Canadian Armed Forces chief orders halt to non-essential activities and focuses on personnel crisis

Chief of the Defense Staff, General Wayne Eyre, has ordered an immediate halt to all non-essential activities in support of increased military recruitment and retention, as the Canadian Armed Forces in the face of an unprecedented personnel crisis.

Eyre gave the sweeping order to senior commanders across the country on Thursday, saying dramatic action is needed to ensure the military has the troops it needs to meet growing demands and threats to the country and the world. foreign.

“I fear that as global security threats increase, as domestic threats increase, our state of preparedness decreases,” Eyre told a parliamentary committee after issuing his order.

“I am very, very worried about our numbers. And that is why we prioritize the effort – the priority effort – the reconstitution of our army.

The replenishment order sets a whole new direction for the military after years of high-tempo deployments and operations in Canada and abroad by making recruitment and retention of personnel its top priority.

Expected for several months, the order follows a period of unprecedented activity by the military. This includes large-scale deployments in Iraq, Mali, Ukraine and Latvia, as well as assistance with the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters in Canada.

It also coincides with lagging recruiting rates and a shortage of experienced personnel to train new recruits and lead real-life missions, which Eyre said in his order “jeopardizes our ability to recruit, train, employ and retain diverse Canadian talent, thereby compromising the readiness and long-term health of Canada’s defense capabilities.

The armed forces are supposed to add about 5,000 soldiers to the regular and reserve forces to meet a growing list of demands, but are instead more than 10,000 trained members short, meaning about one in 10 positions are currently vacant.

The problem has become so acute that some high-ranking offers have started using the word “crisis” in interviews with The Canadian Press, including the commander of the navy and the officer in charge of military recruiting and training.

Eyre’s order reflects the gravity of the situation, stating, “Due to personnel and manning levels that have been compounded by the CAF’s heavy commitment to operations, the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and a cultural crisis, National Defense continues to lose its ability to deliver and sustain simultaneous operations of the scope and scale necessary.

He also underscored the need for urgency, saying: “The reconstruction process must proceed on an accelerated schedule given the geopolitical environment in which we find ourselves, particularly in light of the invasion of Ukraine. .”

To that end, the order directs commanders to prioritize fully staffed recruiting centers and training schools and calls for a complete reassessment of the current structure and composition of the army.

Military commanders will take a closer look at which missions and other activities are no longer critical, whether certain positions in their units are no longer needed, and even whether certain recruiting goals are still realistic.

Eyre also opens the door to more flexible work arrangements for the military while emphasizing the continued need to change the culture of the military to better attract and retain women, Indigenous peoples and other underrepresented groups.

“Culture change will remain the department’s top priority throughout the replenishment process,” the order reads. “This undertaking will require significant resources and a willingness to adopt the recommendations of external review authorities.”

The new approach will not be without risks, which Eyre has acknowledged by leading a reduction in large-scale training exercises in favor of more individualized classes as the military focuses on getting enough troops equipped with basic skills in the ranks.

While military commanders have previously stressed the importance of large-scale exercises, the order says Eyre “will be prepared to accept the associated reduction in readiness levels using a risk-based approach.”

And while many members of the Armed Forces are joining to serve in missions, the defense chief has directed commanders to “strike a balance between providing deployment opportunities to junior members and the need to rebuild our capability. mid-level leader”.

The defense chief indicated that the replenishment effort will take up to eight years, with the immediate goal of building strength and working towards the larger goal of ensuring the size and structure of the army are aligned with future needs and missions.

“External events such as major national emergencies caused by climate change, economic crises affecting the federal government’s fiscal flexibility, and widespread disinformation campaigns creating a lack of public confidence in national institutions could hamper reconstruction efforts” , he added.

Michelle J. Kelley