Vanguard Magazine

Vanguard October/November 2022

Preserving capacity, General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, Keys to Canadian SAR

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42 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 THE LAST WORD BY CAPT(N) IAN PARKER (RET'D) A s the Commanding Officer of HMCS ALBERTA cleared the bridge while transiting Dixon Channel and dived the submarine, the designer, embarked for this voyage of discovery, re- flected on the challenges faced and over- come to evolve the design of the new Cana- dian submarines of the Canada Class. The designer reached back and dwelt on the bureaucratic challenges faced in the initial stages. There was the ever-present lobbying by the other services against a submarine acquisition. It was a challenge for naval leadership to overcome the scan- dals of the 2020s and develop the argu- ments which persuaded elected officials that a submarine was an irreplaceable stra- tegic capability. These arguments quelled the internal CAF debate though there con- tinued to be attempts to curtail or reduce the programme. As ALBERTA effortlessly slid under the surface and entered her natural environ- ment a worried frown crossed the design- er's face as memories of the arguments for and against build in Canada nearly created the circumstances for programme failure. Recognizing the nature of Canada's pro- curement process the designer understood that time was critically short. Contract award and design approval needed to oc- cur prior to 2030 thus the demanding selection process, with government ap- proval, needed to have been completed in the 2020s yet by 2022 it had yet to begin. The designer reflected on the challenges within the procurement bureaucracy once approval was obtained. There were those who considered process more important than product and those that could not un- derstand that Canadian requirements were unique to Canada. A design developed for another nation, for a different operating environment, would not and could not meet Canadian requirements. Convincing decision makers that a submarine designed for operations in the Baltic, or the Medi- terranean was not the same as a submarine designed for operations in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans was challenging given the land-locked nature of Canadian bureaucratic culture. But the designer also recognized that there were few submarine design houses in the west and in all prob- ability an existing or evolved design would need to be tailored to Canadian require- ments. As ALBERTA entered the North Pacific Ocean the designer reviewed the challeng- ing competitive process. There was a com- petition, PSPC forced the navy to reduce certain requirements to allow the broad- est competition even though some designs were not capable of evolving to meet Ca- nadian needs. Some wanted to focus on an off-the-shelf solution, but the designer knew that such an approach would lead to operational failure. The challenge was to get the procurement authorities to agree that no existing design met Canadian re- quirements thus the competitive designs would need to evolve. Reflecting on the Australian experience with conventional submarine procurements the designer was able to convince the navy and the procure- ment authorities that the approach needed was for the competing firms to explain in detail how they would evolve their design to meet Canadian requirements for an op- erational submarine in the 2040s not the 2020s. This approach forced the competi- A LONG AND WINDING ROAD tors to develop a preliminary design to be built in the 2030s that was costed with a preliminary schedule. Not only was time short but there was a shortage of qualified and experience staff. An integrated team was needed with suf- ficient expertise, experience, and depth to develop the requirement, evaluate the vari- ous proposals, and manage the complex procurement process followed by imple- mentation and delivery of the submarines over a period of 20 years and beyond. Failure here meant programme and opera- tional failure. As ALBERTA altered course to the southwest the Designer scanned the in- terior of the boat and was thankful to have been part of this national endeav- our, thankful for the political, naval, and bureaucratic leaders, who over a sustained period, believed in the project providing the necessary resources even, when times were tough. The designer finished his musing and started an inspection of AL- BERTA as she silently moved in her natu- ral element. Capt(N) Ian Parker (Ret'd), a graduate of the Canadian Forces College and the United States Naval War College and who served in the Royal Canadian Navy for 37 years and commanded HMC Ships Fraser and Provider, and a consultant who worked with the defence and security industry for over ten years. Her Majesty's Canadian Submarine VICTORIA sails in the vicinity of Esquimalt Harbour while wearing a poppy on its sail in Esquimalt, British Columbia on 5 November 2021. Photo: S1 Kendric Grasby, Canadian Armed Forces

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