Solutions Needed Now

By Ted Barnes, 17 March 2024

It was recently noted in the media that the CAF is in a death spiral. While I don’t share that exact sediment there is neglect by the government that we need to collectively solve quickly. It’s really telling when the public even agrees that the CAF needs to be funded more. I won’t comment too much on other elements as I could fill pages of issues, but the RCN is quickly shrinking to a point where it is currently impossible to crew new platforms completely and grow our ranks.

Recruitment, retention, aging platforms and infrastructure and a whole duffle bag of other issues not to mention ongoing cutbacks by the government has led us to this point where the RCN is struggling to be relevant despite a war by proxy in the Ukraine that could very well turn global at any time. Promises of 2% GDP spending and a promise to reduce operations to reconstitute the CAF went unfulfilled and our allies are wondering what we are waiting for. Perhaps it’s time to rethink how we do business and structure the CAF around things we can do and be useful until we can rebuild our fleet and fleet support.

First up buy five AOR’s such as the Tide Class. They can be built relatively cheaply and quickly offshore and staffed by federal government workers with a small contingent of RCN personnel onboard. At least three or more can support, on a continuous basis, our allies logistically and would go a long way to paying back our allies for years of, frankly, freeloading. The others in conjunction with our two JSS would support future CSC task groups and NATO operations. In a few years when the JSS become operational, crew them with civilian personnel under the existing fleet auxiliary and a small naval contingent. If we don’t do this, then sailors will have to come from somewhere and place unacceptable pressure on those we have left. Get rid of Asterix as it’s too expensive to keep unless the government wants to purchase it. Sever our relationship with Federal Fleet and operate it as a humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HADR) ship and not associated with the RCN. As it stands, we simply don’t have the personnel to crew support units without reallocating personnel from other areas that may be vital.

Tie up four Kingston Class and place into extended readiness. Currently we have several Kingston Class on the West Coast that don’t have enough crew. Reallocate these personnel to AOPS and that will take up the shortfall from the Kingston Class tasks temporarily. Fund the Naval Reserve to crew the tied-up Kingston Class and get those sailors back to sea and use these units for training an expanded naval experience program.

Tie up the four worst Halifax Class into extended readiness and reallocate personnel and resources to revamped schools and recruiting. Create an allowance for personnel posted to recruiting and the schools, which is always an issue to get personnel to go.

Invest money into new schools, training aids and start recruiting directly by the RCN for the RCN. Increase benefits that include guaranteed accommodations after a posting regardless of relationship status and dependents, low mortgage rate loans and guaranteed access to a family doctor for dependents. Look into the ability to allow regular force personnel to take their pension after 25 years and continue to work as a regular force member.

Invest money into new facilities in Halifax and Esquimalt and get rid of the asbestos, mold-filled ‘historical’ buildings. Recondition the jetties in Halifax and Esquimalt including the cranes and invest in dry docking facilities that can take future fleet platforms. Increase the size of magazine facilities to be able to store and maintain the expected increase in missiles and ammunition for future fleet.

Kingston Class replacement will have to wait at least until they can be properly funded along with the Victoria Class replacement. CSC as originally intended with the focus of recruiting and training personnel to crew them.

Invest in government-owned facilities that can produce NATO-standard small arms ammunition, 155mm, 57mm, 25mm, 30mm, 5” to create stockpiles for Canada and be able to scale up quickly to supply our allies in time of crisis. The fact that we can only produce the training variant of the 155mm in quantities of 5000 rounds per month is on the verge of being criminal when in the Ukraine, forces are using 10000 shells a day.

These are just some RCN solutions but would also apply to the CAF overall. More than anything, additional funding would be required and a possible temporary drawback on operations for several years to reconstitute the RCN and come back stronger. Everything easily achievable with the right leadership and the loosening of purse strings.


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