Thursday, September 22, 2011

Canadian Military tradition: bury recommendations after media interest wanes

As reported on 102.7 the lake radio station, by Tony Orr, yesterday, a report out of Queen's university indicates that the Canadian military rarely, if ever, act on recommendations from outside consultants, academics or others; they merely wait until the media interest wanes and put the "documents" on the shelf.
There is a case to be made that the military is merely following the modelling of the various federal governments of the past century. It is a long and valued tradition in Canadian history, for governments to appoint Royal Commissions to study this or that contentious issue, thereby absolving the government of the day from having to comment when the issue is a "hot button" and the politician venturing into the turbulent waters of the public debate is at risk of self-sabotage. Referring hot issues to a commission is like referring a contentious issue to the court, and then, because the matter is being litigated, there is no option to comment. It is a process of self-eunuchification, if you like. Just when a public is aroused about some issue, the politicians send it off to a committee or a commission for study, knowing that historically, such moves take the heat off any minister under fire, enables the government of the day to escape slightly unscathed, and puts the issue to rest.
There is a current report on Rationalizations before the defence department that recommends budget cuts and some forward thinking about how the military could be deployed. The group that authored the report and wrote the 80-plus pages is headed by a retired military officer, interviewed recently by Evan Solomon on CBC's Power and Politics. This is one report that deserves a public reading, discussion and implementation, even if it does wrankle some feathers in the "establishment".
It reduces the traditional emphasis on miltiary hardware like fighter jets and armed ships; it redeploys personnel is more effective and efficient manner and recommends tactics and strategies worthy of consideration by the Minister of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff.

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