Thursday, December 3, 2015

Canadian Surface Combatant Fleet - Is the Program Salvageable?

New questions are being asked about the Canadian National Shipbuilding Program that was instituted by the previous Conservative government.

For years public servants, outside contractors, auditors (including the Auditor General Michael Ferguson) have said that the $26 Billion earmarked for the program would not be enough. Ferguson called the funding, "insufficient" in a 2013 report.

Yesterday, Vice Admiral Mark Norman, head of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) told CBC that the warnings from industries about the lack of funding were accurate.

To put it simply - the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC)  Fleet will cost well above the $26 Billion budget.

The CSC fleet is supposed to be the back bone of the RCN from 2025 to 2035; replacing the Halifax-Class frigates and the Iroquois-class destroyers. The $26 Billion was to build "up to 15" new warships according to the former Harper Government.

During the 2015 election campaign, Stephen Harper continued to dismiss claims that the CSC Fleet could not be built with the $26 Billion. He said the Navy would adjust. A few insiders claimed that as few as 8 or 10 CSC vessels could be built with the $26 billion.

The question now is, under a new government can the CSC Fleet be salvaged?

During the election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that any savings from withdrawing from the F-35 program would be directed to the RCN to ensure it gets the ships it needs.

According to the RCN - it NEEDS at least 15 ships - so if the total number of CSC gets cut, it would dramatically harm its operational capabilities. Although some independent analysts say the RCN will either have to accept fewer ships or the government will need to pony up more money.

Some are saying the RCN should do without an area air defence variant CSC, and settle on a more basic design. Both are a possibility. But, so is asking for more money from the new Liberal government for the CSC is another. It will be a test for the Liberals who promised during the election campaign to ensure that the RCN gets the ships it needs.

According to CBC, to build the proposed 15 ships - it will cost upwards of $42 Billion. 

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