A Commentary on “Rough Seas Ahead” by Andrea Gunn

The Thursday, October 22, 2015, issue of the ChronicleHerald (Metro Edition) carried an article by Andrea Gunn (Ottawa Bureau) entitled "Rough Seas Ahead" (p.1) that has caused some confusion about my contributions to it.

I wish to correct one key issue. The Report on Transformation 2011, does not, in fact, say that the Fleet Maintenance Facilities in Halifax and Esquimalt should be closed, although it does say that they should be transferred from the navy’s control. This information about their fate comes from an interview that then-General Andrew Leslie gave during an interview on the CBC Radio program “The House” in January after the report was issued. During the interview, Leslie specifically identified second- and third-line “heavy maintenance on ships and aircraft” as targets that should be cut. He expressed his view quite clearly that these types of industrial capacities should not reside within the defence portfolio and more properly belong in private industry.

I provided Ms. Gunn with this information, which has previously been published on “Broadsides” the on-line discussion forum of Canadian Naval Review in the form of an article entitled “The Dire Threat of the Leslie Report to the Navy.” Ms. Gunn chose to amalgamate these two elements of information from separate sources. As a result, my comments about the closure of the FMFs was incorrectly attributed to the report and not to Andrew Leslie’s subsequent interview on CBC radio. This is a mistake.

As I said in the forum post, “The army does not operate the type of heavy repair and maintenance organizations that the navy does for fleet readiness. Therefore, since the navy (and to a lesser extent the air force) do not ‘conform’ to the normative pattern, [Leslie believes] the ‘oddities’ of the naval and air services should be cut so that all three services are structured and operate in the same way.”

Once out of the navy’s control, and with only a proportionately small voice in the committees that make major decisions in the national headquarters, the Fleet Maintenance Facilities would be obvious and easy targets for the endless budget reduction process. This would be a mistake of strategic proportions.

I have sent a comment by email to the Editor of the newspaper and anticipate some form of a correction soon.