The search for “efficiencies” within National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces has become a little clearer with the release of a defence renewal charter and action plan.

Minister of National Defence Rob Nicholson unveiled outlines of the documents yesterday, saying the major initiative is intended to reduce inefficiencies, streamline business processes and reduce corporate overhead within the defence organization.

“Let me be clear – I’m not talking about more cost cutting, but rather, about doing things smarter,” he said. “This large-scale review of our business processes is aimed at freeing up resources that can be re-invested in defence. These resources will be redirected towards the continued modernization of the Canadian Armed Forces’ capabilities, and other defence priorities. Our intent is not to reduce the number of Regular Force, Reserve Force or civilian employees. It is, however, expected that there will be a rebalancing of the workforce to address higher, operationally-driven priorities.”

The renewal charter and plan were drawn up by the Defence Renewal Team (DRT), an small group co-led by MGen Jay Milne and Chief Financial Officer Kevin Lindsey, that was originally stood up in 2012 by General Walt Natynczyk, then Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), and Robert Fonberg, then the Deputy Minister of National Defence. When he was appointed CDS last Fall, General Tom Lawson said the renewal effort would be his “centre of gravity” for the next three years.

The team has drawn on the expertise of consulting firm McKinsey and the experience of allies also undergoing renewal efforts to develop the charter, its strategic vision, and the strategic level implementation plan. Both will be supported by more detailed plans developed by assistant deputy minister organizations such as ADM Information Management and ADM Human Resources.

Through a series of town halls and other engagements with personnel, the DRT identified nine themes of renewal, six around performance initiatives – operations and training; maintenance and materiel; information management and technology; infrastructure; personnel; management systems – and three around organizational practice – strategic clarity; disciplined business execution; and openness and trust.

Under operations and training, for example, it noted greater use of simulation systems across the CAF to reduce training costs. By investing in a simulator at the flight school for CH-149 Cormorant helicopter search and rescue crews rather than the current practice of sending those crews to a simulator located in the U.K., the Royal Canadian Air Force could reduce the number of flying hours required to train pilots on operational aircraft from 55 to 30 hours and reduce the length of the First Officer Pilot Course from 16 to 10 weeks, which would increase crew availability at the operational squadrons. And by transferring up to 400 flight training hours each year into the simulator, air force commanders would have more flying hours available on operational aircraft for search and rescue missions.

The department hopes to find between $750 million and $1.2 billion in savings per year by 2017-18 through the process, which it will reinvest into improving frontline operational capabilities and readiness.

In a technical briefing, senior officials acknowledged that civilian and military personnel could be affected by the initiative if they are unable to upgrade their skill set or move to new locations. They stressed that although the plan does not focus on staff reductions, it will seek to improve 22 different business processes and reallocate people, especially in headquarters, to other parts of the institution where they are needed. In total, it hopes to “reallocate the equivalent of between 2,800 and 4,800 military and civilian personnel to address higher priority tasks.”


For more on the Defence Renewal Team, see Vanguard’s interview with Rear-Admiral Andy Smith.