Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – 6 June 12

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  • The PM on D-Day + 68 years:  “(Today), we mark the 68th anniversary of D-Day, the allied invasion of Normandy that marked the beginning of the march toward the liberation of Europe. On the morning of June 6, 1944, over 150,000 members of Allied forces from Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Free France and Poland landed on the northern coast of France with one goal in mind: to break Nazi Germany’s stranglehold on the continent. With great courage and determination, 25,000 members of the Canadian military took part in the largest amphibious assault the world has ever witnessed, playing a major role in the mission’s success. The seizing of Juno Beach would become one of Canada’s most renowned military victories and was a key part in one of the greatest battles of the Second World War. “As we mark this anniversary, we commemorate the thousands of brave and selfless Canadians – heroes one and all – who fought so tirelessly, and we pay tribute to those soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice ….”
  • More on scaling back Canada’s military plans (1) “The Conservative government is being forced to defend its record following revelations Defence Department budget cuts have rendered its multi-billion-dollar shopping list of military ships, planes and vehicles “unaffordable.” Postmedia News revealed this week that National Defence officials told the government as far back as last year that its vaunted plan to invest $490 billion over 20 years to rebuild the Canadian Forces was no longer feasible …. In the House of Commons on Tuesday, NDP deputy House leader Nathan Cullen demanded to know why the government continued to promise the military equipment. “The Conservatives were well aware that they could not deliver. They could not pay for their promises,” Cullen said. “Why did the Conservatives not tell the truth about their military procurement strategy? Why not respect the taxpayers?” With Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay out of the country, it fell to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to respond for the government. “We told the truth and acted to rebuild our military,” Kenney said. “This government has made historic, unparalleled investments in Canada’s modern history to provide equipment and resources to our men and women in uniform.” ….” 
  • More on scaling back Canada’s military plans (2)  More from the House  “…. Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino said the government is doing what it can to ensure the military has the necessary equipment. “The issue here is that we are doing the best we can under the circumstances to provide our men and women the tools they need to do their job,” he said ….”  I’d love to share the House of Commons transcripts of the exchange, but that part of the Parliament of Canada web site doesn’t work as of this post.
  • More on those Canadian mini-bases all over the place (no obtained documents seem to be shared via the article, so no way to know what else is in them)  “The military is hunting for seven strategically placed nations willing to host a network of Canadian bases aimed at cutting costs and boosting response times to future wars, disasters and humanitarian crises. Two of those bases — in Germany and Kuwait — have already materialized, but the full extent of the plan to create overseas beachheads for military planes, ships and equipment has not been previously acknowledged. Defence officials and diplomats, armed with a $500,000 budget, are now working to finalize agreements with governments in some of the most volatile parts of the world. When the collection of operational support hubs is complete, Canada’s military will also have a permanent footprint in the Latin America and Caribbean region, on both sides of the African continent, in the swath of countries marked by the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as in Southeast Asia. Defence Minister Peter MacKay said last week that Canada is actively seeking a deal to set up one of those hubs in Singapore. The bases will form dots along the line of what military planners refer to as the Arc of Instability — the parts of the world where future conflicts are deemed most likely to occur ….”
  • More on the fracas over the DND Minister’s Office being underwhelmed about military staff not (apparently) backing the Minister enough over the chopper ride from the fishing lodge:  “…. Apparently, his office paid some of it forward. Internal Defence Department emails, obtained by the CBC under Access to Information, show that members of MacKay’s staff communicated their displeasure that the military was not sufficiently supportive of the minister during this time. Inter-office squabbling between civilian and military officials at Defence isn’t exactly new, but these revelations are particularly delightful now, for the simple reason that the Tories are quietly preparing to make cuts, potentially big cuts, to the armed forces. Or, in other words, are not being sufficiently supportive ….”
  • Globe & Mail: Build up the RC Navy, pick a sailor as the next Chief of Defence Staff  “With Canada’s grinding, decade-long ground commitment in Afghanistan at an end, there is a sea change needed with respect to Canada’s Armed Forces. Quite literally. Prime Minister Stephen Harper hinted at it eloquently in a recent speech in Ottawa, declaring that “Canada is a maritime nation, a maritime nation with trade, commerce and interests around the world…Canada and its economy float on salt water.” “Such a nation,” Mr. Harper said, “must have a navy.” …. given the defence challenges and its own priorities, it needs to appoint a naval officer as the next Chief of Defence Staff, following the expected departure later this year of General Walter Natynczyk. The last an admiral was in that role was 1997. It’s time again.”
  • Afghanistan (1)  What Canadian Preventative Medical (public health) Techs are helping teach the Afghans (via the ISAF Info-machine)  “As the Afghan National Army (ANA) grows and trains to combat the Taliban insurgency, it is also taking aim at another equally insidious enemy confronting the nation—disease. The Armed Forces Academy of Medical Sciences (AFAMS) delivers a Preventative Medicine (PMED) Technician program and is training personnel to check for potential health hazards at military and police facilities throughout the nation. The PMED course is a one-year program of instruction for select Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) personnel taught by Afghan instructors and now supported by a team of specialists from the Canadian Forces. They are part of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) AFAMS medical advisory training team and include Warrant Officer Eric Bouchard and Master Cpls. Sonia Lavigne, Ryan MacDonald and Brad Studham ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Analyst Lauren Oates on being careful who you pick as an “expert” to comment on current events (with an interesting example)  “…. it is often the habit of many mainstream news outlets to have a handful of suitably appearing academic figures on speed dial to testify on anything of international flavour showing up in the news, if they can be vaguely labeled as experts in “global affairs.” It’s very often the same “experts” who are called upon by the media to comment over and over again, not for their expertise per se, but rather more often their willingness to comment on anything on a wide array of places and issues. Often, their good sound bites only distill complicated issues into digestible bits for the public. The problem is that the simplicity of their commentary is not necessarily derived from their grasp of the subject matter, but often from their lack of it. It’s easy to make sweeping, general statements about topics that we’re unfamiliar with. But it’s also very dangerous ….”
  • Canada taking part in international professional development conference for NCO’s  “U.S. Army Europe and the Croatian Army are co-hosting the sixth Conference of European Armies for Noncommissioned Officers (in Zagreb, Croatia) this week, bringing together senior NCOs from more than 40 European nations, Canada and Afghanistan. The three-day conference is a key component of USAREUR’s theater security cooperation program, which is designed to share tactics and techniques that build partnership and interoperability among European, U.S. and other allied and partner forces. “The purpose of the conference is to encourage the development of professional armies throughout the European land forces and build relationships between the European armies’ senior NCOs,” explained USAREUR Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport Sr. “This is an opportunity to build mutually beneficial personal and professional relationships and to hear other countries’ views on topics and issues that are important to all of us here in Europe,” Davenport continued. “Many of these countries are our coalition partners in Afghanistan. In fact, 93 percent of our coalition partners in ISAF are European countries. So, this is an opportunity to for us to discuss joint exercises and engagements, at which we train for our coalition missions.” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War  An oft-maligned 2010 news conference to announce a plan to buy 65 stealth fighters cost taxpayers more than $47,000, say documents tabled in Parliament. The figure was revealed by Defence Minister Peter MacKay in a written response to an opposition question. Liberal defence critic John McKay wanted details about the event, which saw MacKay, Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose and Treasury Board President Tony Clement pose with an F-35 mock-up built by manufacturer Lockheed Martin. The response shows Lockheed Martin offered the model and transported it “to Ottawa via flatbed transport truck” at no charge. The money was well spent, Clement said Tuesday after question period. “We have an obligation to communicate our decisions,” he said. “We decided to give a visual portrayal of what we were talking about. We had over 100 stakeholders who were there, who were invited because they are experts in the field of the fighter jets. I don’t think we have to make any apologies about that.” Jay Paxton, a spokesman for the defence minister, says almost half of the $47,313 spent by National Defence went to an audio-visual company that helped stage the event. He says the expense was necessary because the news conference involved a number of national media outlets, as well as more than 100 invited guests ….” – more from Postmedia News here.
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Sandwiches, box lunches for Kingston, Petawawa and Trenton – menus and sandwich specs here.
  • Way Up North (1)  Editorial:  Time for an Arctic strategy for Canada  “…. When it comes to either of the primary strategies in the great game for resources, Canada seems to be more of a stumbler than a doer. Despite its repeated announcements of enhanced infrastructure to provide a strong military and civilian presence in the region, much of Canada’s capacity remains on the drawing board. Russia, Denmark and even Norway already have a leg up on Canada ….”  Here’s a bit of what Russia and Norway (as well as Russia & Norway together) are up to in their Arctic areas.
  • Way Up North (2)  China and India should be granted entry to the intergovernmental council for Arctic issues, a leading group of policy experts has told Canada. Canada takes over leadership of the Arctic Council in 2013, and granting observer status to China, India and other “non-Arctic powerhouses” should be a top priority, according to recommendations stemming from a conference organized by the Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program policy forum. At present, the council consists of the eight Arctic nations (Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States) and six observer countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom). There are also six groups of indigenous peoples who hold ‘permanent participant’ status. China and other nations such as South Korea have vastly increased their polar-research spending in recent years, and there has been much debate about whether they should be allowed to join the Arctic Council as observers ….” – the full report, “Canada as an Arctic Power: Preparing for the Canadian Chairmanship of the Arctic Council” available here A big hat-tip to Tom Fries of the Arctic Institute for pointing me towards this one via his weekly round-up of Arctic news from around the globe.
  • Way Up North (3)  A buildup of military forces around the Arctic amid growing excitement about its oil wealth has the ability to undermine stability in the region, a research paper has warned. According to the report – called Climate Change and International Security: the Arctic as a Bellwether – the military buildup is neither advisable nor a sensible peacekeeping measure, as it is increasingly designed for combat rather than policing. The paper, published by the US not-for-profit organisation, the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), warns: “Although the pursuit of co-operation is the stated priority, most of the Arctic states have begun to rebuild and modernise their military capabilities in the region. The new military programs have been geared towards combat capabilities that exceed mere constabulary capacity.” ….”
  • Yesterday,the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, met with Thailand’s Minister of Defence, Air Chief Marshal Sukumpol Suwanatat, during a bilateral visit in Bangkok, Thailand ….”
  • Tomorrow, the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence hears from LGen Charles Bouchard, (Retired), speaking as an individual, on “NATO’S Strategic Concept and Canada’s Role in International Defence Cooperation”
  • Yesterday, at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, “Drafting Instructions for a Document” and discussion of “Transformation Initiatives at Veterans Affairs Canada.”  Tomorrow, more discussion of “Transformation Initiatives at Veterans Affairs Canada.”
  • Columnist underwhelmed by Veterans Affairs Minister  “I’ve noticed that there has been a subtle shift in the language of politics in Canada. Cabinet ministers used to be called “the Minister responsible for…” That has been supplanted with “Minister of…” Admittedly, the longer version doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it does serve a critical purpose: it reminds everyone that holding a portfolio is more than carrying a leather folder — it is a position of responsibility. It means the buck-stops-there. Ministers don’t just wield power, they take charge and fix problems. That’s something that Minister Blaney needs reminding of ….”
  • What the Veterans Ombudsman’s office is up to this summer  “As I mentioned previously in my blog, the Office has adopted the theme of One Veteran for the period of my mandate. As this theme suggests, I feel very strongly that all Veterans, regardless of their service, should be treated fairly by Veterans Affairs Canada. To the same end, it is crucial that the many voices within the Veterans community come together to share the same goal: to ensure that those who have honourably served our country have access to the benefits and services they need, in recognition of their service and of the individual sacrifices they and their families have made. In many ways, the concept of coming together to work as one team applies to the Office. With a team that is split between two different locations—one in Ottawa and one in Charlottetown—it is extremely important that geographic distance does not take away from the quality of the work we do to ensure the fair treatment of all Veterans …. During the second week of June, my team will assemble for an all-staff retreat. This will be an opportunity to foster communication and plan strategically for the year ahead. We will use this time to plan for upcoming outreach tours and systemic reviews, identify possible areas of concern, and generally ensure that the team is working together towards a common goal—the fair treatment of all Veterans. I expect that this retreat will be very informative and productive, and I will be sure to provide an update following our return.”
  • Another Highway of Heroes coming, this time in New Brunswick?  Brian Macdonald, MLA for Fredericton-Silverwood, introduced a motion Tuesday for New Brunswick to have its very own “Highway of Heroes.” Macdonald said the motion could be debated as early as Friday. The driving force behind the idea came from the New Brunswick chapter of the Canadian Army Veteran Motorcycle Unit. The group has been advocating for the initiative for the past year and has collected more than a dozen letters of support from various veterans groups throughout the province …. Macdonald told CBC News he suspects there will be unanimous support for the designation ….” – more on all the other Highways of Heroes out there here via
  • A high-ranking U.S. military official says the case of Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle, the Halifax naval officer accused of spying, has not diminished NATO’s faith in Canada. “I will tell you as a member of a military that is one of Canada’s strongest allies and partners, we’re not shaken by this at all and I don’t think our strategic imperative has been diminished in any way, shape or form,” Vice Admiral David Busse told reporters Tuesday. He is in Halifax attending the 2012 Maritime Security Conference. Canada’s Rear Admiral David Gardam called the Delisle case “regrettable.” But Buss said the U.S. has “blips” too. He said all sides must learn from the case because they must continue to share information. Delisle, 41, faces two charges of violating a section of the Security of Information Act and one charge of breach of trust under the Criminal Code. He is accused of passing secrets to a foreign entity or terrorist group sometime between July 2007 and Jan. 13, 2012 ….”
  • Human trafficking announcement coming today in Ottawa, Montreal and Surrey, B.C.
  • Lt. Cmdr. Wafa Dabbagh, R.I.P.  The first woman to wear the hijab in the Canadian Forces died Tuesday. Lt. Cmdr. Wafa Dabbagh was an energetic, optimistic person who entered the naval reserve in 1996 in search of adventure and a job. She got both. In 2010, Dabbagh was awarded one of the first Operational Service Medals, and last month she received a Diamond Jubilee Medal. The medal ceremony was held in the hospital where she was being treated for lung cancer, a diagnosis she received in 2010. She underwent chemotherapy and radiation while continuing to work ….”
  • War of 1812 (1)  Canada-U.S. switcheroo of relics  “A mortar that stood in defence of Canada during the War of 1812 is going on display at the American Embassy in Ottawa, courtesy of the Canadian War Museum, as both countries commemorate the 200th anniversary of their historic, cross-border conflict. The 91kg (200 lb.) brass mortar from the Museum’s permanent collection was presented on loan to U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson by Mark O’Neill, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. The ceremony was held today at the War Museum in Ottawa. A reciprocal loan from the Smithsonian Institution will be made at a later date to Ambassador Doer, Canada’s Ambassador to the United States in Washington. The exchange is a symbol of the close friendship that exists between the two countries 200 years after the outbreak of war ….”
  • War of 1812 (2)  LOADS o’ places to commemorate the anniversary of the war – all the way until 2014

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  1. […] reports: “Arctic military rivalry could herald a 21st-century cold war.“  June 6: shares this with you.  June 11:  the Postmedia News chain shares this with […]

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