Debating Defence and Naval Policy (XVII)

David Perry: While that side debate was going on, Eric Lerhe sent off a letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen following up on David Pugiliese's article on arctic security:

“David Pugiliese's recent article is accurate in its assessment that the Canada First Defence Strategy is sending mixed signals about the arctic. Yet that document did get some things right by killing the idea of "heavy naval icebreakers." This proposal was awfully close to trying to improve highway security by having the police drive the snowplows. It looks very impressive but achieves nothing. Its also expensive, puts the wrong people in the wrong job and shifts attention from the fact that what one really needs are more snowplows and more police cars.”

“The navy no longer has any expertise in icebreaking (it stopped doing this 50 years ago); and never had any in maintaining navigational aids, chart making, vessel safety inspections, or vessel traffic management. The Canadian Coast Guard, on the other hand, has no experience in wide area underwater, surface and air surveillance and in building and manning ships that give and take battle damage. Efforts to transfer these tasks back and forth or worse, combine them in one ship, or have the navy man the guns on coast guard ships will be expensive, ineffective and largely designed to avoid spending money on the large number of vessels that are actually needed.”

“Thus the recent defence plan to purchase six naval arctic patrol vessels is very much welcome as long as they are delivered promptly. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change findings suggests this kind of preparation is long overdue in Canada. In addition the navy will have to be closely monitored for its tendency to gold plate. Their model should be the well armed, ice-capable Norwegian Svalbard or Danish Thetis arctic patrol vessels. They should not attempt to mimic our billion dollar frigates.”