you go through it, it may switch to French; just skim past those pages and it continues on in English. lol

Blatchford: Canadian Forces brass defying federal directive to boost reserves

By Christie Blatchford, Postmedia NewsSeptember 21, 2011

Canada’s bloated military bureaucracy has consistently defied explicit orders from government ministers to increase the size of the army militia as directed.
The accusation is made in a scorching but carefully documented report by pre-eminent military scholar Jack English for the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and the Canadian International Council and obtained in advance of its release Wednesday by only a few media outlets, including Postmedia.
It is a "wretched saga" that English describes as marked by "sandbagging, obstruction, futile wheel-spinning, and endlessly wasted staff effort." Using statements made by a series of defence ministers and recommendations either from special commissions or in government White Papers — all of them pledging or urging growth in the part-time militia or reserves, whose members most proudly call themselves citizen-soldiers — English shows how bureaucrats and leaders within the regular army, who saw any move to increase the militia as a threat, stubbornly stymied the wishes of their political masters.
As the result, the size of the militia remains virtually where it was more than a decade ago, when then-Liberal defence minister David Collenette first called for the number of part-time reservists to be increased to at least 18,500. That number was adopted by his successors, Doug Young and Art Eggleton — the latter even imposed a deadline of March, 2006 for that promised increase.
But as of March last year, English says, the part-time militia's head count remained stubbornly at about 16,500 — and that includes the reallocation of about 1,200 medical and communications reserves which weren't part of the militia before, a move English calls "sleight of hand."
As for the man publicly seen as the saviour of the forces, popular former chief of the defence staff Rick Hillier, English notes that while he "railed against the endless process of an already bloated headquarters," Hillier "ended up leaving it larger and possibly more inefficient than ever."
By 2003, National Defence Headquarters, or NDHQ, had 5,600 uniformed personnel, about the same number of civilians and "an untold number of consultants" for a small regular force of 55,000, 20,000 civilians and 20,000 part-time reservists.
"The point in mentioning this," English says, "is that National Defence Headquarters is today roughly as large as the entire militia."
The former veteran, who has a masters in war studies from the Royal Military College in Kingston, a master's in history from Duke University and a Ph.D from Queen's University, paints a scenario that could have been taken from a script for Yes Minister, the old BBC sitcom about how an intransigent civil service regularly foiled the will of Parliament.
English says functionaries fudged numbers, shifted units, counted bodies in novel ways or just plain stalled as they waited for ministers and governments to change. At one particular low point in 2009, English says, the Canadian Forces "in typical Byzantine, prevaricating gobbledygook" actually reported it couldn't tell the government how many reservists it had because of difficulties counting numbers in its different information management systems.
The current Conservative government hardly emerges unscathed. Contrary to various Liberal governments, where bureaucrats ignored or thwarted ministerial directives to grow the militia, the Conservatives simply reneged on their promise to increase militia strength by 10,000, English says, and then made matters worse by slashing reserve pay budgets in December of 2009.
And while "direct ministerial intervention" partially restored some of the pay cuts, "cancelled future training could not be resurrected." That defence minister, Peter MacKay, ordered the defence department to develop policies to prevent similar turmoil — chiefly, to stop militia paycheques being used for other purposes — but as of February this year, English says, "the vice chief (of defence) reported he was still 'working' on the problem . . . The matter of compliance still remains to be seen."
How compliance with government orders came to be an apparently voluntary matter in a country where the military is purportedly under civilian control makes for an astonishing and complicated story. English's report, formally entitled The Role of the Militia in Today's Canadian Forces, is as much a history lesson as an indictment.
Shortly after the end of the Second World War, Canada had about 33,700 citizen-soldiers, while the regular army fielded about 14,000, and though the numbers fluctuated over the years, it wasn't until 1952 that regulars outnumbered reservists for the first time in history. This was the era of the Cold War, when as English says, "growing fear of sudden nuclear attack appeared to increase the need for forces-in-being" over a militia, and in Canada, national survival training or civilian defence became the militia's priority.
In the 1960s, as the preoccupation with national survival lessened, the government slashed militia strength and shortly thereafter shut down many rural and small-town armouries. It is the armoury, where citizens come to "parade" and learn the profession of arms on their own time, which is the real heart of the militia and where the precious bonds between military and civilian communities are forged.
The militia has never recovered from the losses of those armouries and the deep cuts, English says, with its role changing to one of augmenting the regular army, providing individual officers and soldiers to fill vacancies. Successive years saw the government deem peacekeeping as the forces' chief priority, and then bilingualism.
The militia, English says, was all but forgotten until 1995, when then-defence minister Collenette appointed a special commission on restructuring the reserves. Led by Brian Dickson, the former chief justice of Canada and a distinguished veteran of the Second World War, the commission urged that the reserves again become the basis for recruitment and training of an expanded army — for mobilization, in other words.
Large standing armies, as English says, can't be economically sustained in peacetime: Until he or she is called to full-time duty, the reservist costs 80 per cent less than the full-time soldier. The solution was a smaller regular army, using the reserves for what English calls a "rainy day" expansion if necessary.
The government endorsed the mobilization concept and even raised the paid ceiling, but "in reality, however, militia strength continued to drop," hitting a low in 1998 of about 9,900 part-time reservists. Though the mobilization role of the militia was endorsed as recently as 2002, it nonetheless "was gradually and surreptitiously swept under the carpet by the regular force military establishment," English says.
In the end, he concludes, "promised militia growth has been thwarted at every important turn." He says that while conditions of service for reservists have improved, "little progress has been made in increasing militia strength," particularly in what's called "numbers paraded" or those "on the armoury floor." While reservists are now used to plug the holes in the regular army's units — this is why the militia made up about 20 per cent on average of troops deployed to Afghanistan — there are too few leaders left in the armouries to train recruits.
English recommends the militia be increased to 45,000 part-time soldiers, that several new militia units be formed and that National Defence Headquarters be slashed, a move also recommended recently by Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie in his review of the Canadian Forces and by an independent commission in England, which this summer similarly urged the United Kingdom's reserves be grown and given a broader role.
Such an expanded militia, with a solid "footprint" in towns across the country, would "create a true people's army in which citizens who are inclined and able to serve their country in uniform would not be precluded from doing so," English says. "To not strengthen and reinforce the existing militia framework would be unwise as there is nothing more important for the army of a democracy than its link with its people."
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News


  • SSWG-Paper-Jack-English-September-2011.pdf
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There are good and bad aspects of maintaining a large reserve force and it really boils down to the capacity in which they are utilized. I think reserves are great when utilized in the support or logistical roles, but tend to suck in the combat arms roles. It’s not that the individual soldiers suck in combat (some do, but a majority perform well), but it’s more an issue with the leadership not being able to properly lead in combat operations.

As a 10 year National Guard Soldier, I have 8.5 years of AD time and have deployed twice to Iraq (once in a combat infantry role and once in a convoy security role). I think the unit performed well conducting convoy security, but the combat role was pretty piss poor. Again not because of the soldiers, but due to the many issues that came down from the upper level leadership. As a platoon we could conduct operations with major success, as a company or battalion we could not move from point A to B.

I think company level or above leaders need to have significant time in active duty capacities in order to become successful leaders. Not all NG or Reserve leaders are bad or terrible, but there is a major difference in the abilities to lead regarding AD and NG.

The other issues that come to mind are standards, in that reserve soldiers need to have better standards of performance than their AD counterparts. The problem is that most (even AD) feel that reserves should have less standards due to their part time status. But it really is exactly the opposite; they need harder standards so that when they are utilized they have the ability to perform at least at the level of their AD counterparts. AD soldier do it every day and have it ingrained in their daily life, NG does it once a month and 2 weeks a year and it’s normally at a much lesser standard then AD. If they are required to meet a higher standard during their once a month or 2 weeks a year, they will at least have wiggle room for meeting the AD standards once deployed.

I can go on and on and on, but all in all it really boils down to the capacity in which they are used. If they are going to be in combat roles, they are going to need experienced leaders and higher standards. If they are going to be in support or logistical roles, it’s really a non issue IMHO.

I really don’t know how Canada has their force structured or how they use or train their reserve components, so it’s a bit hard to comment on if it’s good or bad for Canada.
All reserve units here have cadre of reg force permanently posted within the ranks, usually in Ops/Trg and in certain command positions. The training differs on trade, rank, etc. but they try to make it as equal as reg force training, if not done at the same time as reg force. They do their own evening drills and weekend training. As for use, individuals can be assigned or apply for availabe full time positions across the country; even if a large number are needed. But we have not activated and deployed a whole unit in a very long time. The only time they are used in any function like that is during civil defence operations, ie. floods, ice storm, etc.

Thanks for the insight so far, it's very interesting.
The AF had had a good experience with Combat Coded units. We ANG/AF/AFRes established a single set of standards that could be graded/enforced. I think the biggest problem with the Army Guard is the State Leadership views it as a source of funding/revenue. I think the Guard would be better as a combat force if they eliminated all the Div Hq's and just focused on keeping "Combat Ready Bde's".
Guard/Reserve SOF units have done well, but (IMO) only because USSOCOM holds the purse strings (to some extent) and those units meet standards or go away.
Rackmaster, we have AD personnel (Active Guard Reserve “AGR”) in Training NCO, Admin NCO, and Ops NCO slots. But they are normally NG soldier who apply for AD under the AGR program. They don’t have the same experience level as active duty in the same jobs. A CO/1SG or BtnCO/CSM from the NG side will normally be heavily lacking in the leadership department vs their AD counterparts. I see the NG upper leaders as more of “managers” than leaders.

SOWT, I tend to agree with what you are saying (keep in mind I am talking the Army side, I dont know about the Air side). But I really think the issue is more on the lack of leadership skills on the SNCO/Company level and above officers. Most of the NG side will not take any risk whatsoever, and are normally afraid to make command decisions. They normally will only take the safe routes and will allow a mission to fail in order to “play it safe” and I think that is about 75% of the problem in the NG (lack of experience making those decisions). The other 25% is the lack of ability for the soldiers to meet the standards. It’s not b/c the standards are too hard, again spending 10 years in this environment I personally believe the standards are too low. But it’s a lack of enforcement from the SNCO’s and commanders to ensure that soldier can and is meeting the standards.
From my experiences with both, I don't have a lot of good to say about leaders in reserve units in both the US and NZ Army.

Far too easy for friends to look after friends with regards to promotions/full time jobs/courses/schools etc...
JAB said it well, junior guys are good to go if allowed to train and do their jobs but leadership is often lacking and will drag the unit down to their level making the unit look incompetent as a whole to disguise their ineptitude.