RCN modernizes approach to sea command development and assessment

Navy News / September 4, 2019

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) is modernizing the sea command development and assessment process for Naval Warfare Officers (NWOs). During Executive Governance Week in Halifax in June, the Naval Board approved a new process for Command Development and Assessment (CDA) which will evaluate a NWO’s command potential throughout his or her career, as opposed to focussing on singular events such as courses or the command review board.

The traditional system is designed so that as Naval Warfare Officers complete their Director (D-level) training and go on to attain a Surface Command Qualification (SCQ), they must pass a command-potential evaluation in the form of a 2-3 hour oral examination or “board”. Beginning in 2020, a new Command Development and Assessment Process will be implemented which will borrow from the submarine community in introducing a Surface Command Potential Assessment Tool (SCPAT).

This Surface Command Potential Assessment Tool will be beta tested as a two-page form that allows the NWO to summarize his or her relevant shipboard experience. It will also contain an assessment of the NWO by his or her commanding officer against the four NWO pillars – Leader, Mariner, Warrior, and Manager – as well as providing a 360 perspective on their leadership style. To provide background information for the tool, all NWOs will be required to maintain a log book which will record their bridge and operations time and other relevant experiences at sea and in simulators. The log books are being developed by the Naval Personnel and Training Group and will be similar to those maintained by aircrews, and will be maintained throughout a NWO's career. The Deputy Fleet Commander or Fleet Commander will provide additional review and comment to ensure consistency across the fleets and identify any exceptional talent.

The first PDF-iteration of this new tool will be tested in fall 2019 on all D-level qualified NWOs in sea-going positions who are not yet in command appointments. After gathering feedback from reviewers and reviewees, the intent is to implement a digital tool when the process officially launches in 2020.

This new assessment tool does not replace the Personal Evaluation Report (PER) which will remain the formal assessment of an officer’s overall performance and potential within the RCN and Canadian Armed Forces. The new tool will be a developmental aid for NWOs and will provide input to the Naval Succession Planning Board (NSPB), the RCN’s talent management governance body, which meets in November and April each year.

The intent will be to complete the form in the fall (September/October) to help differentiate it from the PER and to ensure that it provides timely feedback for the NSPB’s November session. In order to benefit from the system, NWOs in shore postings who seek command development opportunities will also have an assessment form completed to cover any period when they are at sea, such as being an Orca officer in charge, or operating in the maritime domain, such as being part of a maritime staff at sea or ashore.

As the assessment of command potential will be conducted over the length of a NWO’s career, the traditional, stand-alone command board will no longer be required. As part of its assessment process, the Command Development Course (CDC) will continue to conduct an oral examination in a board-like format but it will not be pass/fail and instead provide CDC students with feedback on their strengths and weaknesses as a prospective commanding officer. The CDC course report and the annual Surface Command Potential Assessment will provide an extensive track record showing each NWO’s progression along the path to command.

Effective April 1, 2020, the SCQ Part II will be granted to a NWO who has successfully completed the CDC and the Operations Room Officer (ORO) course, once he or she has 18 months of ORO experience in a sea-going position. Those officers who feel that their experience and performance warrant earlier qualification may apply to their respective fleet commanders to be granted the qualification after six months of ORO service. For reservists, the requirement will be CDC and 12 months of leadership at sea (as an Orca officer in charge or an executive officer of a Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel).

On that date, all Regular Force NWOs who have completed their ORO tours, remain in the surface command stream (i.e. have not transferred to the staff sub-occupation) and do not already have their command qualification will be granted their SCQ Part II as long as they have completed CDC and met the ORO Experience Quotient (EQ). NWOs who remain in the command stream and who do not meet these criteria may apply to Director General Navy Strategic Readiness for a “path to qualification” which will detail requirements based on individual circumstances.

While significant, the SCQ is only one of the indicators of readiness for command appointments, which remain the purview of the NSPB. The key factor is not that a NWO has the qualification but that he or she has been deemed suitable and ready for the command opportunity by NSPB (with the final decision made by the Commander Royal Canadian Navy). The new assessment tool will ensure that the NSPB has more and better information on which to base its decisions. Like merit boards, NSPB employs carefully considered scoring criteria to evaluate files equitably and discusses them in detail to choose the most suitable slate of appointments. The active role of Deputy Fleet Commanders in leading the command development and assessment process on both coasts will ensure equity and consistency in the process.

The new command development and assessment process will be effective April 1, 2020. The 2019 NSPB will continue with the current model and only those officers with a SCQ gained through the current board system will be eligible for appointment. Starting in 2020, the NSPB will consider all officers who are command qualified under either system with additional points given to NWOs who hold the legacy board qualification. A final surface command board will be conducted this fall prior to NSPB to afford a last opportunity for all NWOs with CDC to become qualified under the current system.