Unease mounts over unfilled defence position
As the mystery continues around the removal of ViceAdmiral Mark Norman from his job as second-incommand of the Canadian Forces, analysts and military insiders say a permanent replacement for the key position needs to be soon found.
But Canada’s top soldier is confident that Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd, who is now leading both the Royal Canadian Navy and acting as vice chief of the defence staff in the wake of Norman’s removal, can handle both jobs.
In an unprecedented move, Norman, who had served as vice chief of the defence staff since August, was temporarily removed from command on Jan. 13 by Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance. No explanation was provided and Vance, in a statement, said he couldn’t discuss any details because of “privacy considerations.”
He named Lloyd, the head of the navy, as acting VCDS. Lloyd also continues his role as navy commander.
The Canadian Forces can’t say whether Norman is coming back to the job of vice chief or how long Lloyd will be handling both positions.
But military insiders say the VCDS job is one of the toughest in the Canadian Forces and that having one officer doing two key jobs, can only go on for so long. The military should either prepare for Norman to return to the position or name an officer as his permanent replacement, they say.
Vance’s spokesman, Lt.Col. Jason Proulx, noted in an email to the Ottawa Citizen that Lloyd “has the full confidence of the CDS to carry out both these duties for as long as is required.”
“If circumstances warrant a permanent replacement to the VCDS position, the decision will reside with the CDS,” Proulx added.
Defence analyst Martin Shadwick said the vice chief’s job is not only central to the smooth running of the military but extremely timeconsuming. At the same time he does that job, Lloyd is running a navy that faces significant challenges when it comes to having enough ships and personnel available for its missions.
Norman’s removal also came at a time when the military is in the midst of a major review on how to prepare for the future as well as trying to deal with a new global strategic scene heralded by the arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump.
“With everything that is going on, they can’t doublehat those two jobs for too long,” said Shadwick, who teaches strategic studies at York University in Toronto. “It’s just too much work for one person.”
At Norman’s VCDS swearing in ceremony, Vance talked about the importance of the position. “In other words, he does much, if not most of the heavy lifting that keeps defence running,” Vance said.
Vance noted the significance and value of the VCDS position was “immeasurable” and pointed out the job involves the vice-chief often acting on his behalf.
The VCDS is accountable to both Vance and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.
Conservative defence critic James Bezan said he finds it unbelievable that Canadians are still in the dark about Norman’s removal. In similar situations in the U.S., there have been explanations from both the government and military about the removal of a senior officer, he noted.
“I would think the military themselves have to find someone to fill in for Admiral Lloyd unless they figure Norman’s removal will only be short-lived,” Bezan said. “And if that is the case then why aren’t they telling us?”
The level of secrecy around Norman’s departure also doesn’t sit well with some of his supporters, who point out the lack of information has allowed theories about why he was removed to spiral out of control.
Sajjan stated last week the issue has nothing to do with national security but offered no other details.
Sources have said Norman’s removal is linked to the alleged leak of information on the government’s shipbuilding program. But the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces will not confirm that claim. Norman, who had earlier served as head of the navy, has not commented.
Military police spokesman Lt. (Navy) Blake Patterson said no investigation is or has been carried out involving Norman or his activities.
The RCMP will not say whether Norman is the subject of an investigation, pointing out it does not confirm who is or isn’t the subject of its inquiries.
Sajjan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau say they support Vance in his decision to remove Norman, but offered no further details.
Industry representatives say the removal of Norman has only contributed to their worries about the government’s shipbuilding program.
Bezan said he is concerned about how the theories about Norman’s removal might affect the shipbuilding plan.
WITH EVERYTHING THAT IS GOING ON, THEY CAN’T DOUBLE-HAT THOSE TWO JOBS FOR TOO LONG.
Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd is now leading the Royal Canadian Navy and acting as vice-chief of the defence staff. Military insiders say one person doing both key jobs can only go on for so long.