An Admiral’s Take on the State of the RCN

By Dan Middlemiss, 23 August 2023

Former Vice-Admiral Mark Norman has provided another informed, yet disheartening, assessment of the current state of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). (Mark Norman, “Striking the Right Balance,” Canadian Defence Review, Vol. 29, No. 4, August 2023, p. 43.)

Looking briefly at each of the three pillars of readiness – equipment, people and training – Norman paints a fairly gloomy picture of the current combat-readiness of our navy. He puts the blame where it belongs, Canada’s elected leaders and their priorities.

A few excepts:

“The recent cabinet shuffle has clearly signaled, in my opinion, the relative insignificance of defence & security as a priority for this government.”

“The material state of the RCN is at best troubling, arguably near crisis.”

“The reality, however, is that there are insufficient personnel to effectively crew the fleet...”

“ is often an early victim to budget cuts as it is easily stopped yet the effects won’t normally materialize until long after implementation...”         

“Regrettably, I contend that the CAF is severely out of balance at the moment and no amount of cheer-leading or hollow policy proclamations is going to repair the underlying structural imbalances.”

I will not put words in the Admiral’s mouth, but clearly his message is that, somehow, Canadians need to be better informed about the true state of the Canadian Armed Forces, and of the RCN in particular, and they need to elect leaders who demonstrate a real intention to take defence matters more seriously. Alas, I do not see much evidence that such leaders-in-waiting exist at the moment. Neither the Conservatives nor the NDP have said much at all lately about how they might alter Canada’s foreign and defence policy priorities in future.


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