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The Canada Forces Today: Part 2 of 4 – The Army’s New Orders

by Tom MacGregor

In Part 1 of this series we explained how the Department of National Defence is attempting to cut costs while maintaining a combat-ready force. In Part 2, we take a look at the challenges facing the army, the largest of the military’s three branches of service. And in a related story, we zero in on some of the quality of life recommendations made by the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs.

The army’s primary purpose is to defend the nation and–when called upon–to fight and win in war. This important function or obligation, says the Department of National Defence, is met when the army maintains a military deterrence capability that is “credible and visible during peacetime, and by being able to undertake combat operations if deterrence fails.”

In the book Canada’s Army: We Stand on Guard for Thee, the department points out that while the sea and air elements of the Canadian Forces have a similar role and are equally vital for national defence, the army or land force alone “possesses the capability to seize and hold ground, dominate terrain, and physically protect land-based resources and people.”

And so to be effective, the army must have soldiers who can close with and destroy the enemy under any type of condition. However, the army also believes that it must have men and women who can operate with military professionalism while staying true to the fundamental values of Canadian society. To achieve these goals, it must have well-trained, well-disciplined and well- equipped soldiers who are capable of serving anywhere in the world.

All of this sounds great, but it’s easier said than done during these times of financial cutbacks.

Not wanting to repeat the mistakes made between WW I and WW II, the army has long realized the regular forces would never be able to conduct and sustain large-scale, long-term or high- intensity operations on its own. Instead, a total force concept of integrating regular force members and reserve force members has been established.

The total force for 1997-98 is approximately 20,500 regular soldiers and 18,500 militia soldiers. Approximately 4,000 civilians work directly for Land Force Command which has a budget of approximately $2.7 billion. The army’s bases are located in Edmonton, Petawawa and Kingston in Ontario, Valcartier, Que., and Gagetown, N.B. In addition, there are schools and training grounds at Wainwright, Alta., Shilo, Man., and Meaford, Ont. The army also operates at Canadian Forces Base Suffield, Alta., which is the centre for a British army training in Canada program.

The army also makes up the bulk of the 2,045 Canadian Forces service personnel who are deployed on peacekeeping missions in 18 different locations around the world. The largest contingents are in Bosnia-Herzegovina where Canada has 1,240 troops and in the Golan Heights where there are 186 troops. “We are entirely busy,” says Major-General Bruce Jeffries, the deputy commander of Land Force Command. “There is no shortage of demand.”

The greatest challenge facing the army today is threefold, explains Jeffries. “First, we must look after our people. If you don’t look after your people you are not going to have combat capability. We depend on their capabilities and their loyalty.” He says Land Force Command must also deal with shrinking resources and the cultural change that is happening in society and must also happen in the army.

Jeffries spoke to Legion Magazine for this four-part series just before the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs released its long-anticipated report on the quality of life within the Canadian Forces. The report, which is the subject of our sidebar story (page 35), contains 87 recommendations on how to improve living conditions for military personnel. Among other things, it calls for a 10-per-cent increase in salaries and far better run housing for private married quarters. “Improving the quality of life for the soldier is our number one priority,” adds Jeffries. “We hope the country will support us.”

The army is also moving toward fewer, but larger and more cost-efficient bases. “We are consolidating the regular forces. For instance, Land Forces Western, which is based in Edmonton, is better structured so that units are co-located with the other units that they have to work and train with.” Jeffries says there is less overhead for the Forces and soldiers are finding that the cost of living in Edmonton is less than in Calgary.

He says the Royal Canadian Regiment is leaving its traditional home in London, Ont., to be based in Petawawa. “There are much lower costs associated with Petawawa. For instance, you don’t even have to leave the base to get on the training ground.”

A lot of the army’s restructuring, says Jeffries, is taking place at the top level. He noted that Land Force Command headquarters was moved from St-Hubert, Que., to National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. The navy and air force headquarters are located there as well and Jeffries says having everyone “under one roof has worked extremely well. We are more or less where the decisions are made. It’s a better corporate atmosphere. We have reduced our staff at the strategical level by 45 per cent. That includes offices in Edmonton, Toronto, Moncton and Halifax.”

Jeffries says the army is also reviewing its reserve structure. He says the controversy over closing armouries in British Columbia is premature since no decisions have been made. “Armouries are not an entity in themselves. It’s the reserves who count. We’ll be looking at reducing their workload and giving them better facilities.”

The restructuring goes hand in glove with the Management Renewal Service group that is trying to bring some business acumen to military service. Its Alternative Service Delivery program is looking at how services can be improved at bases in Gagetown, N.B., Kingston, Ont., and at Land Forces Western which includes all army bases in Western Canada except Suffield. “We need to look at all the operations,” says Major Patrick Kelly who is involved in the Alternative Service Delivery program. “Does the Department of National Defence need to be employing cleaners? Probably not. But we have to be sensitive to each situation. For instance, you can hire truck drivers just about anywhere, but we sometimes have to send truck drivers into combat situations. Could they respond as quickly as serving Land Forces personnel? Our number 1 obligation is to the soldier.”

While looking for ways to save money, the army is looking for ways to earn money. Canadian Forces Base Valcartier, for instance, is selling compost. “We are also into recycling,” says Kelly. “We used to pay someone to do our recycling for us. Now there is a company that buys our waste for recycling.”

The army says any savings will go into quality of life improvements, including the acquisition of better equipment for the troops. The highest priority on Land Force Command’s procurement list is its Clothe the Soldier program. “Clothe the Soldier is an omnibus title for 24 separate projects,” explains Maj. Bob Poirier who works in the Land Force requirements section. He notes that the largest of the 24 projects is a layered set of clothing specifically designed for soldiers to operate in a range of 10 degrees Celsius down to -57 degrees Celsius. The set consists of six garments: A polar fleece top and bottom, a combat coat and trousers and parka and overalls. The polar fleece top and bottom are made from polyester that is lightweight, very warm and faster drying than the current thermal underwear or sweater. The combat coat and trousers contain an internal, waterproof membrane that provides protection against rain and wind. New features include a hood that is part of the jacket and underarm zippers for ventilation. The parka and overalls provide maximum thermal protection and the layering system means the soldier can dress appropriately for a wide range of climatic conditions from mild, cold and wet conditions to extreme cold.

The program has also developed a new camouflage design based on computer analysis of the most common background colours in Canada. The new outfit has already been issued to soldiers serving in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Clothe the Soldier program also includes a new load-carrier. It consists of a frame that supports a large backpack, small rucksack and a fanny belt that can be attached to the frame or worn around the waist. All three can be attached to the frame at the same time or used separately.

Troops are also getting new helmets that are distinctively Canadian and a new hand tool that has 13 components, but only weighs eight ounces. It includes heavy-duty pliers, knife blades, screwdrivers, wire cutters, can opener and bottle opener.

In addition to the Clothe the Soldier program, the army is buying 651 Coyote armoured personnel carriers. The vehicles are expected to replace about half of the current fleet that uses the Cougar model. The Coyote is equipped with state-of-the-art electronics and a 25-mm cannon. About half have been delivered and some are in use in Bosnia. The army is also acquiring a new reconnaissance vehicle, the LAV III. The initial order was for 240 LAV IIIs, but Prime Minister Jean Chrétien recently approved the acquisition of 120 more. The vehicles are equipped with a television monitor, thermal imaging, surveillance radar, a chemical and biological warfare detector and satellite communication. It’s expected they will be issued to units in the year 2000.

The army is also developing a new digital weapons-effect simulator that will use lasers and computers to analyse operations during exercises. “This system will let you know where everyone is on both sides of the conflict,” explains Poirier. “The important thing is that it has an ability to debrief. When you go out in exercises, you can come back and scientifically analyse what happened. If the soldier led his people into an ambush, you can say to a soldier, ‘You were here. You knew the enemy was there and yet your decision ended up causing so many casualties.’”

While quality of life and management of finite resources are inescapably linked, the army has had to deal with a whole set of cultural issues as well. Bilingualism, for example–once a thorny issue within the military–has become a way of life in the army. It has provided more opportunities for French Canadians and added to Canadian unity. “The creation of francophone artillery, engineer, signal, armour and service support units, in addition to the existing Royal 22nd Regt., gave the army a more distinctly Canadian character and enhanced its operational flexibility and capability,” notes the book Canada’s Army: We Stand on Guard for Thee.

More recently, the army and the other two branches of the Canadian Forces have had to deal with a number of important issues that reflect changes that are taking place within society as a whole. In the 1980s, the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Human Rights Commission were locked into a two-year hearing on gender discrimination in the Forces. Rather than deny that its practices and policies discriminate against women, the Forces argued that its conduct was based on a bona fide occupational requirement–operational effectiveness, which is allowed under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The tribunal did not agree and ordered the Forces to fully integrate women into all roles, including combat, within 10 years. The only exception would be for service in submarines where privacy is limited. The 10 years are now up and the Canadian Forces have far from lived up to the challenge. “We’re fully committed to this goal,” says Jeffries. “We’re going to do better this year.”

The focus of last year’s major recruitment campaign was on getting more women to join, although the military has also set recruitment targets for visible minorities and aboriginal people. This effort was emphasized by the chief of defence staff in his 1997-98 annual report. General Maurice Baril stated that Land Force Command has a recruiting target of 1,000, of which 25 per cent are to be women. “The aim is to provide a critical mass of women in positions that have to date been largely occupied by men, which will ease the stress caused by being the only woman, or one of only two or three women, in a given area.”

But while the Armed Forces pursues this goal, it must do all it can to correct recent failures of conduct and professionalism. Last year’s rash of accusations of sexual assault and sexual harassment seriously undermined the high value the Armed Forces places on decency, justice and professional honour. In response to these reports, the chief of defence staff issued a blistering statement on harassment to all commanders (Baril’s Statement On Harassment, November/December). “I will not allow the Canadian Forces to become a refuge or a training ground for thugs and brutes,” he wrote. “Misconduct shall not be ignored. Apathy is unacceptable.”

Two years ago, the military established the Standards for Harassment and Racism Prevention Program, known as SHARP. This is a training program that teaches cultural sensitivity, anti-racism, and harassment prevention courses. To date, approximately 60,400 members have received training under SHARP.

While the primary purpose of the army has not changed, the army itself keeps evolving, culturally, financially and with much-looked-for improvements in the quality of a soldier’s life. “These are exciting times,” says Jeffries. “I believe we are becoming a better fighting force.”

A Critical Time For The Military

by Bill Fairbairn

A 10-per-cent pay raise, better housing and 85 other recommendations pertaining to many of the military were made by the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs following its hearings on quality of life in the Canadian Forces.

The 16-member committee, chaired by MP Pat O’Brien and consisting of members from each of the five official parties, spent a year in Canada and overseas hearing about low pay and lower morale, shoddy military housing, poor living conditions on bases, career stagnation and unsympathetic treatment of injured soldiers claiming disability.

Leadership came in for critical comment in a preface. “Some observers have argued that the failures in leadership are systemic–so widespread that they are almost beyond solution. Others suggest that while significant, problems of leadership have remained isolated and are being adequately addressed. The debate remains to be solved.” The report itself states that if Canada is to maintain an effective military it must firmly re-establish trust between military personnel and those to whom they look for leadership and recognition. “Senior military leadership must always put the interests and well-being of…members ahead of their own.”

The recommendations do cover the issues, but a minority report by Reform Party committee members criticizes the main report for not going far enough.

The proposed 10-per-cent pay raise would be effective April 1 for entry level ranks of privates, second lieutenants and lieutenants. Non-commissioned officers would get a six-per-cent raise; captains, through and including lieutenant-colonels, three per cent; colonels and above, two per cent, if the recommendations are accepted by the government.

The report states: “This is something the (Defence) Department must accomplish, but it must not do so at the expense of training and equipment. It is therefore imperative that the government provide the requisite appropriation of funds in order that our goal be achieved.” The increases should also apply to reserves pay now pegged at 85 per cent of regular force pay. The committee would also like to see the reserves given what it states would be “a real pension plan.” Pay systems for reservists must also become more timely by being integrated with that of the regular force, the report advised.

The report urges that acting pay at the higher rank level should apply immediately to those in acting positions, but not in the case of a deputy base commander filling in for the base commander or anyone else filling a position for a short time.

The committee notes it became clear, as soon as its study had begun, that the military was facing a housing crisis. Both single and married accommodations on bases were found to be among the worst in the country, and two thirds of military families now find their own accommodations. It recommends an annual progress report. “Some of the shortcomings have already been addressed by the construction of completely new facilities at some bases such as Edmonton and Petawawa, Ont. Although not without problems, the facilities we visited are a major improvement compared to the old single quarters still in place in Kingston, Ont., and Esquimalt, B.C., which by today’s standards can only be called dilapidated.”

The report states private married quarters (PMQs) must also be improved. It explains that most of the approximately 20,000 married quarters across the country were built in the 1940s and ‘50s , and with little exception Treasury Board has not allowed construction of new ones since the 1960s. The report recommends that the Canadian Forces Housing Agency review its policies and its arrangements with contractors at all bases to ensure that efficient repairs are made to PMQs as quickly as possible when emergencies occur. It adds, “In some situations, it may be more cost- effective simply to demolish most of the PMQs and build new ones.”

It further recommends that the traditional rental accommodation assistance allowance be replaced by an accommodation expense allowance to compensate for any difference between regional housing costs and standardized rents, determined by the average housing costs at a number of major bases. The allowance should not be considered taxable income, the report adds.

The committee supports establishment of the Combined Centre for the Support of Injured, Retired, Veterans, and their Families (CCSIRV). With staff from the Canadian Forces, National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada, the centre will be linked with veterans groups such as The Royal Canadian Legion. The committee urges the centre be given the resources required to fulfil its mandate and that military personnel be told of its services.

An easy-to-access source of assistance for individuals suffering severe illnesses since their service in the Persian Gulf War will be set up if another recommendation is accepted. “These individuals had to rely on the help of members of the… Legion and other groups who went out of their way to try to untangle the bureaucratic obstacles and obtain assistance and treatment. Nothing better illustrates the failure of…National Defence and Veterans Affairs to deal in a focused and compassionate fashion with the needs and problems of the injured than the way in which they dealt with individuals who served in the Persian Gulf,” the report states.

Another recommendation is that military personnel who served in special duty areas be recognized as veterans, and that this policy apply to reservists as well as the regular force.

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