MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 4 May 12
- We’ll see …. “The Conservatives insisted Thursday that resources to help soldiers deal with the effects of war aren’t being lost to budget cuts. Union officials say a dozen researchers and experts who work on mental-health issues in the military have been told their jobs are on the line. The Opposition called the cuts callous, given statistics released this week showing suicide rates among soldiers reached record high levels last year. But Defence Department officials say no final decision has been made on those positions. Meanwhile, they’re moving to increase the number of front-line personnel available to help active soldiers and veterans. “Our government has made the decision to ensure that the positions of all front-line workers who treat ill and injured personnel are protected,” Defence Minister Peter MacKay said in a statement. “Direct patient care is not being affected in any way by recent efficiency measures.” ….” More from the union involved here, and more media coverage from CTV.ca, the Toronto Star, here, here and here. More in Question Period yesterday in the House of Commons here
- “Disabled veterans in Canada are “cautiously optimistic” they will see the money the federal government owes them, says Dennis Manuge. “Everybody is pretty excited that we have this kind of pressure now to bring to bear on the government,” Manuge said Wednesday. He was the lead plaintiff in a class action that was brought against the federal government on behalf of disabled veterans. On Tuesday, the Federal Court ruled that Ottawa has been illegally clawing back veterans’ disability benefits and ordered the practice stopped. It is not yet known if the decision will be appealed ….”
- Remember this man saying he was being pressured to reject vets’ claims and appeals for compensation as part of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB)? You can go here to Army.ca and download a Parliamentary Library of Canada document showing a list of VRAB members and the number of times they said “yea” or “nay” to requests (semi-spoiler: most gave far more “yeas” than “nays), as well as stats on board hearings and rejections.
- Meanwhile, the Minister of Veterans Affairs gives $5K to a Georgetown, Ontario group to celebrate VE Day.
- Budget 2012 Collapsing of the COM’s “The Canadian Forces will merge the separate military commands that direct missions overseas and operations at home in a bid to cut headquarters overhead now that the military is refocusing after wars in Afghanistan and Libya. In a major restructuring of the forces’ command, Defence Minister Peter MacKay has ordered that the headquarters of two senior generals be trimmed, as field operations at home and abroad are merged under one Canadian Joint Operations Command, according to a Defence Department source …. Now that major combat operations have ended and the troops’ activities are largely in Canada, the Defence Department faces a new peacetime challenge: to restructure in a time of belt-tightening. Mr. MacKay has ordered consolidation, the official said: “It’s going to be phased in over the coming months.” Three existing commands will be merged: CEFCOM, the expeditionary command which directs overseas operations like the Afghanistan mission or the Libya air strikes; Canada Command, in charge of domestic defence and all North American operations such as navy drug interdiction patrols; and CANOSCOM, the logistics command responsible for getting ammunition and supplies to troops in the field ….”
- F-35 Tug o’ War (1a) Guess who we’re hearing from on this file in the House of Commons? Question Period hit here
- F-35 Tug o’ War (1) Guess who we’re NOT hearing from on this file? “Prime Minister Stephen Harper has had to face one of his government’s biggest challenges to date — the controversy over the multi-billion-dollar purchase of fighter jets — without the help of his right-hand man. Nigel Wright, the prime minister’s chief of staff, has carefully and completely stayed out of any discussions of the procurement issue since he took up his post in January 2011, according to several government sources. Wright has had to abide by a so-called “ethical wall,” put in place to ensure that there was no conflict between files he dealt with in corporate Canada and those that would come across his political desk. Wright was an executive with private equity firm Onex Corp., and dealt specifically with the aerospace industry. Onex manages capital for Hawker Beechcraft, a firm that has partnered on projects with F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Wright is on a leave of absence from Onex, and could go back any time between July and next January ….”
- F-35 Tug o’ War (2a) “Canada’s budget watchdog on Thursday accused the government of trying to mislead Canadians about the cost of the US-led F35 fighter jet program. Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page told reporters a flat “yes” when asked if he believed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government wanted Canadians to think the planes were going to cost less …. On Thursday, Page defended his cost estimates around the F35s before a parliamentary committee. He said he included operating costs of the jets, based on Treasury Board guidelines and a 30 year lifecycle, versus the 20 years used for the government’s tally that does not include fuel or pilot costs ….”
- F-35 Tug o’ War (2b) “Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page says National Defence’s process to buy equipment is broken if the way they handled the F-35 fighter jet program is normal. In an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CBC’s Power & Politics, Page pointed to committee testimony by top department officials who said the way they handled the process to buy the F-35 is the way they usually do it. If that process is normal, Page said, then it’s “broken. Completely broken. And wrong.” Officials gave one estimate to cabinet, he said, that included the full costs of the plane for the complete lifespan, but gave another estimate to MPs. “To tell Parliament, effectively, to tell Canadians, that, well, actually it’s a much smaller number, that’s wrong,” Page said. Earlier in the day, Page testified at a committee that National Defence withheld information when he was preparing his controversial report on the costs of the F-35s, and he later indicated he thinks Canadians were misled about the true costs of buying the fighter jets ….”
- F-35 Tug o’ War (3) Some details on some of the Committee testimony regarding numbers
- F-35 Tug o’ War (4) “The general responsible for NATO’s military hardware says it’s not important that countries buy the same fighter jets, punching a hole in the government’s argument that it must buy the F-35 for the sake of “interoperability.’‘ NATO’s supreme allied commander transformation, Stephane Abrial, a former fighter pilot and chief of staff of the French air force, testified before the House of Commons Defence Committee Thursday. “We do not advocate a single type of aircraft, single type of ships, single type of rifles,” Abrial said. “We never wanted to make sure everyone has the same equipment: that’s not our goal.” Abrial said interoperability has to do primarily with training and ensuring all NATO forces have sufficient skills to function as one on the battlefield. “Interoperability means you are different but you work together,” he said ….”
- F-35 Tug o’ War (5) “National Defence is touting F-35 fighter jets as a key tool against overseas threats for decades to come, stating the military can’t pick an aircraft based solely on Canada’s domestic needs. But government insiders, opposition critics and military experts are arguing that National Defence needs to reopen the debate over mandatory requirements for the new fighter jets. At this point, Canada’s defence policy calls for the purchase of stealth fighter jets, which is a characteristic that will be of use in international missions – but doesn’t necessarily serve Canada’s needs on the home front. “For missions in Canada, it’s not the ideal aircraft,” University of Ottawa professor Philippe Lagassé said of the F-35. He said the F-35 is relatively costly, slower that some competitors and hampered by the fact that it has a single engine, instead of being a twin-engine jet like the current fleet of CF-18s. However, based on current requirements for overseas missions, the Lockheed-Martin aircraft is Canada’s only option. “The only stealth aircraft that Canada can buy, apart from those being developed in Russia and China, is the F-35,” Prof. Lagassé said ….”
- F-35 Tug o’ War (6) Column throwing out yet another question worth considering: “The notion that Canada may one day need stealthy F-35 fighter jets to help counter a threat from China has hardly been discussed in the raucous, mostly uninformed debate over whether Ottawa should acquire the fifth-generation warplanes. The few times that the possibility has been raised that China and Canada might be at odds in 2030 or 2040 it has usually been ridiculed …. militaries must prepare for future contingencies. To do that they need the best equipment that they can get. Until now almost the entire focus of the current F-35 debate in Canada has been about what the Harper government knew about long-term costs and whether it was truthful to Parliament and the public about this. These are important questions. But they have totally obscured serious discussion about why Canada needs such a warplane. Part of that conversation has to be about what Canada’s relationship may be with China and many other countries several decades hence. The answers to such questions may be as hypothetical as what the operating costs of the F-35 will be by then, but they must be posed ….”
- F-35 Tug o’ War (7a) A bit of old news, refreshed (I guess) by the blazing hot lights cast on the F-35 fight “The department of National Defence last month retroactively amended a key phrase in a report it submitted for tabling in Parliament last year on the government’s planned F-35 fighter jet acquisition after Auditor General Michael Ferguson issued a scathing report on the controversial project’s costs. National Defence described the change as being due to a “typographical error.” The department, through the office of Vice-Chief of Defence Staff Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson, changed wording that originally placed the project further along the Cabinet decision-making process when Treasury Board President Tony Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.) tabled the report in Parliament last June …. “
- F-35 Tug o’ War (7a) This, from 25 April (7th bullet): “The federal government is officially back-tracking on the process of buying the F-35 stealth fighter, part of a reassessment of the purchase that’s causing anxiety among Canadian companies hoping to tap billions of dollars in spin-off work for the jets. The Department of National Defence has issued a significant correction to the “Plans and Priorities” report it tabled in Parliament for MPs last year. In an “erratum” note, it says the 2011-12 report wrongly described the F-35 purchase as being in “definition” project phase, which generally means an item has already received preliminary approval from Treasury Board, the gatekeeper for federal spending. Instead the decision to buy a next-generation fighter is being reclassified as being in “option analysis” phase, which means Ottawa is still determining what it needs in terms of a plane. In the note, National Defence blames an unknown bureaucrat for the snafu, saying someone made a “typographical error” in the 2011-12 “Report on Plans and Priorities.” ….”
- F-35 Tug o’ War (8) Aussies getting cold feet? More here.
- F-35 Tug o’ War (9) Aussie blogger on the irony of web pages carrying stories on the Tug o’ War while also carrying ads for the F-35
- What’s Canada Buying? (1) Wanted: someone to take apart the aircraft arrester at Bagotville as a first step to replacing it with a new one
- What’s Canada Buying? (2) “A highly unusual sight occurred at the Abbotsford International Airport today when a CC-130J Fuselage Trainer shrouded in white plastic departed Cascade Aerospace Inc.’s headquarters facility aboard a transport truck. With the truck, trailer and Trainer totaling 190 feet in length, it is the longest over-sized truck shipment ever to be transported in B.C. The massive training device is destined for Canadian Forces Base Trenton, ON, where it will be installed at the new Air Mobility Training Centre (AMTC) and used by the Royal Canadian Air Force to train loadmasters on Canada’s newest tactical airlifter, the Lockheed Martin CC-130J Super Hercules ….”
- Afghanistan (1) CF Info-machine on legal beagles teaching Afghan troops about the law “Established at the Kabul Military Training Centre on 3 February 2010, the Afghan National Army (ANA) Legal School graduated its first class in August 2010 and in only two short years is gaining recognition as the ANA’s centre of excellence in legal training. A move to permanent quarters at the Afghan National Defence University in Qargha-Kabul — planned for Spring 2013 — will significantly enhance its training capacity. The ANA Legal School has a mission and a mandate to promote justice and the rule of law in the ANA ….”
- Afghanistan (2) CF Info-machine on helping train Afghan women to join the Afghan National Army “One of the most potent signs of change in Afghanistan is the sight of uniformed women on the job in the army, the air force, and in a wide range of policing services. Their recruitment, training and deployment is part of Transition, the plan for security in Afghanistan to be in Afghan control by the end of 2014. At the Kabul Military Training Centre, the Female Training Battalion is responsible for training of women destined for the Afghan National Army. From 1 April to 4 April 2012, I had the privilege of observing a group of female officer candidates as they conducted four days of performance objective checks (that’s “test” in army-speak) with personal weapons on the KMTC range ….” An interesting sidebar re: what the Afghan institutional memory is dredging up while NATO troops train them: “…. a new class comes in every week or two, so each class has an identifying name. The Canadian Forces uses serial numbers — course 12-04 is the fourth class to start a particular course in 2012. The Female Training Battalion uses women’s names, and this group of officer candidates came from Malalai Company. “Malalai” means “sad” or “melancholy” in Pashto, but its real significance here is that, in 1880, a girl named Malalai went down in Afghan history as the heroine of the Battle of Maiwand, for waving her veil as a flag to rally her countrymen against the British invaders. It’s like the French Army calling a group of female recruits “Joan of Arc Platoon.” ….” Or like an Indochinese unit being trained by the French Army being called “Dien Bien Phu Platoon”….
- Way Up North “Canada is moving to wrest back control of a swiftly changing North – or at least get a better handle on what’s going on in its icy waters. Global warming and growing international interest in the melting Northwest Passage make it imperative, the federal government says in an online call for expressions of interest, to improve surveillance in territory Canada claims but knows little about. The research arm of the Department of National Defence is investing $10-million from now through 2015 in a remote-controlled satellite surveillance project in the Barrow Strait, a small slice of the Northwest Passage through which most vessels pass on their way westward along that route. The Northern Watch project was announced in 2007 and the first equipment set up the next year, only to be severely damaged by harsh weather conditions. Now, after several years of remediation and altering equipment to make it stand up better to Arctic conditions, Ottawa has put a call out for a company to build a system that researchers can control from Halifax and, eventually, set up to be entirely automated. It will send the signals to Defence Research and Development Canada’s Atlantic section, which specializes in underwater photography ….” More from MERX here (or here if link doesn’t work), and a few previous MERX Northern Watch postings here and here (via Army.ca)
- The Pentagon Info-machine on recent joint Canadian-American training in southern Ontario “For the first time since 2001, a New York state-based Marine Corps Reserve infantry company trained with The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, Canadian forces here, April 20-22, during a small-scale, bilateral, 48-hour exercise. Following the 9/11 attacks, heightened security at the U.S. and Canadian border made border-crossing procedures more tedious and difficult and bilateral training with Canadian forces was put on hold. The past decade’s operational tempo and deployments to Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, also contributed to taking training with Canadians out of the equation. Training with border nations like Canada is an integral part of Marine Forces North’s responsibility to conduct homeland-defense operations. Reserve units are the ideal forces to conduct this bilateral training due to the unit’s close proximity to the Canadian border ….”
- More from south Asian media on Pakistan’s military boss’s visit to Ottawa “General Khalid Shameem Wynne, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), who is on an official visit to Canada , called on General Walter J Natynczyk, Canadian Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and discussed matters of military cooperation and emerging regional situation. He attended Joint Staff Action team roundtable at the CDS Headquarters, and discussed at length issues related to regional stability and Pakistan’s security perspective. Later, the Chairman accompanied by Canadian Chief of Defence Staff, visited ongoing training exercises of Canadian Armed Forces in New Brunswick. He appreciated the realistic training maneuvers and dedication of Canadian Armed Forces personnel. General Khalid Shameem Wynne also called on …. Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence ….” So, are we going to hear from any Canadian media on this one?
- Terrorists in Somalia may apparently be raising money by smuggling, selling khat (even in Canada) “British counter-terrorism police arrested seven people Tuesday on charges they were part of a network that had been exporting khat to Canada and the U.S. to fundraise for terrorism. Police raided four homes in London, Cardiff and Coventry at 6 a.m. as part of what Scotland Yard described as “a pre-planned, intelligence-led operation into suspected fundraising for terrorism overseas.” Khat is illegal in Canada but remains popular among émigrés from East African nations such as Somalia, where chewing the leafy stimulant is a ritual for some, although conservative Muslims forbid it. Much of the khat smuggled to Canada comes from Africa via London, where it is not considered a narcotic. The arrests suggest that at least some khat users in Canada may be unwittingly bankrolling terrorists ….” More from British media here and here, some background on khat from the RCMP here, and some recent Canada Border Services Agency seizures of the stuff here and here.
- What Canadian columnists did Al Qaida trust the most? “Two Canadians were among a select group of international journalists singled out by al-Qaida to receive “special media material” on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, according to declassified documents captured during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year. Eric Margolis and Gwynne Dyer were to have been provided with a password and site address to download information provided by the terrorist group “at the right time,” according to the documents, released Thursday in a report by the Combating Terrorism Centre at the United States Military Academy at West Point titled, Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined? Margolis and Dyer were among a dozen journalists named in one of the letters, including renowned British war correspondent Robert Fisk and American Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. It also named journalists from Norway, Pakistan, Egypt and Jordan. Margolis said the documents need to be approached with caution “because there have been a lot of bogus reports, documents and videos that have come out of that area.” “It’s hard to tell. I’m not sure they’re authentic to start with. We have no way of knowing,” he told Postmedia News, adding they are “bad translations.” He said he was “mildly surprised” that he was mentioned as part of a group of independent journalists “not affiliated with news networks” who have an extensive background in the area ….”
- Note to PM’s Info-machine: I know the PM’s important, but would it have killed you guys to share some photos of, say, the monument as well? “Prime Minister Stephen Harper today unveiled The Royal Canadian Navy Monument on Richmond Landing in Ottawa. The Monument pays homage to the hundreds of thousands of Canadian sailors who served this great nation during the Navy’s first century of existence. The Prime Minister was accompanied by Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, General Walter Natyncyzk, Chief of the Defence Staff, and Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy …. In true Navy tradition, the Monument was officially named by a member of the Service during the dedication ceremony. Miss Elsa Lessard, who served in the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service during the Second World War, accepted this honour ….” I’ll keep checking the PM’s photo gallery for any other pix (while you’re there, you CAN check out 21 photos of the PM’s visit to Colombia, though). Meanwhile, Postmedia News isn’t even sharing a photo of the monument online. Here’s what the PM had to say at the event.
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