Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – 30 Mar 12

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NOTE:  On the road over the weekend, so no updates for Saturday or Sunday,
but back on Monday – see you then!

  • Federal Budget 2012 (1)  Here’s the Government of Canada’s Info-Machine material, and here’s a bit of what it means to the military at first glance:  While Canada’s frontline military force has emerged untouched in this year’s federal budget and reservists were provided some relief, thousands of Defence Department civilians and contractors could be on the chopping block. At the same time, the country’s diplomatic footprint is set to shrink as the government will close embassies and other missions and end Canadian participation in a number of international organizations, while millions in foreign aid will be slashed. As expected, National Defence is facing the largest cuts of all departments in terms of sheer numbers, at more than $1.1 billion by 2014-15. This is over and above the $1.1 billion the government already had planned to slash from the department’s $21-billion budget this coming fiscal year. Few details were provided, but by maintaining the current level of 68,000 regular force members and 27,000 reservists, the government appears to have taken retired general Andrew Leslie’s advice to maintain the frontline force and instead cut back on the $2.7 billion spent on contractors, consultants and private-service providers. The Defence Department also may look to sell or otherwise dispose of some of the property it currently holds in different parts of the country and change the way it purchases equipment. On that front, the government is taking $3.54 billion it was planning to spend over the next seven years on military vehicles and other items and saving it for a future date. This largely reflects delays in a number of projects ….” 
  • Federal Budget 2012 (2)  Another take on the numbers  Roughly one-fifth of all federal spending cuts over the next three years will come at the expense of the Defence Department, the budget tabled Thursday by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty indicates. The hit will be a substantial one for a department that for many years saw generous increases under the Harper government and whose budget approached $21.2 billion last year. Under the plan tabled by Flaherty, a defence analyst estimates the overall defence budget will fall to “roughly $19 billion and change” by 2014-15. Brian MacDonald, of the Conference of Defence Associations, said it’s hard to peg an exact figure because the government has only released initial figures, and more information is yet to come. “Yes, there was a large budget reduction, (but) I think the (Canadian Forces) got off a lot lighter than people were expecting,” MacDonald said ….”  More here and here
  • Federal Budget 2012 (3)  Nova Scotia’s finance minister his piece  “The military cuts in Thursday’s federal budget give him the most concern, provincial Finance Minister Graham Steele said Thursday. The budget included a delay of $3.5 billion in capital work for seven years and a reduction in the Department of National Defence’s operating budget. Steele said there’s no indication the delay in capital spending will impact Halifax Shipyard’s $25-billion federal contract to build new warships, but he’s still waiting official word on that point. He said he was reassured that the budget indicated the number of regular force members would stay the same and the reductions would be focused in the Ottawa region. “But I think we all need to see more detail on how this will actually play out,” the minister said. “The Armed Forces are a critical part of Nova Scotia’s fabric, as well as being an important economic driver in our region.” ….”
  • Federal Budget 2012 (4)  One academic’s guess  “Despite massive cuts to defence spending in Thursday’s federal budget, the city’s largest employer, Canadian Forces Base Kingston, will remain relatively untouched. “There will probably be some civilian job losses, but they will probably be small,” said Christian Leuprecht, an associate professor of political science at Royal Military College and Queen’s University. “I think the impact for Kingston is mitigated here.” The base employs approximately 9,000 people — including hundreds of civilian members. The federal government announced Thursday they would be maintaining the current level of 68,000 regular force members and 27,000 reservists, instead focusing cuts on the $2.7 billion spent on contractors, consultants and private sector pro­viders. “It doesn’t sound like anything substantial that is going to have a profound effect on Kingston,” Leuprecht said. That can’t be said for Ottawa and Gatineau, however, where the majority of cuts to civilian personnel are expected to be made at the Department of National Defence’s headquarters, he said ….”
  • Canada, CF troops help build, set up military staff college in Ghana  “The Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College (GAFCSC), the nation’s forcemost military institution of higher learning, has constructed a new academic block complex. The complex was fully funded by the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) in line with its objective to expand its scope of offering military programmes to advance tertiary courses for personnel of the security agencies both in the country and the rest of the Continent …. In early 1976, the government made a firm decision and commitment to establish a Grade II Command and Staff College, as the highest institution of learning where mid-stream officers of the rank of major and their equivalent in the Navy and Air Force would be trained. The United Kingdom and Canada supported the project by providing a commonwealth Military Advisory Team of six officers from the United Kingdom and three from Canada. With this, GAFCSC was established in July 1976 as a Tri-Service and Joint Institution, and the highest such military institution of learning in Ghana. Course 33 comprising sixty-one (61) participants was currently in session ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  Canada’s final quarterly report on the Kandahar phase of the mission – and not even tabled by the Minister of Defence, the Minister for International Co-operation or the Minister of Foreign Affairs – how the mighty (missions) have fallen….  More here
  • Afghanistan (2)  An appeal by the Department of Foreign Affairs to block an Ottawa law professor from getting a better look at reacted documents that detail the status of human rights in Afghanistan won’t be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. The Department of Foreign Affairs had been trying to prevent University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran from gaining further access to the departmental reports. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision, announced Thursday, not to hear the government’s appeal, it is expected that Attaran will gain further access to the documents. Attaran first asked for annual reports from foreign affairs for the years 2001-06, but was given redacted copies of the reports from 2002-06. The department said no report existed for 2001. After filing a complaint with the information commissioner that the redactions were excessive, Attaran received another set of copies with fewer redactions, but the professor wasn’t satisfied and took his case to Federal Court, asking for a further review by a judge. The Federal Court was declined a further review of the documents, with the exception of two sections of a report that had already been released and publicly reported on ….”  More from The Canadian Press here.
  • AGAIN with the sharing of veteran’s personal information with those who shouldn’t have been seeing it….  “One of Canada’s most decorated veterans is speaking out for the first time about his claims that his personal privacy was violated by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Tom Hoppe served in Bosnia during the mid-1990s and was decorated for bravery. The former sergeant was active in veterans support organizations even before he left the military in 2001 after 20 years of service. Hoppe became the head of the Ontario Peacekeeping Veterans Association, and later the president of the national organization. He is currently chair of the Veterans Ombudsman Advisory Committee. A critic of the government’s revamp of benefits for veterans, called the New Veterans Charter, Hoppe found out that his name appeared in an email that another veteran, Sean Bruyea, obtained through access to information requests when he was investigating violations of his privacy by Veterans Affairs. Hoppe then did his own request for information, which confirmed that private medical information in his file had been shared by people in the department ….”  Questions on this one during Question Period yesterday here and here
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  While his government isn’t giving any guarantees Canada will buy the F-35, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada will remain involved in the stealth fighter project to ensure Canadian companies can continue participating. “We have received literally hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts for the Canadian aerospace industry. This is not a trivial matter,” Harper said at the conclusion of a major summit on nuclear security in Seoul on Tuesday. “We haven’t yet signed a contract, as you know. We retain that flexibility. But we are committed to continuing our aerospace sector’s participation in the development of the F-35.” Sixty-six Canadian companies have so far acquired $435 million worth of contracts related to the F-35 since Canada became a partner in the multibillion-dollar project in 1997 ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  “Good News from Pentagon–with Conditions and Production Still Further to the Right”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3)  Glass half empty  “The sorry tale of the F-35 stealth fighter jets just got worse, and not because Auditor General Michael Ferguson is issuing a report on the Department of National Defence’s procurement process next week. For it has emerged that F-35s suffer from — believe it or not — flaky skin. The ability of F-35s to avoid radar detection depends on a “fibre mat,” which is cured into the composite surfaces of the aircraft ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (4)  More questions in the House o’ Commons – Hansard here and here
  • An FBI expert in Russian intelligence and counter-intelligence has testified at a hearing for a Canadian man accused of passing state secrets to a foreign country. U.S. special agent James Dougherty was called during Wednesday’s bail proceedings for Canadian Forces Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Delisle, a Halifax-based naval intelligence officer and the first Canadian charged under the Security of Information Act. Mr. Dougherty was among a slate of witnesses that included the accused’s brother, mother and aunt. All of the testimony is covered under the terms of a publication ban, which was granted at the request of the defence. SLt. Delisle will find out later this week whether he will be released from the provincial jail where he is being held in custody, after Nova Scotia Provincial Court Justice Barbara Beach reserved her decision until noon Friday ….”  More here

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