LINK - April 2017 / May 31, 2017

By Cmdre Marta Mulkins, Commander Naval Reserve

The 2016-2017 training year in NRDs is drawing to a close; at the HQ we are helping NRDs ready their recruits for the first adventure of their naval careers, waving farewell to sailors headed to the Fleet for some pretty exciting deployments around the globe, and wishing fair winds and following seas to many respected reservists about to make the exciting career leap into the Regular Force - or to retirement. For the spare moments which may creep into your calendars, it is now timely to provide you with a tour d'horizon of the efforts underway in support of the transformation of your Naval Reserve.

In the coming months, we will see the culmination of several key planning efforts which will better define our way ahead and our overall return to strength. We will be demonstrating new capabilities and benefiting from new levels of true integration within the One Navy. Over the next two editions of the Link, we will celebrate these new achievements and provide more clarity on how transformation will look in two steps. The first, included here in this issue, is to define what exactly are the major components of our transformation. The second step will be to describe what the transformed Naval Reserve will look like - laying out the markers for how we will know when transformation has succeeded. What follows here is a framework which enables a systems-oriented review and refocusing of the Naval Reserve within the larger RCN and CAF contexts, based upon principles and sound analysis. Most of the key components of transformation are in varying stages of development right now and the goal here is not only to explain to you what they are but also to provide you with a snapshot of how all the main pieces interconnect and enable each other.

Foremost, the framework is based upon the following questions - what issue exists for which the Reserve is a solution (the 'demand signal')? What exactly will the Reserve provide to solve the issue (the 'supply')? And how will it deliver - what are the things which must be in place to enable it to do so, effectively and reliably?

First, the 'demand signal' for the Naval Reserve - what the Navy and CAF need from a reserve force - must be tested and redefined. That review was triggered a few years ago through the RCN realignment process which reaffirmed that the Naval Reserve would steadfastly remain a sea-going service and launched the review of the overall roles and missions. The eventual decision taken was to move away from the niche operational 'Total Force' employment concept (predominantly the Kingston Class (KIN Class) mission) to an augmentation mission at sea and ashore. As you all know, in addition to augmenting across the surface fleet, you will now contribute to a variety of teams including Maritime Tactical Operations Group (MTOG), Naval Security Team (NST), Class A Analysis and Production (CAAP, Intelligence), Outreach, Port Inspection Diver Teams (PIDT), Forward Logistics Sites (FLS) and the like. Today, all of these tasks are either already in effect, or are in the process of being launched, as in the case of NST. And more recently, the RCN framework for personnel operational tempo at sea has resulted in a clearer picture of where reserve effect can be more specifically targeted in future to alleviate personnel pressures. This, combined with the roles which may be required in domestic contingencies as directed by the Commander, Joint Operations Command (CJOC), and soon-to be redefined expectations of reserve readiness, is the redefined 'Naval Output' of the Reserve - this is the 'demand signal'.

How do we deliver this output? Looking forward, effective Force Generation must address the following:

  • Recruitment including traditional off-the-street applicants and increasingly, in line with the strategic mandate and as directed by the CDS, more component transfers from retiring Regular Force personnel;
  • Training first to Occupation Functional Point (OFP), then beyond OFP to enable occupation progression, and finally, the development of institutional leadership;
  • Staff structure required to ensure consistent, reliable delivery of the above, in the One Navy context (a durable 'Force Generation machine').

We need to ensure occupation progression is possible right up to institutional leadership (we can 'grow our own leadership') and that it delivers sailors and officers at all levels who can step confidently and competently into whatever job they accept at sea and ashore. In principle, your occupations will mirror Regular progression through rank - but, post OFP, you will typically have a narrower band of tasks at each rank level (see the new MARTECH occupation structure as a great example). The current assumption is that while reservists will sail in every surface platform in the Fleet, your most viable path for career progression and institutional leadership will likely be through the constabulary-oriented missions and platforms (for sea-going occupations) with the small teams and support roles widening out the options for progression for all occupations. The new employment model simply needs to ensure that all of you (including former Regular Force reservists) can be employed wherever your occupation, rank and skill levels permit.

So how is all of the above to be delivered in a stable, reliable fashion over the coming 20-30 year horizon? New roles or tasks may well emerge- but the framework being put in place right now will enable the institution to develop and implement new capabilities within the functions described below.

The three key functions are:

  • First, Structure: we need the right structure, or 'establishment' within the broader CAF enterprise and the structure of the occupations must also be designed to accommodate meaningful, relevant and achievable reserve components. For establishment, this means positions for each individual to deliver all Force generation, support and management activities, as well as some of the employment / naval output.
  • Second, Processes: we need the right governance to ensure we are delivering the right output at the right time through more appropriate employment model for reservists. We also need to ensure that the support for delivering training is also consistently available.
  • And third, we need key 'Enablers' throughout the CAF and RCN institutions. These include:
    • The Naval Training System: an innovative and multi-modal system which seeks to deliver all naval training in as flexible a fashion as possible for the benefit of Regular and Reserve forces alike- this is an ongoing development;
    • Stable Funding and the agility to manage it optimally through the year;
    • The right Reserve Employment Model: An optimal employment model for reservists in the future should explore a range of periods of service and cycles of employment from two weeks to three years, with the intent of achieving the most viable balance between reservist availability and the operational schedules of the platforms, teams or staff positions in which they seek to serve;
  • A Strong Culture of One Navy which sets up all sailors and officers for success through the basic assumption of equality of standards and of training as members of the profession of Arms. The Reserve 'centre of gravity' is the credibility of its output; and
  • The Leverage of Reserve support mechanisms, including updating the suite of pan-reserve policies to better reflect current employment models and engaging support groups like CFLC and Career Edge to enable reservists to better manage and align their military and civilian career aspirations.

Finally, in order to truly reach final operating capability, we will also be implementing the systems required to track, measure and report reserve readiness levels and output as required.

There are several other specific lines of effort in the CDS' Directive on Strengthening the Reserves, including better utilising specialized (civilian or language) skills that exist within the Reserve Force, enhancing the Component Transfers from Regular Force into the Primary Reserve, improving access to equipment for training and experience and initiating a plan of renewal of infrastructure for Reserve unit facilities across Canada which are being executed at the CAF level.

As you can see, there are many parts to get right in this transformation, which takes time. Only in a few years will we all truly benefit from the significant, coordinated efforts and decisions being made today in order to deliver significant 'solution space' to the Admiralty of the future. The Naval Reserve is evolving and re-strengthening right now into something it has never been before - something which takes the best of the operational model (KIN Class) and of the old strategic reserve model (the one I joined over 30 years ago), but which seeks to avoid repeating the weaknesses of either. With our new, targeted augmentation reserve, we will seize the pendulum where we win back some of the flexibility of a strategic reserve, without compromising the operational credibility and skills gained through the KIN Class years. It is no coincidence that our key internal initiatives over the last couple of years have been working to provide the most up to date input into many of the elements of transformation, including our efforts on recruitment and retention, readiness, the development of institutional leadership and risk oversight and management.

As mentioned at the outset, some very important advances should be made in the coming months which will start to colour in the framework sketched here for you today. And while the RCN will likely continue to evolve and transform throughout your careers, I look forward to sharing our own continuing progress with you in the near future. You have been contributing very directly to our success in transformation through your own engagement in these various initiatives, which as always I urge you to continue to whatever degree you can. We all have a role to play - you are a part of this exciting transformation, and more importantly, you are the future of it!