If you really support the troops …
Frankly, The Ruxted Group is getting tired of admonitions, especially from politicians, to “Support the troops!”
Most Canadians do support the troops – even those who disagree with how the government employs them. If there is any lack of support it seems to be amongst those doing most of the talking in Ottawa.
If our elected leaders really want to support the troops then Ruxted has a few suggestions:
First: Get more troops. There are too few sailors, soldiers and air force personnel. This is evidenced by ships tied up for lack of crews, the terrible machinations required for army ‘force generation’ and chronic shortages of aircrew. We need thousands, indeed tens of thousands of new people – above the current manpower ceilings – in all three services but, above all, in the army’s combat units.
There are serious impediments to getting more people:
• Money. The government could have allocated additional funding for personnel in the latest budget; it did not – so much for supporting the troops;
• Bureaucracy. Equally, the government has failed to remove some of the administrative impediments which make it difficult for reserve soldiers to transfer into the regular force; and
• Inertia. The government failed to vote new money or remove policies which impede the all important issue of retention.
Second: Get more equipment. This government and its immediate predecessor are both to be commended for providing some new money for equipment and streamlining the procurement process for some new systems for the current mission. But more, much more needs to be done – for this mission and the next, and the next, and the ones after them.
Gen. Hillier was not being hyperbolic when he spoke about a “decade of darkness” – Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, during his 12+ years in power, was only slightly less destructive of our national security and defence than was Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who came very close to disarming Canada by stealth. Sadly, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney had neither the will, nor the wherewithal to correct the policy vandalism..
While The Ruxted Group understands that defence procurement is always a mix of unpopular politics (spending money on anything other than social programmes) and political pork-barrelling (delivering contracts to this or that riding as either a reward or a bribe, we encourage politicians who want to “support the troops” to show a little responsibility and provide more money and simplified procurement regulations which will get useful quantities of suitable new equipment into the hands of those troops.
While Ruxted understands and supports the competitive procurement process, it doesn't always work in the small, well defined world of military hardware. Buying, on a sole source basis, off the shelf, proven products such as the C-17, the C130J and the M777 howitzer makes sense when Canada's own professional military experts confirm, to parliament, that there is only one acceptable choice in the market. This could apply to other systems as well.
Finally: Stop using the troops as political props, photo ops and whipping boys. Most Canadians, even those who disagree with why we are in Afghanistan and how we are conducting operations there, have nothing but good will, the best of will for the people in our armed forces. Most Canadians are quite able to “support the troops” even as they oppose the government of the day. It is politicians who seem unable to grasp the simple fact that the “troops” serve all Canadians, equally, because they – above all others – represent all Canadians, equally. The men and women in the Canadian Forces signed on to be used, as tools, to advance the policies of the elected Government of Canada; they did not sign on to be tools in election campaigns or props in political theatrics. The Ruxted Group deplores the increase in the partisan use and abuse of our military by politicians of all stripes.
Canadians do “support the troops” and the troops support Canada. It is time for politicians to put our money where their (too busy) mouths are and practice what they preach.