Ready, Relevant and Responsive
BY VICE-Adm DREW ROBERTSON
© 2008 FrontLine Defence (Vol 5, No 3)

As our proud institution prepares for the extensive centennial activities that will take place across the country in 2010, I welcome the opportunity to share with FrontLine readers a series of informative and engaging articles and perspectives on the challenges faced at home and abroad in this special edition focused on the Canadian Navy.

We live in an age of unprecedented complexity, unfolding towards an inherently unpredictable future in which strategic shock and surprise undoubtedly await us. Nonetheless, two facts are undisputedly clear. First, the security of the world’s oceans is vital to global prosperity. Second, maritime power is increasingly relevant as an instrument of national influence and power in an interdependent, but troubled world.

Although even Canadians seldom pause to consider it, ours is a maritime nation. Canada is among the world’s foremost coastal states, with a maritime domain today – in its three ocean approaches – equal to two thirds of its immense landmass.
 
The Canadian Navy’s first priority is to defend the nation. To this end, we are working with other federal agencies, as well as with the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, to develop a more comprehensive approach to defence and security in the maritime approaches to the continent.

The requirement to defend Canada extends well beyond our own shores. Canada continues to deploy major combatants on sustained operations abroad to interdict those who would use the sea for unlawful purposes – whether motivated by terror, insurgency or piracy – and to defend Canada’s broader policy interests.

A navy’s diplomatic and constabulary utility derives ultimately from its ability to fight. In today’s integrated battlespace, this requires a capacity to control events at sea and to influence those ashore across the spectrum of conflict, in concert with Canadian and allied land, air and special forces.

In tactical terms, our maritime forces must be capable of prevailing decisively not only in the deep ocean but also in the world’s littorals, which may be contested by a range of conventional and asymmetric undersea, surface and air threats operating at sea and from the land. From mines to missiles to submarines, these range from the simple to the highly sophisticated, many of which have proliferated far more extensively than was foreseen just a few years ago.

Accordingly, the future navy must remain broadly balanced in meeting its enduring domestic, continental and international commitments, structured to ­permit ongoing forward deployments while retaining the capacity to deploy and sustain robust maritime task groups as an immediate operational response to emerging contingencies.

In this regard, we will build more ­versatility into our platforms and enable the progressive insertion of technologies into the fleet, supported by fleet experimentation and technology demonstration. More fundamentally, however, our agility remains wedded to fleet competency, delivered by our sailors.

In closing, I am mindful that our future success as a fighting service will continue to reside in being able to attract people who retain a sense of duty and commitment to their country, in the quality of their leaders, in policies that permit them to realize their full potential and attend to their well being, and in remunerating them fairly for all that we demand of them. In short, the men and women of Canada’s Navy will remain at the centre of everything that we are able to accomplish.
 
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Ready-Aye-Ready,
Vice-Admiral Drew Robertson,
CMM, MSM, CD,
Chief of the Maritime Staff
© Frontline Defence 2008

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