By macleans.ca - Monday, March 4, 2013 - 0 Comments
In conversation with Defence Minister Peter MacKay on Afghanistan, the F-35 controversy and military spending
Peter MacKay has been minister of national defence since 2007, and before that served as the first foreign minister in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. At 47, he’s a political veteran. As the last leader of the old Progressive Conservatives, he bargained with Stephen Harper to unite the right under the new Conservative banner. He has presided over the Canadian army’s historic mission in Afghanistan, but also been widely criticized for his handling of the government’s controversial plan to buy F-35 fighter jets. He spoke to Maclean’s in his Parliament Hill office.
Q: The war in Afghanistan profoundly changed the way many Canadians think about their military. But now that we’re out of combat, and committed to ending our troops’ role training the Afghan National Army in the spring of 2014, what are we likely to have accomplished?
A: I think we’ve given Afghan people hope. And I say that knowing everything stems from security in that country, as it does in most countries. Along with our international allies, along with the Afghans, we’ve built schools, immunized children, promoted women’s inclusivity in their society, in their parliament. So there are many tangible things you can point to. But the sense that young Afghans have that there’s a better future, fragile though it may be, is an enormous accomplishment.
Q: But how can we have any confidence that the Afghan National Army will be able to take over holding the Taliban at bay when Canada and other international forces, especially the U.S., finally withdraw?
A: Well, that is obviously the concern. Two questions remain. When will the Americans leave? And is the [goal of training] 352,000 combined Afghan army and police sufficient? But to me the bigger question is governance. Will the Afghan government be able to adequately fund and support that security force throughout the entire country? One scenario that has to be in the back of your mind is, if they decide to reduce that number by 100,000, do we want well-armed, well-trained young Afghans outside the military with nothing to do?
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 6:34 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – If the Harper government proceeds with its controversial F-35 program, the stealth…
OTTAWA – If the Harper government proceeds with its controversial F-35 program, the stealth fighters might not drop as many bombs or fire as many missiles as previously estimated.
National Defence has drastically revised how much it would spend on weapons for the multi-role fighter, according to a Parliamentary Library research publication tabled this week.
The analysis attempts to chart the conflicting cost estimates that have dogged the procurement since Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced in 2010 the Lockheed Martin-built jet would replace the CF-18s.
Last spring, auditor general Michael Ferguson criticized National Defence for low-balling the cost of the program, and not including estimates for operating the high-tech jet well into the future.
The new research publication lays out the Defence Department’s response to Ferguson against previous statements, and lists a series of revisions, including significant cuts to the amount of money set aside for weapons, infrastructure and project management.
The amount National Defence has set aside for weapons has been cut to just $52 million for the estimated 30-year operational life of the jets, compared with estimates in two previous reports of $270 million and $300 million.
Modern bombs and missiles are expensive. Laser-guided munitions — known as JDAMS — cost an average of $24,000 each, while Hellfire air-to-ground missiles cost $58,000 apiece.
Sparrow air-to-air missiles are the most expensive at $125,000 a pop.
Paul Maillet, a retired air force colonel and defence planner, said the revision of the figures is “striking.”
In its report last December, the Public Works secretariat that took over management of the F-35 file from National Defence noted some of the weapons stock belonging to the CF-18s could be retained for the stealth fighter.
The document notes that “over the life cycle of the replacement fleet, the acquisition of newer weapons will be considered and funded as separate projects.”
Maillet said some hard questions need to be asked about the revision, regardless of the fact that the government has not decided whether to proceed with the purchase. The fighter secretariat is conducting a market analysis of what aircraft other than the F-35 are available to replace the CF-18s.
Maillet, who worked on the acquisition of the current fighter fleet, said funding the weapons separately is moving an important long-term cost off the books, something that violates the spirit of all-in accounting.
The move could also mean the air force is considering modifying the F-35′s role, making it more of a surveillance platform than a warfighter, Maillet added.
Using the accounting firm KPMG, the fighter secretariat ordered its own independent analysis of National Defence’s often-conflicting stealth fighter estimates last year.
It put out a tender Thursday for the next round of number-crunching for this year’s report.
By Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press - Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 7:44 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The agency overseeing the replacement of the country’s CF-18s intends to talk…
OTTAWA – The agency overseeing the replacement of the country’s CF-18s intends to talk to the U.S., Australia and Britain as it conducts a full-fledged options analysis into the future of Canada’s fast fighter fleet, say defence sources.
That review, which will also include consultation with competitors to the oft-maligned F-35 stealth fighter, will get underway soon and could last several months.
In the House of Commons this week, Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose said that the air force’s statement of requirements — the document that set out what the military says it needs for selected pieces of equipment — will be set aside until an options analysis is completed.
By Adam Goldenberg - Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 11:56 AM - 0 Comments
Adam Goldenberg is a Kirby-Simon Fellow at Yale Law School. He was Michael Ignatieff’s speechwriter. Follow him on Twitter at @adamgoldenberg.
Bev Oda’s resignation had as much to do with abortion as it did with foreign aid.
She left with neither a bang nor a whimper. After eight years in Parliament, six as a minister, she was simply gone, vanished, disappeared. Pushed out of the helicopter of political expediency, perhaps, or fed to the sharks beneath the Cabinet table.
Since her OJ trial, the international cooperation minister’s prospects, long a stretch, had turned to pulp. She could have resigned herself to the backbenches. She resigned her seat instead.
Her departure is no cause for celebration; it says much more about our politics than it does about Ms. Oda. Our standards have become so superficial that, where once we expected accountability, we demand damage control, instead.
Ministers are now mouthpieces. We judge them by their spin in Question Period and their sound bites in scrums. The federal Cabinet is so flimsy, so insubstantial, that a six-year veteran can be felled by a single glass of $16 orange juice.
By Philippe Lagassé - Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 5:20 PM - 0 Comments
Philippe Lagassé is assistant professor of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.
What did members of Parliament learn from Tuesday’s public accounts committee hearing on the F-35 procurement? Mostly that arguing with senior officials about costs and accounting methods is a frustrating experience, one where the opposition is at a disadvantage. Unless New Democrat and Liberal MPs hone their questions regarding the planned sole-source acquisition of new fighter aircraft, they will find that their ability to hold the government to account over the F-35 will soon dissipate. It is time for the opposition parties to ask better questions about the F-35.
Since the Auditor General’s latest report was tabled in early April, opposition parties and pundits have been fixated on his finding that the government excluded $10 billion in operating, personnel, and contingency costs from the stated price of the F-35 acquisition. Although the government was aware of these estimated life-cycle costs, ministers chose to present only the aircraft’s acquisition and sustainment cost when the decision to buy the planes was announced in the summer of 2010. This omission has been upheld as evidence that the Conservative government lied to Parliament and Canadians about the true cost of the planned procurement.
Opposition members hoped that senior executives involved in the F-35 process might be compelled to corroborate this assessment before the public accounts committee. It did not happen.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 1:51 PM - 0 Comments
Fantino welcomes Tokyo’s pick
A mere two days after North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Il was pronounced dead, Japan has announced it will be buying 42 U.S.-made fighter jets to boost its air defence fleet, the BBC reports. The jets are made by American defence giant Lockheed Martin, and were chosen over the Eurofighter Typhoon and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet. In addition to fears of regional uncertainty emanating from North Korea, Tokyo is said to be increasingly concerned about China’s military capacity. Japan has said it is heightening coastal security as a result of stepped-up Chinese naval activity in the region. The decision to rely on American-made aircraft was largely seen as a tribute to the U.S., Japan’s main security ally. Associate Minister of Defence Julian Fantino welcomed Tokyo’s choice, which, he said, “demonstrates that the F-35 is the best aircraft available to replace our aging fleets and address future threats to our sovereignty.” Canada’s purchase of 65 F-35 fighter jets, at an estimated cost of $16 billion, has been mired in controversy.
By macleans.ca - Friday, December 2, 2011 at 12:07 PM - 19 Comments
U.S. vice-admiral ‘surprised’ by swelling cost
Fresh hurdles in the production of Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are bound to translate into new criticism of the Conservative government’s decision to purchase 65 of the troubled fighter jets, the Globe and Mail reports. Delivery of the aircraft should be delayed, the Pentagon recommended this week after the discovery of cracks and “hot spots.” The constant hiccups and swelling price tag that have characterized the F-35 program are creating frustration in the U.S. as well. “The analyzed hot spots that have arisen in the last 12 months or so in the program have surprised us at the amount of change and at the cost,” U.S. Navy Vice-Admiral David Zenlet recently told the Web-based publication AOL Defense.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 1:59 PM - 7 Comments
Cancellation could impact Canada’s purchase
The U.S. Government may cancel plans to purchase F-35 jets if a bipartisan congressional committee can’t agree on a deficit reduction plan by next week. In letters to congressional leaders, U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta warns of severe defence cuts ahead if the super committee fails. “Decisions related to major programs could include: Terminate Joint Strike Fighter; minimal life extensions and upgrades to existing forces,” the letter says, according to the Globe and Mail. For now the threat remains remote. Even if the committee avoids a decision on cuts, Congress could vote to spare Defence or simply cancel their earlier across-the-board cuts entirely. On the off chance the F-35 is scrapped, it could be bad news for Canada, which plans to purchase 65 of the jets between 2016 and 2022. Without the massive U.S. order, the average price-per-plane could soar out of Canada’s range.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 12:51 PM - 1 Comment
Pentagon’s top weapons tester sees risk of “serious mishap”
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is an “immature aircraft” that’s not ready yet for pilots to train on, a U.S. study found. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester wrote in a memo dated Oct. 21 that training programs on the $100-million-apiece jet should be delayed by 10 months, Wired magazine reports. In the memo, Gilmore cites a verity of problems that could result in fatal accidents, such as incomplete flight manuals, an untested ejection seat and a faulty generator. The rate at which F-35s currently being tested have been experiencing in-flight problems is also abnormally high, Gilmore writes. Ten months of additional testing, he noted, should be enough to fix the technical flaws and make the jets safe for pilot training. The Air Force, the Navy and Lockheed Martin, which manufacture F-35s, disagreed with Gilmore’s findings.
By macleans.ca - Monday, October 24, 2011 at 12:42 PM - 19 Comments
F-35 jets can’t communicate from Canada’s north
American-built F-35 fighter jets are expected to be delivered without the ability to communicate from Canada’s northernmost regions, even though the warplanes are costing the federal government billions of dollars. Defending the Arctic was one of the key reasons put forward by the Conservative government to upgrade Canada’s fleet of fighter jets, which currently consists of CF-18s. A senior official from Lockheed Martin, the company that builds the new jets, told The Globe and Mail that the F-35s will eventually be equipped with the ability to communicate from the Arctic, saying the hope is that the software can be installed by the fourth phase of their production in 2019. The Defence Department has reportedly asked the company whether a special communication system can be placed in the planes. Typically, fighter jets communicate by sending signals into space and back via satellites. Communicating in the Arctic is difficult because of a lack of space satellites in the region.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The F-35 project is plagued by cost overruns. But Ottawa says it’s insulated from sticker shock.
The suspension of test flights of Lockheed Martin’s new F-35 fighter jet early this month sounded like bad news for Canada. The federal government announced its plan last spring to buy 65 of the so-called Joint Strike Fighters, giving Ottawa a multi-billion-dollar vested interest in seeing the radar-evading airplane cruise smoothly to market. Yet the discovery of a fuel pump software problem—just the latest setback in the troubled F-35 program—apparently can’t translate into a price bump for Canada. “The Americans basically have been covering the cost overruns in the system design and development phase themselves,” Michael Slack, the Department of National Defence’s manager for the F-35 project, told Maclean’s.
The notion that Ottawa is in a position to shrug as Washington sweats over F-35 costs is arguably the most unexpected aspect of this controversial military procurement deal. The U.S. government has seen the projected cost of each F-35 it plans to buy soar from $50 million a few years ago to at least $92 million this fall, and well above $100 million by some recent estimates. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been aggressively managing the file lately in a bid to counter negative publicity. By contrast, his Canadian counterpart, Defence Minister Peter MacKay, has been sanguine throughout it all, saying Canada will pay a comparative bargain price of about $70 million per jet.