By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - 0 Comments
Philippe Lagassé offers some free advice to the opposition.
The key question that must be asked is why the F-35 is the only possible future fighter aircraft for the Canadian Forces, on what grounds the air force makes that claim and based on which defence policies and priorities. The Canadian military lacks many capabilities that larger powers possess; the Canadian Forces are not equipped to meet every possible threat or eventuality. Why was it judged absolutely necessary for the military to have a this particular aircraft and to write a statement of requirements that excluded any alternatives? Why were trade-off considerations and cost-benefit analyses not entertained in this case? How does the defence department explain the Auditor General’s finding that due diligence was not performed when addressing these concerns? And the most important question: did the defence minister or Cabinet allow the department to brush aside its duty to perform this due diligence?
Now, assuming that the F-35 best meets the military’s preferences, why was a competition not held? If the Joint Strike Fighter was without a doubt the superior plane, why not hold a transparent competition that would make this obvious to parliamentarians, stakeholders, and Canadians at large?
The Public Accounts Committee convenes this morning to hear from the Parliamentary Budget Officer and then the same line-up of departmental officials who appeared on Tuesday.
One question that might be raised was asked yesterday by the NDP’s Matthew Kellway during QP. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 3:48 PM - 0 Comments
When the Harper government was found in contempt of Parliament a year ago, its breach had much to do with an order to produce documents that was moved by the finance committee. Much of the debate over that order and the Speaker’s ruling on that order concerned the cost of corporate tax cuts and the Harper government’s various crime bills. But within that the finance committee’s demand was a clause that dealt specifically with the F-35.
The committee also orders that the Government of Canada provide the committee with electronic copies of the following … All documents that outline acquisition costs, lifecycle costs, and operational requirements associated with the F-35 program and prior programs (CF-18). Such documents include but are not limited to the Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) and the report of the US Department of Defence’s Joint Estimating Team (JET) both relating to the F-35;
As the CBC noted last night, the phrase “lifecycle costs” would seem to be important.
By Philippe Lagassé - Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 3:28 PM - 0 Comments
Defense expert Philippe Lagassé explains what the AG report means for the government, DND and public works
Between 2006-2010, the Department of National Defence (DND) made a concerted effort to ensure that Canada’s CF-18s would be replaced by a sole-sourced procurement of sixty-five F-35A Joint Strike Fighters. In so doing, the defence department flouted several procurement procedures and practices. A timely replacement of the CF-18s and the acquisition of the F-35 are now in doubt, as a result.
As detailed in today’s report from the Auditor General, DND underestimated the likely cost of the F-35, embellished the possible industrial benefits associated with the acquisition, failed to correctly analyze the risks associated with buying an aircraft in the midst of development, and did not provide sufficient evidence to justify a sole-sourced acquisition when prompted by Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC). Through it all, DND was adamant that a competition was unnecessary to replace the CF-18s, since the F-35 was the best plane, for the best price.
The Conservative government accepted DND’s logic and allowed the defence department to press ahead. Indeed, although DND and the Chief of the Air Staff are identified as the main culprits in this saga, there is no question that Conservative ministers are also to blame.
The Auditor General’s report highlights that Conservative ministers announced the F-35 purchase in July 2010, two months after PWGSC warned that a sole-source procurement had not been properly explained, and a month before Public Works actually received the statement of requirements that purported to show why the F-35 was the only possible option.
Ministers were aware that the sole-source procurement had not been vetted, yet they endorsed it anyhow. And PWGCS’s ability to enforce proper procurement practices fell apart once the Conservatives publicly declared their intention to move forward with the acquisition that summer.
Once they had announced that the F-35 was Canada’s next fighter, moreover, Conservative ministers refused to question DND’s unsubstantiated estimates and figures until the aircraft’s widely reported cost overruns and technical difficulties could no longer be ignored. Hence, although the Auditor General focuses on the errors and oversights of DND and PWGCS, it is evident that Conservative ministers failed in their responsibilities, too.
More to the point, no ministers should be permitted to avoid their constitutional responsibility for the affairs of the departments, no matter how much ignorance or inexperience they claim. Allowing ministers to shift their responsibility onto their departments or officials, however poorly they performed, would undermine the very bedrock of our system of responsible government.
But besides what it means for the F-35 and principles of accountability, what are we to take away from the Auditor General’s report? One lesson, certainly, is that procurement practices exist for a reason, and there is a price to pay when they are deliberately discarded or undermined.
Too many within Canada’s defence establishment are ready to cast aside bureaucratic processes when comes time to buy new equipment for the Canadian Forces. Protracted interdepartmental consultations, stubborn gatekeepers, and endless approval requirements, it is often said, prevent the CF from getting the equipment it needs in a timely manner.
And this has resonated with the Conservative government. Since 2006, it has negotiated notable sole-sourced military procurements, such as the acquisition of four C-17 strategic-lift aircraft. Several other accelerated purchases were used to address critical capability shortfalls that were endangering CF lives in Afghanistan. Given the demands and dangers of the Kandahar mission, most of these hastened procurements were justified and could be exempt from lengthy, competitive tenders.
Unfortunately, this willingness to downplay the hazards of circumventing proper procurement practices was allowed to spread to less pressing acquisitions. This was a key finding of the Auditor General’s report on the acquisition of the CF’s new Chinook medium-to-heavy lift helicopters, and it is now a notable criticism found in the report on the F-35.
If the F-35 was truly the best aircraft to replace the CF-18s, then it would have won a proper, transparent competition. In fact, a number of analysts, defence officials, and air force officers would still argue that it is undoubtedly the only plane for the CF. Yet the aircraft has now been tainted, as has DND’s argument in favour of it. And as the Auditor General notes, it will now be difficult to hold a fair competition. Consequently, the DND may not get the plane they are convinced that the CF needs. A fair, transparent competition would likely have avoided this outcome.
Philippe Lagassé is an assistant professor of public and international affairs at the University of Ottawa
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
Ahead of this morning’s release of the auditor general’s report, sources tell the Post, CBC and Globe that the Harper government will change its handling of the procurement process and sort of consider its options.
The government will vow to evaluate all options for the procurement of Canada’s next-generation fighter – raising doubts about its commitment to the F-35. But sources cautioned against interpreting this to mean that the Conservative government is actively considering purchasing a different jet. “The F-35 train is still on the track,” one government source said.
Rather, sources said, this would mean exploring whether to shift the F-35 purchase schedule so that it occurs more squarely in the lowest-cost production years – and considering how to make the existing fleet of CF-18 jets fly longer.
The AG’s report will be tabled in the House shortly after 10am.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 16, 2012 at 2:22 PM - 0 Comments
Stephen Harper, November 3, 2010. We are going to need to replace the aircraft at the end of this decade, and the party opposite knows that. But instead, for the sake of getting the anti-military vote on the left, with the NDP and the Bloc, the Liberals are playing this game. The mistake is theirs. It would be a mistake to rip up this contract for our men and women in uniform as well as the aerospace industry.
Stephen Harper, today. Obviously at some point, the [CF-18] planes will reach the end of their useful life. At some point we will have to make a final decision, but obviously we have not signed a contract so that we can retain our flexibility in terms of ensuring the best deal for taxpayers.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 3:31 PM - 21 Comments
In an interview with the Times & Transcript, Michael Ignatieff lays out his thoughts on the F-35 purchase.
Canada does need to replace its CF-18s and it needs to defend itself; the question is what plan do we really need to do that job? We need an open, competitive bid to determine what Canada’s needs really are and to get the best plane for that job at the best price.
The problem with the F-35 you can understand just by reading what they’re saying about it in the Pentagon; the thing is late, over budget, still in development and not even proven. There are other aircraft available right now that Canada could give us good value for money.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 13, 2010 at 11:32 AM - 104 Comments
In the 1980s, when Canada’s Air Force was looking for a new fighter jet — eventually picking the CF-18 — it gathered the competing aircraft at Cold Lake, Alberta, for rigorous flight tests. One military participant recalls tens of thousands of pages of aerospace evaluation data and flight test details. Among those taking part was then military pilot Laurie Hawn, now the Conservative point man on the JSF file.
But Canada decided on the JSF without testing it against competing planes. Boeing and French aircraft manufacturer Dassault would later confirm DND never asked nor received high-level performance data from them. The developmental nature of the JSF, in itself, violated DND’s criteria for a replacement aircraft. In 2006, department officials stated that any CF-18 replacement would have to be an aircraft in operation with an allied force, according to records obtained by the Citizen.
By Paul Wells - Friday, November 5, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
WELLS on security and our national insecurities
So much in modern life is a combination of problems that have already been solved and problems that can’t be solved at all. Take Emirates Airlines Flight 201, which was escorted by Canadian fighter jets through Canadian airspace on Oct. 29 as it flew from Dubai to New York City. The airplane was carrying cargo from Yemen. This was a day when other airplanes were found to be carrying cargo from Yemen of the potentially explosive variety. So Flight 201 found itself sprouting fighter escorts. Out of an “abundance of caution,” NORAD said later.
Dimitri Soudas, who speaks for the Prime Minister, could hardly contain his glee. Here was a chance to show that the Harper government is spending wisely when it allocates $16 billion to buy 65 F-35 fighter planes. Soudas put out a news release: “Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals and their coalition partners would cancel the deal to buy the F-35s. They would rather use kites to defend Canada than fighter jets. Canada’s air force needs the right equipment to protect Canadian airspace.”
In examining whether F-35s would have constituted “the right equipment” on Oct. 29, it may be handy to recall precisely what NORAD was worried about. Cargo on other planes had been found to contain explosive devices. So “the right equipment” would need to sort through the cargo compartments of this plane, at a distance, while airborne, to detect, isolate and remove the explosive.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 29, 2010 at 10:28 PM - 0 Comments
In the aftermath of an international terror scare that is presently topping the news in the United States and Britain, one that necessitated the scrambling of Canadian fighter jets, the Prime Minister’s Office identifies the most important takeaway.
The Prime Minister’s Office pointed to the incident to support their decision to buy 65 F-35 fighter jets. “Whether it is the CF-18s or the F-35s, Canada’s air force needs the right equipment to protect Canadian airspace,” said Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas. “Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals and their coalition partners would cancel the deal to buy the F-35s. They would rather use kites to defend Canada than fighter jets.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 10:45 AM - 0 Comments
Steven Staples says never mind the F-35s, the future is drones.
“There is no Russian bomber threat (in Canada) and there are new technologies emerging that could save us a lot of money for domestic surveillance and control, like intercepts,” he said…
Staples asserts that Canada does not need fighters for military operations overseas and the lifespan of the current CF-18 planes may be extended by a decade by restricting their work to North American surveillance.
Noting that the United States patrols the Canada-U.S. border with drones, he recommends the government investigate the acquisition of unarmed long-range, pilotless aircraft for domestic and coastal surveillance, search and rescue and surveillance on overseas missions.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, July 31, 2010 at 9:23 AM - 0 Comments
Peter MacKay, yesterday. Defence Minister Peter MacKay was outraged at the allegation that his government is using a crisis to further its political interests. “I find it astounding there could be any suggestion that we would manufacture Russians approaching our airspace. That’s bordering on ludicrous,” he said.
David Pugliese, 18 months ago. The military officers I was talking to yesterday were full of kudos for Defence Minister Peter MacKay for a move that one described as “playing the media like a finely-tuned fiddle.” The officer was referring to the breathless Canadian news media coverage of the flight of two Russian bombers that were “intercepted” by Canadian CF-18s … Yesterday’s incident prompted some amusement at NDHQ about how gullible some in the news media can be and how easily some journalists swallowed the government’s bait hook, line and sinker.