Editor’s Corner article

Mental Health is a major theme in this edition
CHRIS MacLEAN  |  Jul 15, 2008

Canada’s Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay, briefs readers on the Canada First Defence Strategy. Stress. Post Traumatic Stress in particular, has been the subject of increasing attention since LGen Roméo Dallaire returned from Rwanda to become our most famous casualty of this injury.

Two writers, Jaqueline Chartier and Samuel A. Miller, examine the current situation of how Canada’s government (such as the CF Health Services and ­Veteran’s Affairs Canada) is working to alleviate some of the pain and suffering that can be brought about by the stresses of combat and/or the difficulties encountered by operating in a foreign culture, far from the comforting caress of loved ones.

Continuing in the medical theme, Tom Blackwell, senior reporter with the National Post, provides a modern context for the old saying: “necessity is the mother of invention.” He tells us how western medics are finding innovative, sometimes controversial, ways to deal with urgent and otherwise fatal injuries in Afghanistan – and keeping soldiers alive in the process!

Captain Mark Giles and Major Dan Thomas discuss how mental health and other issues are handled for reserve forces around the world.

Today, when our very sovereignty is being challenged, awareness and ­security of our vast maritime domain is an increasingly urgent consideration. As K. Joseph Spears and Sean Clarke point out, many groups are doing their part in searching for potential solutions.

In the previous edition of FrontLine Defence, we noted how absolutely everything is changing – rapidly – and for the most part, so completely that top down transformation is required in many cases, just to keep pace. Such is the case with the CF as a whole – the Navy even more so, as highlighted in our last edition – and so it is also with Canada’s defence ­procurement process.

The polite nudging of many, many previous submissions is beginning to give way to complete frustration as industry founders in its attempt to convince decision-makers that cooperation can (and does, at least in the rest of the world) improve the way military procurement is done. I can tell you that not one industry executive has encouraged this straight talk. They very nearly plead with me to avoid making waves. They all assume that – somehow – their companies will be ­targeted and suffer even more than has happened so far.

Let there be no mistake, the current system is broken – beyond a shadow of a doubt. Mired in what, by today’s open and cooperative standards, are unmistakenly restrictive and repetitive procedures, the current system allows for manipulation and control beyond what is feasible, from a business-risk perspective.

Some suggest the delays and convoluted requirements are perpetrated and ­protected by the CF itself. Others prefer to complain about the contracting procedures and IRB requirements. Industry takes the blame from government insiders.

In a time when young people make you earn respect before they give it, and even top military commanders such as General Jack Deverell of the UK (in his FrontLine commentary last summer: Can Disobedience be a Military Virtue?), acknowledge that, in today’s world, one must acccept the unavoidable new culture of transparency and collaboration, it is unacceptable that Canada’s defence procurement processes are so convoluted.

It really doesn’t matter how we got to where we are today. The point is, it isn’t working. Not by a long shot. We need strong leadership to get Canada out of this mess and into the 21st century.

The number of large programs imploding before our eyes is worsening – check out the “Up for Debate” column for a depressing list. However, in following FrontLine’s mandate of constructive commentary, the author also provides a set of basic changes that can be implemented quickly to keep the system running while reformation assessments can be efficiently completed.

Louise Mercier looks at this from another angle, encouraging the recent trend toward “whole of government” approaches to help mend the system of large military procurements.

Canadian taxpayers, the men and women charged to defend our values in hostile environments, and our defence industrial base are all searching for the strong and articulate leadership needed to solve this problem. Can the government deliver in time?
© Frontline Defence 2008