Naval Reservists in Domestic Security
© 2008 FrontLine Defence (Vol 5, No 3)

Canadian Maritime Domestic Security has progressed in many ways since the world security environment changed in 2001. Canadians are finally starting to focus a new alertness for maritime security towards the nation-building event that is the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. While there are a number of important maritime security venues in Canada, it is the realization that huge stakes – social, economic, political – are at play in an international event as enormous as the Winter Olympics. It will be of great interest to most Canadians that the Canadian Navy’s Reserve forces will be integrated into, and indeed prominent in, the planning and execution of support to law enforcement during the lead-up and actual execution of the Games (both Olympic and Para-Olympic). This sound utilization of a well-trained national resource is only the start of a promising future for the Canadian Naval Reserves in the coastal and port security arenas of our nation.

The Changed Battlespace
The post 9/11 era has seen the blurring of traditional functional divisions of government in reaction to modern threats, including organized crime and terrorism, emanating from a globalized world.

To deal with this new reality, western democracies are altering their structures towards an integrated “whole-of-govern­ment” approach. Militaries are cooperating more closely with law enforcement agencies that are in turn cooperating more closely with intelligence agencies under the rubric of national security. If one utilizes a Venn diagram to evoke an image of this change, two overlapping circles of Defence and Security would produce an intersection area in which the modern threat causes both defence machinery and security machinery to work together in a supported/supporting arrangement that can ultimately provide the desired security.

From a strategic perspective, a number of major global forces combine to form Canada’s national security environment, and hence its maritime security environment. On the economic front, Asia’s, and particularly China’s dramatic espousal of western trade practices, along with a dizzying production of merchant container vessels whose traffic volume increasingly surpasses North America’s more each year, is shifting the balance of world trade towards Asia as a major commerce node. Moreover, the envisioning of Canada as corridor – land, air, and eventually sea (via the Northwest Passage) – between the Asian and European trading hubs will set the stage for more and more of the outside world to interact with Canadian coastal ports, transportation systems, and intermodal nodes. This situation will also raise our competitive stature with our American trade partners.

The pursuit and gathering of energy resources around the globe by the world’s wealthy sets the dynamic for dangerous global vulnerabilities at maritime choke points, economic corridors, pipeline systems, and hub ports around the world. We must not forget that energy and its critical infrastructure are central strategic drivers in the global, and certainly Canadian, security environment in the post-9/11 era.

Finally, the Arctic, with its changing climatic conditions, its frictions over seabed resource ownership and legal rights of passage, as well as its need for stewardship or sovereignty protection, will continue to seize the government’s attention over the next decade. We need a strategic approach to the Arctic which inter-links all pillars of government in a series of dialogues with our northern neighbours and competitors for the Arctic’s vast opportunity. With initiatives to construct naval bases, training centres, and a small fleet of Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels, the Canadian Forces, and the Navy, will find itself deeply involved with this recurrent theme.

Canadian maritime domestic security is being affected by these strategic changes that are reshaping the international security environment. The Canadian Navy and allied navies find themselves firmly placed in the “overlap area” along with federal, provincial, and municipal police forces, intelligence services, coast guards, civilian port authorities, customs and immigration officials, transportation security regulators, and even private industry. Accordingly, the Canadian Naval Reserve also finds itself in that overlap, ready with special capabilities in port security, port intelligence analysis, mine countermeasures, sea-bottom mapping, and experienced command and control capability to participate in ongoing interdepartmental security efforts.

The Canadian Forces
To adapt to this changing post-9/11 era, the Canadian Forces have embarked on a period of transformation, equipment renewal, and re-manning – all as the ­priority mission in Afghanistan trudges ­forward. Transformation has produced four new operational commands that base their existence on a central vision of command centricity. In the midst of this departmental tectonic shift, the emergence of Canada Command has been both necessary and challenging. Canada Command has found that the issue of maritime domain awareness sits squarely in its commander’s lap, along with many other national and continental emergency management and security issues. As such, the Navy works closely with Canada Command to integrate into the new maritime domestic security effort.

At the same time, when not being seized with the security and reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, the CF regular forces are focused on future capability development which promises a number of major equipment procurements and mid-life refits. This important effort requires ­manpower and expertise to be channeled into Ottawa and NDHQ where such ­matters are best dealt with. The Navy is seriously preparing for this channeling and focusing effort.

However, the CF and the Navy find themselves in this complex situation, and  urgently needing many more people than they presently count in their parade states. While recruiting experts are pulling out the stops to rectify the situation, it will be a difficult task to meet the requirement in time to fill the need. Indeed, one could argue that the need manifests itself right now.

Enter the Naval Reserve
Across Canada there are naval reservists in operational units and Naval Reserve Divisions (NRDs) who have been undergoing a transformation of their own. In minor war vessels and tenders, at diving units, in Port Security Units, and in regional reserve units, the modern naval reservist has been training to become expert at important domestic security tasks such as ship-borne presence and domain awareness missions, search and rescue (SAR) support, defensive mine countermeasures, control of merchant shipping, gathering and analysis of open-source port traffic intelligence, support to law enforcement agencies in coastal waters, and command and control of port security in interdepartmental security ­operations. Their new-found strength comes from a focusing on the maritime security pillar of collaboration with other government departments towards specific capabilities that complement the overall domestic maritime security effort. They have been focused on an essential niche and are starting to exploit it – for the ­betterment of national security.

The result of this focus has been a subtle change in the employment of these assets by the Maritime Operations Group Commanders on the coasts. For years, the Naval Reserve has been utilized overwhelmingly to support the regular Navy in the fulfillment of force generation and training pursuits for both regular and reserve sailors. The new need to bolster domestic maritime security – originating from the 2004 National Security Policy, and flowing through Canada Command – has caused Fleet Commanders to schedule more operational activity along with, and in some cases concurrent with, training activity. The reserves find themselves pushing toward more operational taskings in support of OGDs (other government departments) and port authorities while they continue their important training tasks. This is a necessary development which will likely continue well into the future.

This will continue because the strategic future holds numerous large-scale national events and initiatives that will require a “whole-of-government” approach. The Vancouver Olympics serves as a catalyst for this drive – the post-9/11 era, with its altered security nexus, and the hiatus of full naval capability over the next several years will cause the Navy to employ the reserves more and more to support OGDs.

Ongoing initiatives on the east coast are bolstering maritime security of shipping lanes inbound to Halifax, the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes. On the west coast, the burgeoning of business directed towards Prince Rupert and Vancouver is a wise investment by Canada which will require the insurance of robust maritime security. And, finally, the possibilities of commerce and resource exploitation in the Arctic are driving a requirement for increased security that the current government has only begun to address.            
As with all corporate change, this invigoration of the Naval Reserve will come with difficult challenges. The most pressing in the current period is the serious shortage of naval personnel across the CF. The Navy will have to train both regular and reserve sailors to become quickly interchangeable in military occupations that suffer from the most acute shortages (marine engineers and technicians are among this beleaguered group). Moreover, naval forces networking with maritime-linked OGDs (such as the Coast Guard, CBSA, and the RCMP), sharing and coordinating in the employment of resources, and training as an ­integrated Canadian security entity, will assist in this challenging area.

At the same time, the Navy will have to maintain momentum for the sustainment of top-grade equipment and maritime security training for the Naval Reserve. The Vancouver Olympics and the more imminent 400th Anniversary celebrations in Quebec City have provided clear focal points for continuous improvement in reserve capability – this must continue after 2010 has passed. However, it is important for all to note that a balance between ­additional responsibilities and reasonable quality of life for volunteer reserve forces is extremely important, both for morale and for desirable results in attrition and recruitment.

Due to the youthful nature of the naval reserve, it will be critical for the CF to work with employers and universities/colleges to ensure reservists have flexible contracts so they can be available at planned event times so that when called for contingency operations that are part of our new era, they can respond without having to worry that their employment is terminated or their studies forfeit.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Navy will have to cement into their training requirements the mind-set to deal with the possible end-game of military and security operations – ensuring that young reservists are trained and disciplined to use deadly force appropriately to protect law enforcement lead agencies. The possibility of conflict from criminal or terrorist elements has to be accounted for, and rules of engagement, understanding of the rights of self defence, and the requirements of support to law enforcement must be ingrained in the reservists’ thinking process.

The Canadian Naval Reserves have an ­auspicious future ahead. They will be a prominent player in major security events which take place near water over the next decade; they will be a source of strength in support of the Operations Group Commanders in coastal and port security operations; and they will be a major tool for the naval leadership by contributing to the successful renewal of our Navy.

The time is right for solidifying the Naval Reserve’s position as a leader in Domestic Maritime Security for coastal and port security. In this way, they will fill a gap that exists in the whole of government approach to maritime security and fulfill their raison d’etre – supporting Canada’s Navy in this changed and new century.
Capt(N) Peter Avis is currently Commander of Maritime Operations Group Four in Esquimalt, British Columbia. He is the author of “National Security Approaches to Maritime Security in the Post 9/11 Era” available at the Dalhousie Centre for Foreign Policy Studies. This article represents his personal views and do not necessarily reflect those of DND/CF.
© Frontline Defence 2008