The issue of what capabilities Canada’s navy should have must be based upon what Canadians and their government will call upon the navy to do. Based on our history and a world undergoing huge technological and sociological change, I foresee a navy with flexibility as a key requirement.

We must remember that the events that led to the Naval Service Act of 1910 and the establishment of the Royal Canadian Navy were based upon the fact that Canada felt its sovereignty was physically threatened and was not convinced that contributing to an Imperial navy provided adequate local security.

I would suggest that today and going forward, no other navy can or will protect Canadian sovereignty in the interests of Canada.

As a three-ocean country, Canada needs the correct presence and ability to persistently operate in, on and over all three oceans that surround us in more than a token manner. Further, globalization and major sociological change are realities. Non-state actors have far too easy access to weapons of mass destruction and regional flashpoints abound. State-on-state and asymmetric threats will continue to be evolving but persistent concerns. All of this points to a need for sufficient capability and capacity.

Successive governments have extensively used Canada’s navy since the First World War, from the Adriatic to the Indian Ocean, to East Timor, to Haiti and everywhere in between, in a broad range of roles from combat to humanitarian assistance. Successive governments will continue to desire this range of flexibility. Thus, we must not only be able to look after ourselves, we must also bring added value, including interoperability.

Previous missions have taught many lessons, most of them positive. But as we learned in the first Gulf War, without the right equipment and technical capabilities all we can do is play a niche role. That changed with the fleet of the 1990s, but we are again in danger of slipping into oblivion.

In brief, there are expectations that Canada has a responsibility to participate through the range of diplomatic, economic, institution building and military capabilities.

Our future capabilities
Canadians want their navy to deal with domestic security issues on a no fail basis and thus the following are capabilities that Canada needs:
· The correct focus on persistent surveillance and control of all maritime approaches;
· The right capability mix including appropriate wide area surveillance, appropriate control and sustainment capabilities above, on and below the seas; and
· Some level of maritime special forces.

I also believe that Canadians want a level of international participation and they want to be proud of what Canada does on the world stage. Therefore, I would suggest these additional capabilities:
· A fleet size and mix balanced to meet what governments expect in leadership, size and sustainment;
· For combatants, maximize common hull/main/auxiliary machinery arrangements;
· The right mix of sensor/weapons, though not necessarily all in all hulls;
· Open architecture and command and control plug/play capability;
· Maximization of interoperability with allies;
· Sufficient readiness to rapidly deploy;
· An ability to sustain operations far from Canada; and
· An ability to quickly lift equipment for major deployments under Canadian government control without need for port infrastructure.

Above all, I believe Canada’s navy needs an efficient and effective procurement process to deliver to the men and women of the navy the modern ships that they require to do what the government asks of them.

The July 14 announcement by the government to restart the Joint Support Ship (JSS) procurement is good news but leaves many questions. It remains to be seen whether another two plus years will produce a ship design that will eventually enter service. It is also likely that the two ships (third as an option) will mean relatively large periods of time (20-30%) when no JSS will be available for government or CF tasking.

The JSS, first approved in 2004, is already six years in the making with a minimum of another five before steel is cut. This suggests an in-service date at the earliest of 2017.

Canada needs to do much better in replacing its core warship fleet.

Vice-Admiral (Ret’d) Ron Buck is a former Chief of the Maritime Staff and Vice Chief of the Defence Staff. Since 2007, he has provided senior mentorship support to the Canadian Forces College and worked with several major firms.