The new effort by the Department of National Defence to save money via ‘Defence Renewal’ has a variety of aspects that can and should be examined. Saving a billion dollars a year would be significant, representing more than five percent of the budget. However, besides the various hopes and dreams built into this process, there is one piece that is almost stunning in its lack of realism – the part about strategic clarity:
Strategic clarity is the articulation of a clear organizational direction and strategy for success, and the translation of that strategy into specific goals and targets throughout all levels of the organization. It is an essential component of ensuring priorities and resources within an organization are aligned and focussed on delivery a set of commonly shared objectives.
There are two basic problems here: much of this lies outside of DND; and thus far this government has done a lousy job setting priorities.
Sure, it would make a great deal of sense for DND to figure out what its future is and then orient itself around that. However, the pattern of the past several years indicates that the strategic direction of the CF and its civilian masters is subject to fairly rapid change at the whims of the folks in the Prime Minister’s Office. As far as I can tell (including conversations in Brussels and Ottawa with people who should know), DND and the CF were not involved in the decision to send 900 troops to Afghanistan for the training mission that is now wrapping up. The announcement earlier this year to send a single plane to help out the French in Mali for a very short bit of time with a series of extensions also seemed to lack any military input – it seems hardly credible that the French would only need a few days of help.