Thursday, April 21, 2005

Defence review, first blush

Babble on.

As I feared, I haven't yet had an opportunity to review the government's Foreign Policy and Defence statements. Fortunately, the reliably straight-talking Lewis MacKenzie has:

Regrettably, the review's implementation faces major hurdles. Under current procurement procedures, it will take more than a decade to bring new major equipment on line, even if the cash is available. In the interest of national security, we must change procurement procedures. I'm also concerned that the esprit de corps that exists in formed regiments will be difficult to foster if the new special forces are based largely on temporary organizational structures. U.S. experience in Iraq confirms that homogeneous formed units with regimental spirit and élan are superior to those created for the event.

These are shrewd concerns. MacKenzie echoes both the Conference of Defence Associations and the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs in his worries about the procurement process. I would hazard an educated guess that the government is getting good advice on this front, if they're willing to take it.

His second point regarding unit cohesion and its importance to overall effectiveness is not up for debate: it has long been established that in the heat of battle, soldiers don't fight for God, Crown, or Country, they fight for their buddies next to them. The problem to which our retired general alludes is that cohesion is only one factor contributing to a fighting force's ability to accomplish its mission. An infantry company that lives, trains, and deploys together may well have wonderful esprit de corps, but it is wholly unsuited to the task of facilitating a naval blockade with air support, for example. The flexibility required by today's volatile international environment means that each package of deployed troops will have a different set of capabilities, and that often means mixing and matching troops.

Where to strike the balance between unit cohesion and customized capabilities on any given deployment is a tough call, and there's no textbook answer. That's why young officers are taught that military leadership is an art, not a science.

Here's hoping enough true leaders still wander the halls of NDHQ to make these difficult decisions well.

Babble off.


At 2:43 p.m., Blogger Greg said...

It would seem to me that the first order of business of any new plan would be the complete overhaul of the procurement process. To my mind, the guidelines should be simple. Give the forces the best equipment, at the cheapest price, in the fastest timeframe possible. If only we could get rid of the pork barrel politics.


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