MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 26 Oct 11

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 18 Oct 11

  • The military’s second-in-command has defended the size of the bureaucracy in the Canadian Forces, including the large number of civilians and executives who have been become a veritable army at National Defence headquarters. And while acknowledging reductions will be necessary in light of planned budget cuts and the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson told members of the Senate defence committee Monday that across-the-board slashing would be unrealistic. “I agree that we need to reduce it,” said Donaldson, the vice-chief of defence staff. “It’s just very difficult sometimes to know what it is that can be reduced.” ….”
  • Libya  U.S. and Italian defense chiefs on Oct. 17 said they examined prospects for ending the allied air campaign over Libya and how to support the country’s post-Gadhafi transition in talks at the Pentagon. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who expressed thanks for Italy’s role in the NATO-led operation, said alliance commanders favored pressing on with bombing raids as Moammar Gadhafi’s loyalists were still putting up resistance in Sirte. “We are looking for our commanders to… recommend when they believe that the mission comes to an end,” Panetta told reporters after meeting his Italian counterpart, Ignazio La Russa. “As you know, there’s still fighting going on in Sirte. And as long as that continues to be the case, our commanders feel the need for us to maintain our presence.” ….”  More details of Canada’s assets in the air (and sea) fight there here.
  • CF visits Africa for communications exercise“Africa Endeavor is the largest communications interoperability exercise on the African continent. Held this year from 7 July to 12 July, it’s an annual “Command, Control, Communications and Computer” — C4 — integration exercise sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) to foster interoperability between Canada, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States and 35 African countries. Africa Endeavor comes together over the course of three conferences hosted by participant countries throughout the year, and culminates in a two-week exercise. This year, the Canadian delegation was led by Colonel Pierre Lamontagne, the Canadian Forces Liaison Officer at AFRICOM Headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, and included communication specialists Master Warrant Officer Serge Boily, Warrant Officer François Pitre and Sergeant Eric Viau of 3 ASG Signals Squadron in Gagetown, and Warrant Officer Pierre Paradis from CEFCOM Headquarters in Ottawa ….”
  • Worries in the home of Veterans Affairs Canada about coming cuts. “The Department of Veterans Affairs is planning to cut over $222 million from its budget over the next two years, a move that some believe will have a huge impact on employees in Charlottetown. The cuts are outlined in the department’s plans and priorities report, which details spending and programming plans up to 2014 ….”
  • New B.C. group pushing for better compensation for Canada’s wounded. “They sat quietly in the corner of a room that overflowed with more than 250 supporters of Equitas Society and considered the levels of justice, fairness and equity that injured soldiers like them experience. Formed just three weeks ago, the Equitas Society was holding its first fundraiser Friday at Hazelmere Golf Club, MC’d by Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg. While the evening was considered a financial success, it was a rude awakening for some just learning about financial compensation for wounded members of Canada’s military. Lawyer Don Sorochan was quick to put a fine point on the disparity between settlements in civil cases and the level of financial support afforded soldiers ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1a)  Stand by for Big Honkin’ Ship contracts soon“It is Ottawa’s best-kept secret but the biggest defence procurement contract since World War II is expected to be unveiled as soon as this week, according to a government source. In the coming days, about $35 billion worth of shipbuilding contracts will be announced. There are two deals to be handed out and three shipyards battling for the contracts. The contenders include Nova Scotia’s Halifax Shipyard, British Columbia’s Seaspan Marine Corp. and the Davie shipyard of Levis, Que. The largest contract is worth $25-billion and will be spent on combat vessels for the navy. The other contract is worth $8 billion and will go towards building non-combat ships, including a new Arctic icebreaker. The shipyard which loses out on the big contracts can make a bid for smaller contract of about $2 billion ….”  More on Ottawa’s bracing for blowback from the award here and here.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1b)  “…. The (Big Honkin’ Ship contract) selection is being overseen by a panel of deputy ministers, and KPMG will vet the final decision. Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose says the decision will be 100 per cent on merit and is “completely at arm’s length of politics.’’ But in Ottawa, there is no such thing as politics at an arm’s length.”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  “…. The Department of National Defence (DND), requires the purchase and delivery of miscellaneous inert weapon simulation supplies for CFB Wainwright, Alberta. Items are required in support of LFWA training centre courses and will only be used in a training environment ….”  More in the list of (mostly bad-guy) goodies from the bid document (PDF) here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  Canadian fighter pilots selected to fly the new F-35 could find themselves trained by either the Americans or a private contractor, according to internal air force documents. The staggering multibillion-dollar purchase price means the Conservative government can only afford 65 of the multi-role stealth fighters. The number — Canada currently has 79 aging CF-18s — stretches the ability of the air force to meet its commitments, says a series of briefings given to the air force chief last year. Internal air force memos from the fall of 2010 lay out the “potential for NO pilot training in Canada.” ….”  No indication of Canadian Press sharing the documents for you to see.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  Aussie DefMin still mulling F-35 vs. upgraded F-18s.
  • Alexander Johnston, 1885-1918, R.I.P  For 90 years, his final resting place was unknown. His service, however was commemorated on the Vimy Memorial near Arras, France, where the names of more than 11,000 other Canadians who have no known grave also appear. But next week, the remains of Pte. Alexander Johnston, which surfaced when a First World War battlefield became an industrial construction site in 2008, will be buried, with full military honours, at Le Cantimpre Canadian Cemetery in Sailly, France. And his Ottawa-based next of kin will be on hand to see it. Indeed his great grand-niece, Ann Gregory, who is a bugler with the Governor General’s Foot Guards, will play The Last Post as part of the ceremony. She’s travelling as part of the National Defence delegation and her father, Don Gregory, and brother, David, will also be on hand thanks to Veterans Affairs, which is providing funding for two family members to attend. In addition, three of Johnston’s relatives who live in Scotland, where he was born, will also travel to France for the ceremony ….”
  • War of 1812 (1)  The Americans got Wayne Gretzky ­and Pamela Anderson ­— but we won the War of 1812, right? I mean, that’s what we were taught. Damn Yankees declared war on us for no good reason. Plain greed. Some piddling trade dispute. And, sure, our British masters kept snatching sailors off American ships. But nothing serious. Deep down, they just lusted after our fish, trees and future hockey players. So they attacked like star-spangled skunks in the night. Lucky for us, they didn’t count on Sir Isaac Brock and Tecumseh and Laura Secord joining forces to whip their Yankee doodle derrieres. We even got some lovely chocolates out of the deal. Damn straight, we won. So why do many Americans call it their Second War of Independence — and insist they won ….”
  • War of 1812 (2)  Remembering the Aboriginal contribution to the fight.  “The Friends of Tecumseh Monument will soon have an opportunity to expand on their dream of telling Chief Tecumseh’s legacy and the events occurring in Chatham-Kent during the War of 1812. An announcement delivered from members of parliament Dave Van Kestern and Bev Shipley Friday, told the crowd gathered at Chief Tecumseh’s monument on Longwoods Road, near Thamesville, of available funding for the Canadian Heritage’s Celebration and Commemoration Program. $28 million will be available to communities to promote a greater awareness of Canada’s importance in the war and to aide with bi-centennial celebrations. A feasibility study, costing $49,500 from the $28 million, was completed last week to determine how to improve the site and how the changes can benefit the community as a whole ….”
  • War of 1812 (3)  Columnist on Ottawa’s spending plans to commemorate the war:  “…. I would have a greater measure of respect for the government if it spent our money strengthening the friendship between Canada and the U.S., rather than glorifying a war that ended with neither side richer in land or in purpose. The boundaries remained what they were before 1812. I await the influx of American tourists in the summer of 2012 who will be surprised to learn they are the bad guys in Canada’s so-called “most important war.” “

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 17 Oct 11

  • Afghanistan (1)  The war that everyone would like to forget began its second decade this week with little fanfare. Ten years ago last Friday, the United States, backed by NATO allies like Canada, invaded Afghanistan. Billed as an act of both retribution and prevention, the Oct. 7, 2001 invasion was aimed at deposing a Taliban regime that had harboured Al Qaeda terrorists the U.S. believed responsible for attacking New York and Washington. Its stated goals were to capture or kill Al Qaeda mastermind Osama Bin Laden and ensure that the rugged Afghan hills could never again nourish those devoted to attacking the West. “This is a battle with only one outcome,” British prime minister Tony Blair boasted, as American bombers pounded Taliban positions. “Our victory, not theirs.” Canada’s Liberal government, while more circumspect, was also firmly on side. Within a few months, Ottawa sent in the first of hundreds of Canadian troops ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Fewer Canadians are interested in troops remaining in Afghanistan, seeing the mission as “no longer worth it,” according to the results of government-commissioned public opinion research. The same poll also found that many Canadians felt that Arctic sovereignty wasn’t as great of a priority as the government says it is. The annual poll on public perceptions of the Canadian Forces showed declining interest in and knowledge of the Afghan mission with many participants describing the mission as “dangerous,” “expensive,” a “failure,” “underfunded” and “endless.” The poll found 60 per cent support the mission in Afghanistan, a decline from a peak of 67 per cent in 2008. About two-thirds knew of Canada’s changing role in Afghanistan, while about one-quarter believed Canada should pull all troops out this year ….”  More here and here – will share report link once I find it.
  • Afghanistan (3)  One mentor’s view so far (recurring first-person column via Postmedia)
  • Afghanistan (4)  A new research paper by the Canadian Foreign Affairs and Defence Institute sheds new light on what the military knew before embarking on the war in Kandahar. Through interviews and documentation, the researchers uncovered how U.S. intelligence agencies warned the Canadian military before their deployment that a resurgent Taliban and al-Qaeda were preparing a “surge” in southern Afghanistan co-inciding with the arrival of NATO troops in Kandahar. The report, penned by David Bercuson, historian Jack Granatstein and Nancy Pearson Mackie, principally argues that Ottawa must look at its 10 year involvement in Afghanistan and that “unless our politicians and bureaucrats also learned the lessons of the Afghan War, the price paid by Canada and Canadians will have been far too high.” ….”
  • Afghanistan (5)  What’s Canada’s aid done in Afghanistan?  (part one of four by Postmedia News)
  • Senate Standing Committee on National Security & Defence plans to “examine and report on Canada’s national security and defence policies, practices, circumstances and capabilities” today – you can watch the webcast here.
  • Veterans Affairs Canada plans to cut more than $226-million from its budget in the next two years in what’s expected to be the first wave of reductions in the department, according (to) federal documents. The department’s plans and priorities report, which lays out spending up to 2014, shows compensation and financial support for ex-soldiers will see the biggest reduction ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Big Honkin’ Ship Update  “In the jockeying and political posturing over who will win Ottawa’s enormous $35-billion shipbuilding contract, the public could be forgiven for thinking this will be a winner-takes-all competition. It’s not. The three big bidders still in the race will share the podium, even if only one will gets the top spot. Stephen Harper’s Conservative government designed the competition, which goes under the unwieldy name of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, to ensure there’s a big winner, a respectable runner up and one company settling for the consolation prize. This is important because each region representing the companies – the Maritimes, Quebec-Ontario and British Columbia – is exerting considerable political pressure to ensure its side gets a piece of the action ….”  More here and here.
  • The Russian intelligence service’s illegal use of the Canadian passport poses a “troubling threat” to the travel document’s integrity, newly released federal memos warn. Canada “strongly deplores” the exploitation of its passport by Russian agents to establish a spy ring in the United States, say the internal Foreign Affairs Department records. But it seems Moscow’s Cold War-style tactics, exposed last year by U.S. authorities, did little to chill relations with Ottawa. In fact, the embassy of the Russian Federation said Canadian officials didn’t even raise the matter. “There was no fuss about that,” said embassy spokesman Dmitry Avdeev. “I did not know anything about it.” Foreign Affairs spokesman Jean-Francois Lacelle declined to discuss the matter, saying only that communication with other countries is confidential ….”
  • Alexander Johnston, 1885-1918, R.I.P  Members of the media are invited to attend the military funeral of Private Alexander Johnston to be held in Sailly-lez-Cambrai, France, on October 25, 2011. Private Johnston served with the 78th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, and died during the Battle of the Canal du Nord on September 29, 1918. His remains were discovered in July 2008, and identified through mitochondrial DNA testing on March 31, 2011 ….”
  • Jockeying for War of 1812 for monument location, via the editorial pages. “…. By all means build a monument — but not in the Ottawa area, which played no role in the war and was home to only a few farmers and loggers two centuries ago. Besides, Ottawa has monuments enough. It would be far more appropriate to locate a memorial to 1812 where the war was actually fought. Niagara-on-the-Lake might be a candidate. It was literally at the front line in the struggle and suffered accordingly. If that’s deemed too near to Brock’s Monument, erected in honour of the British general Sir Isaac Brock in neighbouring Queenston, why not locate an inspiring new War of 1812 memorial in York itself — a.k.a. Toronto? Fort York, rebuilt after the Americans withdrew, holds Canada’s largest collection of original buildings from this conflict. A memorial here would be an ideal way to honour the almost 200 British, Canadian and Indian dead and wounded who shed their blood defending York on that April day almost 200 years ago.”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 29 Jun 11

  • Francis Roy, R.I.P.  Arriving home later today.
  • Afghanistan (1)  How one woman is supporting the troops, one letter at a time.
  • Afghanistan (2)  “…. Over the past few months, on many mornings just like this, Maj. Frederic Pruneau has scanned the landscape, so lush in the nourished floodplain of the Arghandab River, and wondered: “Where are you?’’ It’s not his own place in the sweep of Afghanistan that puzzles Pruneau. He knows where he stands and why, in a few days, he’ll be leaving as his parachute troops — Alpha Company of 3 Van Doos, attached to the 1st Van Doos for this mission — depart the area of operations, depart the country, Task Force Kandahar fading to black. Rather, it’s the enigmatic no-see-em insurgency that has Pruneau taking the lay of the land, sizing up the significance of an opponent that has largely gone AWOL in this, the second half of the Para tour. The traditional spring and summer terrorism surge in Panjwaii has not materialized, insurgency dialed down to a whimper hereabouts. Though hereabouts is, quite frankly, small — a mere 35 square kilometres, south of the river, less than half of the Panjwaii area formerly under Canadian jurisdiction, before this and neighbouring districts devolved to the incoming Americans ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  One soldier’s story, via Globalnews.ca.
  • Afghanistan (4)  If this country ever sorts itself out, Canadians will be remembered for their role. But perhaps bureaucracy will have played a small part as well. On Monday, the Canadian Battle Group commander attended his final regional security meeting – a gathering known as a shura. It was Canada that pushed for the weekly round tables of the major international and Afghan players who are trying to defeat the insurgency. Checks and balances maintain order in developed countries like Canada, so why shouldn’t they be used in Afghanistan? ….”
  • Afghanistan (5)  As Canadian combat forces leave Kandahar this summer, Canada’s man in Kabul has also been saying his goodbyes in the capital. Bill Crosbie’s two-year term as Ottawa’s envoy to Afghanistan ends shortly. In a farewell interview with Postmedia News at Canada’s new embassy complex in Kabul, Crosbie said that the capital, Kandahar, and the country in general are more secure than when he arrived in 2009. He was immensely proud of what Canadian diplomats, other public servants and soldiers have achieved so far in Afghanistan in security and with signature projects such as the Dahla Dam, which brings water to farmers in Kandahar. But the Newfoundlander, who is a cousin of former Mulroney minister John Crosbie, fretted about the country’s future because Afghan leaders are not yet seized with the importance of developing national institutions and the rule of law ….”
  • Afghanistan (6)  More on the troops packing up (video, via the CF Info-Machine)
  • Afghanistan (7)  Each story about alleged abuse of Afghan detainees received almost the same response from the government: Officials scrutinized every fact of every story to determine what was needed to be done in response to the media coverage. The facts were laid out in spreadsheets with the claim, its veracity and government response listed. The coverage spurred an official response and that response in turn spurred more coverage. The tidbits of the role the media played in the Afghan detainee affair are buried within the more than 4,200 pages of documents released last week. They are also evidence of changes in international reporting that have forced governments to react quicker to stories available immediately to worldwide audiences ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  More assassinations, airfield shellings alleged in Kandahar, Uruzgan & Zabul.
  • Private Alexander Johnston, 1885-1918, R.I.P.:  The Department of National Defence (DND) has identified the remains of a First World War soldier found in Raillencourt Saint-Olle, France, in 2008, as those of Private Alexander Johnston of Hamilton, Ontario …. In July 2008, human remains were discovered in Raillencourt Saint-Olle, France. Found with the remains were two collar badges of the 78th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers). The Directorate of History and Heritage was notified of the discovery in February 2009, and the remains were identified through mitochondrial DNA testing, as those of Private Johnston, on March 31, 2011 ….”  A bit more from The Canadian Press here.
  • What’s Canada Buying (1)  More EOD robots, apparently“The Canadian Army is planning on adding two new UGVs (Unmanned Ground Vehicles) to its family of EOD devices in an effort to continue the re-establishment of its EOD ROV capability. After ‘giving up’ on UGVs in 1995, the army has been moving towards re-developing its UGV capability, James Hewitt, director of combat support equipment management for the Canadian Forces, told the Military Robotics conference in London on 28 June. Working under a $(CAD)700 million equipment budget over eight years, the army plans to purchase two new UGVs to add to the four systems currently in service. ‘We’re building an inventory. That re-establishment is what’s really costing us,’ Hewitt told the conference. ‘You’ve got to spend a long time preparing for the introduction of the equipment. Basic UGV platforms do not change much, what does change are sensor packages, tools and accessories.’ The tender for the first – for a dismounted operations UGV system – is expected to be released by the end of 2011, and the requirements will include: a 5kg weight; the system to be throwable; the ability to fit into a soldier’s backpack; good camera outfit; and the ability to fire a recoilless disruptor. The second tender for a chemical, biological, reconnaissance, and nuclear (CBRN) reconnaissance UGV is expected at the end of 2012 and will call for a 75-100kg platform, which will therefore require a two or three man operation ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  Sewer, water hook-up for proposed Chinook site in Petawawa, and research help figuring out bad guy’s psychology (via Army.ca).
  • Energy and water shortages combined with climate change could provoke wars within the next 15 years, warns an analysis by the Department of National Defence. “Global reserves of crude oil could become problematic by 2025,” wrote Maj. John Sheahan in a draft version of the report, Army 2040: First Look. He wrote that barring the discovery of significant new reserves and adequate adoption of alternative fuel sources, critical energy shortages could before 2025. “There can be little doubt that unrestricted access to reliable energy supplies is a global strategic issue, one for which, recently, numerous nations have been willing to fight, and have indeed done so,” said the report, released to Postmedia News through an Access to Information request. “Thus the trend that envisions depletion of fossil fuels such as crude oil in coming decades may also contribute to international tensions if not violent conflict.” ….”