What’s going on with the reserves?

September 21, 2011 by Adam Day

There’s an interesting story by Christie Blatchford out today on the long and fairly unsuccessful political effort to increase the size of the Canadian Forces reserves.

Blatchford’s article is centered on a newly released report prepared for the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute by Jack English, a former military officer turned historian.

The article is a fascinating synopsis of the much longer report (now available here) and tells the detailed story of how and why the reserve forces have remained on Canada’s military’s periphery.

Here’s a key section, but be sure to read the entire story:

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 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.

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