Opportunity Lost

David Pugliese is reporting in the Ottawa Citizen, “Head of the Royal Canadian Navy says he has enough ships,” that Admiral Maddison said “he is happy with the number of ships the service operates and he doesn’t need any more.” This is a staggeringly uninspired statement by the institutional leader of the navy before a political body (Senate committee on defence) that is designed to ask exactly these kinds of questions about the security needs of the country.

I don’t make this assertion based only on personal opinion. For two recent maritime security research projects at the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, Marines: Is an amphibious Capability relevant for Canada? and The Global Navy/Coast Guard Relationship: A Mandate-Based Typology (available on request from CFPS), we conducted a survey of the world’s naval and coast guard forces and compared them with each other and with their sister armed services. We came up with 81 countries with maritime security forces that include marines or amphibious capabilities of some kind and 72 countries with a coast guard of some sort (of the 150 countries with a coast line). Using the global averages per population, if Canada aspired to only be an average nation, this would require a significant expansion of both the armed forces and the navy. (Being a sparsely populated country with a high GDP, average numbers calculated on area or GDP produce even higher force estimates.) How it would affect the coast guard would depend on what organizational model one chooses for its structure. The data for the studies was extracted from two standard references: The Military Balance 2007 and Jane’s Fighting Ships, 2006-2007. (Percentage increases are provided for extrapolation to current numbers.)

For Canada:

  • the regular component of the armed forces would increase to 97,162 (from 62,500, +55.4%);
  • the reserve component would increase to 359,813 (from 37,300, +864.6%);
  • the navy would increase to 10,903 (from 8,900, +22.5%); and
  • the naval reserve would increase to 9,619 (from 4,200, +129%).

The inclusion of some kind of an average marine/amphibious capability would result in:

  • A regular force of 2,322 marines (included in the naval regular total); and
  • A reserve force of 2,048 marines (included in the naval reserve total).

Removing the enormous marine force structure of the USMC chops these global marine averages almost in half. For Commonwealth countries only, the average marine regular force is 1,319 people. Removing the Royal Marines from the sample drops the average marine force to 436. Marine force reserves are almost uniquely particular to the United States. So, the number varies with the data pool chosen.

The average marine force is organized into two units, which ‘fits’ very well with the Canadian organizational (east-west) construct. It is supported by one landing ship and 15 landing craft.

For the coast guard, there are three organization types: the civilian model; the paramilitary model, and the military model. The Global Navy/Coast Guard Relationship found that, on average, the civilian model is 27.2% of the manpower strength of the regular force naval strength, the paramilitary model comes in at 20.9% of naval strength, and the military model runs to 12.2%. So, for the Canadian Coast Guard, this would result in average ‘regular’ strengths of 2,965 people, (civilian model), 2,279 people (paramilitary model) or 1,221 people (military model). However, in Canada the unique organizational history and responsibilities of the CCG has resulted in a personnel ratio with the Canadian navy of .842/1. Using the 2007 data, this ratio would result in a personnel component of 9,180 people (which is very close to its current strength).

These numbers indicate that even a move by Canada to achieve ‘average’ maritime defence and security capabilities would entail significant changes to the RCN and the CCG. The inclusion of an amphibious capability would enable a wide range of military, constabulary and diplomatic operations that are not currently possible. Beyond these changes, the navy could be looking toward more engineering, logistical, educational, medical and scientific capabilities to provide the intellectual and physical ‘sinews’ that would make it an agile and responsive force. So, why the contentment by the admiral to defend the status quo?

With the recent announcement of the NSPS, the navy is quite content with its perceived ‘gains’. In the current budgetary climate in Ottawa, I could well imagine that the consensus opinion is to ‘keep out of sight’ and not present any target for the budgetary ‘knife’ to carve away. The main problem, of course, is the submarine issue, which simply does not go away. While I can understand the ‘fear factor’ in the current economic climate, the lack of a corporate strategic vision is not good for any organization. It seems the navy is both content and ambitionless.