Royal Canadian Navy's combat readiness questioned in internal review

The Royal Canadian Navy's combat readiness is facing serious challenges brought on by a lack of maintenance staff to keep ships seaworthy and inadequate combat training, among other problems, a six-month internal review says.

Report finds challenges in maintenance of ships and training, as navy forced 'to do less with less'

An evaluation of the Royal Canadian Navy's combat readiness has raised concerns about challenges facing the maritime force. The navy has recently said it will retire four ships, including the supply ship HMCS Protecteur. (Marco Garcia/Associated Press)

The Royal Canadian Navy is facing serious challenges to meet its combat readiness requirements, according to a review by the Department of National Defence.

The Chief Review Services Evaluation cites a range of issues, from a lack of maintenance staff to keep ships seaworthy to inadequate combat training.

The report finds that having a combat-ready navy is essential and consistent with the government's priorities.

"During recent years there has been a steady decline in the RCN's ability to achieve the required levels of readiness, to the point that it is currently challenged to meet some of its readiness requirements," one of the report's key findings says. 

Another key finding notes, "the Navy will be obliged to do less with less."

The report also found the cost of staffing the navy's Maritime Command and Control has increased "significantly" with the closing of coastal offices and the move of personnel to Ottawa in recent years.

The report recommends the navy review its current readiness program, find budget savings and work to prevent any future reduction in ship readiness, as well as reorganize training and staffing to ensure the right people are in the right jobs.

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, commander of the navy, says that despite the challenges, the navy has "consistently met government of Canada and DND expectations and demands for the conduct of operations."

Norman also notes that the navy continues to find new efficiencies and ways to meet the mandate set by the Canadian government.

The latest report covers the period between November 2012 and July 2013, and is part of a five-year evaluation plan.

In an email to CBC News, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson's press secretary said the government has embarked on the most intensive and comprehensive period of fleet modernization and renewal in Canada’s peacetime history.

"This includes the modernization of 12 Halifax-class frigates, the operationalization of the Victoria-class submarines, the integration of the Cyclone CH-148 helicopters, the modernization of the Aurora aircraft and the purchase of Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, Joint Support Ships, and Canadian Surface Combatants," Johanna Quinney said in the email.