Friday, 10 August 2012


According the Department of National Defence’s website, including senior naval officers, Canada has one hundred and two Generals.

 According to that same website the Canadian armed forces consists of 70,000 regulars and 30,000 reserves. In other words Canada maintains more then one general (or admiral) for every 1000 members.

Surely this must be the best managed military force in Canadian History!

In C.P. Stacey’s official history of the Canadian Army in World War 2 he reports that “Its peak strength at a given time was 495,804, reached on. 22 March 1944. The Reserve Army, the part-time force equivalent to the pre-war Non-Permanent Active Militia, numbered 82,163 all ranks at 30 April 1945” A total for the Army alone of 577,967 personal.

The senior officers necessary to command this force at its height, again according to Stacey, consisted of one general, four lieutenant-generals and thirteen major-generals.

In 2012 Canadian Army strength was 19,500 in the regular forces and 16,000 reserves for a total of 35,500 personal. To command this force it has been found necessary to employ one general, five lieutenant-generals and thirteen major-generals

Essential it would appear that we have the same command structure today as we had in 1945 when our army was more then sixteen times larger.

The World War 2 numbers give a ratio of one senior officer to every 32,109 members of the army. Using the same calculation we can see that we now have a senior officer for every 1,868 soldiers.

In fact it could be argued that we have more generals then infantry companies in our army. In theory every frigate, destroyer, and submarine in Canadian service could be commanded by a flag officer. As much fun as that would be, and no doubt it would impress our allies no end, it might give the R.C.N. a faintly Gilbert and Sullivan quality.

Generals don’t come cheap. The average cost of a Brigadier-General is $163,260 a year, a Major-General is $195,738 a year and a Lieutenant-General runs us about $240,781 a year. Altogether that’s $18,108,898 per year it’s costing us for Generals.

That may not seem like a lot in the context of a 20 billion dollar plus budget, but consider the savings if every officer in every position was one grade lower. At that point it starts be a serious money saver.

But it’s more then just money. If every officer can hold out the hope of becoming a general as long as he can continue breathing while not getting caught making any serious mistakes it does not make for an elite force. While I can vouch for the fact that not getting caught making serious mistakes calls for a certain degree of energy, it does not necessarily build character. Most would agree that a good officer, and a good General, must have the capacity for initiative and daring. These are not qualities to be found in a system that rewards longevity and passivity. If we had half as many generals, and took care to pick them carefully, we would have a much higher quality senior officer corps.

How did we get to the one hundred and two General Armed Forces? Mainly I think through inattention on the part of the politicians. Few of our elected officials have any experience of, or even knowledge of, the Armed Forces. They have left it to the Generals to decide how many Generals are necessary. Needless to say, if you are a General yourself then it may seem obvious to you that the more Generals the better. It’s not true. We don’t need quantity, we need quality.

Ranks;             Royal Canadian Navy        Canadian Army / Royal Canadian Air Force

General Officers
& Flag Officers;    Admiral (Adm)                      General(Gen)                              1
                             Vice-Admiral (VAdm)         Lieutenant-General (LGen)         7
                             Rear-Admiral (RAdm)    8      Major-General(MGen)               18
                             Commodore (Cmdre)    10      Brigadier-General (BGen)         55

                             Total Flag Officers       21     Total General Officers                 81

Grand Total Senior Officers – 102