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Military bases struggling with personnel shortages, internal review finds

dimsum

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The future of the Canadian Armed Forces is closely tied to the diverse populations of our major cities, and we need to do whatever it takes to reach out to those cities and prove that we are indeed an institution worth serving in. And yes, that probably means that we have to change. But as much as we like to condemn the youths for not being able to change to suit military service, we also have a pretty poor record ourselves of being flexible as an organization. But we need to flexible in order to survive -- and the onus is on the CAF to change. Because what we're doing now? It isn't sustainable.

As to what those changes should be? I'm close to 50, and I'm the wrong guy to ask. Ask your troops. And especially ask the ones who are walking away.
The second part of that is to actually do the (hard) things that will get people in and keep people in. I mentioned that the Australian Army has retention issues as well despite having bases in cities (something I see on discussion forums often), but personally, I think we're hooped if we don't move our bases closer to places where the younger folks want to live.
 

Weinie

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This thread has swerved far away from Base level support being understaffed -- it is taken as written that this is just a symptom of a wider problem, that the Canadian Armed Forces is understaffed, and has problems with recruiting and retention. After all, if all CFBs were magically fully manned tomorrow, then something else would have to be understaffed, and those units would complain about it -- it's a bit of a zero sum game in that respect.

So what is the actual problem? It could be strongly argued that our traditional recruiting pool of men from small town Canada is demographically dying. (The demographics, present and projected, of the Quebecois population has further implications for the Canadian Army, specifically whether 3 of 9 infantry battalions, and 1 of 3 mechanized brigades, can be sustained as Francophone in the future, but that's probably a sacred cow to be barbecued separately from the rest of the herd). And with our traditional recruiting pool evaporating, we are now turning, grudgingly and in some desperation, to other parts of the population. But we have, as an institution, not exactly been welcoming to the groups we are now forced to see as our future. Closing garrisons in cities didn't help, but neither do some of our other choices. It isn't new -- Web of Hate (with a chapter on racism in the CF) was published in 1996 and "Rape in the Military" was a Maclean's cover story in 1998. Our ongoing issues with sexual assault and racist conduct have been in the press for decades, and we as an institution have had those decades to either solve the problem or prove that there was no problem and the media didn't know what they are talking about. We failed, and if we want to embrace a diverse future we have to admit that, fix the problems and move on.

Because if we think this woke stuff is just a flash in the pan and we are waiting for small town Canada to flock back to the recruiting centres, I have a news flash -- it just isn't there anymore. The median age of Newfoundland and Labrador is 47. My own home town in northern Ontario isn't far behind. The future of the Canadian Armed Forces is closely tied to the diverse populations of our major cities, and we need to do whatever it takes to reach out to those cities and prove that we are indeed an institution worth serving in. And yes, that probably means that we have to change. But as much as we like to condemn the youths for not being able to change to suit military service, we also have a pretty poor record ourselves of being flexible as an organization. But we need to be flexible in order to survive -- and the onus is on the CAF to change. Because what we're doing now? It isn't sustainable.

As to what those changes should be? I'm close to 50, and I'm the wrong guy to ask. Ask your troops. And especially ask the ones who are walking away.
Ostrozac,

Your comments are bang on. When I joined in 83, Gr 8 was the minimum required to apply, and I had numerous fellow recruits with that qual in my platoon. We have since (rightfully) increased our minimum entrance standards, but depleted the pool.

We suffered from a variety of malaises in the 90's,many of which you have touched on. Shyte pay was also a factor: in 1994, as a Captain, I was making about $36K a year. In 1981, while working in a coal mine in Alberta, I (as a dumb ass 20 year old, was raking in about $60 with overtime). We have come some way in overcoming that, but not enough to convince Gen Y's that they should realistically consider the CAF as a option.

And then let's look at what we do. (and I only say this from an attractions perspective, I have served for almost 38 years, and if I were to magically wake up tomorrow as an 18 year old, I would run to the recruiting office to do it again) We have bases in crap places, training that is tough, deployments that separate loved ones for extended periods of time, and media horror stories galore.

Recruitment was high during Afghanistan (thank you testosterone fueled 20 somethings). In the absence of a war, I am not sure what we can offer that would attract recruits. Travel is easy now, exposure via the Internet to other cultures is ubiquitous, our posting and opportunity options are anathema to Gen Y's.

And demographics will be the biggest killer of all.
 

dapaterson

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The CAF continues to have applications that outstrip available positions in most occupations. The recruiting system, however, needs a top to bottom reset to be faster and more responsive.

Certain occupations / branches / environments also need some long reflection on how they can better leverage current and future Canadian society for recruiting. Hundreds of years of tradition unimpeded by progress result in a non-representative population that struggles to reach targets.

In other areas, those responsible for training have not invested in capacity to meet their needs and have built massive backlogs awaiting training.

There are few complex issues - just stubborn unwillingness to admit that we are no longer in the 1950s.
 

Ostrozac

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Recruitment was high during Afghanistan (thank you testosterone fueled 20 somethings). In the absence of a war, I am not sure what we can offer that would attract recruits.
Recruiting for wartime service is different than recruiting for a long service permanent force. The Romans knew that, with different terms of service for auxiliaries and the legions. We used to know it as recently as Korea, when we specifically recruited a Special Force that would leave their wives and furniture behind in their home towns. Career soldiering, especially peacetime soldiering, is different, and needs more of a long game.

If we were to go to war, tomorrow, with North Korea, we’d have a flurry of applicants. But they would similarly be “one and done” — that wouldn’t solve our long term issues.
 

Weinie

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Recruiting for wartime service is different than recruiting for a long service permanent force. The Romans knew that, with different terms of service for auxiliaries and the legions. We used to know it as recently as Korea, when we specifically recruited a Special Force that would leave their wives and furniture behind in their home towns. Career soldiering, especially peacetime soldiering, is different, and needs more of a long game.

If we were to go to war, tomorrow, with North Korea, we’d have a flurry of applicants. But they would similarly be “one and done” — that wouldn’t solve our long term issues.
That was my point. The only prolonged recruiting surge we have had in the last 40 years has been during a war. I don't know how we would extrapolate that to the current conditions.
 

materialpigeonfibre

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In order to reach federal quotas the CAF and RCMP does not want "white" "able bodied" "males" (in the context of reaching "employment equity" .
so that no person shall be denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to ability
I hope that's the way it goes.

When I was in high school I was told by an RCMP officer to not apply if you were white unless you had university. No joke. Only 25% white males were allowed.

As the hiring is based on race and gender to meet federal quotas I wonder what will happen?
edit: please prove me wrong. I wish to be wrong.
 

dapaterson

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So, RCMP told you to upgrade your education to be competitive. Did you do so?

Or is it easier to whine and complain that people who do have higher qualifications than you are selected instead?
 

ballz

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As to what those changes should be? I'm close to 50, and I'm the wrong guy to ask. Ask your troops. And especially ask the ones who are walking away.

Back to the CAF's ego and insecurity about anything it might be doing wrong, anyone walking away is generally the last people anyone is going to listen to, or we'd rather make up reasons they left that suit our ego instead of acknowledge the person leaving had good reasons that we won't/can't address. My favourite is the always automatic assumption that I'm leaving for better pay whilst I'm taking a 50% pay cut.... far more than 50% if you consider annual leave and pension.
 

ballz

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We suffered from a variety of malaises in the 90's,many of which you have touched on. Shyte pay was also a factor: in 1994, as a Captain, I was making about $36K a year. In 1981, while working in a coal mine in Alberta, I (as a dumb ass 20 year old, was raking in about $60 with overtime). We have come some way in overcoming that, but not enough to convince Gen Y's that they should realistically consider the CAF as a option.

We've more than overcome that, we're paying far more than basically any other job for the same credentials / experience that I can think of in Canada, except maybe some hard labour jobs in very limited "gold rush" towns.. Far far more. No one is not joining the CAF or leaving the CAF because of compensation. There may be a perception amongst the general population that it doesn't pay well, which could be addressed, but increasing compensation would likely yield zero positive results for recruiting / retention (and if only we did something like, I dunno, performance measurements, we wouldn't have to guess at that).
 

materialpigeonfibre

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So, RCMP told you to upgrade your education to be competitive. Did you do so?

Or is it easier to whine and complain that people who do have higher qualifications than you are selected instead?
Upgraded my education. College was ok. Didn't make it to university. That's how I ended up in the army. Part of the reasoning was having food for supporting the kids if social unrest, pandemic or partial economic collapse happened, I was right. Yay me? Feels both good and bad being right.

It's far easier whining and complaining! Thank you very much.
 

FJAG

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In the absence of a war, I am not sure what we can offer that would attract recruits. Travel is easy now, exposure via the Internet to other cultures is ubiquitous, our posting and opportunity options are anathema to Gen Y's.

And demographics will be the biggest killer of all.
We can offer summer employment for students while undergoing their education, assistance with their education expenses, training in many skill areas useful on civvy street, a period of employment to gain experience and qualify them for a future civilian career, more post service education and a modest pension and additional part time employment in the reserves afterwards while they pursue their new civilian career and family growth.

The key here is to do a short terms of service (say 4 to 8 years) that still leaves the individual poised for a successful long life career as a civilian. Our current focus on 20 years and a pension is counterproductive for most individuals and the CAF as well.

Both our recruiting system and training system needs to change to accommodate that. When I hear about the number of folks that we have in holding patterns waiting for their initial trades training in Borden and elsewhere I just shake my head in disbelief. I basically went from end of high school to a short summer vacation (taking Militia courses) to starting my BOTC in August followed immediately by my Basic Arty officer's course followed immediately to being posted as a GPO in my first regiment in July. No delays. I'm amazed that these kids today put up with the ridiculous recruiting and training timelines that they do. People need some certainty and a commitment from the system not to waste their time and lives.

🍻
 

Weinie

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The CAF continues to have applications that outstrip available positions in most occupations. The recruiting system, however, needs a top to bottom reset to be faster and more responsive.

Certain occupations / branches / environments also need some long reflection on how they can better leverage current and future Canadian society for recruiting. Hundreds of years of tradition unimpeded by progress result in a non-representative population that struggles to reach targets.

In other areas, those responsible for training have not invested in capacity to meet their needs and have built massive backlogs awaiting training.

There are few complex issues - just stubborn unwillingness to admit that we are no longer in the 1950s.
The new CDS has (better have) awareness of these issues, given his job two iterations ago. So now, how do you fix it?

Put the focus on fixing recruiting...OK. Then you had better fix the through put ability of the training system, that was raped in the tooth to tail exercise that was conducted in the 90's. Again, somewhat fixable in the tenure of the CDS.....but.....................apparently the CDS has other priorities.

"Trudeau also raised eyebrows when he declared in an interview last week that one of the next defence chief's top priorities would be to crack down on right-wing extremism, white supremacy and hate in the Armed Forces."

Navy commander Art McDonald tapped to steer Canadian military as new defence chief | CTV News

If you don't have a viable CAF, the other problems will wither away by themselves .
 

FJAG

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The new CDS has (better have) awareness of these issues, given his job two iterations ago. So now, how do you fix it?

Put the focus on fixing recruiting...OK. Then you had better fix the through put ability of the training system, that was raped in the tooth to tail exercise that was conducted in the 90's. Again, somewhat fixable in the tenure of the CDS.....but.....................apparently the CDS has other priorities.

"Trudeau also raised eyebrows when he declared in an interview last week that one of the next defence chief's top priorities would be to crack down on right-wing extremism, white supremacy and hate in the Armed Forces."

Navy commander Art McDonald tapped to steer Canadian military as new defence chief | CTV News

If you don't have a viable CAF, the other problems will wither away by themselves .
It's not an either-or thing. If the CDS's attention span is so short and his scope of control so limited that he's going to get wrapped around this one axle then the CAF is in very serious trouble.

;)
 

lenaitch

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We've more than overcome that, we're paying far more than basically any other job for the same credentials / experience that I can think of in Canada, except maybe some hard labour jobs in very limited "gold rush" towns.. Far far more. No one is not joining the CAF or leaving the CAF because of compensation. There may be a perception amongst the general population that it doesn't pay well, which could be addressed, but increasing compensation would likely yield zero positive results for recruiting / retention (and if only we did something like, I dunno, performance measurements, we wouldn't have to guess at that).
I'm not too sure that's true across the board. According to Glassdoor.ca, a "typical" air traffic controller makes ~$133,600, and an OPP constable tops out at ~$98,300 (plus OT plus posting bonuses if applicable). I don't think comparable military trades make anywhere near that. A lot of the military trades have no civilian equivalent.
 

YZT580

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So, RCMP told you to upgrade your education to be competitive. Did you do so?

Or is it easier to whine and complain that people who do have higher qualifications than you are selected instead?
That isn't what his words imply. The recruiting officer was informing him that he had to have more than the other groups in order to have a chance at being selected. That is truth and he wasn't whining IMHO. As one who was involved in training for a number of years I can vouch for the veracity of the simple fact that checking the ethnic or indigenous, the handicapped or another flavour of the year category gets you bounced over others of similar or even better qualifications who wasn't able to tick those boxes. There is a scoring system so it maybe that 2 years college is trumped by ethnic but a 3 year course reverses it. As has been mentioned in other forums we are a racist country and prove it every day through our reverse discrimination policies. But that is entirely off topic.

1. If we want a sustainable recruitment process the time from application to boot camp must be shortened. No decent candidate is going to wait 6 to 9 months for a job. Those who will are either really keen on a military career or of such a low calibre that we don't want them anyway.
2. We need to recruit right out of high school even for officer candidates. Sign on the line, get started in your career training and we will pay the college bills: but only after you have completed basic. Which means we either have to be in the schools or at least on the same block and we have to demonstrate the desirability of a military career.
3. Somehow, the government of Canada has to demonstrate that it actually has a military and that it is an important facet of our foreign policy. Showing up for a ramp ceremony or to sign a purchase contract isn't the same thing as demonstrating commitment.
4. The government of Canada needs to demonstrate in tangible terms that it values both the serving members AND their families through decent and affordable housing which they had at one time until some idiot tied the rent in with the neighbourhood costs, ensuring decent medical coverage and insurance, helping spouses with employment where possible and providing an income supplement for temporary postings to ensure families can stay together.

There is probably more but that is enough to start with. The 4th point is to help with retention. Most folks I have talked with in the past left because of family and housing issues and were honestly sorry to have had to do so.
 

Weinie

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We can offer summer employment for students while undergoing their education, assistance with their education expenses, training in many skill areas useful on civvy street, a period of employment to gain experience and qualify them for a future civilian career, more post service education and a modest pension and additional part time employment in the reserves afterwards while they pursue their new civilian career and family growth.

The key here is to do a short terms of service (say 4 to 8 years) that still leaves the individual poised for a successful long life career as a civilian. Our current focus on 20 years and a pension is counterproductive for most individuals and the CAF as well.

Both our recruiting system and training system needs to change to accommodate that. When I hear about the number of folks that we have in holding patterns waiting for their initial trades training in Borden and elsewhere I just shake my head in disbelief. I basically went from end of high school to a short summer vacation (taking Militia courses) to starting my BOTC in August followed immediately by my Basic Arty officer's course followed immediately to being posted as a GPO in my first regiment in July. No delays. I'm amazed that these kids today put up with the ridiculous recruiting and training timelines that they do. People need some certainty and a commitment from the system not to waste their time and lives.

🍻
FJAG,

Your current disdain for the sustainment of any type of Regular Force, and to render Canada to the mercy of a mostly Reserve Force, which you trumpet incessantly on here, is growing tiresome. You have also posted, in a separate thread, about strategic capabilities. I have a proposition for you that will hopefully accommodate both of your desires.

Let's turn the CAF into a fully Reserve Force entity. Then we can meet your all of your domestic criterias of employment/deployment and cutting the salaries and benefits of the Reg Force, which you find very troubling, and transfer that money into having a viable Reserve Force.

Let's also buy 100 nuclear tipped ICBM's, and scatter them across the country. Our current defence allocation of $23B should be more than enough to construct hardened shelters and maintain both the missiles and the Reserves. Then we will have both a strategic capability and a Reserve.

Win/win.
 

ballz

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I'm not too sure that's true across the board. According to Glassdoor.ca, a "typical" air traffic controller makes ~$133,600, and an OPP constable tops out at ~$98,300 (plus OT plus posting bonuses if applicable). I don't think comparable military trades make anywhere near that. A lot of the military trades have no civilian equivalent.
I did say "basically any other" implying that there would be exceptions, although I think they are few and far between.

That said, I'd be wary of the OPP comparison. Do they have a system of non-comms and officers as we do? Are you comparing the average OPP officer to the average MP NCM when it would make more sense to compare it to the average NCM MP + MPO salary?

Air traffic controller, way outside my ability to comment on. Maybe it is one of the exceptions.

But, in a more general sense, how many people with a high school education are making $60k+ a year only 4 years out of school? And will be retired at $43k years old with a defined benefit plan (DBP almost doesn't exist nowadays, and certainly not a gold plated one like the CAF)?

How many people with a Bachelor's of History are making $80k 3 years after graduating? (and that's not factoring PLD, LDA, pension, leave, etc.).

My income and wealth has been higher than almost everyone I went through university with, it's surreal. There are very few 31 year olds, in any field, bringing in $107k a year, and only 12 years away from retiring with a $60 or 70k pension for the rest of their life.

Even when we get into the more specialized stuff, like engineering, accounting, etc., the CAF is usually paying more. The amount of Majors I know making $120k a year whose only contribution seems to be turning rations into feces while they wait around to collect their pension is mindboggling, they're making the kind of money you only make as at the Partner level in most professional services.... it takes a good 10-15 years to make Partner, and then you've got to work until at least 55 or so before you can afford to retire... not 43.
 

FJAG

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FJAG,

Your current disdain for the sustainment of any type of Regular Force, and to render Canada to the mercy of a mostly Reserve Force, which you trumpet incessantly on here, is growing tiresome. You have also posted, in a separate thread, about strategic capabilities. I have a proposition for you that will hopefully accommodate both of your desires.

Let's turn the CAF into a fully Reserve Force entity. Then we can meet your all of your domestic criterias of employment/deployment and cutting the salaries and benefits of the Reg Force, which you find very troubling, and transfer that money into having a viable Reserve Force.

Let's also buy 100 nuclear tipped ICBM's, and scatter them across the country. Our current defence allocation of $23B should be more than enough to construct hardened shelters and maintain both the missiles and the Reserves. Then we will have both a strategic capability and a Reserve.

Win/win.
Well now you are just being silly.

I've never, ever advocated for a predominantly reserve force. I have never advocated for a draw down of regular force field, air and sea components, just the overly bloated cartel that occupies Ottawa with thousand of useless cubicle drones pushing meaningless paper from desk to desk. The regular force is our peacetime, quick-reaction, flexible commitment to national defence. It is needed and needs to be better equipped and organized as well in order to meet the demands of future conflicts.

Likewise I don't believe that I have ever suggested cutting salaries or benefits for the regular force, just useless headquarters processes and people who neither provide nor enable concrete defence outputs. What I suggest is that as long as we keep sinking defence funds into the ever growing and more expensive self-licking ice cream cone that Ottawa has become we will not be able to sustain any portion of the field, air and sea forces and thus become entirely irrelevant.

I do advocate for a much better organized, equipped and trained reserve force to allow for the expansion of the total force in an emergency rather than leaving it in the doldrums that it's been in for the last half century.

If you want to go to sarcasm then at least get my position right.

🍻
 

ballz

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We can offer summer employment for students while undergoing their education, assistance with their education expenses, training in many skill areas useful on civvy street, a period of employment to gain experience and qualify them for a future civilian career, more post service education and a modest pension and additional part time employment in the reserves afterwards while they pursue their new civilian career and family growth.

The key here is to do a short terms of service (say 4 to 8 years) that still leaves the individual poised for a successful long life career as a civilian. Our current focus on 20 years and a pension is counterproductive for most individuals and the CAF as well.

We already do all of that, don't we?
 

Colin Parkinson

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Standing joke we had when filling positions in the PS, if you can find a Blind, Black, French speaking Trans, in a wheelchair who was a refugee, then you scored, you have checked off 6 politically correct boxes with one hire. This would then make your bosses happy as all their metrics would increase.
 
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