Un­ease mounts over un­filled de­fence po­si­tion

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - CANADA - DAVID PUGLIESE

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.



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.

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