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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Navy to cut fleet in half

File:HMCS Saskatoon.jpg
HMCS Saskatoon

The Canadian Forces is having to cut half its patrol fleet as budget cuts slashed:
From an Official web site:
Kingston Class Patrol boats are used for:
"Coastal surveillance, general naval operations and exercises, search and rescue, law enforcement, resource protection, fisheries patrols and mine countermeasure capabilities."

A shortage of money and sailors is forcing Canada's navy to mothball half its fleet of 12 vessels used to patrol the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific coasts.  In a statement to CBC News, the navy said it made the tough choice to leave several of the 55-metre vessels at dock in Halifax and Esquimalt, B.C., and strip them of their crews because it doesn't have the resources to operate them all.

The navy said the move is necessary to continue the primary mission of defending Canada.
"Upon close examination of resources and priorities, this was deemed necessary to safeguard and optimize our operational capability, both now and in the future," wrote Denise LaViolette, a navy spokeswoman.  Three ships will remain on each coast. The others won't be scrapped, but they will be put in long-term storage.

HMCS Brandon.jpg
HMCS Brandon (MM 710)
The navy has not said how much money it would need to keep the whole fleet active or how much it will save by reducing the fleet by half.  The Kingston-class ships were built in the mid-1990s to hunt for mines that could block Canadian ports. They are lightly armed and can be converted to carry a small underwater robot or even platoons of soldiers.  LaViolette said the federal government is providing "stable and predictable" funding, and the navy continues to modernize its frigates and refit its submarines.

No warning

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter said he did not get any warning from Ottawa about the cuts — even though as the minister responsible for military relations, he is regularly briefed by Defence Department officials.
Dexter said he would have gladly helped Defence Minister Peter MacKay make the case for keeping the fleet intact.
"Minister MacKay would have my full support in making the case to the cabinet and the prime minister on the importance of naval operations — not just to this province, but to this country — and that anything that would lead to the paring down of operations would be of concern to us," the premier said.  Dexter plans to ask for details on this latest move by the military.
During question period in the House of Commons on Thursday, MacKay said the Conservative government has increased funding to the navy and will continue to do so.  

"The reality is, the navy is getting $200 million more in its budget," he said.
On top of that, MacKay said the government plans to spend $40 billion on new ships over the next 20 years.  Liberal MP Keith Martin, who represents Esquimalt, a navy town in British Columbia, said the news of the cuts shocked him, coming on the heels of sweeping government promises to increase military spending and rebuild the navy.  "Why is this government choosing to gut our navy and put the lives of our brave men and women at risk?" Martin asked.

MacKay replied the government is investing in the navy.  "We're investing in the Canadian Forces in unprecedented numbers," he said. "The Canadian navy, in its 100th anniversary, will have more money than it's had in a 100 years."
CF Budget as a percentage of GDP
But Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden, in a letter sent fleet-wide, said the navy had to make some tough financial decisions.  "As with any large organization, DND continuously monitors its financial status, evaluates its expenditures against actual results and, as required, sequences its priorities accordingly," the commander of Maritime Command, wrote.  "Managing funding and assigning priorities is part of our normal cycle of business. I have made choices to ensure programs key to the future of the Navy remain protected and that required force generation and force employment capabilities are sustained within the boundaries of national procurement resources allocated to the Navy."

'Slap in the face'

Government budget figures published by the department show that spending this year has actually gone down. Last year, Canada's Maritime Forces were allocated $2.1 billion; this year this was down to $1.97 billion, with a further reduction planned for the following year.  The NDP's shipbuilding critic, Peter Stoffer, called the cuts a "slap in the face" to the men and women in the navy.
He said the navy was forced to mothball its ships because of government cutbacks.  "The Conservative government should hang their head in shame," Stoffer said. "I really feel for all sailors and military personnel who will be affected by this decision."  He said the decision will have an impact on the economies of both Halifax and Victoria, as well as the ability to adequately patrol Canada's coasts.

Read more: 

A report says the Canadian naval fleet will be cut in half. Defence Minister Peter MacKay denies the report.
Kingston Class Patrol Boat

This was something that was tried last year but the cuts were rescinded by higher command:

Defence Minister Peter MacKay is denying reports that the navy is cutting by half the fleet used to patrol all three coasts and limiting the number of frigate missions.
“These operational decisions have not been taken,” Mr. MacKay said yesterday in response to an Ottawa Citizen article was based on a letter from the navy’s commander detailing the cuts.
“We are going to have increased naval capability in the future as a result of the historic investments that we’re making in the Canadian navy."
Read more: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/MacKay+denies+navy+fleet+half/3025055/story.html#ixzz1CpNG9Uoo

Earlier this week, Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden, the head of Canada’s navy, ordered half of the country’s Kingston-class maritime coastal defence vessels to be docked and also shelved upgrades and maintenance on many other ships, including frigates.
He said he was forced to take such drastic action because he simply didn’t have enough funding.
Defence analysts called it a major reduction in the number of ships available for service, prompting howls from opposition MPs in the House of Commons -- and many sailors -- that the Conservatives, as their gift to the navy on its 100th anniversary, was essentially to starve it of the money needed to keep ships afloat.
But after two days of tough questions from the opposition in the House of Commons, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk reversed Vice-Admiral McFadden’s decision, saying the Canadian Forces will re-allocate some financial resources so that Vice-Admiral McFadden and the navy won’t have to tie up a substantial portion of the fleet.
That sets up the possibility of a fierce turf war within the Canadian Forces as each service -- the navy, the army, and the air force -- tries to defend its existing budget allocations.
Gen. Natynczyk would not say if he was told to undo Vice-Admiral McFadden’s order by Defence Minister Peter MacKay.
“At the end of the day, in the military chain of command, it’s my decision to rescind the order,” Gen. Natynczyk told reporters at a Parliament Hill news conference Friday. “It’s my job to make sure the minister is not surprised.”
Hours earlier, Conservative MPLaurie Hawn, MacKay’s parliamentary secretary, angrily denied that Vice-Admiral McFadden had even issued such an order.
“No ships are going into dry dock. That is simply false,” Hawn told the House of Commons. “The navy has been given $200 million more this year than last.”
But even with that extra money, the navy -- like the other branches in the Canadian Forces -- is finding it tough to keep up.
The navy’s top two budget priorities are the modernization of the Halifax-class frigates and repairs to its Victoria-class submarines.
“We could always use more money,” Gen. Natynczyk said. But he also suggested that part of the reason for tying up some ships at dock -- what the navy calls “extended readiness” -- was due to a shortage of trained sailors.

David Akin, Canwest News Service · Thursday, May 13, 2010

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