By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 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 Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
Alan Williams, the former assistant deputy minister with National Defence, points with concern to the department’s use of a 20-year timeline for the F-35.
“That’s a known distortion,” Williams said. “If you have as your intent to be as open as possible, you don’t do that.”
There is no question that government and military intends the F-35 or whichever other aircraft replaces Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18s to remain the country’s main aerial fighter until the middle of the century. ”It has to go for at least 30 years, which is our typical expectation,” Royal Canadian Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Andre Deschamps told a parliamentary committee on Sept. 15, 2010.
Williams says it’s not unusual to exclude expenses like personnel and fuel from projections, but Andrew Coyne contrasts Peter MacKay’s explanation with the Treasury Board guidelines.
… it is directly contrary to longstanding Treasury Board directives, which stress throughout that the costs of any acquisition must include “all relevant costs over the useful life of the acquisition, not solely the initial or basic contractual cost” (Contracting Policy, 2006). Among the costs deemed “relevant” are those related to “planning, acquisition, operating and disposal,” including forecast “modifications, conversions, repairs, and replacement.”
Specifically, an “acquisition decision that is based on the lowest purchase price but that ignores potential operations and maintenance (O&M) costs may result in higher overall costs,” it notes in Guide to Management of Materiel. Among the suggested considerations, in assessing operations costs: “Are all training costs included? Are the costs of fuel and lubricants included? Are all repair costs included?”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 9, 2012 at 11:43 AM - 0 Comments
Problem: The Department of National Defence says it needs 65 warplanes, but $9 billion may not be enough to purchase 65 warplanes of the F-35 variety. Luckily, Colin Horgan has a $3.5-billion back-up plan.
Assuming that money is available, the government could use that $3.54 billion to hold a separate, open and fair competition for another, different fighter jet. The second plane could act as an interim buffer to tide Canada over between the decommissioning of the CF-18s and the delivery of the F-35s.
Against the other international alternatives, the winner of that competition would likely be the F-18 Super Hornet – a plane suitable to Canada’s needs in the Arctic (it’s a twin engine, for one). The Air Force is already equipped to handle the F-18, and with its contract from Boeing, Canada could theoretically obtain a traditional industrial regional benefits package – another thing the F-35 program lacks.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 9, 2012 at 10:47 AM - 0 Comments
One last point on the Defence Minister’s comments this weekend. Nearer the end of the interview, Kevin Newman asked Mr. MacKay about the “supporting documents” for the military’s analysis. Mr. MacKay reassured Mr. Newman.
There are certainly supporting documents. We’ll have Public Accounts look at that now. They’ll be officials before Public Accounts to talk about the supporting documents. There are documents that go back a number of years, as I said this is a 15-year procurement that began in 1997 under the previous Liberal government. And so there will an opportunity to look at all those documents. The key here, in my view, is to continue forward in a way that is going to ensure that we don’t face operational gaps. That the CF-18′s will be replaced with an aircraft that will meet the needs of our country and, most particularly, of the airforce.
In his report, the Auditor General makes several references to documentation (emphasis mine). Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 9, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
In his interview with CTV, Peter MacKay also noted the “discrepancy” between the 36-year timeline of
the Parliamentary Budget Officer and* the Auditor General and the 20-year plan put forward by the Department of National Defence. In his report, the Auditor General stressed that a 36-year timeline was more accurate.
We have a number of observations regarding the life-cycle costing for the F-35. First, costs have not been fully presented in relation to the life of the aircraft. The estimated life expectancy of the F-35 is about 8,000 flying hours, or about 36 years based on predicted usage. National Defence plans to operate the fleet for at least that long. It is able to estimate costs over 36 years. We recognize that long-term estimates are highly sensitive to assumptions about future costs as well as to currency exchange rates. However, in presenting costs to government decision makers and to Parliament, National Defence estimated life-cycle costs over 20 years. This practice understates operating, personnel, and sustainment costs, as well as some capital costs, because the time period is shorter than the aircraft’s estimated life expectancy. The JSF Program Office provided National Defence with projected sustainment costs over 36 years.
*An astute reader points out that the Parliamentary Budget Officer used a 30-year timeline.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 9, 2012 at 8:31 AM - 0 Comments
“Well I’m glad you’ve raised this issue, in fact I think it was Craig Oliver that first put this on the air in recent days; the 10 billion dollar gap or difference in estimation is accounted for by the way in which we pay pilots, we maintain the aircraft, that is to say that that 10 million dollar difference is money that we are paying right now. So there’s a different interpretation in the all up costs at arriving at 25 billion. We have included that figure in estimates and information provided to the auditor General. And that information goes back to the year 2010. Those figures are there for all to see. But it is a different calculation than an acquisition. We have always said that 9 billion dollars is the cost of the aircraft. There’s an additional 5.7 billion then for maintenance that is weapons, onboard equipment etc. But the 10 billion dollars is money that we’re paying right now Kevin. That is money that goes to pay the pilots of the F18 program, and fuel, oil, upkeep of the existing fleet.”
It is probably worth reviewing again how the cost of the F-35 has been explained over the last two years. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 11:17 AM - 0 Comments
National Defence is set to eliminate more than a thousand jobs.
At this point the jobs of 1,119 employees at DND have been identified but more are expected later. The jobs being eliminated range from clerks and secretaries to food services and kitchen staff. Other jobs being cut include radiation safety personnel, weapons technicians, ammunition technicians, English language teachers, heavy truck mechanics, laboratory assistants, drivers and dental hygienists.
Civilians working for the Canadian Army are being hit hardest, with 585 of those jobs being eliminated. Other significant reductions are being made at Defence Research and Establishment Canada, the research branch which works on new technology to protect the troops in the field, as well as other positions in science and research fields. That group has identified 234 jobs to be cut.
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 - Monday, November 28, 2011 at 10:48 AM - 4 Comments
The Department of National Defence didn’t want Parliament to know how much it was going to spend building itself a new headquarters.
On the Nortel file, the documents show DND officials were worried last year about how the renovation costs would be perceived. “Media, parliamentarians and Canadians will be focused on the cost to taxpayers for the acquisition of the Campus and the subsequent retro-fit costs,” noted a DND strategy document.
Such concerns were solved when Deputy Minister Robert Fonberg stepped in. Fonberg’s assistant wrote that the deputy minister was concerned about telling the public about the cost. According to an email, Fonberg asked, “Why are we using the $623m(illion) fit up cost? It is without context and will be a lightning rod!” The cost was removed from public documents about the Nortel purchase.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 10:48 AM - 4 Comments
The latter cuts are apparently part of the 2010 strategic review that Paul repeatedly tried to get the government to explain earlier this year.
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 Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 7:48 PM - 13 Comments
For the fourth consecutive day, Lawrence Cannon was pressed during QP to say how many children have been detained and transferred by the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. For the fourth consecutive day, this did not result in an answer.
Afterward I emailed Mr. Cannon’s office with the following.
According to the Canadian Forces records released in September, 439 individuals were detained by the CF in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2008. Two-hundred and eighty-three of those individuals were transferred. Two questions: How many of those detained were juveniles? How many of those transferred were juveniles?
That was eventually forwarded to the Department of National Defence, which responds as follows. I’ve bolded the portion that seems most particularly applicable to the questions at hand. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 22, 2010 at 1:02 PM - 31 Comments
David Pugliese explains how the government hopes to sell the purchase of new F-35s.
The plan is for DND officials to brief analysts about the value of the JSF … Defence Watch has been told that the Joint Strike Fighter PR plan envisions that the analysts will then go out to newspapers, TV and radio to spread the word about the worth of the F-35 as well as the message that the Harper government is making the right move with this proposed $16 billion purchase. Or that they will be ready with such messages when journalists come calling as they write JSF stories…
Meanwhile, a new round of visits of Conservative ministers and MPs to companies who have F-35 contracts, or the potential for F-35 contracts begins again today … Sources tell Defence Watch that the politicians aren’t highlighting new contracts (some of these were awarded years ago).
Meanwhile, sources tell Pugliese the government has kept secret millions in equipment purchases for the Afghan mission.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Plus a week in the life of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
Face of the week
Ricky Barnes reacts to his missed birdie putt on the final hole of the U.S. Open. Lucas Glover (right) went on to win the tournament.
A week in the life of Gary Bettman
The NHL commissioner has had a hectic few days. At the NHL awards in Las Vegas, he addressed player representatives irked by a falling salary cap, shaky franchises and dubious TV deals. Good news came Monday when Chicago businessman Jerry Reinsdorf confirmed plans to bid on the Phoenix Coyotes. But within 24 hours, Bettman found himself trying to broker peace between the two feuding owners of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Oren Koules and Len Barrie.
Rising petroleum prices have pumped new life into the Alberta oil sands, and that’s good news for Canada. Yes, pricey oil makes for expensive fill-ups. But Canada needs oil-patch jobs, and with a $50-billion deficit, our government needs the tax revenue that oil sands generate. Moreover, plans to renew the North American auto industry are predicated on the development and sale of smaller, fuel-efficient cars, so pricier gas may prove to be the industry’s friend. If these twin engines of our economy—energy and auto-making—get running again, everyone benefits.
A sweeping proposal from Egypt has the potential to raise talks between Israel and the Palestinians to a new and promising level. Under Egypt’s plan, an end to the blockade on Gaza would be followed by a prisoner exchange between the two sides and the formation of a Palestinian unity government, ending Hamas rule in Gaza. The deal includes safeguards to ensure aid isn’t appropriated by militant groups—a major roadblock to reconstruction efforts in Gaza. The approach may appear ambitious, but it addresses a persistent impediment to deals between Israel and the Palestinians: no sooner have you resolved one irritant than another raises its head, shattering the agreement you’ve worked so diligently to reach.
Tennis is cracking down on screamers and grunters, and thank goodness. Up-and-coming star Michelle Larcher de Brito was told in advance of Wimbledon she could be docked points for the prolonged shrieks she makes when hitting the ball. Occasional grunting may be unavoidable in a sport where a powerful stroke wins games. But tennis legend Martina Navratilova was right to label the excess noise “cheating, pure and simple.” If Martina could win 18 Grand Slam titles without moaning on every shot, the lesser lights can do without it, too.
After 300 years of Danish rule, Greenland reached a new self-government agreement this week with Denmark, setting the stage for eventual independence. The move brings decision-making on governance and natural resources closer to Greenland’s 58,000 inhabitants, and may indirectly benefit Canada. Ottawa had been at odds with the Danes for years over Arctic sovereignty, and the more Copenhagen loosens ties with Greenland, the more tenuous its Far North claims become. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we’d much rather deal with a pragmatic neighbour than with its distant and nostalgic European parent.
Price of war
The Department of National Defence is straining Canadians’ patience and credulity by refusing to release the estimated future cost of its mission in Afghanistan, citing security issues. DND has already said that annual costs in the conflict are topping $1 billion, so how does releasing the projected spending on the conflict in 2011-2012 help the Taliban? More likely military brass censored the information to bolster the security of government, which has already signalled it will pull troops out at the end of 2011. If a change of heart is under way, Canadians have earned the right to participate in the debate. We have faced up to the real costs of the mission: the deaths of 120 soldiers and one diplomat. We have a right to know the price tag. We can handle it.
Pluck o’ the Iris
Iris Evans, Alberta’s forthright finance minister, knows something about raising kids. The former nurse and one-time minister of children’s services raised three sons through financial difficulties. So when she offhandedly remarked that good parenting requires one parent to stay home (at considerable financial sacrifice, she noted), she knew of what she spoke. Evans was expressing an opinion, not setting government policy, but you wouldn’t know it from the outrage. She offered grudging regrets, saying she “would have preferred not to have initiated the debate.” But we’re glad she did, and she owes no one an apology.
Picking your battles
French President Nicolas Sarkozy fell into a familiar trap this week when he labelled burkas “a sign of debasement” and declared them unwelcome in France. Time and again, Western politicians have fuelled Islamic anger by fixating on the personal choices of Muslims rather than what really matters: respect for the rule of law and basic civil rights. Fortunately, Sarkozy counted among the few leaders in Europe who responded forcefully to election-rigging in Iran and the brutal suppression of pro-democratic protestors. That’s the kind of intervention Muslims can use.
Ain’t that American?
Several cities in the U.S. have cancelled Fourth of July fireworks this year because of tight budgets. Regrettably, and perhaps unintentionally, at least one Canadian town has stepped into the void. Officials in Kenora, Ont., located near the U.S. border in the province’s northwestern corner, have decided to bump their “Canada Day” fireworks to Saturday, July 4, saying they hope to boost attendance by drawing in the weekend cottage crowd. Shrewd perhaps, but not wise. No one would consider moving Christmas, so why Canada Day?
By Michael Friscolanti - Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 3:20 PM - 1,049 Comments
Trying to build a new home for Canada’s elite commandos sparks a war of its own
Frank Meyers lives on Meyers Creek Road. That’s what happens when your family farms the same plot of land for 2½ centuries. They name the street after you. “This is heritage property,” says the 81-year-old, pointing at his freshly plowed fields in Quinte West, Ont. “This is the property that was given to my forefathers when they fought for the British army against the Americans. This land was designated for us.”
Today, the Meyers land is designated for something else: a new headquarters for Joint Task Force 2, the Canadian military’s top-secret special operations squad.
By Andrew Potter - Monday, June 16, 2008 at 9:06 AM - 0 Comments
The Canadian Forces’ counter-insurgency manual is now officially Secret. This, despite the fact that…
The Canadian Forces’ counter-insurgency manual is now officially Secret. This, despite the fact that versions have already been given to the NDP and members of the public, and has been widely distributed to military units.
It’s also available online via Steve Staples website.
(thanks to David Pugliese)
UPDATE: Uh oh. This must be what happens when you pass your counter-insurgency manual around like a chinese menu:
KANDAHAR CITY, Afghanistan – Hundreds of Taliban fighters are reported to have launched an offensive Monday into a district at Kandahar city’s doorstep and are digging in anticipation of an assault on the city.