The new naval image – a question of substance or style?

The Canadian navy is seeking a new image.  The navy has launched a public relations ‘blitz’ in conjunction with its 100-year celebrations.  The Chief of Maritime Staff, Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden, admitted frankly that “We (the navy) need to do a better job of explaining our purpose.”  The object of the exercise is primarily aimed at attracting more recruits to the naval lifestyle.  The problem is that there may be more of an issue here than just public awareness or personnel shortages.

David Pugliese has written that the navy has problems with public relations.  In the current issue of Canadian Naval Review (Fall 2009) Stan Week writes “a ‘conversation with the country’ can be a useful part of the strategy development process, but … it would be better to defer that conversation until the Canadian Navy has developed a draft of what the new maritime strategy should say.”  In Spring 2009 issue of CNR, an editorial by Dan Middlemiss and an article by Sharon Hobson both lamented the navy’s lack of “a clear language and a coherent, clear and simple public message.”  What is the problem?

With an unpopular land war in progress overseas, there would be ample ground for an alternate view of the military dimension to national security.   Editorials that question the rationale for interventions are cropping up more and more frequently.  Will Canada become ‘gun shy’ as a result?  If so, what does that mean for the future?  More specifically, what will it mean for the future of the navy?

The naval leadership holds to the argument that it should be renewed in its current destroyer-frigate-submarine format.  Is this the best force structure for the future needs of the country?  Are there other force structure models and other naval organizations that would fit Canada better in the new security environment?  In the interests of beginning a ‘conversation with the country’, Broadsides will launch a series of commentaries in an effort to propose some answers to these questions.