Thursday, 25 August 2011

Badge engineering

Given what I've already blogged on the subject, you won't be surprised that this piece of news from last week gets a "bad ideas" tag from me:

Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced Tuesday that the Maritime Command and Air Command will revert to names used more than four decades ago — the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force — while the army, now known as the Land Force Command, will be renamed the Canadian Army...

Under the PierreTrudeau government in 1968, Defence Minister Paul Hellyer removed the royal designation from the navy and air force and created one central command called the Canadian Forces. Hellyer said MacKay's decision will create the very divisions the reunification aimed to eliminate.

"We'll be right back where they were when I found them. They would fight for turf to the extent they would really ignore the needs of the other services and the needs of the force as a whole."
CBC News, Canada

The "Royal" bit is regressive, but I could live with that - Hellyer put his finger on the real issue when he mentioned turf wars. The supposed big idea behind bringing back the RCN/RCAF/Canadian Army split was to honour the nation's military by recognising their past sacrifices. Personally, I don't think that slapping a heritage badge on an organisation is the best way to do that.

By creating a unified command in 1968, the Canadians sent out a signal that their defence establishment prioritised efficient allocation of resources to personnel on the ground (or on the sea or in the air) over the opportunity for generals, admirals and air marshals to create their own little fiefdoms, jealously hoarding scarce resources, lest they fall into the hands of the "enemy" (AKA the other two services). In short, it put the interests of ordinary service personnel, (not to mention ordinary taxpayers) ahead of the interests of the military's senior managers and empire-building bureaucrats. I can't think of a better practical way to honour the services and the country. It was a model to be emulated, not scrapped.