Thank you very much.
Good afternoon, and thank you, Mr. Chair, for inviting me to speak with you and members of the committee about the Auditor General's sixth report on the Royal Military College of Canada.
I'm pleased to have the Commander of the Canadian Defence Academy, Rear-Admiral Luc Cassivi, with me today.
Admiral Cassivi is himself a graduate of Collège militaire royal.
The Canadian Defence Academy is the headquarters responsible for ensuring coherent and integrated professional military education for the Canadian Armed Forces. This includes overseeing not only RMC, but CMR Saint-Jean, the Canadian Forces College, and the Chief Warrant Officer Osside Profession of Arms Institute for non-commissioned member professional military education.
Rear-Admiral Cassivi reports directly to the chief of the defence staff. I have every confidence he will implement the changes necessary to ensure that RMC generates the best possible Canadian Armed Forces officers in the best possible way.
On that note, let me start by thanking the Auditor General for the work undertaken by his office in completing this report.
We appreciate his efforts to identify ways RMC could be further improved.
We agree with all six of his recommendations and have a plan to implement every single one.
We are also engaging the officer cadets themselves on this important conversation about the college.
Every year for the last five years, the graduating class has provided valuable feedback through a survey on their RMC experience. We take their feedback seriously and will continue to act on it as needed.
The Royal Military College of Canada, which is Canada's only military university, is a unique institution dedicated to maintaining and transmitting the profession of arms. Its mission is to produce officers with the ethical, mental, physical, and linguistic capabilities to lead with distinction in the Canadian Armed Forces. As a military unit characterized by military rules, regulations, and routines, RMC develops officer cadets qualities of military leadership and trains them to lead subordinates, plan operations, and enforce regulations.
During the summer, officer cadets do on-the-job training or military training off-campus in areas such as logistics and infantry.
It instills officer cadets with the military culture and ethos that are the foundation of the profession of arms.
As a degree-granting university, RMC ensures that officer cadets enter the Canadian Armed Forces with the educational grounding to be effective in an environment where intellectual demands continue to rise. It has a proven history of excellence. Canadian military heroes, like Billy Bishop and Leonard Birchall, have graduated from RMC. So too have astronauts like Marc Garneau and Chris Hadfield Olympic athletes like Sharon Donnelly, and businessmen like Hartland Molson, to name a few.
I'm confident that in years to come, RMC will continue to foster and develop exceptional leaders for our Canadian Armed Forces and for our country.
But I also recognize that changes are necessary. These changes will ensure the university can continue to meet the needs of its students of the Canadian Armed Forces, and the government and people of Canada.
Even before the Auditor General's audit, work was under way to assess how we could continue to improve aspects of RMC. General Vance ordered a special staff assistance visit to RMC in August 2016. Seventy-nine recommendations stemmed from that report when it was made public in March of last year.
General Vance committed to implementing all of them and added 11 related items for a total of 90 recommendations. In fact, several of the Auditor General's recommendations echo these findings. I am pleased to say that we've made progress on implementing them.
However, the Auditor General has helped us identify other challenges, and we welcome his perspective.
As the Auditor General has noted, many of our planned actions involve additional study. This is because the audit findings raise some key questions that we need to address to ensure that RMC produces high-quality officer cadets at a reasonable cost. What exactly do we expect from RMC and its graduates? How should RMC be similar to other academic institutions? More importantly, how does it need to be different to accomplish what we expect? What is the appropriate cost for that difference? The studies we have planned will help us answer those questions and more effectively implement the Auditor General's recommendations.
The Auditor General recommended that we improve and integrate the military training that officer cadets at RMC receive. We're doing that. This is a recommendation that we also arrived at through the RMC SSAV report.
As a result, we are currently reviewing the full complement of military training activities that officer cadets participate in throughout the year, and for us that means both the academic year which the Auditor General studied and the summer training period. One of the things that make RMC unique is the fact its students conduct highly focused military training with the navy, army, or air force during summer months.
We consider that training to be an important part of the RMC experience, even though it doesn't happen at RMC.
As part of their academic study, all officer cadets study RMC's profession of arms core curriculum, which provides foundational military knowledge to prepare them for a career in the Canadian Armed Forces.
By undertaking this review, we will ensure that officer cadets' academic studies and military training are better integrated.
The Auditor General recommended that we explore ways to reduce RMC's operating cost per student. We're doing that. We are starting with a review of the cost per student, and we're reviewing the number of academic programs we offer at RMC.
Royal Military College prides itself on providing a rich and stimulating academic curriculum in both official languages that exposes officer cadets to diverse subjects, perspectives, and ideas, and it will continue to do so, perhaps though with a refined offering.
The Auditor General recommended that we make sure the high standards we expect of RMC's graduation class are, in fact, required, and that they result in better qualified officers at a reasonable cost. We're doing that.
We expect a lot from officers in the Canadian Armed Forces and it is our responsibility to make sure our officer cadets are trained to meet the high demands. We believe RMC's high standards help motivate officer cadets to become the best officers and citizens they can be, and we're looking closely at factors like retention and career progression to better understand how meeting those standards translates into career indicators for RMC graduates.
We are examening the cost of putting officer cadets through the regular officer training program and studying it against costs at comparable allied military institutions. So far, we are finding that RMC's costs are on par with, or less than, similar institutions in Australia and the US.
The Auditor General recommended that we more clearly define the role of the Commandant as the authority for the day-to-day business of the college and we are doing that. And per the SSAV Report we've already extended the length of the Commandant's command tour to three years. That will allow for longer term planning and ensure better continuity for each cohort of students.
We are also reviewing the academic governance framework.
We recognize that it is vital for leaders of RMC to clearly understand their roles and functions so that they can model effective and efficient leadership for officer cadets.
The Auditor General recommended that we revisit our criteria for appointing senior officer cadets to leadership positions, and we've done that. RMC exists to train military leaders, and one of the best ways for them to learn is by doing. This is why we view appointments to leadership positions as opportunities to develop. We also recognize the responsibility we have toward these young leaders and those in their charge. We have recently implemented a number of changes in the leadership appointment criteria.
As of January, officer cadet leaders are selected on merit using a clear list of criteria. They each are approved individually by the commandant, and every single one has a dedicated mentor from DND or the Canadian Armed Forces.
The Auditor General also recommended that military training staff should have the proper skills and training to help officer cadets develop their leadership skills. We agree, and we're doing that. Following a similar recommendation from the SSAV report, we have made sure that the military staff who are posted to RMC have the suitable rank and leadership experience to support the officer cadets. We are increasing staff orientation and training to ensure that they are well equipped for the tasks we require of them.
Since RMC was founded in 1874, it has evolved continuously to meet the changing needs of our women and men in uniform.
Today, Royal Military College is a university with a difference.
It trains some of our future officers absolutely, but it also provides professional development programs for our senior non-commissioned officers. It provides indigenous youth with one-year educational and leadership experience through the Aboriginal Leadership Opportunities Year. At the end of the year, these youth can choose to join the military, or they can return to their communities with new-found leadership skills. It is home to researchers who provide expert advice not only to DND, but to other government departments as well, in the areas of study like cyber, electronic warfare, and space. One of its unique assets is its SLOWPOKE-2 nuclear reactor, a research reactor that has been of benefit to Canada for over 30 years.
RMC is a national institution that trains leaders of tomorrow. We are committed to making sure it offers the best training possible but, we agree, at a reasonable cost. The Auditor General's report and our responses to his recommendations will position RMC to grow into the future as it has been doing for more than 140 years.
Thank you. We look forward to your questions.