Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – 15 May 12

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  • Libya  More squabbling over the cost of the mission in the House of Commons here and here
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1a)  Official statements and a DND report that Cabinet tabled in the House of Commons last week indicate Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has no intention of changing course in its plan to acquire a fleet of 65 F-35 stealth fighter jets—which U.S. forecasts suggest will now cost Canada at least $41-billion to buy and maintain over an expected 30-year minimum lifetime. Treasury Board President Tony Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.) tabled a new yearly planning report for the F-35 project in the Commons last Tuesday which shows the government expects its first aircraft delivery in 2017, one year later than an initial timetable set last year. The report was produced despite the government’s earlier claims, following a scathing report on the project from Auditor General Michael Ferguson on April 3, that the F-35 plan wasn’t a done deal and, at one point, suggesting it was even considering other aircraft for replacement of Canada’s aging CF-18 jet fighters. The annual Department of National Defence report on plans and priorities, including the jet project, was buried in a sheaf of reports Mr. Clement tabled in a virtually vacant House a few seconds after 10 a.m., between Speaker Andrew Scheer’s (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.) opening and routine tabling of petitions by backbench MPs ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1b)  Let’s compare and contrast, shall we?  Earlier this month, there was this posting on the Treasury Board web page, listing the Prime Contractor for the “Next Generation Fighter Capability” project as “Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, Fort Worth, Texas, USA”, with the project in the “Option Analysis” phase.  Note also this correction.  Now, we have the latest posting at the Treasury Board web page showing the Prime Contractor as the “Joint Strike Fighter Program Office (JPO), Washington, DC, USA” and the “Major Subcontractor(s)” being “Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, Fort Worth, Texas, USA”, with the project at the following phase:  “Options Analysis: An interim Project Management Office was stood up in October 2010 and work has been initiated to advance a Treasury Board submission seeking the required expenditure authorities for definition stage activities.”  We’ll have to see how the politicians (and eventually the Generals again?) message their way out of this one, especially in light of statements in the House of Commons like this one from DND acquisitions political czar Julian Fantino“No decision has been made with respect to the acquisition of our replacement aircraft for the CF-18s. We are not in a position to guess. We are acting very diligently and responsibly on the recommendations of the Auditor General. Decisions will be forthcoming once the facts and figures are known, upon which decisions can be made.”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1c)  Minister Fantino as of yesterday in the House of Commons “Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada has taken action to ensure that due diligence, oversight and transparency are firmly embedded in the process to replace Canada’s aging fighter aircraft. We are following a seven-step action plan to fulfill and/or exceed the Auditor General’s recommendation. This includes freezing the funding and establishing a separate secretariat outside National Defence to lead this project moving forward.”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  Auditor General Michael Ferguson today will make his second appearance before MPs studying the process to replace Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets with F-35 aircraft, more than a month after his report exposed internal estimates far higher than the ones disclosed publicly. Ferguson was initially scheduled to appear for a second time before the public accounts committee on May 8, but an unexpected medical treatment left him recovering at home ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3a) not buying the “the media didn’t tell the whole story about initial Libya estimates” messaging
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3b)  It costs money for to hold news conferences – won’t you give now?  Operators are standing by …. 
  • Afghanistan  Zaaaaat right“The head of NATO says he wants Canadian soldiers to extend their stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014. While Ottawa has said 900 of our remaining troops will be coming home in a couple of years, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said training Afghanistan’s army is going to take time, and he wants the Canadian Forces to stay longer. “I appreciate very much that Canada provides trainers for our training mission in Afghanistan and I hope Canada will be in a position to continue that contribution also after 2014,” Rasmussen said Monday in an exclusive interview with Global National’s Sean Mallen at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels. “From that time on, the Afghans will have full responsibility, but they still need our assistance and this is the reason why we will continue a training mission,” the NATO Secretary General added. “And I hope Canada will continue to support our training mission.” It appears Prime Minister Stephen Harper is open to keeping Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan a little longer. “We will assess what is necessary to make sure that Afghanistan continues to progress toward being a state that is not a threat to global security, and that is able to take care of its own security,” he said in Ottawa on Monday. “Those are our objectives and beyond that, we haven’t made any final decisions.” ….”
  • Speaking of documents filed for Parliament, Mark Collins shares the latest list of less-than-top-speed defence acquisition efforts
  • Another Big Honkin’ Ships update  The Royal Canadian Navy’s plans to acquire six to eight ice-capable Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) are facing yet another obstacle. On Tuesday in the Canadian House of Commons, the 2012-13 Reports on Plans and Priorities were tabled. The reports sum up the expected revenue, expenditures, and projects of each government agency and department in Canada. National Defence’s plans and priorities show that the AOPS will be delayed another three years, with delivery now scheduled for 2018. The first ship will not be operational until 2019, and that full operational capability of all of the ships will not be reached until 2023. The Treasury Board gave preliminary approval to the project in May 2007, so by the time the project is finally completed, over fifteen years will have elapsed ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Wanted: someone to do a “social dynamics” study to “assess the effects of socio-structural beliefs and …. to explore the intergroup effects of maintaining, bolstering and changing group identity” (more in Statement of Work here), and ballistic plates and “training plate kits”
  • More Info-machine (U.S.) material on Exercise Cougar Salvo 12 in Idaho, involving Canadian and U.S. troops. Compare and contrast with the discussion of said exercise.
  • Speaking of exercises, the Veterans Affairs Minister had a chance to drop by on a recent exercise – Spartan Bear – in southern Ontario.
  • CBC News has learned that the Canadian military has decided to use “virtual reality therapy” in a pilot project to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. The new therapy method puts soldiers in a computer-animated situation that recreates the specific incident that left the soldiers traumatized. A therapist then helps the soldiers to work through their memories. It is estimated that 17 per cent of Canadian soldiers who did dangerous patrols outside of their base in Afghanistan, and who are now home, are reporting symptoms of PTSD. The Canadian Forces says the therapy seems to appeal to a younger generation of soldiers comfortable with video games. The VR therapy was pioneered by Dr. Skip Rizzo at the University of Southern California. He says that “the research shows, pretty consistently over the years, that by having the person gradually imagine or be exposed in VR to events in the traumatic memories, that they’re able to process emotional memories.” Last year, the Canadian Forces told CBC’s Diana Swain it was not convinced that there was enough research to prove the therapy could work. Now, in an email to CBC News, it says it is launching a pilot project paying “close attention to research in this area.” ….”
  • Mark Collins and others on whether the CF can “maintain its expeditionary capabilities across all three services: army, navy and air force”?
  • Libya  Oopsie….  “Dozens of Libyan civilians died in NATO air strikes on sites with no apparent military value, Human Rights Watch said in a report Monday that called on Canada and other participants in last year’s conflict to probe whether laws of war were violated. Described as the most extensive study to date of civilian casualties caused by NATO’s seven-month air campaign in Libya, the report said the overall number of deaths was low but that eight bombings of residential homes had killed 72 and wounded dozens more. One of the bombings may have killed a high-ranking military commander but seven civilians also died, the report said. At five of the sites, only “possible signs” of a military presence were found while at the remaining two there was no evidence of a valid military target. NATO took important steps to minimize civilian casualties during the Libya campaign, but information and investigations are needed to explain why 72 civilians died,” said Fred Abrahams, who authored the report, Unacknowledged Deaths: Civilian Casualties in NATO’s Air Campaign in Libya. Human Rights Watch wants the issue raised at the NATO heads of state summit in Chicago later this month and called on the alliance to investigate all potentially unlawful attacks and report the findings to the United Nations Security Council ….”
  • South Africa’s military learning from Canada  “Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu today launched the Military Ombud Office, which will deal with complaints from defence force members. Lieutenant-General Themba Mathanzima was sworn in as the Ombudsman during the launch in Pretoria. “The Ombud will investigate complaints lodged in writing by the members. The Military Ombud is a soldiers’ appeal office to internal military grievance management procedures,” she explained. According to the department, the Military Ombudsman will investigate complaints and serve as a neutral third party on matters related to the Department of Defence and the South African National Defence Force, acting independently of the chain of command and managers …. Sisulu had introduced the Military Ombudsman Bill to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans last year. At the time, she referred to a similar institution in Canada which is tasked with the responsibility of reviewing and investigating concerns and complaints from current and former members of the Canadian Armed Forces, departmental employees, and their immediate family members who believe that they have been treated improperly or unfairly by the Canadian Department of National Defence Force or Canadian Forces ….” – more from South African media here and here
  • “With all the focus as of late on the Conservative government’s extensive anti-crime agenda and the pending purchase of the F-35 jets, a significant legislative accomplishment has been lost in the shuffle. This spring, the government fulfilled an important election promise in the passage of the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act (JVTA) as part of Bill C-10: the Safe Streets and Communities Act. The passage of the legislation is the product of seven years of advocacy by the Canadian Coalition Against Terror (C-CAT), representing terror victims across Canada. The law enables victims of terrorism to sue individuals, organizations and states for loss or damage suffered as a result of terrorist related acts or omissions on, or after, January 1, 1985 …. Canada has taken a bold and courageous stand in the fight against terrorism. The JVTA has the potential to turn hundreds of Canadian victims of terrorism into “foot soldiers” in the battle against terrorist atrocities. For this, the federal government must be commended. The controversy surrounding the many issues related to other bills contained within Bill C-10 must not cloud the importance of the step that has been taken. The enactment the JVTA cannot help but move Canada in the direction of fulfilling its promise of being a stronger, safer and better country that fights terrorism in every dark corner of the world.”
  • RCMP watchdog report:  RCMP actions during G-20 protests “reasonable and appropriate”  “Mr. Ian McPhail, the Interim Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (Commission), today released the Commission’s report on its public interest investigation into the actions of the RCMP at the 2010 G8/G20 Summits. “The Commission found that, while there was room for improvement in some areas, the actions of the RCMP and its members in the context of the G8 and G20 Summits were reasonable and appropriate,” said Mr. McPhail …. The RCMP had the primary responsibility for the security of both summits and the protection of visiting dignitaries. In carrying out its responsibilities, the RCMP conducted itself in a reasonable and appropriate manner. Planning for both events was found to be thorough. The investigation did not reveal any instances of unreasonable use of force by RCMP members and found that although the RCMP’s involvement in the “kettling” incident was not consistent with its policies and practices, it was reasonable in the circumstances. The Commission also found that the RCMP played no role in the planning, management and operation of the Eastern Avenue Detention Centre or any of the arrests carried out at Queen’s Park, the University of Toronto or The Esplanade. The Commission has, however, recommended a number of improvements to RCMP policy and practice in the areas of:: record keeping; integrated post-event debriefings; the clarification of operational policies with policing partners; and procedures for intelligence investigations in the context of major events ….”  You can find the report here, and media coverage here, here and here

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  1. […] to 2) at this post (and second comment), has some fun with government documents, and answers in the Commons, by Associate Minister of National Defence […]

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