Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Selection of new defence chief making waves

A serving officer may not get job

  • Print

OTTAWA -- A behind-the-scenes battle over who will succeed the country's defence chief has spilled out in public and exposed the bitter, often conflicting visions of where the Canadian military is headed following the Afghan war.

Rumours have been rampant that the Harper government is willing to go outside the ranks of Canadian Forces brass in order to recall a trusted, retired officer to fill the shoes of Gen. Walter Natynczyk, whose departure is expected within weeks.

The name that cropped up the most was that of former lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie, who headed the Canadian army until 2010 and penned a milestone report that recommended a radical overhaul of the military command structure.

Leslie, now a senior executive at the CGI Group, would not comment Tuesday. But a media report that claimed he'd been interviewed for the job was roundly denied by several well-placed sources 24 hours after it was published.

The other name in the mix is said to be retired air force lieutenant-general Angus Watt, now head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.

The overheated rumour mill is likely a symptom of infighting as Prime Minister Stephen Harper pushes ahead with planned National Defence reforms, said Douglas Bland, chair of defence management studies at Queens University

Leslie's vision of a leaner command structure and $1 billion in savings won rave reviews among the prime minister's staff and Conservative government officials, but earned a frosty reception within the senior establishment at National Defence.

The top-heavy military structure is a legacy of wartime reforms implemented by Natynczyk and his predecessor as defence chief, retired general Rick Hillier. The dismantling of the costly system began with last spring's deficit-slashing budget.

If Leslie or another retired officer is being considered, that would suggest Natynczyk's recent reforms did not go far enough to satisfy the PMO, Bland said.

In June, a selection committee of deputy ministers drew up a list, and a round of interviews followed. All the candidates under consideration at that point included serving officers, namely the current vice-chief of defence staff, Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson; the country's top officer at Norad, Lt.-Gen. Tom Lawson; and the head of the Royal Canadian Navy, Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison.

Some in the military have lamented privately that by going outside, the PMO is slighting serving officers and undermining morale in the upper echelons of the Canadian Forces.

Bland said it would be unusual, but not unprecedented, to reach into the ranks of retired officers to fill the top slot. It happened in the 1950s and more recently in the 1990s when retired general John de Chastelain was recalled from his stint as Canada's ambassador in Washington after the scandal in Somalia.

In both cases, the government of the day had a specific agenda, not unlike Conservatives today, who are quietly desperate to remove the thorn that is National Defence after a series of political controversies and spending missteps, including the ongoing fiasco surrounding the F-35 stealth fighter.

Leslie's report a year ago called for cutting a bloated headquarters establishment in Ottawa comprised of 20,000 uniformed members and civil servants who manage operations and administration. He recommended cuts and reallocating resources in measures that could have affected up to 11,000 jobs.

The report also recommended cutting spending on myriad outside contractors and consultants.

Since the report, National Defence has implemented some changes, notably the restructuring and consolidation of three commands in June.

The merger was aimed at slicing about 25 per cent of the overhead for each command, although it's not clear how many staff jobs -- military or civilian -- will be cut. The steps fell short of what Leslie recommended.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 15, 2012 A7

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Bartley Kives on 5 obstacles for new mayor and city council

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local-(Standup photo)- A wood duck swims through the water with fall refections in Kildonan Park Thursday afternoon.
  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will you get out and vote for a new mayor and council?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google