Your Canadian Navy – Celebrating the Centennial


At the end of June, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II helped the Canadian Navy reveal a new one-dollar circulation coin, immortalizing the centennial of the Canadian Navy—a moment that will not soon be forgotten.

The unveiling, which took place at a luncheon celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy, was just one of the hundreds of events that will take place this year to celebrate one of Canada’s most crucial organizations.

There are seven million one-dollar Canadian Navy Centennial commemorative coins circulating among the population, each one a reminder of the service that the Navy has provided to the country. The Canadian Navy is one of the most advanced naval forces in the world, and deserves accolades for its commitment to the protection of the Canadian population.
An unrivalled fleet

Canada has in its naval fleet 33 warships, submarines, and coastal defence vessels. These are divided between the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, and home ports are located in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Esquimalt, British Columbia. The home ports of the fleet  are supported by two formations, Maritime Forces Atlantic (MARLANT) and Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC), which manage all aspects of fleet maintenance, as well as human resources.

Naval ships are ready for deployment at any time, and as we learned from an in-depth discussion with Captain (Navy) Darren Hawco, this fleet can handle difficult missions nationally and internationally—in a uniquely Canadian response to an issue, or as part of a multi-national coalition. Capt(N) Hawco is the Director-General Maritime Strategic Management and has 21 years experience with Navy, starting back when the Cold War was still in full force. Capt(N) Hawco’s responsibilities include business and budget planning and high-level strategic governance. He has been in command of one of the Navy’s major warships, the HMCS Ottawa, a Halifax class frigate, and has been deployed abroad multiple times on counter-terrorism and peacekeeping operations.

George Media:
Can you explain how the Navy has grown its fleet in order to accommodate the increasingly difficult missions it has been involved in? How has it needed to adopt to address global issues?

Capt (N) Darren Hawco: In the 1960s through to the 1980s, the Canadian Forces and its Navy was deeply engaged within NATO, defending and participating in that alliance. In many ways, we were a single or a near single focus Navy, specializing in antisubmarine warfare (ASW).The Navy did participate in other missions, such as a deployment to Korea where HMC Ships conducted shore bombardment against high value targets (e.g. gunnery against important supply trains “train busting”),but we really were experts in one particular domain—antisubmarine warfare (ASW).

Then in the 1990’s, the Navy fleet began its process of renewal, first introducing modernized destroyers with an enhanced Command and Control capability and a very capable anti-air defence suite. We then delivered the Halifax-class of ships, transitioning the Navy  from ‘1960s steamers’ (warships that ran with a Y-100 boiler and steam plant for propulsion)  to a sophisticated and world class combined diesel and gas turbine design with a state-of-the-art radars, decoys, guns and missile suite that was in the Halifax-class.

In introducing this class of ship we went from a Navy that had a reputation for excellence in ASW to a Navy that had all that training and experience in ASW and  world-class ships to boot—this enabled the Navy to become a multi-purpose, combat-capable Navy able to do everything Canada needs us to do. When we look at the evolution of the Canadian Navy from two or three ships in the early part of the 20th century to the Navy we have today, we have evolved from constabulary support, to the protection of fisheries, to a protection of the sea lanes by escorting vessels, to a specialized submarine warfare Navy, to where we are now: a combat-capable, multi-purpose Navy that, tonne for tonne, is one of the best in the world.

When we look at the evolution over 100 years, the Navy has “grown up”. We’re a major player in almost every coalition or allied operation that the government sees the requirement for the Navy to participate in. We’re able to get ready and deploy on short notice—such as deploying to provide humanitarian relief to Haiti with just days notice. Forward deploying warships in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf, we were on the spot when the World Food Bank needed an escort to ensure  humanitarian supplies got to Somalia and while in the neighbourhood we were able to conduct counter-piracy operations. Over the past decade, the Navy has deployed warships over 25 times to the Persian Gulf for stability operations.

What about the personnel of the Navy? Can you tell us about the strength of your human resources, and what our Naval men and women are all about?

DH: Yes, of course. To start, the Navy has three main groups of human resources within it. Our Regular Force component has, in practical terms, approximately 8,500 Regular Force spots that need to be filled by Navy sailors. Currently, about 7,700 sailors fill those billets, so we are in the midst of an aggressive recruiting drive enabling us, to make sure we can compete favourably as an employer.

We want to bring people into the Navy, give them all the training they need, from the bottom up, and train them to be a contributing and viable shipmate.

GM: What are the other human resource components?

DH: Another constituent group we have is the Naval Reserve. We have 4,100 Naval Reservists who are generally identified by the employment contract that they are under at any given point in time. ‘Class A’ Naval Reservists are individuals who belong to one of the 24 Naval Reserve Divisions across Canada. In general, these are part time reservists who parade approximately weekly to conduct their training.   They will also conduct longer courses and train for periods over the summer. This is a great option for a university student as a means to supplement their income and earn money over the year without detracting from their studies.

‘Class B’ Naval Reservists represent a contract [employee], for example, someone who is working out of Halifax, or Esquimalt. These reservists could be on a two or three year contract and be employed in a Navy job or a non-specialist Navy job such as an orderly room clerk or instructor.

‘Class C’ Naval Reservists are also on defined contracts, however, there are notable provisions in their contracts to account for operational risk A Reservist under this form of contract which typically serves in an operational position, such as Afghanistan, or in a Kingston-class maritime coastal defence vessel, for example.
We also have a civilian defence team of over 5000 strong who are tremendous partners and enablers of the Navy. About half of the Maritime Command civil servants are employed in the Navy’s two maintenance facilities where they maintain the Navy’s ships, submarines and other craft. There are plumbers and pipefitters and specialized electronics technicians among many others. The balance are employed in many diverse positions across the Navy in jobs in IT, construction, environmental compliance, accounting—you name it.

GM: Could we talk a little bit about the Navy’s budget? We know that the Navy has an annual budget of about $800 million, how is that spent?

Sure. Currently, the budget process in government runs a fiscal year, and there is a repeating annual business cycle. In the midst of executing the year we are in, we begin to formally plan for fiscal year plus one. The cycle for next year or the “out year” starts when we get strategic guidance from the Deputy Minister, Chief of the Defence Staff, and Vice Chief of the Defence Staff in letters that tell us what we should expect to plan our budget upon. These letters tells us how much resources to expect to get and what the Defence priorities are. The letters arrive in the spring and enable us to develop business plans plans over the summer months. Then in the fall, we submit our plan along with a strategic assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The Vice-Chief of Defence Staff then analyzes all the Defence plans together and submits a recommendation to the CDS and Deputy Minister on what the final allocations of public moneys should be within Defence. The cycle ends for the Navy when we get our allocation at the start of the fiscal year, on April 1st.  It is a very complex and challenging process  to be sure.

In the Navy’s case, our operating budget is about  $816 million and deals with everything from training, logistics, to operations, etc. Again in the Navy’s case, we have a detailed MARCOM output model that allows us, through the use of numerous intermediate output groups, sub-groups, tasks and activities, to accurately track and measure spending patterns and trends. It is important to note that we do rigid audits across the Navy, evaluating good management practices, operations, logistics etc.

Defence is the biggest landowner in government. The Navy’s realty portfolio is in the vicinity of $3 billion. Therefore, we spend a lot of money on maintenance, utilities, payments in lieu of municipal taxes and upgrades.  

Not surprisingly, a lot of effort and resources are  spent on training or Force Generation as we call it. For example, our operational schedule funding earmarks approximately $40 million towards the fuel and food alone for our ships involved with naval training at sea. To put that in perspective, a gas tank of a naval warship holds 640,000 litres of fuel, and when conducting operations we generally refuel weekly.  That should give a good sense of the size of these ships. During those at-sea periods, we conduct important training serials, honing skills learned using simulators ashore and at-sea with live at-sea training and firing events with our 57mm cannon, anti-air defence missiles, anti-submarine torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.

GM: What about research and development? How much of the budget is part of bringing the Navy to the next level, in terms of R&D?

DH: Within the Department of Defence, we have an Assistant Deputy Minister for Science and Technology who is the head of the Defence Research and Development Canada. This organization is an important research linkage to industry and the scientific community. Scientists that are engaged with Defence working with the Navy do studies on things like operations in the Arctic, ergonomics and missile effectiveness. The knowledge they provide the Navy does more than just enable us to develop better tactics, they enable us to be smart customers. The organization enables us to go to industry knowing the right questions to ask when considering buying equipment, knowing what to expect in terms of capability and what’s a good ‘buy’. In addition, the DRDC can provide help us understand what a command and control system can properly do—in other words, how to optimally use our kit.

We have a tremendous synergy with our science and technology community.

GM: Can you elaborate on how the Navy protects commercial interests, in turn, protecting the national economy?

The way I see it, everything that we do at sea needs to  be geared towards creating an effect on land. That’s my confident perspective.

Peace, order and good governance is the motto for the Canadian government and that is directly linked to what the Navy provides. By our operations in the approaches to North America and in our international operations, we are supporting a regulated global commons.

GM: How big of a footprint does the Navy have on the economy in Canada alone?

DH: The economic footprint of the Navy is pretty significant. Aside from the thousands of military and civilian personnel in the economy, there is extensive ship repair and shipbuilding underway. For example, the Halifax-class is undergoing a very significant mid-life modernization. It is a $4.3 billion project, executed to both update and sustain this class over the second half of its designed life. That money from the government represents a huge commitment, and ultimately represents a huge investment in the shipbuilding industry—which has a very positive impact on the economy.  But this is just one shipbuilding industry example. There is also the Victoria-In-Service-Support contract, the Joint Support Ship, the Arctic Off-Shore Patrol ship and the Canadian Surface Combatant—billions of government of Canada dollars to be spent in our economy in support of the Navy.

So when you think of this shipbuilding and our extensive infrastratucture portfolio combined with the Navy’s operations abroad, which are focused on preserving the integrity of the economy, and protecting the global commons, you see that the Navy’s  focus is on Canada, and the Canadian economy.

What does that mean for the protection of international trade and the global economy?

DH: The North American continent is dependent on international trade, and our economy is strongly linked to the U.S. economy. There is not a direct linear relationship (as the recession shows), but the continent has a significant interdependency and a need for international trade.

Now consider piracy. What is the impact of piracy off of the coast of Somalia? Or in the vicinity of the Red Sea? If there’s something wrong with a [shipping] route, or piracy occurs, companies will pay more in insurance or they will avoid that route increasing transportation costs.

The global market is a reflection of consumer confidence, if confidence is affected then prices go up. If our governments decide to not counter piracy then it would likely increase. Companies would avoid shipping through areas like the Red Sea and thus go around the southern tip of Africa. This means [the transport of commercial goods] would cost more, and those costs are transferred directly to consumers in the global economy—to Canada.

One of the missions of the Canadian Forces is to contribute to international peace and security. In a maritime context, that includes protection of the global commons.

Closer to home and in a more practical fashion, the Navy is on-station and on the beat every time it ships slip and proceed to sea. It is the direct mission and role of the Canadian Navy every time we deploy within a 200 mile limit to demonstrate and be ready to enforce our sovereignty. Take, for instance, Operation NANOOK 10 in the Arctic: that is a tangible and practical example of what the Canadian Navy does for Canada every day.

GM: So you must be proud to serve with such an admirable organization, combating piracy and global threats to sustainable growth, as we’re proud to hear about all the efforts the Navy has undertaken. Could you explain your pride, in relation to all of your years of experience, and the upcoming Centennial?

I am proud  to go abroad, as a Canadian and as a Canadian Naval officer, to contribute to international peace and security, and then when I come home to my family, I realize that this contribution [peace and security] is what I want to do with my life.

I feel that what we do matters. When we deploy (and I’ve deployed a lot and I’ve seen a lot) and then I come home to Canada, it makes me both appreciate Canada and want to go abroad and do it again.

For the next month, the Navy will be celebrating its centennial by showcasing the HMCS Fredericton along the St. Lawrence River and into Lake Ontario.
Ports of Call:

August 27-31: Montreal
September 1-2: Kingston
September 2-7: Toronto
September 7-10: Hamilton
September 10-14: Oshawa
September 15-17: Cornwall
September 18-21: Trois-Rivières