Sweeping and comprehensive confirmation on conscription
The following was submitted by the Nine Colonels, a group of former Bermuda Regiment Commanding Officers, Lt Col Michael Darling, Lt Col CE Raynor, Lt Col Gavin Shorto, Lt Col Allan Rance, Lt Col Patrick Outerbridge, Lt Col David Gibbons, Lt Col William White, Lt Col Brian Gonsalves and Lt Col Brendan Hollis, responding to the Report of the National Security and Defence Committee
By the Nine Colonels
Bermuda's National Security and Defence Review Committee was not asked, in its terms of reference, to address the subject of whether or not to abolish conscription as a means of recruiting young Bermudians into the Bermuda Regiment.
However, it will be obvious to the careful reader of their report that if they had, they would have opted to keep conscription.
Towards the end of the segment that dealt with the Regiment, the Committee wrote: “…it must be noted that many of the challenges associated with the abolition of conscription raised by various stakeholders would be alleviated or eliminated by either the extended deferral of the abolition (ie longer than four years) or a complete reversal of the current position on conscription and its elimination.
“Maintaining the current Regiment model or a variant thereof, being mindful of the Committee's other recommendations, within which conscription remains a component as currently legislated, should nevertheless be considered as the most cost-effective and efficient way to deliver the security and safety services available to the Government as a whole.”
In the circumstances, there could be no clearer indication that the Committee believes abandoning conscription is a bad idea.
• The report confirms that Bermuda needs the Regiment.
• The report confirms that the Regiment represents the most cost-effective solution to the problems it is charged with tackling, in its given roles.
• The report confirms that trying to give the Regiment's roles either to other Government departments or to the private sector would increase the cost to the community considerably.
• The report confirms that help from the Regiment is written into the standard operating procedures of many other uniformed services and Government departments.
• The report confirms that international business feels that “any action that has the potential to compromise that security (provided by the Regiment), or indeed give the impression of compromising it, must be carefully considered.”
• The report confirms that the Regiment needs, to carry out its current roles, a minimum of 400 men and women.
• The report suggests the Regiment's roles should not be decreased, but rather expanded to assist in other areas.
• The report confirms that expecting more from the Regiment without increasing its budget will result in the reduction or elimination of many of its current programmes, including the Junior Leaders, the Band and Corps of Drums, the Gun Troop and the Regiment's involvement at ceremonial events.
We urge Bermudians to read this report carefully. It contains much vital information about the way forward for many of Bermuda's institutions.
It is a sober, intelligent look at Bermuda's security situation, which filters out the extreme and misguided rhetoric of some commentators.
Where the Regiment is concerned, it is a sweeping and comprehensive confirmation of what the Nine Colonels have been saying from the start — Bermuda cannot afford to gamble that relying entirely on volunteers to fill the ranks of the Regiment will succeed.
Attempts to change the nature of the Regiment to a smaller, full-time unit, or to a partly full-time, partly part-time Regiment will be impractical and prohibitively expensive.
We call on both political parties to rethink their commitment to ending conscription.
Not to do so would be careless and irresponsible in the context of 21st Century Bermuda.