Thursday, August 18, 2005

The roses are dying.

Alternate Service Delivery, or ASD, has been a part of the systematic reduction of uniformed capacity in the Canadian Forces for about twenty years. Like many other hatchet jobs that have been perpetrated on our military because of budgetary starvation, it is couched in terms of efficiency. RUBBISH!

The theory was that, anything we didn’t actually take to war could be provided by civilian contractors more cheaply and efficiently. Someone forgot to tell the hatchet men that we actually take logistics to war. And someone forgot to tell the governments who called in the hatchet men that Canada’s seemingly traditional peacekeeping missions could (and did) easily transition into theatres of combat.

The chickens are coming home to roost in this hair-brained bean counter driven scheme. Don’t get me wrong; some of my best friends are bean counters, and they were doing this at the point of the proverbial government budget gun. The problem is that they have been allowed to make de facto operational decisions that should be the mandate of operational leaders. The operational commanders should be given the authority and support to make operational decisions, and see them carried out and supported by an unbreakable logistics chain.

It was recently suggested that civilian contractors and their employees may balk at the prospect of providing in situ logistic support to elements of the Canadian Forces engaged in high threat operational theatres, such as Afghanistan. I’m sure that many would say, “Ready, Aye, Ready”, but who could really blame those who did not?

Prior to ASD, people in uniform supplied logistic support such as supply, cooks, mail, administration, transportation, airfield engineering support, and more. They were all soldiers, sailors or airmen first and could be counted on to tote a rifle, stand guard duty or engage in defensive operations, if necessary. Now, much of that support is supplied by civilian contractors, who are undoubtedly good at their jobs, but don’t fall under the same code of conduct or expectations as someone in uniform.

A less currently urgent example, but one no less harmful to our operational readiness is the lack of combat training support to our CF-18 force and to some elements of combat training for the Army and the Navy. Those assets provided air combat adversaries, electronic warfare training and gunnery tow targets. About four Chiefs of the Air Staff ago, the Air Force embarked on a plan to eliminate the combat support assets and squadrons from the inventory and replace them with a civilian contract. The current situation is that the people who use these training assets are still waiting for something more than band-aid solutions. If the final solution ever arrives, it will cost more than what we had already, provide a fraction of the training support, and offer none of the flexibility.

Alternate Service Delivery can work, but the theory has been applied to many areas where it does not belong. Like many things that have been allowed to erode our military capacity, this will take decades to reverse, even if leadership was ready to go down that road. I may be wrong, but I see no evidence of that determination.

This is not a criticism of all the dedicated "loggies" out there who provide yeoman service. It is a criticism of the government which has put operations (and people) in jeopardy for the sake of budget cuts.

It is said that operations is the rose and that logistics is the stem upon which it grows, or something like that. Someone has whipper snippered the rose bushes and Alternate Service Delivery may well be Alternate Service Disaster.


Blogger BBS said...

Couldn't agree with you more.

4:42 AM  
Blogger sameo416 said...

I was part of an ASD effort for a military flight test unit in the late 1990's. Going into it there were two obvious flaws in the reasoning: a) contractors are smarter than those in uniform;
b) contractors are always cheaper that those in uniform.

After we reviewed their submissions for engineering services one thing was clear: they could not provide even 50% of the existing level of service within the existing budget. The first response from the contractor side (and these were heavy hitter companies) was that we had cooked the figures, for no one could do that much work with the staffing in place.

We were told to re-engage the contractor to 'help' them come closer to the costing figures. The meeting started with one rep asking me to just hand over our costing numbers so they could fix their bid and we could all go home.

Needless to say, it was a long weekend and the ASD bid died that day. There was a bit of an investigation, since everyone knows ASD is cheaper and better...

I feel much better now. ASD is a crock and does nothing but erode combat effectiveness and morale.

6:53 PM  
Blogger DazzlinDino said...

It's depressing that our military has become the "hitchhikers" of global defense. How does everyone feel about the ex-military guy working with Air Canada to provide troop transport service into areas closer to combat. It doesn't seem like too bad an idea, as the pilots in question are military to begin with, but I think Air Canada is somewhat concerned about the lifespan of their planes if they do go along with it.....

11:55 AM  
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8:48 PM  

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