Report leaked to QMI: CF way too top heavy. “The Department of Defence and the Canadian Forces are top heavy with too many civilian bosses in Ottawa and need to shift resources to the front lines, according to a secret defence report. Between 2004 and 2010, civilian hires at DND and the CF outpaced hires in the regular forces three to one, and while the number of sailors fell, staff at DND/CF headquarters in Ottawa ballooned by 38%. But the government says those hires were necessary to backfill positions left vacant by Canada’s heavy involvement in Afghanistan, “so that military members could focus their efforts on operational matters,” wrote Jay Paxton, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay, in an e-mail Thursday. The transformation report, authored by Gen. Andrew Leslie, was submitted in early July but has yet to be released publicly. QMI Agency obtained a copy from a military source ….” No word on sharing the report with anyone who wants to read it themselves.
Report leaked to Globe & Mail: CF way too top heavy. “National Defence must take an axe to its bloated headquarters by dismissing or reassigning thousands of workers if the military is to meet its future obligations, concludes a landmark report charged with transforming the Canadian Forces. This scathing assessment by Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, who commanded the Canadian army during the Afghanistan war, arrives at a pivotal moment for the military, as the army returns from its troubled mission in Kandahar, the navy and air force seek new ships and aircraft, and the Conservative government vows to eliminate the federal deficit in a gloomy economy. “If we are serious about the future – and we must be – the impact of reallocating thousands of people and billions of dollars from what they are doing now to what we want them to do …will require some dramatic changes,” Gen. Leslie writes in Report on Transformation 2011. A copy of the report has been obtained by The Globe and Mail ….” No word on sharing the report with anyone who wants to read it themselves.
Way Up North (1) “Peter Mackay, Canada’s defence minister, who arrived in Resolute Bay in the early hours of Aug. 18, made the most of his day-long visit to observe Operation Nanook, the Canadian Forces’ military exercise, shoring up support from every direction for his department’s increased visibility in Nunavut and the North. Mackay even managed to cram in a dive from an iceberg lodged in the bay outside Resolute with divers who have been learning how to work around icebergs. That, said Mackay, who donned a dry suit and full divers gear, was “disorienting,” but “incredible” as light shone through the iceberg into the water ….”
Way Up North (2) CF Info-Machine coverage of Operation Nanook: “Operation Nanook is well underway with Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) aircraft and personnel providing valuable airlift during this major national and international operation. A combined Naval Task Group set sail from St. John’s, N.L. on Aug. 5, towards Canada’s Eastern and High Arctic, where other personnel and equipment from the Canadian Army, RCAF, and Canadian Rangers converged for the month-long, annual Arctic sovereignty exercise. In addition to the Canadian Forces, simulated major air disaster and maritime emergency scenarios involve the Canadian Coast Guard, Transportation Safety Board, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Public Safety Canada as well as the Government of Nunavut, the community of Resolute Bay and our private sector partners. Op Nanook, named for the Inuit word for polar bear, is the centerpiece of three annual northern sovereignty operations conducted by the Canadian Forces and its partners who share interest in Canada’s North ….” More on Op NANOOK at the Canada Command page here.
Way Up North (3) “A senior Canadian Army officer – Lt.-Gen. Walter Semianiw – is to travel to Moscow and other northern European capitals this fall for discussions about the Arctic. This development mocks the ludicrous media hype suggesting that there is a bitter rivalry involving Canada, Russia, the United States and Denmark (Greenland) over their sometimes competing claims and interests in the Arctic. To be sure, there are differences of opinion about the top of the world. But the reality is there is actually far more co-operation than there is friction. “This is beyond search and rescue,” the chief of Canada Command told me in a recent interview upon his European travel plans. “We are going to be talking about military co-operation in the North.” Officials from Russia and other Arctic Council countries will “table top” an international search-andrescue exercise in the Yukon in October. At this moment, Canadian and Danish warships and U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers are working together in Arctic waters after some of the vessels paid a courtesy call on a Greenlandic port. U.S. Coast Guard divers are on an exercise with Canadians on Cornwallis Island ….”
Afghanistan (2) How Canadian air force folks are helping create an Afghan air force (via CF Info-Machine).“Kabul International Airport covers a vast area on the north side of the city. The sprawling complex includes civilian and military air terminals, air cargo centres, and International Security Assistance Force facilities. One military unit located on the airport grounds represents the future of the Afghan Air Force. The Afghan Air Training School (or Pohantoon e Hawayee, which means Big Air School) is where new members of the Afghan Air Force learn the basics of flying and maintaining aircraft and running an air unit. They also participate in literacy training, which is incorporated into nearly every course conducted by the Afghan national security forces. Ten advisors from Canada’s Air Force serve at the training school as part of the Canadian Forces contribution to the NATO training mission in Afghanistan. The Canadian staff are part of 738 Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron (738 AEAS), a NATO unit assigned to advise the the (school’s) Afghan commander and his senior staff ….”
F-35 Tug o’ War Well, at least SOME of the U.S. Joint Strike Fighters are able to fly again.“The F-35 Lightning II test fleet has been cleared for flight, the Pentagon announced Thursday. An Air Force safety investigation board is continuing its investigation of the failure of the AF-4’s Integrated Power Package on Aug. 2, which led to the grounding of the entire fleet of 20 aircraft. The AF-4 is the fourth conventional takeoff and landing variant produced by Lockheed Martin. A government and contractor engineering team determined that flight operations of the test aircraft could continue after reviewing data from ground and flight tests, and revised the test monitoring procedures that govern the IPP. Ground operations of the test fleet resumed Aug. 10 ….”
What’s Canada Buying?Here’s a taste of what happened at the Fixed Wing Search and Rescue industry day: “…. A full complement of the right ADM’s and DG’s from Industry, Public Works and DND turned out, and it was noteworthy that they stayed until the end of the day. In a procurement with this kind of history, little things can mean a lot, so government representatives handed out all their slide decks and notes in advance …. industry has until September 16 to get back to the government with its feedback, with a major focus on where the fixed-wing purchase can and should sit on a spectrum from full government ownership and ISS all the way through to full ASD, provided it still delivers the same ‘world-class’ capability as today. This does not appear to be the only interaction the Crown intends, as this briefing is being followed by individual one on one corporate briefings, with the promise of follow-up sessions once inputs have been received and digested ….”
What’s Canada (Not) Buying? Canada reportedly pulling out of Global Hawk UAV project. “…. Canada has become the second country to withdraw from the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 alliance ground surveillance (AGS) program, but the remaining NATO partners are “very close” to signing a contract, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. The decision means AGS will lose another source of funding that must be compensated for by the 13 NATO members still committed …. Denmark also decided to withdraw from the partnership acquiring a six-aircraft RQ-4 fleet in June 2010. Meanwhile, Northrop and NATO officials are likely to sign a contract to launch the development phase of the AGS programme within several days. The contract award may still have to be approved by each of the national partners before it becomes official ….”
“Two Canadian Forces members were listed on the National Sex Offender Registry, as of this spring, the Chief of the Defence Staff, has confirmed. “As of 11 May 2011, two Canadian Forces members were known to be subject to a SOIRA (Sex Offender Information Registration Act) order,” Gen. Walter Natynczyk said in a letter to Defence Minister Peter MacKay that was tabled in Parliament this week. Gen. Natynczyk said he has the power to temporarily exempt CF members from certain sex offender registry obligations, but noted he has never done so. Although a top government official told Huffington Post Canada the two members are still serving, Capt. Scott Costen, a Department of National Defence spokesman cautioned that administrative reviews, which are are launched after court martials or civilian criminal proceedings call into question the suitability of a member’s continued service, may be underway to release individuals from their military positions ….”
PM on Syria Time for the boss to go.“…. The Assad regime has lost all legitimacy by killing its own people to stay in power. I join with President Obama and other members of the international community in calling on President Assad to vacate his position, relinquish power and step down immediately. The Syrian people have a right to decide for themselves the next steps for Syria’s future ….” More from Postmedia News here and Agence France-Presse here.
Lew-Mac on NATO: “…. (Historian Jack) Granatstein rightly points out that, “In diplomacy as in baseball, it’s three strikes and you’re out. Afghanistan was strike one; Libya was strike two. And strike three?” he asks. I suggest strike three already happened in 1999 during NATO’s 50th birthday celebrations when it was frantically searching for a role and an enemy now that the Cold War was over. It found an out of area mission bombing Serbia and Kosovo in support of the Kosovo Liberation Army, at the time a terrorist movement according to the CIA. Seventy-nine days of bombing later, Serbian infrastructure was devastated but her security forces were still defiant and little damaged. Diplomacy took over and NATO capitulated on the two poison pills in the Rambouillet Agreement that “justified” the bombing campaign in the first place, that is to say, NATO freedom of movement throughout Serbia and a referendum on Kosovo independence within three years. As a result of this Russian-led diplomacy Serbian forces pulled out of Kosovo. NATO’s military mission had failed which in my book makes it three strikes in 12 years ….”
“Just as they did during active duty, the Olympus and Okanagan continue to slip silently along Canada’s waterways. These days, however, they’re not doing so unnoticed. After all, it’s difficult to miss the 1,250-tonne submarines that are taking a voyage from Halifax to Port Maitland – especially when they’re travelling above the water. Decommissioned by the Canadian Department of National Defense, the former submarines are being transported on floating drydocks towed by barges. At the end of the journey, they’ll meet their fate. The Oberon class submarines are scheduled to be scrapped by Port Colborne-based Marine Recycling Corp. at the company’s Port Maitland shipyard. Now it’s just a matter of getting them there ….”
Boss of CFB Trenton on to other tasks. “The current commanding officer here has always been proud to call the air base his home. He helped heal it. He helped put it on the global map. Taking the lead of the largest and busiest air force base in the country 18 months ago, outgoing commanding officer Col. Dave Cochrane helped launch Canada’s new emergency response mission Op Jaguar along with minister of National Defence Peter MacKay Wednesday morning – a day before relinquishing his command to Col. Sean Friday. “Since taking command last February we have done continuous operations,” said Cochrane. “It is because of efforts like Op Hestia in Haiti, our support to the Vancouver Olympic Games, the ongoing support to Afghanistan, and most recently our response to the wild fires in Northern Ontario where thousand of residents were evacuated that our emergency response units and personnel here at 8 Wing that I am proud to call this wing home and being its commander.” …. “It’s been truly amazing,” said the commanding officer, who will proceed on the advanced training list to attend the Defence and Strategic Studies Course – a top level curriculum for senior military officers and government officials engaged in national security issues – at the Australian Defence College later this year ….”
Editorial on need for more help for homeless vets: “…. as important as it is to find and fund a solution, correctly identifying the problem is just as crucial. For the most part, we don’t even know who these veterans are and how they ended up on our streets. Scant research has been done in this country. But a recent study by Susan Ray and Cheryl Forchuk, two nursing professors at the University of Western Ontario, challenges the assumption that these veterans are down and out because they suffer from addictions or mental health problems that can be traced back to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Few among the dozens of homeless vets they interviewed had ever been deployed overseas. Their average age was 52 and it often took a decade or more after their release from the Forces before they ended up on the street. Many said they learned to drink while in the military and that alcoholism helped drive them to ruin. What this points to, according to the Western Ontario researchers, is that Veterans Affairs is having some success in identifying and assisting veterans with PTSD. Primarily, those falling through the cracks in Canada seem to be a different group who have trouble making the transition to civilian life — from a highly structured environment to one with much more freedom to make choices …. the phenomenon might be more complex than we imagine and that we need harder data if we are to respond effectively and proactively over the long term ….”
Libya Mission Some of what HMCS Charlottetown was up to. “…. The ship’s superior combat co-ordination and communications systems led to its periodic assignment as Surface Action Group Commander, in which Charlottetown directed the tactical employment of allied warships and maritime patrol aircraft in the area while co-ordinating patrol areas and alert levels for shipborne helicopters. These same capabilities, summarized under the rubric “C4ISR” — standing for the command, control, communications, computing, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems — allowed the ship’s combat control centre to alert NATO to a major offensive on April 26 against Misrata by Gadhafi forces. Working with NATO air controllers, Charlottetown’s operations staff assisted with the co-ordination of air strikes that blunted the attack and eliminated several dozen assault vehicles, artillery pieces and a main battle tank. The ship had repeat performances on May 8 and 24. This Canadian frigate is responsible for saving Libyan lives and preventing Libyan military offensives against the residents of Misrata — big achievements for one ship of Canada’s navy.”
Afghanistan Macleans before-and-after in Kandahar. “…. In the weeks and months of the transition from Canadian to American control, much has changed in Kandahar. The heavy hand of the American war machine has devastated the lives of many villagers. In the Arghandab valley, one elder tells Maclean’s that before the Americans came, there was peace. “Sure, the Taliban were in control,” says the 80-year-old Haji Abdul Jabar, “but they never bothered us. They treated us with respect. Now the Americans have come and they are destroying our gardens with their tanks. When they patrol the village they trample over our irrigation canals. And now war has come. Wherever the Americans go, war follows them.” ….”
PM’s got a new (acting) foreign & security advisor. “Prime Minister Stephen Harper has brought in Christine Hogan as his acting foreign and defence policy adviser to replace Claude Carrière, who moved out of the position last month to become associate deputy minister at Agriculture Canada. Ms. Hogan, who is usually the assistant secretary to the Cabinet, foreign and defence policy, stepped into the key role temporarily after the departure of Mr. Carrière on July 11. A permanent replacement has yet to be named and the PCO has been tight-lipped on when that would happen, but former diplomats say that the next person to step into the role must be knowledgeable, well-connected, and experienced ….”
Afghanistan (1) Remember this program to fast-track Afghan interpreters in danger wanting to come to Canada (previous gripes here, here, here and here)? Here’s the latest: “….Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced a special visa program two years ago to reward and protect Afghan interpreters who were critical to Canada’s military and aid missions here. Other Afghans who worked in direct support of the Canadian government in Kandahar province, as well as spouses of any who died because of it, are also eligible for visas under the special program. Kenney said in September 2009 that he expected “a few hundred” to qualify by the time the program ends this month, as the last Canadian combat troops leave. His ministry estimated applicants would only have to wait an average six months to a year. But almost two years later, only 60 Afghans have made it to Canada under the special visa program. More than 475 Afghans applied, ministry spokesperson Rachelle Bédard said from Ottawa ….”
Afghanistan (2) One columnist’s assessment of the state of Afghan security force training. “…. After nearly a decade of training, equipping and funding the Afghan army and police, we have yet to buy their loyalty — and we never will. They are paid by foreigners to wear western-style uniforms in order to prop up a hated and corrupt regime that failed to win a democratic mandate following the farcical 2009 elections. They will continue to pocket as much NATO cash as they can. And it should be noted that Afghan soldiers make a relatively lucrative salary that is three times that of Afghan teachers. Once the U.S. and NATO countries complete the projected withdrawal of all troops by 2014, the Afghan security forces will quickly dissolve back into the private militias of warlords. One has to hope they have enough remaining loyalty in the rental agreement to secure the airfields until the last of NATO’s planes are airborne.”
Afghanistan (3) Outgoing troops blow off steam blowing shit up. “…. “This was partly training exercise, partly an opportunity to field-test and clear out artillery before packing up the pieces, and partly — mostly, I dare say — one last chance for big boys to play with their big toys before departing a country deafened to the clatter of shelling. “That’s the most fun I’ve had since I got here,’’ roared Col. Todd Wood, commander of 1st Stryker Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, who joined the Canadian party of eight LAVs and a brace of Leopard 2 tanks on the make-shift firing range. “I fired them all,’’ boasted Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner, out-going Task Force Kandahar commander, after moving along the flank of vehicles. “Hey, they’re all mine. Even the American ones are mine for another couple of days. And I’ve waited 11 months for this.’’ ….”
More on the upcoming Arctic exercise Operation Nanook 2011.
Canadian foreign policy, military policy getting closer? “John Baird stepped off a stomach-churning, ear-splitting military flight from Libya, straightened his suit and walked briskly across the sun-blazed Sicilian tarmac. He went directly to address the Canadian troops on a break from their part in the NATO-led bombing campaign, taking their questions without censor, and replying with considered opinions. “We’ve got to be patient. We are making progress,” the newly-named foreign affairs minister told about 100 camouflage-clad men and women last week, shouting to be heard over the CF-18s soaring overhead. The frank exchange was more than a simple duty filled by a federal minister travelling through a military base. It tied together Canada’s foreign policy and military policy — a link that has been left untended for far too long, critics say. “I think it’s important for Canada that we more and more match what our military effort is, with the work that we need to do politically and diplomatically,” said Liberal Leader Bob Rae, who has a long history of observing Middle Eastern politics. “Frankly, I think they’re beginning to feel their way,” he said ….”
“The Conservative government’s choice of Ontario cottage country as the 2010 G8 Summit venue offered would-be snipers “ideal conditions” to assassinate a world leader, concludes an internal RCMP review. “It must be underlined that the location for the G8 was sub-optimal from a security perspective,” says the 353-page draft report completed in late May. The hilly, wooded terrain around Huntsville, Ont., featured not only excellent vantage points for gunmen, but also covered approaches for intruders, and problematic land and water routes leading in and out of the area, found the review released to The Canadian Press in response to an Access to Information request. In addition, the decision to host the G20 Summit in Toronto immediately afterwards “added a significant planning challenge” that prompted a “complete re-examination of the G8 Summit security” due to limited resources, says the review. “No host nation has ever conducted two world summits back-to-back in geographically different locations.” ….” No indication Canadian Press is sharing the report so you can look it over yourself.
He also serves who is hairy and goes “baaaaaaaaa”.“It has been said that there is nothing more handsome than a man in uniform. Whoever said that obviously never met Batisse, the Royal 22e Regiment’s mascot — a goat. As the Duke of Cambridge inspected the regiment at Quebec’s City Hall, Batisse stood there, doing goats around the world proud, in a blue robe with the regiment’s crest. Before Will and Kate arrived, he had a few moments of animal-like behaviour, where the soldier holding his leash had to get him under control. Batisse is a Persian goat descended from the Queen’s private stock of goats. He’s number 10 in the Batisse line, depending on who you talk to. Major Jean-Francois Lacombe said the original Batisse was gifted by the Queen in 1955. The Queen kept sending goats until it became impossible because of disease, around the era of Batisse the third, Lacombe explained. The regiment then purchased their goats from British Columbia, with the same lineage. They had to write the Queen for permission. She said yes. Goat enthusiasts rejoiced. The goat means, “will to succeed,” Lacombe explained ….”
Libya Mission (1a) “Canadian jets have taken part in strikes against the Libyan capital of Tripoli. A Canadian Forces spokesperson says that CF-18 warplanes were involved in targeted strike missions over four days last weekend. The spokesperson could not say if Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was close to any of the bombings. The CF-18s were involved in day and night raids on Tripoli. NATO has recently stepped up their attacks on targets in the city, which included depots housing armoured vehicles last weekend. Canada has six jets taking part in the NATO-led bombardment ….” More here, here,
Libya Mission (1b) “More than a quarter of the money spent so far on the Canadian mission in Libya has gone toward bombs and other ammunition, the military says. The Canadian Forces broke down the $26-million costs of the military mission up to the start of this month, days after the House of Commons approved an extension through to the end of September. It is estimated the deployment will have cost Canadians $60-million by that time. The highest single cost so far, $7.23-million, was for ammunition, including the laser-guided bombs being dropped over Libya by a fleet of six CF-18 fighter jets that have flown 418 sorties as of June 15 (though not all of those flights involved bombs being dropped). The military hasn’t said whether the weapons aboard the HMCS Charlottetown, its lone ship involved in the mission, have been fired. It is likely, though, since the frigate has come under attack on several occasions including rockets fired from the Libyan coast and machine gunfire from several small boats found approaching the harbour in Misrata ….”
Libya Mission (3) One of the usual suspects is calling for Canada to stop the bombing. “Tell Stephen Harper and other party leaders that you do not support the current bombings by Canadian fighter-bombers in Libya. Send your letter, right away. ” I wonder if anyone edits the online letter to say something entirely different before clicking “Submit”? Just askin’….
Libya Mission (5) Rebel organization 101: “The National Transitional Council of Libya has become the governance arm of those fighting the forces of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. This week, Canada joined a growing number of countries in recognizing the group’s legitimacy — but few Canadians know much about it. So here’s a crash course. Established on March 5 in Benghazi, according to the group’s official website, it’s comprised of 33 members representing the cities and towns liberated from Gadhafi’s rule since the uprisings began. The council also includes delegates representing women, youth, political prisoners, political affairs, economics, legal affairs and military affairs ….”
Still in Africa, here’s what Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has to say about the latest fracas in Sudan: “….Canada is deeply concerned by the recent violence in South Kordofan and its impact on civilian populations. Canada condemns the aerial bombings and attacks against civilians that have displaced more than 60,000 people, according to the UN. Canada calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities, and urges all parties to ensure the utmost protection of civilians, including by providing full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to those in need. he issues at stake in South Kordofan must be resolved by consultation and negotiation, and not by violence ….” More from mainstream media here and here.
Afghanistan (2) Leopard tanks preparing for the long trip home.“A potent symbol that Canada’s war in Afghanistan is almost over came roaring through the gates of Kandahar Airfield Thursday as the first echelon of battle tanks arrived for transport home. A line of Leopard 2A6M tanks, with accompanying armoured troop carriers and support trucks, streamed out of the desert leaving a plume of dust in the blinding morning sky. The lead vehicle, belonging to the Quebec-based 12e Régiment Blindé du Canada, sported a small Canadian flag from one of the antennas. It was followed further back by another tank where the regimental colours — light blue, red and yellow — were unfurled …. ” P.S. – It appears to be a unit camp flag, as opposed to the unit’s colours (called a guidon in this case), flying over the tank.
Afghanistan (3) Figuring out what to sell as surplus as Canada takes down its presence in Kandahar.“An army marches on its stomach, as Napoleon once observed. But the modern-day military needs more than just food. It needs everything from welding torches and duct tape to gun grease, computers, leaf blowers, inner tubes, generators, eye wash, sunscreen, fax machines, cellphones, video games and spare windshields. Those items make up just a fraction of the non-combat materiel that the Canadian military has accumulated during its years in Afghanistan. Now that it is pulling out and heading home next month, it is selling a sprawl of surplus stuff that is too expensive or insignificant to ship home. “It’s like bringing back a small city,” said, Lieutenant-Colonel Guy Doiron commanding officer of the Mission Disposal Unit, part of the transition task force that will remain at the Kandahar Air Field, packing up, until the end of the year ….”
Afghanistan (4) A bit of detail about how one reporter covered the troops and Afghanistan.“…. I should also say that the reporting environment during my embed was open and accessible, and compared favourably to official circles in Ottawa. I slept in the same shipping containers or tents as soldiers in forward operating bases and talked to whomever I wanted about pretty much anything. International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan did send me a lengthy list of media rules. I admit I skimmed over these, but most made sense from a security perspective. (Don’t use flash cameras when on night patrols, for example; there are also restrictions on photographing or filming equipment.) I think it’s accurate to say that military personnel were more concerned with these rules at the Kandahar Airfield than at forward operating bases. There is nothing I wanted to include in my articles but could not. It was important to me, however, to leave the embed to spend more time with Afghans, and I did so — traveling first to Kabul and then elsewhere in Afghanistan. Once I got on a civilian flight from Kandahar to Kabul, my embed was over and ISAF and the Canadian Forces no longer had any responsibility for me. Maclean’s paid for everything from this point on ….”
Canadian company donates boots to troops preparing to march in Europe. “The feet of more than a dozen Canadian soldiers are receiving some tender loving care. Oromocto’s CPGEAR donated what’s known as Original S.W.A.T. boots to 15 soldiers. They will be worn in the annual 160-kilometre Nijmegen March, set for next month in the Netherlands. “It’s a hell of a hard march. I am hoping they’re going to help out,” CPGEAR president Mark Wheeler said. “They seem to be extremely popular with the soldiers.” The lightweight footwear was made available to CPGEAR from the Original Shoe Co. Ltd. of Georgetown, Ont., the exclusive Canadian distributor for S.W.A.T. boots. Cpl. Shawn Staszewski, a member of the local Nijmegen March team from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, said the boots will be a huge help during the march, primarily because of the comfort difference ….”
Helping vets find a job.“As any job-seeker knows, getting that one interview at a company is half the battle after firing the opening volleys of query letters, resumés and references. The hurdles are even greater for retiring members of the military. They may be searching while serving overseas. Even if they’re back home, they’ve been out of their networks for months, if not years. That’s where GuaranteedInterview.com says it hopes to shine. It’s a small effort so far – just three volunteers, funding everything out of their own pockets – but so far, they have 30 companies listed on its website. Employers are guaranteed at least one qualified veteran an interview per job posting, providing an opportunity for each side to meet ….”
Column: It ain’t just guns that make Canada able to be Big(ger) Man on the World Campus.“…. I cannot remember a time when our once vaunted diplomatic corps, once one of the world’s best, has appeared more timid and more underappreciated by cabinet, not to mention under-strength and demoralized. Any real attempt to promote Canada as a purposeful new force in the world will require a full-scale rebuilding of Foreign Affairs to get it back to the point where its views are listened to and its skills are deployed to the fullest. A handful of CF-18 fighters and a frigate won’t suffice. That’s why taking the measure of Harper’s new foreign policy, if that’s what it is, will have to await a better sense of the new foreign affairs minister, John Baird. Harper’s appointment of the dynamic, rough and tumble Baird to a position occupied of late by more tranquil figures of little clout seems heavy with meaning. But what meaning exactly? Is Baird set to stand up loudly to revive Canadian diplomacy; or to bully it even further into the ground?”
Libya Ops: “NATO’s operational commander is warning forces attacking civilians in Libya that they would be “ill-advised” to continue such activities. Lt. Gen Charles Bouchard, a Canadian now heading the international operation, says the transition of command from the U.S. had been “seamless with no gaps.” …. Gen. Bouchard said he was “aware” of news reports citing a Tripoli-based Italian Catholic bishop who said that 40 civilians died when a building collapsed during a bombing in the Buslim district of Tripoli. “We are investigating and we will report the details once the investigation is completed,” Bouchard told reporters via videolink from his headquarters in Naples, Italy. “My investigation is to ascertain whether or not NATO forces were involved in this incident,” he said ….”
If you think it’s LOTS safer in northern Afghanistan than it used to be, you might want to think again. Canada condemns the violence there here. Meanwhile, still no word where Canada’s training mission will be placing troops in Afghanistan (other than not in Kandahar).
F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – “At least one Ottawa diplomat is privately worried about further price jumps in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, adding another voice to the chorus of governments already expressing concern. The diplomat was responding to a slew of recent news highlighting the price uncertainty around the F-35. Several countries have delayed their purchases until later in the decade, while two national budget watchdog groups have recently concluded that the original cost estimates are far too low. On condition of anonymity, the diplomat said his country is definitely worried about the situation as a result of recent developments. The international JSF program, now expected by a the US Government Accountability Office to cost all participating countries more than $1 trillion after $23 billion in increases since 2007, is exposed to uncertainty due to its dependence on a global supply chain and big orders from over a dozen United States allies ….”
“Two Somali-Canadian women who vanished from Toronto in early January travelled to Somalia and are believed to have joined Al Shabaab, say community members who fear the increasing appeal of this outlawed terrorist group among youth. “No one knows what happened . . . how they were brainwashed,” said Mohamed Gilao of Dejinta Beesha, a Rexdale-based organization that helps Somali-Canadians. “It’s very, very worrying.” It is the first known case of women being recruited by Al Shabaab in North America, sending shock waves through Toronto’s Somali community. Their disappearance is particularly troubling for those still reeling from news of the Tuesday night arrest of Mohamed Hersi, 25, at Pearson airport before boarding a flight for Cairo ….”
VERY interesting questions from a wounded warrior…. “ …. What happened to the CDS’s promise (made to me in person) that no disabled WIA would be released before they are ready to transition? …. those of us in uniform all know that there are personnel in various support trades who have never deployed because they are too obese to meet the basic fitness standard (Battle Fitness Test). These folks seem to float from one T-Cat to another, with very few (if any) ever being released for failure to pass even the non-deployment basic fitness test (EXPRES test). What is up with that? …. Why does the CF even stock the extreme sizes of combat uniform that are as wide in the arse/gut as they are tall? Grossly obese persons have no place in uniform, projecting a negative public image of the CF. Orange jumpsuits would be more appropriate for the morbidly obese and would serve as an incentive to lose weight. Rigid and timely application of the universality of service requirements and medical release procedures should also be applied to those obese members who cannot attain the deployment fitness standard. At the end of the day, I would like to see disabled combat vets such as myself offered the opportunity to fill domestic support jobs so that those who are fit to fight are freed up for deployment. If nothing else, I want assurance that our disabled WIA are offered the same degree of “rule-bending consideration” that the chain of command and the medical system quite evidently apply to the 1000 or so obese CF members who can’t even pass the basic XPRES test.”
One set of hearings looking into Canadian treatment of Afghan detainees has wrapped up. “The Military Police Complaints Commission has adjourned to sort through the sometimes explosive testimony of some 35 witnesses, as well as thousands of pages of documents reluctantly turned over by the federal government, after an oftentimes acrimonious hearing into the Afghan detainee scandal drew to a close Wednesday. The year-long hearing concluded with final arguments from civil rights lawyers who said eight military police officers were negligent in their failure to investigate potentially criminal decisions taken by Canadian Forces commanders to transfer detainees to Afghan custody, where they faced torture. Lawyers for Amnesty International Canada and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which launched the complaint, argued there was an abundance of evidence to suggest Afghan secret police were abusive and, had military police been asking the right questions of task force commanders, they would have known something wasn’t right ….” More here and here.
Canada’s MPs spent much of last night in the House of Commons in an emergency debate on what’s up in Egypt these days – transcript via Hansard here.
“Would-be Jihadist suicide bomber or playful loving family man? Those were the two starkly different ways suspected terrorist Sayfilden Tahir Sharif was portrayed Wednesday at his bail hearing in Edmonton. A photograph snapped by Cara Rain, his common-law wife, was entered as an exhibit showing Sharif clowning around with her children in the apartment they shared before his arrest last month by RCMP at the request of the FBI. Wearing a black hijab, Rain told court there is no way the man she loves is guilty of U.S. allegations that he supported a multinational terrorist network that took part in a suicide bombing which killed five American soldiers in Iraq …. Sharif’s lawyer, Bob Aloneissi, is seeking bail conditions akin to house arrest as his client prepares to fight extradition to the U.S. The federal Crown wants him held in custody pending the outcome of a long hearing process that may not begin until later this year. Crown prosecutor Jim Shaw entered a letter from the U.S. Justice Department dated Feb. 1 that warns Sharif poses an extreme danger to the community and a significant flight risk ….”
Border Worries (1):This from a U.S. government watchdog office – “The challenges of securing the U.S.-Canadian border involve the coordination of multiple partners. The results of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to integrate border security among its components and across federal, state, local, tribal, and Canadian partners are unclear. GAO was asked to address the extent to which DHS has (1) improved coordination with state, local, tribal, and Canadian partners; (2) progressed in addressing past federal coordination challenges; and (3) progressed in securing the northern border and used coordination efforts to address existing vulnerabilities ….”
Oopsie….“The Canadian Forces have handed out tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars in benefits over the past five years without the government’s approval. But it was bureaucratic bungling, not malfeasance, that caused the costly oversight. While Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson, the vice-chief of defence staff, said Tuesday the payments were made in good faith, “we didn’t do our homework … we didn’t make sure that we actually had the authority to do some of these things.” At issue for CF brass is that the Treasury Board oversees the military’s benefits and compensation regime, and has a specific list of what is allowed. But as the Canadian Forces expanded and changed in recent years, bureaucrats at National Defence didn’t keep up with the rules. Many of the unauthorized benefits, paid out to between 3,000 and 7,000 members and their families, were reimbursements for certain domestic expenses and others related to non-Afghanistan deployments. For example, reimbursing a member who had paid to store their car while he or she was sent out of the country, or paying to cut the grass while they were away on the job. But they also include the costs for repatriation ceremonies of fallen soldiers and, even though Donaldson said the unauthorized payments would stop Wednesday, the ramp ceremonies will continue with private funds, “to continue supporting the families of the fallen to make sure that we’re doing the right thing by our people.” He added the Forces will also keep paying for family members to visit wounded or sick CF members, some of which were also unauthorized ….” More here. To be fair, some of this appears to be doing the right thing (helping family see wounded members, or achieve closure by visiting where their loved ones died), but not following ALL the steps.
Wanna buy a slightly used Canadian Chinook helicopter?“The National Defence department has put “For Sale” signs on the air force’s Chinook helicopters in Afghanistan — two years after taxpayers shelled out $282 million to buy them. The department recently sounded out allies in the war-torn country to see whether any are interested in the heavy battlefield transports, bought second-hand from the U.S. Army …. So far there have been no takers for the five CH-147D choppers, which were rushed into Afghanistan after the Manley commission made it a condition of Ottawa continuing the war until 2011 ….”
Longer way home from Afghanistan = bigger bill to come home. “It will probably cost Canada an extra $90 million to sustain and then wind up its mission in Kandahar by the end of the year because its military aircraft are still banned from the United Arab Emirates, according to calculations by Postmedia News. Several senior officers have confirmed that the previously cited $300 million — which was widely reported in the media and attacked by the opposition in November — was far too high as the cost of leaving the U.A.E. base. But the military and the Harper government have not provided a breakdown of the additional costs that will be incurred because the military has had to shift its air hub for Kandahar from Camp Mirage in Dubai to a U.S. airbase at Spangdahlem, Germany ….”
“Parliamentarians were told Tuesday that Canada’s ability to search the Atlantic is severely inadequate for emergency calls that happen to come at night. While military search and rescue crews can usually respond to an emergency within an hour, that depends on a call coming during daylight. At night, two hours is considered permissible. Paul Clay, president of Seacom International, a St. John’s company that specializes in emergency response plans in the offshore oil industry, told the parliamentary defence committee that Canada is falling short. “The intention of search and rescue times is to save life and the attention of those resources is to save life,” Clay said. “Canada’s two-hour response is the longest in the world, as far as I know. It is grossly in my opinion, where it shouldn’t be. We should lower those times.” ….” More on this here.
No Arctic mapping camp THIS year.“The Canadian government is abandoning plans for a remote scientific camp on the Arctic Ocean ice this year, citing dangerously thin ice conditions. Over the past five years, scientists have set up ice camps in remote areas of the Arctic Ocean as they gather extensive mapping data that could help Canada claim a greater area of the seabed under the Law of the Sea convention … This year, 25 Canadian scientists were to conduct their mapping work from an ice camp about 400 kilometres offshore. Last year, a similar camp housed 12 researchers on an ice floe on the Arctic Ocean, about 250 kilometres offshore from Borden Island in the High Arctic. But that ice floe started breaking up, said Jacob Verhoef, director of Canada’s mapping program with the Natural Resources Department ….”
Canada and the U.K. may be talking about building a big navy ship together.“Britain is in talks with Canada about a possible joint program to develop a frigate for their respective navies, according to U.K. Defence Minister Gerald Howarth. Responding to questions from parliamentarians Jan. 31, Howarth said the British government is in “close discussion with the Canadians” on a possible collaborative program to develop the Global Combat Ship, destined to replace Type 23 frigates in Royal Navy service by the start of the next decade. The minister said Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Turkey have expressed interest in the warship program, to be called the Type 26 in Royal Navy service, when Defence Secretary Liam Fox recently visited the various countries ….”
More testing for Canada’s Sea King replacement. “The new CH-148 Cyclone, which arrived at Shearwater January 6, will be undergoing further testing on board HMCS Montréal. The tests will last several weeks, under the direction of Sikorsky International Operations Inc., prime contractor on the Maritime Helicopter Project. The CH-148 Cyclone will provide anti-submarine surveillance, and will have enhanced search and rescue and tactical transport capabilities. Tests of the operational limits of a ship-borne helicopter will make a notable contribution to the Project, which seeks to replace the existing Sea King fleet that has been in service since the 1960s …. “
Canada’s PM on Egypt: “Following President Mubarak’s announcement …. that he will not seek re-election, Canada reiterates its support for the Egyptian people as they transition to new leadership and a promising future. Canada supports universal values – including freedom, democracy and justice – and the right to the freedom of assembly, speech and information. As Egypt moves towards new leadership, we encourage all parties to work together to ensure an orderly transition toward a free and vibrant society in which all Egyptians are able to enjoy these rights and freedoms – not a transition that leads to violence, instability and extremism …. We urge all parties in Egypt to renounce violence and allow peaceful and meaningful dialogue between the people and government to address political, economic and social concerns. This dialogue should lead to free and fair elections and a government that supports universal values.”
Meanwhile, Canada’s cranking up the diplomatic machine to get more help quicker to Canadians needing a hand in Egypt.“The frustrating wait has ended for many Canadians who were trying to get the federal government to tell them how to escape the turmoil that has enveloped Egypt. The Foreign Affairs Department’s decision to ramp up service at its operations centre in Ottawa, to deploy more staff to Europe and Cairo and to add several new telephone lines eased the backlog of people who could not get through to consular officials to ask for help. “There are bumps in the road that obviously you wish you hadn’t encountered but I think there’s been an outstanding level of service and responsiveness to the situation,” Diane Ablonczy, the Minister of State for Consular Affairs, said Tuesday. In the end, a large number of Canadians passed on the opportunity to leave the country, opting instead to wait out the unrest that shows some signs of abating ….”
Canadian Defence Minister meets U.S. Secretary of Defense – from Canada’s official statement: “…. During their meeting, the Minister and the Secretary addressed important issues related to the security of the Western Hemisphere, such as the situation in Mexico and Central America and how Canada and the U.S. can assist their partners in the region. They also pledged to continue to support the work of civilian law enforcement agencies in countering illicit activities such as narcotics, human trafficking and piracy. On the bilateral front, Minister MacKay and Secretary Gates discussed efforts through NORAD and the new challenges facing defence and security institutions such as maritime domain awareness and cyber threats. Minister MacKay and Secretary Gates also discussed Afghanistan, NATO and global challenges like Iran.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense meets Canadian Defence Minister – from the U.S. military media: “…. Gates and MacKay addressed threats to the Western Hemisphere, cooperation among the nations of the hemisphere and efforts to combat a range of international threats such as piracy, counterterrorism, narco-trafficking and human trafficking. Gates said he and MacKay discussed expanded cooperation in the Arctic, coordinating maritime security assistance to the Caribbean region and sharing defense practices for supporting civilian authorities. The two men also discussed the North American Aerospace Defense Command, especially the new maritime domain awareness mission assigned to the group. They also discussed the decision to allow the Joint Permanent Board on Defense to continue looking at ways to examine a cyberdefense role. Gates said the two nations will “examine together how the advanced defenses of our military networks might also be applied to critical civilian infrastructure.” Gates reaffirmed America’s strong commitment to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Canada is an integral partner in the program and the new fighter will be the Canadian military’s aviation backbone for decades. Gates said the Pentagon has made adjustments to the program, and that the United States is expecting to have 325 aircraft built by 2016 ….”
Oh, and what about the Afghan training mission thing? Still chatting about it, apparently.“The top bosses of both the United States and Canadian militaries are in discussions “right now” to shape the upcoming Canadian training mission in Afghanistan, according to Defence Minister Peter MacKay. With the training mission set to begin in July once the Canadian Forces pull out of insurgent-rich Kandahar, MacKay said work is now underway to shape Canada’s future role in war-torn Afghanistan. Not only is Canada looking for a base-type facility in the relatively secure northern part of the country — as close as possible to the capital Kabul — from which to train the Afghan security forces, but also top military bosses from both the U.S. and Canada are sorting out what to teach them first. “We’re in negotiations right now with NATO, with our closest allies including the United States, to determine specifically some of the more urgent types of training that are required,” he said Thursday at a press conference with U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates following a bilateral defence meeting in Ottawa. “Our Chief of Defence Staff Walt Natynczyk is in these discussions right now with Admiral Mullen, his (U.S.) counterpart, as well as with (U.S.) Gen. Petraeus.” ….” More on Canada’s “Kabul-centric” approach from the Canadian Press here.
Easy come, easy go for the brother-in-law of Tunisia’s recently-booted leader. “The Canadian government has reportedly revoked the permanent-resident status of the billionaire brother-in-law of a Tunisian dictator. Belhassen Trabelsi, who arrived in Canada with his family last week, had his status revoked Thursday, Radio-Canada’s all-news channel reported. Mr. Trabelsi is the reputed leader of a family that ran much of Tunisia’s economy with an iron fist. His sister, Leila Trabelsi, married former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the 1990s. The clan is accused of using their connections to the dictator to siphon off billions in public funds for their personal wealth ….” More from the Canadian Press here.
The feds are apparently looking for ways to deal with foreign bad guys in Canada without needing security certificates.“…. A federal interdepartmental body known as the Alternatives to Removal Working Group began meeting in March 2009 to explore policy options for managing people deemed a threat to national security, documents disclosed under the Access to Information Act show. The group, which includes the RCMP, Citizenship and Immigration, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada Border Services Agency, Justice, Public Safety and Foreign Affairs, has “produced a detailed body of work” on tools available under the law, says one internal memo. Among the alternatives to deportation identified are greater reliance on:
— the Anti-terrorism Act to prosecute suspects;
— other Criminal Code provisions relating to offences including violence, theft, forgery and conspiracy;
— preventive measures including a peace bond, an order issued under the Criminal Code that allows authorities to keep someone under surveillance. Another document shows the federal Privy Council Office was keenly eyeing the British debate over use of control orders — a means of strictly monitoring terror suspects through curfews and prohibitions on communication ….” — also viewable here if previous link doesn’t work
Tough love, CF style, in Afghanistan.“Months of sometimes tough and bloody fighting by Canadian, U.S. and Afghan forces over the summer and fall weren’t enough to pacify a village that remains a refuge for insurgents in southern Afghanistan. That’s when the Canadians, with plenty of cash for “icebreaker” projects designed to get young men more interested in jobs than war, decided to just bypass Nakhonay and fund a flood of development projects for its closest neighbours. Canada’s soldiers have taken on a newer, tough-love approach as two deadlines loom — their summer pullout from Kandahar, and, preceding that, the traditional spring start of another insurgent fighting season ….”
“Previously secret documents released in the Mohamed Harkat terrorism case reveal that the judge wrestled in closed court with how to gauge the credibility of spy agency informants. Harkat, 42, has been declared a security threat and faces deportation to his native Algeria, where he says he will be tortured or killed. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) relied on at least two “human sources” in building its case against Harkat, a former Ottawa pizza delivery man. One of the sources failed a lie-detector test in 2002, a fact that was not disclosed in court until May 2009. Judge Simon Noel ultimately decided that the source’s information could only be relied upon if corroborated. Another CSIS source was deemed sincere and reliable after Noel reviewed his file. Noel relied on the source’s information in concluding last month that Harkat was a member of the Osama bin Laden terrorist network. He said Harkat remains a threat to national security ….” More from the Federal Court of Canada here, here and here (all PDFs).
NDP leader Jack Layton calls for people to tell the PM “Canada’s troops outta Afghanistan!”“The federal New Democratic Party is urging those angry at the government’s decision to extend the Afghan mission to send their complaints directly to the Prime Minister’s Office. In a speech to be delivered Friday, party leader Jack Layton will rail against the decision by the Conservative government — and backed by the Liberals — to launch a three-year training mission in the war-scarred country after the Kandahar combat mission ends later this year. He will spell out his own party’s view of the way forward, one that starts with military disengagement. That must be followed by diplomacy to broker peace deals and ceasefires among warring factions, and development efforts to rebuild Afghanistan, Layton will argue ….” Question to Jack: who’s going to protect Canadians who will carrying out this diplomacy?
A bit of a story about how a Canadian is helping a U.S. research team defeat IEDs.“It’s a question that haunts Maj. Daniel Hilliker: Why do Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan continue to be killed by cheap roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices? The Canadian exchange officer is working in the U.S. as part of a multibillion-dollar international project to defeat a Taliban weapon that costs just a few dollars to make. The challenge has mystified the world’s most powerful militaries — with deadly consequences. “I’m an explosives-disposal guy by background and that’s a question I ask myself every day,” Hilliker said in an interview Thursday from Washington, D.C. He is six months into a three-year spell with the Joint IED Defeat Organization, set up by the Pentagon in 2006 to help defeat the Taliban’s weapon of choice ….”
PM Stephen Harper “condemns international violence against Coptic Christians, commits to protecting religious freedom in Canada” “Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Thursday) participated in a round table discussion with several Coptic Christian leaders at a church in Mississauga about the safety and security of Canadians following that faith. He was joined by Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. The Prime Minister condemned the heinous bombing which killed 23 Coptic Christians during a New Year’s Eve mass in Egypt and which prompted a number of churches in Canada to go on high alert during the holidays this year …. The Prime Minister also noted the Government is continuing to monitor the situation closely. “Our Government is aware of the challenges Coptic Christians face, and we will remain vigilant to ensure that they continue to feel safe in their communities,” the Prime Minister added.”