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Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 5 June 12

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  • No sign of the subject briefing notes, so no way to know what else is in them.  The Conservative government knew as far back as last year that Defence Department budget cuts had made its multi-billion-dollar shopping list of military equipment “unaffordable,” Postmedia News has learned. As a result, National Defence officials have been urging the government since May 2011 to push the reset button and re-evaluate “the level of ambition” for its vaunted plan to rebuild the Canadian Forces. The Canada First Defence Strategy, the centrepiece of the Conservative government’s long-term vision for the military, was unveiled with much fanfare in May 2008 and promised to invest $490 billion in new equipment and upgrades over the next 20 years …. But briefing notes prepared for Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino weeks after the last federal election and obtained through Access to Information show he was warned billions of dollars in spending reductions had rendered the Canada First Defence Strategy impossible to fulfil. “The funding reductions from Budget 2010 and the reduced funding line going forward will make the Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS) unaffordable,” reads the briefing material. “The department will be challenged to deliver on the CFDS commitments as a result of forecasted decreases in funding and increased in costs,” it adds ….”
  • National Post columnist raises a good point“…. Canada should have a moderately sized, well trained and equipped military. A country of 34 millions need not raise armies fit to conquer the world, but as a major industrial nation and economic power, our national interests demand that we have some muscle behind our words. Hopefully, even while hunting for savings, the government will remember this, and cut, where necessary, only with care.”
  • Caveat: we don’t see the e-mails themselves, because CBC isn’t sharing them, but if this part is true, I guess we know who the CF Challenger jets “belong” to….  “…. (CDS Walter) Natynczyk’s aide de camp had asked his assistant on Nov. 30, 2011, to prepare a rundown of commercial flight costs for 18 people to fly Ottawa to Kuwait via Rome, plus another nine to fly Ottawa to Kuwait. “In order to show our homework when arguing for Challenger use, I require the following data,” Maj. Steve Popowych instructed. By the end of the day, Tasseron reported the request was denied. “Notwithstanding my attempt to adequately explain the timing, security and feasibility considerations related to my proposal for using Challenger aircraft to move between Rome and Kuwait, Mr. [MacDonell] has indicated that the [Minister of National Defence's Office] will not consider its use,” he wrote. “Commercial it is,” Natynczyk replied. Governor General David Johnston and five passengers not named in the documents took a Challenger from Ottawa to Rome and back to join the visit to HMCS Vancouver off the coast of Libya.”
  • Meanwhile, “Minister MacKay And Singaporean Minister Of Defence Hold Bilateral Meeting”
  • New CF Info-machine Backgrounder out on what the CF is doing with Australia’s military
  • Afghanistan  One interpreter’s story  “A former Afghan interpreter for the Canadian Forces now living in Ottawa has re-established contact with soldiers he helped during the war in Afghanistan. Mohammad Rahman was no usual interpreter, according to soldiers who worked alongside him. Rahman carried a gun and medical emergency kit and was able to tie a tourniquet and administer an IV. He can also speak five languages — Dari, Pashto, Urdu, Arabic and English — which made him indispensable to Canadian soldiers. Four years ago, Rahman saved the life of Maj. Mark Campbell when the pair were caught in a firefight with the Taliban in Kandahar province’s Panjwaii district . “He was my personal bodyguard,” Campbell said of Rahman. “He was the only interpreter allowed to carry a weapon and that’s because he was an Afghan National Army senior medic. He brought all those medical skills that came into play to some degree the day I was hurt.” Campbell suffered serious injuries, losing both legs in the field of battle. Rahman worked hard to save the man’s life. “I put for him tourniquets and also I give him IV before the battle group medic was coming to help me. Very bad place for me in my life,” Rahman said of that day …. Rahman is now a permanent resident in Canada after immigrating to Ottawa with his wife and seven children in October 2011. Kandahar became just too dangerous for them, he said ….”
  • One of the papers being released and discussed at this conference“Evaluation of a New Mental Health Training Program for Canadian Military Personnel Returning from a Combat and Peace Support mission in Afghanistan.”
  • The privacy watchdog is looking at whether a Veterans Affairs investigation of a breach of privacy actually involved another breach of privacy. The department hired an outside contractor, Amprax Inc., to look at how personal information about veterans advocate Sean Bruyea ended up in a ministerial briefing note in 2006. Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddard ruled in 2010 that the leak violated the law, but Amprax issued a report which cleared bureaucrats in the case. In the course of that investigation, however, Bruyea says Amprax was given access to as many as 4,000 documents on him during its investigation. Bruyea also claims that as many as 24 people — deemed by the commissioner the first time around to have had no business looking at the information — were also shown records they had no reason to see. Things have now come full circle, with Stoddard investigating the investigation. “Rest assured that the issue of privacy of veterans is a top priority for our office,” said a May 29 letter to Bruyea, obtained by The Canadian Press ….”
  • Meanwhile, what is Veterans Affairs doing to improve services to vets?  This, from a written response to a question via the House of Commons“The Government of Canada is determined to offer Veterans and their families the care and services they need and deserve.  After having announced several new measures supporting Veterans in the Fall 2011 under the New Veterans Charter, the Government of Canada is addressing the quality of services that are offered. The needs of Canada’s Veterans are changing. Progress is well underway to enable Veterans Affairs Canada to better meet these changing needs. The Government is listening, responding and taking action based on feedback from Veterans and stakeholders. VAC’s transformation plan focuses on five priorities:  reducing complex programs, overhauling service delivery to cut red tape, strengthening the partnership with DND, sustainlng the NVC and realigning the organization with Veteran demographics.”  The written response is also worth a look because anyone writing to Ottawa seeking changes or improvements in the system as a whole may end up seeing similar wording in the responses they get back.
  • Congrats to all  “…. 11 Canadian Forces (CF) soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen and one Canadian Ranger were recognized in the House of Commons for their service to Canada as part of the annual 2012 CF Recognition Program. “The men and women of the Canadian Forces and Canadian Rangers have given so much for their country and deserve recognition for their hard work,” said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence. “I’m proud to recognize these members for the contributions they have made towards keeping Canada safe and secure, both at home and abroad.” “These deserving members have been selected from across the country for the exceptional performance of their duties and their valuable contribution to the Canadian Forces and our nation,” said General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff. “On behalf of the CF, I thank them for their service and the sacrifices they and their families make to achieve our mission to protect Canada and Canadian interests.” CF Recognition Day in the House of Commons is the centerpiece of the annual CF Recognition Program, whereby members of Parliament are presented with an opportunity to thank the Canadian Forces for their service to Canada. This year’s Program recipients are: Chief Petty Officer 2nd class Ghislaine Arseneau …. Captain Andrew Baier …. Sergeant Robert Biener …. Corporal Marissa Breese …. Ranger Thomas Cook …. Corporal Robert Edhouse …. Corporal Lisa Henry …. Master Seaman David Leblanc …. Lieutenant(Navy) Robert Pihlaja …. Master Corporal Lorinda Sherman …. Warrant Officer John Walsh …. Captain Chung Leung Wong ….”
  • First with the unmanned aerial drones over the Arctic (more), now with the unmanned ships“No hands on deck required. The Royal Canadian Navy is exploring options for unmanned ships, something Defence Minister Peter MacKay says could appear in the not-too-distant future. The unmanned surface vehicles, or USVs, are the naval equivalent of unmanned aerial vehicles, the remote-control drones that are fast becoming the weapon choice for the Obama administration in the growing number of recent targeted killings of al-Qaida terrorists. The technology for USVs is in its infancy compared with the aerial drones, but MacKay told The Canadian Press they could have a role to play in “near future” of the Canadian navy. “We’re surrounded by water,” MacKay said. “Unmanned vessels, like unmanned aerial vehicles, give us reach and capability without the same risk. It allows you to keep harm at a distance. So there’s a lot of interest. . . . But it’s new technology.” As part of a broader research and development initiative by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, MacKay recently announced a $3-million grant to Rolls Royce to help support research into USVs in his home province of Nova Scotia ….”  This, from the announcement linked above:  “…. Rolls Royce – Development of Support Technologies for Unmanned Surface Vehicles – This project will develop an integrated sensor handling system to overcome technological gaps in launch and recovery for marine Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV’s). R&D will also be applied to refueling capabilities so that USV’s can be refueled at sea. In short, the project will develop technology for automatically conducting refueling and launch/recovery missions at sea for unmanned surface vehicles ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  The identity of two fighter jets the Department of National Defence says it evaluated but overruled in favour of the Lockheed Martin F-35 as the aircraft to replace Canada’s aging CF-18 Hornet fighter fleet remain a mystery. But the aerospace firm that sold Canada the CF-18 fighters in 1980, and which has since awarded $5-billion worth of production and sustainment contracts in the country that were part of the deal, has informed The Hill Times National Defence did not even complete a high-level analysis of its fighter-jet contender for the same contract. The Boeing aerospace company, which has sold more than 400 of its new-generation “Super Hornet” fighter jets to the U.S. Navy and the Australian Air Force since 2000, provided The Hill Times with a detailed explanation of how the company’s new F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft “has never been in any formal competition in Canada” as a contender against the trouble-plagued and costly F-35, even though the Boeing Super Hornet has been cited by experts as one of the top-of-the list potential successors to the CF-18 Hornet ….” - more from yesterday’s Question Period here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  Opposition MPs are furious Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose appeared at an arms industry trade show in Ottawa last week while the government was making plans to shut down a House committee inquiry into the controversial $25-billion F-35 stealth fighter jet acquisition without giving the committee an opportunity to grill her or Defence Minister Peter MacKay. Auditor General Michael Ferguson rebuked the Public Works department along with National Defence, in a highly critical report on a chain of F-35 procurement decisions that he said contravened normal procurement policies. This included a Public Works decision to allow National Defence to procure 65 F-35 fighter jets without competing bids from other aircraft manufacturers, while National Defence and the federal Cabinet withheld $10-billion worth of F-35 costs from the public and Parliament. But Conservative MPs on the Public Accounts Committee moved a motion to end the committee’s inquiry into Mr. Ferguson’s report at an in-camera session of the panel. The government is expected to use its majority to force an end to the hearings and turn the panel toward writing a report to the House before it adjourns for the summer in three weeks. Liberal MP Gerry Byrne (Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, Nfld.), who last week was battling the NDP as well as the government in a bid to continue the hearings, said Ms. Ambrose’s (Edmonton-Spruce Grove, Alta.) appearance at CANSEC, a defence and security trade show in Ottawa from May 29-30, was even more offensive because the giant U.S. defence supplier that is manufacturing and selling the F-35 to a consortium of nine countries, Lockheed Martin, participated in the event. Senior Lockheed Martin executives from the U.S. and Canada attended Ms. Ambrose’s noon speech ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying:  Big Honkin’ Ships Edition  Mark Collins on “French Firm Pitching for RCN Ship Orders” – original source article in French here, in Google English here
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  “…. DND, Mercury Global Project, is seeking feedback from industry, and in particular, satellite terminal providers, ground station operators and system integrators with respect to the commercial sector’s ability to address DND’s satellite ground infrastructure needs for access to the US Department of Defense WGS constellation ….” - a bit more from a previous MERX posting here, and from bid document extracts (18 pages, Google Docs) here.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  More on counter IED simulators  “…. A series of training simulations ordered by the Canadian Department of National Defense will prepare soldiers to better handle systems that counter the enemy bombs in roads and paths used by the allied military vehicles. The interactive three-dimensional software and related computer-based enable soldiers to work in virtual environment and get used to conditions in warfare. The Virtual Task Trainers from Vancouver defense provider NGRAIN will aim to teach maintenance skills for Expedient Route Operating Capability vehicles and Electronic Counter Measures devices. Both EROC and ECM are being used in the continuing operations in Afghanistan. The simulations bought under the new contracts will deal with maintenance issues faced by troops using heavy vehicles that are essentially built to survive IED explosions. The vehicle’s current configuration, however, makes removing components for repair difficult. The Buffalo IED clearance vehicle will receive Power Pack Removal and Transfer Case virtual trainers that will be used to train combat engineer units, officials said ….”
  • Syria  Column: Ain’t another Libya  “…. Canada provided a string of assets during the Libyan conflict including senior staff officers as well as air and sea components. NATO force like this combined with political pressure eventually enabled opponents of Gadhafi to defeat a tyrant and gain their freedom. Don’t expect to see it repeated in Syria anytime soon ….”
  • Globe & Mail editorial:  As Canada deepens relations with Israel, we also need to build stronger ties with the Arab world. Canada’s interests depend on constructive relationships with both Israel and a range of Arab countries. One nation that holds much potential for Canada is Qatar. The tiny Persian Gulf country of 1.7 million, adjacent to Saudi Arabia’s east coast, doesn’t normally receive a lot of Canadian attention. But that is changing Foreign Minister John Baird opened the Canadian Embassy in Doha earlier this year. And last week, a delegation of Qatari military officials was in Canada, as the two militaries deepen ties. Qatari gas is now exported to Canada, and a novel project is under way at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, with Canadian medical expertise at work in Qatar. About 5,000 Canadians work in the country, in the oil fields and in universities. Newfoundland’s College of the North Atlantic has a program there and so does the University of Calgary’s nursing school ….”
  • Canadian Border Services Agency adds five new faces to its wanted list; Minister says “The success of this initiative is a confirmation that Canadians believe in making our communities safer”.
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