CDR’S Hot Take on VCDS Norman
For the uninitiated, a “hot take” is term used in journalism, (especially sports), that refers to a provocative commentary written, with a minimum of research or background in response to a particular news item.
Well, this is CDR’s Hot Take on the Vice-Admiral Mark Norman situation that those of you in the defence community have, no doubt, been reading about. CDR has interviewed VAdm Mark Norman, in his capacity as Commander of Canada’s Navy, a number of times for our magazine and always found him to be forthright, engaging and most of all, dedicated to Canada’s Navy and that’s why we find it especially disturbing that his name is being dragged through the mud and his fine military career tarnished as aresult of these reports.
Norman was fired by the CDS from his Vice Chief of the Defence Staff post under a cloud of suspicion and confusion and when it happened, no one really knew why, but the assumption was that Norman had committed some kind of terribly egregious act. After letting Norman twist and turn in the disquieting winds of fear and uncertainty that swirled around him, the news finally dribbled out that the former VCDS was being investigated by the RCMP for passing sensitive information, (apparently from privileged cabinet discussions), to Spencer Fraser of Project Resolve.
Now, CDR happens to know Spencer Fraser very well because a while back he was recognized by our publication as Canada’s Defence Executive of the Year. As well as being a dynamic defence industry executive who is known for his ability to get things done, he is a former naval officer that understands very well what Canada’s Navy needs. Fraser is CEO of Federal Fleet Services, the company that first saw the critical need for an interim supply shipas the Royal Canadian Navy’s AOR supply ships all went out of service and the JSS program continued its slow progress and left the RCN with a significant capability gap.
It was Federal Fleet that came up with the ingenious idea that would deliver a Canadian supply ship solution that the navy so desperately needed in a very timely manner. But, when competitive companies to Davie, (the shipyard where Federal Fleet builds its ships), saw that the Navy was embracing the Federal Fleet proposal, they wanted in on the action too. So, other Canadian shipbuilders reportedly sent letters to cabinet ministers in the Trudeau government attempting to have the government cancel the deal it had with Federal Fleet.
Federal Fleet was already in the process of implementing the contract to build the new ships when the government opted not to cancel its deal for Project Resolve, because of the potential termination costs they could have incurred.
Vice-Admiral Norman, as a former Commander of the RCN, understood very well how the Navy was crippled by its lack of a viable supply ship capability,and he knew that the political meddling by these other yards could delay further, the delivery of the urgently needed Resolve Interim Supply ship – which had already made significant headway. So, if Norman did give Federal Fleet a heads up by passing along some information that he was privy to, (and we stress that we do not know this and Norman has not been charged with anything at this point),we are very sure he was doing it from a genuine concern for the navy he loved and certainly not for any personal gain.
But, let’s step back and take a look at the big picture. Project Resolve is the only navy program right now that is moving forward on schedule and on budget. In fact,it’s the poster child for a well-run program, and just last week it was announced that the Project Resolve Interim AOR ship has entered the penultimate stage of construction at the Davie yard in Quebec, with 85% of the work being done in this country.
CDR strongly urges the government to embrace companies like Davie, and Federal Fleet Services (two operating units of the Inocea Group), that have focused their attention on getting critical navy work done rather than playing politics. We propose that the government should, at the very least, consider having Federal Fleet build an additional Resolve Class ship that would give the navy an AOR supply ship capability on each coast, and in a cost effective and timely manner.
As for Vice-Admiral Norman, the investigation is apparently not over, but let us please put this all into perspective. This is a career naval officer that has served his country well,and has always looked to do what is best for the navy. We are confident that any actions he may have taken were motivated only by a genuine concern for the needs of the Royal Canadian Navy. As we move forward, let’s hope our government is likewise motivated by a sincere desire to properly equip the navy,(as well as the rest of Canada’s military), and not by any political considerations it may be seduced by.