12 June 2009

How the mighty have fallen

From David Pugliese, the collapse of the once fine public affairs operation at National Defence:

It’s generally recognized that from 1998 to 2005, the public affairs branch at NDHQ was among the best  in the federal government. There were of course glitches, internal battles, tensions between journalists and public affairs officers and the occasional screw-up (a brief “gag” type order in 2001 that was quickly corrected) but overall the PR system was generally seen to be quite effective by those at NDHQ and many of those journalists who used it.

At the heart of that system was the philosophy that both civilian managers and military personnel --whether they be in charge of equipment programs, policy, or human resources, or whatever - were the best spokespeople to explain things to the news media.

Your humble e-scribbler was a lowly cog in that machine from 1994 to 200 as a reserve public affairs officer. Pugliese’s praise is high indeed and those who worked during that period recognised all the elements he notes. it was something public affairs officers could be proud of and the people who implemented the system has a commitment, as Pugliese notes, to “openness and transparency.”

Not so any more.

How did this happen? Some say that “risk adverse” bureaucrats are firmly in control  while others blame senior military officers for standing impotently on the sidelines and allowing this to happen. The Conservative government, with its information-control agenda, also gets its share of the blame, according to NDHQ insiders.

I continue to watch from the outside with interest.

Some of us watch from the outside with a profound sense of loss and disappointment.  Let’s not even talk about the empathy for the poor benighted professionals forced to work inside such a stupid system.