MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 18 Oct 11

  • The military’s second-in-command has defended the size of the bureaucracy in the Canadian Forces, including the large number of civilians and executives who have been become a veritable army at National Defence headquarters. And while acknowledging reductions will be necessary in light of planned budget cuts and the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson told members of the Senate defence committee Monday that across-the-board slashing would be unrealistic. “I agree that we need to reduce it,” said Donaldson, the vice-chief of defence staff. “It’s just very difficult sometimes to know what it is that can be reduced.” ….”
  • Libya  U.S. and Italian defense chiefs on Oct. 17 said they examined prospects for ending the allied air campaign over Libya and how to support the country’s post-Gadhafi transition in talks at the Pentagon. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who expressed thanks for Italy’s role in the NATO-led operation, said alliance commanders favored pressing on with bombing raids as Moammar Gadhafi’s loyalists were still putting up resistance in Sirte. “We are looking for our commanders to… recommend when they believe that the mission comes to an end,” Panetta told reporters after meeting his Italian counterpart, Ignazio La Russa. “As you know, there’s still fighting going on in Sirte. And as long as that continues to be the case, our commanders feel the need for us to maintain our presence.” ….”  More details of Canada’s assets in the air (and sea) fight there here.
  • CF visits Africa for communications exercise“Africa Endeavor is the largest communications interoperability exercise on the African continent. Held this year from 7 July to 12 July, it’s an annual “Command, Control, Communications and Computer” — C4 — integration exercise sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) to foster interoperability between Canada, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States and 35 African countries. Africa Endeavor comes together over the course of three conferences hosted by participant countries throughout the year, and culminates in a two-week exercise. This year, the Canadian delegation was led by Colonel Pierre Lamontagne, the Canadian Forces Liaison Officer at AFRICOM Headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, and included communication specialists Master Warrant Officer Serge Boily, Warrant Officer François Pitre and Sergeant Eric Viau of 3 ASG Signals Squadron in Gagetown, and Warrant Officer Pierre Paradis from CEFCOM Headquarters in Ottawa ….”
  • Worries in the home of Veterans Affairs Canada about coming cuts. “The Department of Veterans Affairs is planning to cut over $222 million from its budget over the next two years, a move that some believe will have a huge impact on employees in Charlottetown. The cuts are outlined in the department’s plans and priorities report, which details spending and programming plans up to 2014 ….”
  • New B.C. group pushing for better compensation for Canada’s wounded. “They sat quietly in the corner of a room that overflowed with more than 250 supporters of Equitas Society and considered the levels of justice, fairness and equity that injured soldiers like them experience. Formed just three weeks ago, the Equitas Society was holding its first fundraiser Friday at Hazelmere Golf Club, MC’d by Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg. While the evening was considered a financial success, it was a rude awakening for some just learning about financial compensation for wounded members of Canada’s military. Lawyer Don Sorochan was quick to put a fine point on the disparity between settlements in civil cases and the level of financial support afforded soldiers ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1a)  Stand by for Big Honkin’ Ship contracts soon“It is Ottawa’s best-kept secret but the biggest defence procurement contract since World War II is expected to be unveiled as soon as this week, according to a government source. In the coming days, about $35 billion worth of shipbuilding contracts will be announced. There are two deals to be handed out and three shipyards battling for the contracts. The contenders include Nova Scotia’s Halifax Shipyard, British Columbia’s Seaspan Marine Corp. and the Davie shipyard of Levis, Que. The largest contract is worth $25-billion and will be spent on combat vessels for the navy. The other contract is worth $8 billion and will go towards building non-combat ships, including a new Arctic icebreaker. The shipyard which loses out on the big contracts can make a bid for smaller contract of about $2 billion ….”  More on Ottawa’s bracing for blowback from the award here and here.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1b)  “…. The (Big Honkin’ Ship contract) selection is being overseen by a panel of deputy ministers, and KPMG will vet the final decision. Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose says the decision will be 100 per cent on merit and is “completely at arm’s length of politics.’’ But in Ottawa, there is no such thing as politics at an arm’s length.”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  “…. The Department of National Defence (DND), requires the purchase and delivery of miscellaneous inert weapon simulation supplies for CFB Wainwright, Alberta. Items are required in support of LFWA training centre courses and will only be used in a training environment ….”  More in the list of (mostly bad-guy) goodies from the bid document (PDF) here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  Canadian fighter pilots selected to fly the new F-35 could find themselves trained by either the Americans or a private contractor, according to internal air force documents. The staggering multibillion-dollar purchase price means the Conservative government can only afford 65 of the multi-role stealth fighters. The number — Canada currently has 79 aging CF-18s — stretches the ability of the air force to meet its commitments, says a series of briefings given to the air force chief last year. Internal air force memos from the fall of 2010 lay out the “potential for NO pilot training in Canada.” ….”  No indication of Canadian Press sharing the documents for you to see.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  Aussie DefMin still mulling F-35 vs. upgraded F-18s.
  • Alexander Johnston, 1885-1918, R.I.P  For 90 years, his final resting place was unknown. His service, however was commemorated on the Vimy Memorial near Arras, France, where the names of more than 11,000 other Canadians who have no known grave also appear. But next week, the remains of Pte. Alexander Johnston, which surfaced when a First World War battlefield became an industrial construction site in 2008, will be buried, with full military honours, at Le Cantimpre Canadian Cemetery in Sailly, France. And his Ottawa-based next of kin will be on hand to see it. Indeed his great grand-niece, Ann Gregory, who is a bugler with the Governor General’s Foot Guards, will play The Last Post as part of the ceremony. She’s travelling as part of the National Defence delegation and her father, Don Gregory, and brother, David, will also be on hand thanks to Veterans Affairs, which is providing funding for two family members to attend. In addition, three of Johnston’s relatives who live in Scotland, where he was born, will also travel to France for the ceremony ….”
  • War of 1812 (1)  The Americans got Wayne Gretzky ­and Pamela Anderson ­— but we won the War of 1812, right? I mean, that’s what we were taught. Damn Yankees declared war on us for no good reason. Plain greed. Some piddling trade dispute. And, sure, our British masters kept snatching sailors off American ships. But nothing serious. Deep down, they just lusted after our fish, trees and future hockey players. So they attacked like star-spangled skunks in the night. Lucky for us, they didn’t count on Sir Isaac Brock and Tecumseh and Laura Secord joining forces to whip their Yankee doodle derrieres. We even got some lovely chocolates out of the deal. Damn straight, we won. So why do many Americans call it their Second War of Independence — and insist they won ….”
  • War of 1812 (2)  Remembering the Aboriginal contribution to the fight.  “The Friends of Tecumseh Monument will soon have an opportunity to expand on their dream of telling Chief Tecumseh’s legacy and the events occurring in Chatham-Kent during the War of 1812. An announcement delivered from members of parliament Dave Van Kestern and Bev Shipley Friday, told the crowd gathered at Chief Tecumseh’s monument on Longwoods Road, near Thamesville, of available funding for the Canadian Heritage’s Celebration and Commemoration Program. $28 million will be available to communities to promote a greater awareness of Canada’s importance in the war and to aide with bi-centennial celebrations. A feasibility study, costing $49,500 from the $28 million, was completed last week to determine how to improve the site and how the changes can benefit the community as a whole ….”
  • War of 1812 (3)  Columnist on Ottawa’s spending plans to commemorate the war:  “…. I would have a greater measure of respect for the government if it spent our money strengthening the friendship between Canada and the U.S., rather than glorifying a war that ended with neither side richer in land or in purpose. The boundaries remained what they were before 1812. I await the influx of American tourists in the summer of 2012 who will be surprised to learn they are the bad guys in Canada’s so-called “most important war.” “

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