By John Geddes - Saturday, December 29, 2012 - 0 Comments
How many senators did Prime Minister Stephen Harper appoint in 2012? How many years does the government allow, in its latest plan, for “development and acquisition” of F-35 fighter jets? How many premiers, provincial and territorial, attended the November economic summit in Halifax? (Hint: Saskatchewan’s just phoned in.)
In all cases, the answer is an even dozen. But for our purposes here—in this third annual installment of a year-capping look back—we’re interested in 12 only as the number of months in the calendar. Select just a single story for each, and 2012 might almost begin to show some semblance of coherence.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 6:54 PM - 0 Comments
It was painful to listen to Defence Minister Peter MacKay this afternoon as he faced repeated questions from reporters on whether he has any regrets about his handling of the government’s program to buy F-35 fighter jets.
Today’s news, not surprisingly, is that the problem-plagued Lockheed Martin jet is only one of several whose costly tires the government will soon be kicking. And so pretty much everything MacKay has ever said about the necessity and inevitability of the F-35 procurement has proven to be dead wrong.
He might have made it easier to hear his answers without wincing had he just admitted to past mistakes. Failing that mature, obvious response, he might have clung to a fragment of dignity by resolving at least not to drag Canadian men and women in uniform into it.
By John Geddes - Friday, December 7, 2012 at 5:56 PM - 0 Comments
After a flurry of subtly conflicting stories, the most likely next step in the federal government’s hopelessly bungled program to buy Canada some new fighter jets now looks like the appointment next week of an expert panel, which will be asked to survey the available options.
To the blissfully uninitiated, that must sound blandly sensible. To the rest of us, the panel’s very existence will finally refute and rebuke several years of insistence by Conservative politicians and Department of National Defence officials that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was the only plausible jet for Canada’s future needs. No point, they told us, to look any further.
But if the naming of an independent panel represents the welcome injection of a more open-minded approach, its creation alone doesn’t guarantee either of two developments that critics of the F-35 are hoping for: it doesn’t mean the F-35 is out of the running and it doesn’t mean the government will ultimately hold a competitive bidding process for the new jets.
By John Geddes - Monday, August 27, 2012 at 11:12 AM - 0 Comments
As Canada’s new Chief of Defence Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tom Lawson takes on an massively complex task heading up the Forces just as the government looks to overhaul its “Canada First Defence Strategy.” Yet of all the questions Lawson might be have been asked, one overshadowed all others as his was introduced as CDS by Defence Minister Peter MacKay on Parliament Hill this morning.
Where does the country’s new top soldier—himself a former fighter pilot and, most recently, deputy commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado—stand on the controversial F-35 fighter jet?
By John Geddes - Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 6:27 PM - 0 Comments
It would be difficult to imagine a more thoroughly botched military procurement program than the F-35 fiasco that has been taken apart today in a report from Michael Ferguson, the Auditor General of Canada.
Hard to imagine, that is, unless you consider the military’s purchases of new Cyclone helicopters, which soared in price from a planned $3.1 billion in 2003 to an actual $5.7 billion five years later, and Chinook helicopters, the cost of which leapt from just over $2 billion to nearly $5 billion between 2006 and 2003. Ferguson’s predecessor, former AG Sheila Fraser, slammed the Defence department in a fall 2010 report for disguising the true eventual price of those buys.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 4:27 PM - 0 Comments
Julian Fantino, the associate minister of defence, responding this afternoon to questions from the NDP.
Mr. Speaker, that premise is absolutely false. The member opposite is referring to a failed NDP candidate who wrote this report, critical of everything that is holy and decent about this government’s efforts to provide our military men and women with the resources that…
The report referred to was authored by Michael Byers (a former NDP candidate) and Stewart Webb.
By John Geddes - Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 8:49 PM - 116 Comments
The increasingly heated debate over what it will cost Canada to buy the new F-35 fighter jet has, from the outset, bogged down on one point—the unwavering contention of the federal government that Canada will pay way less per jet than the U.S.
This just seems, on the face of it, difficult to believe. The F-35 story features many other variables, vagaries, arcane disputes—all accompanied by acronyms and jargon of the sort that military procurement always generates in such unwelcome plentitude.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 9:12 AM - 10 Comments
David Pugliese looks at the campaign to sell the F-35 purchase.
Figures obtained by the Liberals show public servants at National Defence headquarters charged taxpayers at least 600 hours of overtime to organize a news conference and seven events to promote the purchase of the F-35 aircraft to defence analysts, academics and some industry representatives … Defence Department sources have told the Ottawa Citizen some officers have been uncomfortable with the situation but the military is being pressured by the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister’s Office to spearhead the sales effort.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 24, 2011 at 12:40 PM - 65 Comments
I can guarantee to you, however, that the unit cost Canada will pay for a complete, operational F-35A will be well in excess of $70 million – even taking into account whatever exclusion of American costs to develop the aircraft your government may be able to negotiate. If and when Canada signs an actual purchase contract for F-35As in 2014, as I understand is currently planned, the real question is what multiple of CAD$70 million will Canada have to pay? I do not believe it unreasonable to expect a multiplication factor of two.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 14, 2011 at 2:10 PM - 78 Comments
The Prime Minister defends the government’s purchase of fighter jets.
“Contracts like this are not a political game,” Harper said, speaking from a blue podium with government Action Plan slogans perched in front of him and behind him. “It is about lives and, as you well know, it is about jobs.”
It is unclear from that report whose “lives” are being invoked in this particular case, but the Prime Minister has in the past invoked the “lives” of Canadian Forces members to defend his procurement policy. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 7, 2011 at 4:39 PM - 38 Comments
While both sides have a case to make with respect to the procurement costs and industrial benefits, the sovereignty question sidesteps the larger issue behind this purchase. Although the F-35’s ability to defend Canadian airspace was surely taken into account, that is not what makes this plane especially attractive to the government and the air force. The value of the F-35 is that it will permit Canada to take part in multinational air operations overseas for decades to come. Put simply, in buying these aircraft, the government will ensure that Canada can play a visible role in future allied air campaigns across the world.
In fact, if the Liberals eventually form a government, it’s this aspect of the F-35 that is likely to persuade them to go through with the purchase, however grudgingly.
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 - 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 John Geddes - Friday, October 29, 2010 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
Lieutenant-General Angus Watt retired about a year ago as chief of air staff in the Canadian
Forces. That gives him a particular vantage point on the government’s plan to spend about $16 billion to buy and maintain 65 F-35 fighter jets—close enough to know the details, but a bit detached from the ferocious debate that’s erupted over the sole-sourced procurement.
Not surprisingly, Watt is a big fan of the Lockheed Martin jet, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter. He’s a sharp critic, though, of the job the federal government is doing selling the deal to the Canadian public. This is an edited version of his conversation with me earlier this week about the controversial F-35 project.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 5:34 PM - 0 Comments
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s vow that as prime minister he would hold an open competition for new jet fighters, rather than proceeding with the F-35 deal that the Conservatives want to pursue, sounds smart enough. All things being equal, open bidding for defence contracts is the way to go.
Yet it’s interesting that Ignatieff doesn’t appear quite ready to leave the controversial F-35 agreement behind in the dust. He seems to tacitly concede that the F-35 scheme has something going for it by asserting that a Liberal government would somehow remain part of that arrangement, while sort of walking away from it.