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Canada military making mess of recruitment-report

Written by: Staff
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OTTAWA, May 16 (Reuters) Canada's military is doing such a poor job of recruiting and retaining new members that the Conservative government will have serious problems meeting its promise to significantly boost the armed forces, an official probe indicated today.

The findings by Auditor-General Sheila Fraser underscore the challenges that face the Conservatives, who plan to extend the country's 2,300-troop mission to Afghanistan by two years to 2009 and are under domestic pressure to send soldiers to the Darfur region of Sudan.

Last year, the former Liberal government said it would expand the armed forces by 5,000 soldiers to 67,000 over five years. The Liberals lost the Jan. 23 election to the Conservatives, who vowed to boost the total to 75,000.

This compares with the US, which has about 1.8 million active service personnel.

Fraser -- who first raised the alarm about Canada's recruitment problems in 2002 -- said the defense ministry hasn't made enough progress since then.

''The recruiting and attrition problems that remain are jeopardizing the success of the Canadian Forces' planned expansion,'' she wrote.

''Faced with a changing Canadian demographic profile, a low interest among Canadian youth in joining the military, and increasing military operational demands, the current recruiting system is not supporting the needs of the Canadian Forces.'' The armed forces recruited a total of 20,000 people from 2002 to 2005 but the attrition rate was such that it only increased its overall trained effective strength by 700 during the period.

''The navy, army and air force ... are experiencing uneven, persistent shortages in almost half their 69 specific occupations,'' wrote Fraser, saying the increased age of the armed forces meant the attrition rate would increase.

Fraser said the armed forces were not trying hard enough to recruit from minorities or Canada's aboriginal population.

The costs of attrition aren't small, with about 35 per cent of army combat engineers leaving by the end of the fourth year of training, at a total expense of about C0,000 (0,000) per soldier.

And more than 70 percent of military physicians quit within 10 years of joining the forces, during which time the defense ministry had subsidized five years' of their education.

REUTERS SK PM0234

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