Friday, August 19, 2011

Academia and Defence as Dopplegangers

We tend to think of academic and military folks as being pretty much opposites: talkers vs. do-ers; messy vs. neat; anarchical vs. hierarchical, and so on.  But there is one way in which they are very much alike (and not different from other organizations): those who make decisions seem to be proliferating more than those who are the raison d'etre of the institution.  That is, I have blogged before about administrative bloat in universities.  Now, we have pretty good evidence of the same in Canada where the "Chief of Transformation" General Leslie has called for cutting HQ's to give the pointy end of the military stick more heft.

There is a lot to to this in Canada (and, of course, elsewhere), but I do have one beef with the accompanying claim that the Hillier re-organizations were mistaken.  Hillier did many things--one was to create operational headquarters--CANCOM, CEFCOM.  CANCOM is for Canada, CEFCOM is for pretty much everywhere else.  The idea is that the Canadian Forces, before Hillier, had all operational decisions made by the Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, which meant that he had a lot to do, in addition to his other jobs (sexist language is appropriate--no female DCDS's as far as I know).  CEFCOM was to run all expeditions (Haiti, Afghanistan, Libya, etc), providing a single chain of command to control the various elements of the Canadian Forces in each operation.  This is very much like the roles played by EUCOM, PACOM, CENTCOM, etc for the US.  That is, the army, navy, and air force (royal or not) recruit, train, equip, and promote the forces, but it is the job of the operational commander to send them to the field with their orders and oversee operations. 

Canada is not alone in this kind of reform--the Aussies did it, and so did several other partners (whose identities elude me for the moment).  Of course, standing up a new HQ does not mean that one needs to stand up four--Canada Command makes sense but not sure about Support Command and pretty annoyed at Special Operations Forces Command since that could easily be folded into CEFCOM since I would guess that nearly all SOF is expeditionary in nature.  Two Operational HQs are probably better than four, but two are much better than none, me thinks.  And, of course, setting up operational HQ's probably means that each of the services (Army, Air Force, and Navy) should have cut newly redundant elements that had being doing operational planning.  Did they?  Unlikely. 

So, there is, of course, room to cut.  And the cuts should fall hardest on the headquarters, especially since making hard decisions (really, can Canada afford a high tech navy, high tech army, and high tech air force?  How about picking just one or two?) is not their specialty.  But is it likely?  No.  People tend not to cut their own jobs.  Provosts don't get rid of vice provosts and generals tend not to eliminate jobs for other generals.  Shaggy or not, we tend to think alike.

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