Maritime Security Interview

Sep 15, 2007

One of the most knowledgeable and comprehensive examinations of the state of our Maritime Security has been one conducted by the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. For the last six years, during its study, it has heard testimony, examined data, held regional hearings and visited our ports. The Committee has twice published its recommendations in ominously titled reports: Canada’s Coastlines The longest undefended borders in the World (2003), and a rather damning update of this initial report, entitled simply Coasts (2007).

Senator Colin Kenny is the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.

Wondering how and when such critical issues would be resolved, FrontLine Security Editor, Clive Addy sat down with Senator Colin Kenny, the dedicated, outspoken and long-standing Chair of this Committee, to get a sense of where this work is headed and what expectations we should have that the eight problem areas singled in the reports will indeed see improvement.

The eight identified problem areas are:

  • Canada’s toothless Coast Guard;
  • Too many holes to fill without a plan;
  • Inadequate coastal radar;
  • Inadequate short range coastal patrols;
  • Dearth of long range patrols on three coasts;
  • Lack of coastal warnings network;
  • Lack of great lakes surveillance; and
  • Lack of policing on Canada’s inland coastal waters.

Q: Senator, you have long been the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. Your committee looked at our maritime security structure in 2003. In Canada’s Coastlines: The Longest Undefended Borders in the World, you postulated that eight problems required resolution to defend our coastlines adequately. Four years later, in March of this year, your update entitled “COASTS” underlined that these eight problems remain. The din of the repeated expression “no new recommendations – old recommenda­tions stand” in your latest report, does not bode well, what is the Committee’s overall vision and expectation for Canada’s Maritime Security?

Our overall vision begins with the notion of Domain Aware­ness. This is well understood in the Navy but few elsewhere in government would even know where to begin with this. Our Committee vision consists of clear government support for a concept of effective coverage of our entire coast and the ability to identify and to interdict anomalies.

Our Maritime Security solution begins with the GPS transponder system. We need better awareness of all maritime traffic. At present, only ships over 200 tons must have transponders. They must give notice 24 hrs before loading, and 96 hrs before entering port. Contraband and even atomic devices can easily be carried in smaller vessels, therefore each year the government should reduce the tonnage requirement so that at some time all vessels will have these $1200 transponders and we will have a better maritime traffic picture.

This equipment could be mandated on the basis of safety and phased in on all boats gradually over 10 years. If we know who and where you are, this will facilitate any search to find you. But for maritime security, the bottom line is that we cannot afford not to know where you are.

To buttress this improved traffic identification system we will need layered surveillance and interdiction.

We will need a mix of platforms. First, aircraft – here we need to invest. At ­present, Provincial Aerospace Ltd is on contract to DFO for aerial surveillance, but the Aurora aircraft fleet is only partially funded in the Long Range capabilities forecast (only to block 3), and must be extended significantly.

High Frequency Surface Wave Radar (HFSWR) that we supported in our earlier reports is not a success and has had very mixed reviews. Frequency sharing and dampness problems affect its use and, if this is fundamental, we consider it a failed experiment. We saw these as a network of about 10 areas criss-crossing our coast from Boston to the entrance of Hudson’s Bay and Seattle up to Prince Rupert. We consider that we will have to rely more heavily on radar satellites. We expect this technology and the number of satellites to evolve over time and give us a RadarSat that is more robust and capable at the lower end of range of interdiction. This will allow us to share information with the U.S. Coast Guard and overlap the ­coverage at our respective Maritime Security Operations Centres and assist in tracking any anomalies. The challenge is to acquire more passes of satellites over a given place in time to provide an almost constant maritime radar picture.

Next, we need some form of UAV (Global Hawk or Predator) as a strategic drone. The drone confirms who is out there. Transponders say: “I am here and my name is Kenny” every 30 or so seconds. A drone receives these messages, but also recognizes when one is there but not transponding – in which case, either a UAV or aircraft can investigate, and challenge or interdict as necessary. This will save you from higher interdiction costs by more specialized means.

We also need frigate-sized ships to operate and interdict at sea – Mine Counter Defence Vessels (MCDV) will not suffice. In fact, the six to eight arctic coastal vessels proposed by the government, quite frankly, are of no use [in the arctic] where Mr. Harper wants to use them, but because they are similar in size to a frigate, they could prove useful on providing interdiction on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts – with smaller crew, helicopters, armed, but without all the other “gubbins.” That ­provides four on each coast and up to two at sea at any given time.

February 2007 - During a fact-finding mission to Canada's ports, the Senate Committee toured the frigate, HMCS Winnipeg, and the Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel, HMCS Brandon. MCDVs are a smaller class of vessel than frigates - built as minesweepers, they now focus on officer training and sovereignty patrols. From left: Senator Peter Stollery, Senator Colin Kenny, Senator Pierre Nolin, Senator Joseph Day, Senator Michael Forrestall, and Senator Tommy Banks.

The North is not a threat. There is no one who will attack us from the North – and we are not going to stop a nuclear American or Russian sub or ship with a Canadian naval vessel. It is just not going to happen. The North is a political problem, not a security problem. Solve the Arctic by having lots of activity up in the North. Tuktayuktuk is equidistant from Tokyo or Rotterdam. Most commercial vessels (except our frigates) can go right through without refueling. If we build a port there, it must be seen to have a viable reason.

The committee also advocates a Constabulary role for the Coast Guard, which presently serves as a taxi service for the RCMP. This is a cruel comment, but the point is, they are underutilized and not focused on security. They have a good number of platforms and they do perform many useful tasks such as buoy installation, navigation assistance, search and rescue, motorboat safety, scientific and fisheries patrols, but, as we recapitalize our Coast Guard, it is very much time to review its role. The age of its icebreakers and other vessels are 40 years plus and the government must start re-investing.

In our hearings in Ottawa and Halifax, people said they’d look forward to this new security role if the government so decides, providing that they are properly trained, equipped and paid for their new role of policing of the fisheries, environmental, transportation, and other national legislations.

Our reports recommend that they be provided new armed vessels with .30 calibre machine guns, and sidearms for the crew. Port-runners would be pursued but only boarded with the assistance of specialists as JTF2 or other trained boarding parties.

MCDV’s are useful at ports and mouths of ports and, in this day and age, it is crazy not to have working mine­sweepers. The Committee sees reservists taking on the minesweeping role as a good thing. Can you imagine a ship sailing into the Port of Halifax and, as it leaves, it seeds behind a half a dozen mines or it sails through the Seaway doing this same thing? We need to keep our sea-lanes clear and any sensible Canada First defence or security policy must make this capability available to us, and it is a terrific job for the naval reserve. I have not heard anyone from the military or government talk about the threat of a submarine into our waterways and ports to lay mines or a WMD, but this old threat remains a very real possibility, in our view.

Closer in, within the harbour, the Committee sees a reinvigorated RCMP maritime arm. They need to have high-powered Zodiac type boats: very quick, twin 400hp that travel at about 60 knots, such as those of the Toronto Police.

In the Port of Halifax there are seven or 10 RCMP, which means limited to no surge capacity. We need RCMP on the water in our ports. But to secure our ports we need to have the communication that leads back into the city and to other destinations for drugs, illegal weapons and other criminal and terrorist activity. The RCMP has the network to handle seamless connections – that is why we have joint teams in the ports with municipal, provincial police and RCMP, but it is the RCMP who take the intelligence and feed it through the network to pursue and capture the criminals and others across the country and abroad. We need to follow the container or criminal to its destination and break down the network – the RCMP can deal with this. That idea of depth of policing from the port is why Ports Policing is considered dumb by the Committee and we do not want to go there. Nor is the answer to leave it with the local police of jurisdiction unless this is the RCMP. More RCMP is what is needed.  

Speaking of ports, the Navy has begun to place booms around its vessels in ports again, since they deem that this waterside approach is the most dangerous to them these days. Many naval personnel have said: “We worry most about the water side.” They also have a manned boat patrolling along the water.

This is the sort of integration Navy, Coast Guard and RCMP that the Committee sees as necessary and should be reflected in any vision of maritime security. The Committee is very critical because it appears that there is no one in government with a vision of maritime security whereas I have just expressed such a ­logical fit in the Committee’s vision. Once you have secured the East and the West Coast of this country, you have made a tremendous contribution to the overall security of Canada’s people and property.

 What the Committee believes the government should do is adopt our vision (or give us a better one) and say: “It’s expensive but we will fund it and have this part done by this date… that part by another date… and so on, so that by 2012 (or whatever) we will have our layered maritime security for Canada.

Toronto's Marine Unit gives chase in a Zodiac. (Photo: Kevin Mastermann, Toronto Police Services)

Q:In your identification of the second problem in your report, “Too many holes to fill without a plan,” you are critical of the so-called “monies committed” as a measure of success, as opposed to “funds spent on specific security improvements” and the degree and frequency of “consultation” as opposed to “coordination and consolidation of responsibility for effective surveillance and credible response.” What do you expect to see as credible measures of effectiveness?

I’ve described these three-plus layers, but what the Committee would like to see is all these elements working together on regular exercises and in real operations to truly and honestly ensure that all “hoses fit where and when expected.” These exercises should involve all levels of these layers, and must be done regularly.

Improvements must be made between each, to fix any identified problems. This is the only real way to measure effectiveness and to progress in our maritime security posture. It is certainly not by mimicking an exercise at a Maritime Security Operations Centre (MSOC) that Canada will become more secure on its coasts and, unfortunately, we were subjected to just this, as well as a myriad of meaningless testimony that all was well. If you are not exercising and have not budgeted for it, you do not know what is wrong and what will work. I see each of these layers exercising on a continual basis. This leads me to a personal concern when people talk about “Transformation” as if it is a “one time only” process. In fact, when exercising, we learn that indeed we must always evolve and continue to transform to remain current and effective, and the way to do it is to exercise.

Transformation is a continuum in the military and security field, and exercise confirms or adjusts the direction of each transformation.

Q:In your vision, you rely on UAV’s and satellite surveillance, and you have commented on the recent failings of the High Frequency Surface Wave Radar which you also recommended now be replaced by satellite radar surveillance and UAV’s. Have you looked at, and do you know of other solutions that are cheaper and marketable and that provide more constant surveillance at shorter intercept ranges such as the Great Lakes?

Yes, we have seen some very interesting radar, and the Mounties and Toronto Police would dearly like to get their hands on them. Ultimately some mix of radar, aerial surveillance, and response will be needed, but there are few assets of any kind compared to what is needed for prudent security on the Great Lakes.

There are 14 Mounties assigned to the Great Lakes, Metro Toronto has 55, Peel Region 2, Halton 2, OPP 20+, I believe. The Great Lakes are a big Black Hole in Maritime Security, in our view. The sense of frustration that you see in the poor Toronto harbour patrol who look across the lake and see the U.S. doing essentially the same job with 2,200 personnel. This tells the story. We need to be effective. We need to do our share. Time to throw in some money to light up the Black Hole.

Q:One approach used at the Border is the Integrated Border Enforce­ment Teams (IBETs) approach. Do you see this as a potential model for Great Lakes Maritime Security?

I spent some time with the IBETs in the Stanstead area. All local, state/province, and federal agencies were represented there, and very engaged (and past turf issues). Mike Cabana, the officer in charge of this program for the RCMP, introduced me to a Corporal who had entered with him in the Force. This amazing gentleman showed great leadership and it was ­obvious – from the way he recognized the qualities and achievements of each participant – that he was the glue that bound and motivated what was obviously a very effective international team. They were the type that could persuade their superiors to put some assets into their work because the return on investment could be demonstrated. This cooperation has to be continuously renewed and sustained to remain current. Managers at higher levels have to get out and see these things to understand their worth.

This international team approach could definitely be extended in some ways to our Great Lakes maritime security. There are not enough resources to do it alone but together we can do it better by cooperating and sharing what we have.

Members of the Senate Committee toured HMCS Winnipeg while visiting Vancouver ports. From left: standing next to Commodore (now Rear-Admiral) Bruce Donaldson are Senators Joseph Day; Michael Forrestall; Colin Kenny; Peter Stollery; Tommy Banks; and Pierre Nolin.

This security is not for security itself; we are securing the livelihood of people on both sides of the border, in our richest economic region. To fail in this will cause the local economies to be devastated. Remember what a terrorist (I think it was Bobby Sands) once said in talking about public security vice terrorism: “You have to be right all the time, I only have to be right once.”

We need a secure border, and the Committee agrees that land transfers for common search areas along the border are important to make it so.

Q:The leaders of the three North American countries have just left Montebello, where discussions were held under the Security and Prosperity Partnership agreement, ongoing since 2005. Has your committee been kept up to speed on these security initiatives, particularly maritime ones that are being discussed that could give your committee cause to be optimistic that the problems that you identified might be addressed? Do you intend to inquire about possible federal SPP initiatives that would meet some of your recommendations?

First I have not, nor has my committee, been briefed by any government department on the Security and Prosperity Partnership initiative. As you know, I have liaison officers for the Committee solely from DND and the RCMP, but even they are not freely afforded the information they need to keep us informed. As to the other departments, they have no such regular contact with our committee. I have asked our liaison people to keep their bosses up to speed, for the more they know, the less dumb criticism they may be subjected to later.

I also believe that both houses of Parliament need to be kept up to speed on SPP. Members of both houses come to Parliament with different points of view but none come with the intention to make Canada worse. It is best if all parliamentarians are kept aware of the initiatives and likely legislative requirements emanating from these discussions. It is regrettable that, on the contrary, in these committees we often receive condescending testimony from officials that everything is going splendidly and the Minister is perfect. We would all respect and love to get briefings that would acknowledge a more mature approach; stating first what is being done right, and what needs work, and here is our plan to do so and we will be back in six months to report again. Alas, the government admits no mistakes and the opposition snipes loudly and wastefully at picayune and insignificant targets. Sounds like Question Period? No, clarity, candour, and completeness do not ring loudly in Parliamentary Committees these days.

Q:Any last reflections on Maritime Security that you would wish to leave Senator?

Yes, there are the issues of capacity and of intelligence that I would like to add as both affect Maritime, and all security, in Canada. As many know, we are at capacity and have very little surge capability in our Armed Forces and Police Forces. I have shown some of the areas where this occurs in maritime resources.

Canadians should not accept this state of affairs, as it does not cater to the unforeseen emergencies for which such organizations actually exist.

To mitigate being ­surprised by events that might threaten our prosperity or very existence, we need a strong intelligence agency that can act for Canada overseas. Our Committee strongly recommends a more potent presence of CSIS overseas to mitigate the very dispatch of criminal or terrorist activity overseas and from abroad.  

Clive Addy, Executive Editor of FrontLine Security magazine, thanks Senator Kenny for taking the time to meet with him.
© FrontLine Security 2007