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Search for Canada’s next top commander narrowed to four men
OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Mar. 03 2015, 4:10 PM EST
Last updated Tuesday, Mar. 03 2015, 4:14 PM EST
Canada’s senior military commander will be stepping down in a matter of months and a search for his replacement has been narrowed to four men, sources say.
As The Globe first reported Tuesday, General Tom Lawson is leaving after one term as chief of the defence staff and a hunt is under way for his successor.
The government has compiled a short list of general and flag officers to replace Gen. Lawson and it includes:
Lieutenant-General John Vance, commander of Joint Operations Command; Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, commander of the Royal Canadian Navy; Lieutenant-General Mike Day, deputy commander Allied Joint Force Command Naples; and Marquis Hainse, commander of the Canadian Army.
Gen. Lawson declined comment Tuesday on when he might depart. “The [chief of the defence staff] is travelling ... and won’t be available for interviews,” Lieutenant-Colonel Daryl Morrell said.
Defence Minister Jason Kenney’s office said it will announce Gen. Lawson’s successor when he decides to leave.
“General Tom Lawson continues to serve the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces and we continue to have full confidence in him. When he chooses to move on, a successor will be announced,” Lauren Armstrong, spokeswoman for Mr. Kenney ,said.
Gen. Lawson’s term technically extends to the fall but he could be gone by this summer, sources say.
This changing of the guard comes at a critical time for the Canadian Armed Forces, which are grappling with a budget squeeze, difficulties buying new equipment and the challenge of managing a peacetime army that, aside from a detachment of special forces troops in Iraq, is largely out of the fight.
Gen. Lawson, a former CF-104 Starfighter pilot, turns 58 this year.
His tenure began in October, 2012.
He’s presided over a military struggling with cutbacks and recruiting while mounting an aerial combat mission in Iraq as well as air and sea deployments to help the NATO alliance counter Russian aggression in eastern Europe.
Whoever takes over from Gen. Lawson will have his or her hands full. The military faces pressing needs to re-equip its aging forces including fighter jets, supply ships and search and rescue planes, but has been unable to purchase what it needs in a timely fashion.
Last year, the Canadian Armed Forces faced allegations of sexual abuse in the ranks, documented by media investigations, and Gen. Lawson responded by launching an independent review. That review, led by former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps, is expected to report this spring.
The Forces must also confront internal morale problems including lingering concern after controversies over the treatment of veterans and mentally ill Forces members that Canada is not adequately providing for those injured mentally or physically by the job. The government said it’s worked to rectify things in recent years.
Among the managerial headaches for the Forces today is money after the federal government cut into its appropriations to help balance the budget.
“They have significantly less [money] than they were supposed to, or they had even a few years ago,” David Perry, senior analyst with the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, said.
He says this has reduced the army’s training and the flying hours available for air force personnel.