Canadian Forces Transformation – CASR Op-Ed
– September 2011
LGen Leslie's Report on Transformation 2011: $1B in Admin Cuts but
see Geniune Bureaucratic Reform or Just Sacked Tea Ladies?
Stephen Priestley, CASR Researcher
In his Report on Transformation 2011, LGen Andrew Leslie notes the tendency of senior staff at DND
both in and out of uniform "to argue for the preservation of the status
quo." The result, he says, is for bureaucratic organizations within DND to use allocated funds
to preserve themselves at the expense of any deployable front-line unit. LGen Leslie claimed that DND's responses to
all earlier reports on CF Transformation were a predictable series of institutional reactions
these ranged "from waiting until the team [responsible for the report] disappeared, to conducting lengthy
reviews of the recommendations and, finally to classifying [a Transformation Report] to an extent that only a few
could see it."
So that is the peer review from the top ranks of the Army. Average citizens also seem to have noticed
DND Brass' bag of obsfucation tricks or at least the lingering after effects. A DND- requested
Ipsos-Reid poll Views of the Canadian Forces: 2011 Tracking Study revealed that "many participants seemed
to feel that they were under-informed about the Canadian Forces' role in Afghanistan". Well there's the
rub with spinning positive-positive PAffo blat or crying 'OpSec' whenever there is bad news. Eventually,
even the interested audience stops listening.
Still, no news-worthiness in revealing NDHQ as a paranoid organization, reserving its greatest hostility for the
citizens it is meant to represent. The real surprise comes when genuine efforts at reform are aired publicly by a
former Chief of the Land Staff ( June 2006-to-June 2010 ) still in uniform. Obviously LGen Leslie wanted
to make his next job as the Chief of Transformation for the Canadian Forces to truely count. Canadian citizens
owe LGen Leslie a debt of gratitude (beyond his years of uniformed service) for his Report on Transformation
2011. He has made very public what, in the past, has always been successfully pushed under the rug
Fortunately, the main target of LGen Leslie's Report on Transformation 2011 is that bloated
bureaucracy at NDHQ. He's not the first soldier to note the excess of desks and consultants at DND. But this
time is different. Past Governments were just as likely to pay lip-service to cuts as NDHQ. An uncertain economic
future has this Federal Government more highly motivated.
"We don't need slimming down!" Cutting the fat as part of Canadian Forces Transformation
LGen Leslie's report has 43 key recommendations, most aimed at reducing DND's duplicated and often
self-cancelling organizational tangles while slimming both NDHQ bureaucrats and paid consultants who are
largely responsible for this present state of affairs. Proportionately, the group with the largest numbers
cut are the Canadian Forces Reserve Force (Res F) 4500 members compared to 3500 civilian employees of
DND and 3500 Regular Force personnel cut or reassigned. As was noted, a number of those full-time Reservists
work at NDHQ in Ottawa.
There was a reason for all those full-time Reservists at NDHQ the pay scale. A decade ago, it
was decided that all 'Class C' Reservists at NDHQ ie: those full-time Reservists receiving
full, equivalent-to-Regular Force pay were to be reclassified. 'Class C' would be applied only to deployed
Res F members. NDHQ Res F personnel were reclassified 'Class B', earning only 85% of
Regular Force pay. Reducing wages resulted in a Reserve Employment Opportunities (REO) boom. In other words,
using Reg F personnel at NDHQ was an attempt at cost-savings.
Ottawa was happy to pocket the savings resulting from changes to Reservists' pay grade but the policy-makers failed
to notice that, even as REO numbers grew, NDHQ kept crying that it hadn't enough people. The result
was hiring binges; the problem was a lack of a numbers cap.
CF Transformation: "Expecting the unexpected would be kind of paranoid, don't you think?"
Canadian columnists mused over whether LGen Leslie would have published this report were he not on the verge of
retiring from the Canadian Forces. This says rather more about an over- developed sense of self-preservation among
newspaper employees than it does a soldier with a proven willingness to put himself in the line of fire.
The pundits also predicted an outraged response from the top Brass, including the Chief of the Defence Staff,
Gen Walter Natynczyk.
Turns out that Walt Natynczyk has a bit more tactical game than anticipated by journalists. With the
predictable route already mapped out in LGen Leslie's report, the CDS went cross-country instead.
Nothing was off the table he said. If $1B in DND administrative costs had to be chopped, so be it. The
CDS was on side with cutting back full-time Reserve Force personnel. He was on side with reducing $2.7B spent annually
on contractors and consultants saying: "what we have to do is ... go through all [of ] those contracts and
say, 'What don't we need anymore?'."
Gen Natynczyk assigned most of the blame for both DND's burgeoning bureaucracy and the
contract-employee hiring binge on a combination of the 1994-95 defence budget cuts and the 'operational
tempo' of the Afghanistan deployment. Well, 'Nat' was a Dragoon, so you expect a bit of slash and
manoeuvre. First transfer responsibility to a previous government (who, let's face it, were quick to seize
those NDHQ pay-grade savings without sweating a hiring cap) and then link these earlier defence cuts to a required
hiring of gap-filling, lower-level support staff.
Specifically mentioned of former military jobs contracted out to the private sector were cooks and Air Force
flight instructors. Such Alternative Service Delivery contracts were intended to save funds that could then be
reallocated for use at the 'sharp end'. According to LGen Leslie, that never happened. Instead, the monies
saved helped plump the bureaucracy while combat troops made do with the leavings. Does this sound like a
consultant or bureaucratic problem?
Were it fiction, at this stage, Sir Humphrey would be tabling a plan to cut back the number of Departmental tea
ladies. But DND's problem is systemic. Bureaucracies are extremely good at protecting themselves and measure
their success in departmental growth not in acheivements. Only outside of that bureaucratic culture
is the waste and
stupidity evident. Gen Natynczyk won't solve much by getting rid of contracted cooks. He must outflank
the bureaucracy itself. If the CDS wishes to "demonstrate the discipline and the rigour" to reform, that's the
Oh, and about those citizens ... administrative savings weren't really at the top of their priority list.
By all means, go through the contracts, save the $1B, and spin the positive-positive. But, in the end,
citizens will still want accountability for the Billions spent on military procurement.