Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ritual Guesswork

In Canada, analysts and journalists join in a ritual every few years to guess: who is the next Chief of the Defence Staff.  Apparently, the season has begun.  David Pugliese lists these folks as candidates:
"Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson, the low-profile VCDS.
Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison, the RCN’s commander.
Lt.-Gen. André Deschamps, the RCAF commander admired in the Harper government for faithfully defending the F-35 purchase.
Air Force officers also tell Defence Watch that Lt.-Gen. Tom Lawson at NORAD is a person to watch."
Other than retired Lt Gen Andrew Leslie, who conducted the transformation study that recommended cutting a bunch of headquarters, no other army officers are mentioned.  This makes sense for two reasons:
  1. Canada has had two Army officers as CDS in a row when there is usually (but not always) a rotation among the services.  But we have had air force-army-army.  So, it is the Navy's turn.  But Prime Minister's have not been bound by this.
  2. Canada is turning from land-based priorities--Afghanistan--to air and sea-based priorities--the Arctic.  So, it makes sense that the CDS for the next term should be from a part of the CF that is more focused on the Arctic and that would be the Navy or Air Force.
 The article also mentions Lt. Gen Charles Bouchard, who led the Libyan operation for NATO.  He is not as tainted by the F-35 process, which might hurt Deschamps. 

Last time around, I had my favorites--that I had interviewed all three Army contenders but none of the Navy or Air Force ones, and that I had repeated interactions with one of the Army candidates.  So, I ended up getting half of what I wanted--an Army guy but not the one I knew well.  This time, I have one favorite as I have met only one of these candidates (Bouchard).  I also think, like last time, it would not hurt reaching out to Quebec to pick a Quebecker. 

To be clear, this is Harper's decision, and, when it comes to major military matters, he consults only himself.  The rest of us can only guess and wait.

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