MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 31 May 11

  • Karl Manning, 5 RALC, R.I.P.:  Arriving at CFB Trenton this afternoon – more here and here.
  • Meanwhile, Manning’s parents are having a hard time believing what happened French version, Google English translation.
  • Remembering the fallen through art. “For one parent it meant staring into the eyes of a son lost too soon. For another, it was a chance to honour the daughter who was taken too early. Canadians across the country will get a chance to see for themselves a hand-painted mural of the 156 members of the Canadian Forces who lost their lives as part of the mission to Afghanistan. The Portraits of Honour, created by artist Dave Sopha, is to be unveiled in Trenton, Ont., on Tuesday and will travel from coast to coast to give Canadians a chance to honour those who gave their lives to better those of others. The oil-painted mural stretches three metres by 10 metres and features the faces of every Forces member who has died as part of the Afghan mission. Sopha used photographs and advice from family members to make each face an honest depiction of the person. “Each one takes me about 80 hours and I become almost like their best friend,” Sopha said in an interview. “I sit there and talk to them and work on them all day and all night.” He has spent more than 6,500 hours on the mural but says his work won’t be complete until Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan comes to a close in July ….”
  • Kevin Megeney, 1982-2007, R.I.P.:  Latest Court Martial of man accused of shooting delayed until August. – more here.
  • Afghanistan (1):  The PM drops by as the combat mission wraps up.
  • Afghanistan (2):  The PM reminds us it’s still dangerous…. “The first significant wave of Canadian troops destined to train Afghan security forces arrived on the ground Monday, marking the beginning of a major shift in Ottawa’s contribution to the war-ravaged nation. The announcement was tucked into Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s farewell tour of Kandahar. Instability reigns in many parts of Afghanistan and it was brutally driven home over the weekend in a deadly Taliban attack in the northern part of the country. “Obviously in every part of Afghanistan, dangers exist. We’re about this,” said Harper, who emphasized Canadian advisers and trainers will work in classrooms behind the wire, not on the front lines ….”
  • Afghanistan (3):  …. while mentioning the BIG danger seems to be gone.  “…. As Canadian troops prepare to pivot, moving from a combat role to a training role in two months, the Prime Minister all but declared victory for this mission, both in front of some 500 soldiers at New Canada House, but more passionately to reporters afterward. “We have to look at this mission as a great success,’’ Harper said. Canadians took on the toughest province in Afghanistan, he said. But the success was much greater than that, he added. “The world came to Afghanistan because Afghanistan had become such a terrible and brutal place — it had become a threat to the entire world. “Whatever the challenges and troubles that remain, Afghanistan is no longer a threat to the world. “This country does not represent a geostrategic to the world. It is no longer a source of global terrorism.’’ ….”  More of that messaging here, here and here.
  • Afghanistan (4):  “After four volunteers were murdered by the Taliban for participating in a $60-million Canadian-funded project to eradicate polio in Afghanistan, Rahmattulah Bashardost continued to help distribute vaccine to more than 350,000 Kandahari children because, he said, it was the right thing to do. “The Taliban threatened to kill me if I did not quit this job, but what else can we do?” Bashardost asked. “We must support our people and our country. “Doing this in Kandahar is a hard thing because the roads are so often blocked by the Taliban, by Afghan security forces or by (NATO’s) International Security Assistance Force. To stop polio you have to pay attention, road by road, street by street even if in some villages the elders do not cooperate.” Bashardost and several dozen of the 8,000 anti-polio campaign volunteers in Kandahar were honoured Thursday with commemorative plaques by Canada and the provincial government in a ceremony at the governor’s palace ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  Not one, but two choppers allegedly shot down in Zabul.
  • One in four Canadian soldiers returning from Afghanistan is suffering from mental problems or “high-risk drinking,” according to post-deployment screening reports obtained by The Globe and Mail under access to information. In the past decade, as Canadian Forces were called on to undertake perilous new missions, the military has struggled to understand the scope of mental-health problems among troops. The first comprehensive study of front-line soldiers based on their actual medical history is still under way, leaving questions about stress disorders to self-reporting surveys. The latest survey, completed last June, covered more than 17,000 soldiers returning from all regions of Afghanistan since 2005. It found that while most “report good mental health,” there was “an important minority” of 12 per cent who had one or more mental-health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. In addition, “harmful” or “hazardous” drinking was reported by a further 13 per cent of the troops. Canadian Forces Ombudsman Pierre Daigle has called PTSD and related stress illnesses “a real hardship for Canada’s soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen for many years to come.” The Ombudsman is set to publish a major investigation of mental health among troops in coming months ….”  Meanwhile, the Globe has chosen to NOT share the report obtained via ATIP – interesting, considering the piece is written by a journalist who’s helped campaign for more freedom of information from government.
  • Meanwhile, “…. The CF continues to over-extend its mandate in filling the many gaps in (Veterans Affairs Canada’s) patchwork of often inadequate programs. A new universal approach which has veterans, the CF, their families, medical, and business experts needs to be driving veterans’ policy. Canada does not have to reinvent the wheel. We did it right after World War II. The ingredients are the same: income bridging, comprehensive post-secondary education, business start-up assistance, housing assistance and extended medical care all working towards a program of complete and universal financial, professional and psychological transition. Either Canada relearns a universal and comprehensive approach to caring for its releasing and injured military or one day the eager recruits may dry up. Otherwise, a military collective bargaining unit may be the only way to force government to act where once Canada was only too eager to care.”
  • There will be 2,100 jobs lost over the next three years at the Department of National Defence, but it doesn’t change the department’s recruitment goals for Canada’s armed forces, says a DND official. “The recruiting goals are set out in the Canada First Defence Strategy and that doesn’t change, so what was announced earlier has no effect on recruitment,” said Andrea Cameron, a communications adviser with DND ….”
  • Congrats, and here’s hoping one day, the fact that the new person’s a woman won’t make any difference in the announcements.  Rear-Admiral Jennifer Bennett (links to bio) was appointed as the first female Chief, Reserves and Cadets today, replacing Major-General Dennis Tabbernor upon his retirement from the Canadian Forces. Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, presided over the ceremony at National Defence Headquarters. The Chief Reserves and Cadets advises the Chief of the Defence Staff and other senior DND/CF officials about matters concerning the 35,000 member strong Reserve Force to help ensure their unique requirements are integrated with Canadian Forces policies and programs. The Reserve Force includes the Primary Reserve, the Cadet Organization Administration and Training Service, and the Supplementary Reserve ….”
  • Time for an apology to the Canadian Airborne Regiment? “…. 16 years after the Somalia inquiry which resulted in its “disbandment in disgrace,” the final commanding officer of the regiment is demanding an apology from the federal government. “When they disbanded the regiment, they tore the heart out of me, and of every other man that was serving that day and serving in that regiment before,” said retired colonel Peter G. Kenward. “It was a miscarriage of justice, it was grossly unfair and it was a politically expedient move by the Liberal government of the day.” …. “The soldiers, the people who built that regiment, 99.9% were so harshly punished for the misdeeds and the wrongs of a few,” said Kenward. “Under any justice system, that is totally unacceptable.” Groups dedicated to the “Airborne Brotherhood” are filled with calls that the regiment be reinstated and the term “disgrace” removed from the official record. Many young soldiers still wear the disbanded colours. The Conservative MP representing CFB Petawawa, the final home of the Airborne, supports the call ….”  Follow the wide-ranging discussion on this at Army.ca.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Ottawa is no longer imposing penalties on Sikorsky for delays in the production of its fleet of maritime helicopters, which have missed their latest deadline. The federal government vowed in 2004 to slap penalties of $3-million a month – up to a total of $36-million – for delays in the delivery of the aircraft that will replace the aging Sea Kings. At the time, the goal was to get the first Cyclone CH-148 in 2008. However, the contract was later amended to allow for the delivery of an interim, or incomplete, helicopter in late 2010, with fully equipped choppers arriving in 2012. Last year, the government announced more delays, saying the first interim helicopters would arrive this spring. Now the prognosis is for formal delivery later this summer. However, Sikorsky is not paying any penalties these days, as the amended contract imposed a cap on penalties for the “interim” helicopters, which will not meet all of the contractual requirements that were imposed upon Sikorsky seven years ago. “The maximum amount for liquidated damaged for the late delivery of the interim helicopters is $8-million. That maximum amount has now been attained by Sikorsky,” the Department of Public Works said on Friday in answer to a question from The Globe and Mail ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  With 70 per cent of its defence revenues coming from within the country, Thales Canada is keeping a close eye on procurement activity in Ottawa. Rumblings of trouble are already starting as the federal government aims to shave $4 billion in annual savings by 2014 from a program spending budget that currently tops $80 billion. Further, in 2010 the Department of National Defence began a strategic review as part of an ongoing process by which the government examines how each of its departments and agencies spends their money ,and how funds can be saved. Given a contract Thales Canada recently received, the firm has an interest in the results of the DND review, said Dave Spagnalo, the company’s vice-president of defence and security. Thales has 140 employees in Ottawa. Thales was awarded a nearly $11-million contract in March to create a new command, control and communications system for defence applications …. “
  • G8/G20 Money Pits Watch:  The bill for security at last summer’s G8 and G20 summits could have been much lower if the government had used more military personnel instead of police officers, Canada’s parliamentary budget officer says. Kevin Page’s comments on Monday came in response to a CBC/Radio-Canada report that revealed the RCMP contracted hundreds of police officers from across the country to travel to Ontario for the two summits, and paid millions in premiums to them for working on days off or during vacations. Page also cited the decision to host the dual summits at separate venues in Toronto and the Muskoka region as the main reason why the final price tag is expected to exceed more than $1 billion. “Could we have saved money? Yes. If the decision was made that we could have had one venue as opposed to two, we could have reduced those costs quite significantly,” Page said Monday. “If we were comfortable having more of a military presence, as opposed to an RCMP presence, we might have been able to save costs further.” ….”
  • Coming up at next month’s Conservative Party convention“The Conservatives are to consider whether to declare that any Canadian who takes up arms against the military of this country or one of its allies should be automatically stripped of citizenship and be tried for “high treason.” The resolution is just one of dozens -on issues ranging from tax policy, to euthanasia, to prostitution to samesex marriage-that Tory delegates will discuss at a party convention in June. Currently, the Criminal Code allows for someone to be charged if they assist “an enemy at war with Canada, or any armed forces against whom Canadian Forces are engaged in hostilities, whether or not a state of war exists between Canada and the country whose forces they are.” Anyone convicted is automatically sentenced to life in prison. In recent years, as the war on terror has spread throughout the globe, some have debated whether Canada has enough legal clout to punish people who do battle not only with Canadian troops, but also with allied forces ….”  More here.
  • “…. Newlyweds William and Kate will spend Canada Day in Ottawa as part of their whirlwind, nine-day royal tour from June 30 to July 8 to seven cities – Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Summerside, Charlottetown, Yellowknife and Calgary. Heritage Minister James Moore said Monday the royal presence will make it the biggest bash ever in the nation’s capital …. The itinerary will place a special focus on, among others, Canada’s military and war veterans. Both Prince William and his brother, Prince Harry, are members of the British Forces and Harry served a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2007-08 ….” More on the itinerary and theme details here and here.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 24 Mar 11

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 18 Mar 11

  • No-Fly Zone Libya (1) – The U.N. Security Council straps on a pair. “The Security Council (has) effectively authorized the use of force in Libya to protect civilians from attack …. ” Here’s a link to the official resolution (PDF).
  • No-Fly Zone Libya (2) – More on Canada’s F-18’s headed into the fight, from unnamed sources. “A source told the Ottawa Citizen Thursday night that six CF-18s originally tasked for a NATO patrol off Iceland have now been ordered to take part in the Libyan mission ….” (Postmedia News) More, from unnamed sources: “Canada is poised to send in fighter jets to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, defence sources told The Canadian Press.  Six CF-18 fighter-bombers are being readied at Canadian Forces Base Bagotville, Que. and are expected to deploy overseas once the Harper government gives the official green light ….” (Canadian Press)  Yet more from unnamed sources“The six CF-18 fighter jets Canada is sending to help enforce the new United Nations no-fly zone over Libya could leave as early as Friday to join an assembling international force, and will be based out of Southern Europe, possibly Italy. Ottawa will also send between 120 and 200 military personnel to support the planes …..” One more version from unnamed sources: “Canada is expected to announce that it will deploy six CF-18 fighter jets to help enforce the UN’s just-approved no-fly zone over Libya, CBC News has learned. The jets would take at least 24 hours to arrive at their destination, which has yet to be determined, but defence sources told CBC that Malta and Italy were possibilities. Between 100 and 200 support personnel would be involved, the sources said, adding the announcement was imminent ….” (CBC.ca).  Here’s some background information on the CF-188 Hornet, and on 425 Squadron based in Bagotville.
  • No-Fly Zone Libya (3) – Q & A on what one wire service says it could look like.
  • No-Fly Zone Libya (4) – How quickly?  Could be pretty damned quick. Even if Libya HAS closed its airspace.
  • Advice to Libyan insurgents, from Canada’s man at the US Army/USMC Counterinsurgency Center: “….  You have lost round one. Disperse and hide your weapons and ammo- you will need them in the future.  Get organized – figure out who’s in charge and who has the plan.  Get some external support – a lot of countries have a beef with Kadhafi. Exploit that.  Get some training- learn to move, shoot and communicate.  Get disciplined – we all want to be Che but you need some Sgt Rocks too. Dig in.  Come back to fight another day, but this time try the indirect approach – the guerrilla approach.  Don’t go conventional until you are ready – insurgencies lose because they move too fast.  Read your Mao and Michael Collins – learn the lessons from someone else’s past ….”
  • Canada’s Defence Minister on Afghanistan (1) – I’m back!
  • Canada’s Defence Minister on Afghanistan (2) – A few more details about Canada’s “Kabul-centred” mission later this year. “In addition to lessons on marksmanship and bomb detection, Canadian soldiers will be teaching Afghan forces to read, write and practice medicine when the country’s new training mission begins later this year.  Exactly when and where that instruction will occur remains undecided, but Defence Minister Peter MacKay promised quick answers during a visit to Kandahar Airfield on Thursday.  The airbase was the final stop on a four-day Afghanistan tour for the minister and Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk, during which they scouted places where the troop trainers could be stationed.  “The determination has yet to be made as to the exact numbers and configuration and location but I’ll tell you I’m able to go back now with a much more informed view and make a recommendation to the cabinet and the prime minister for a final decision,” MacKay said.  “There is some urgency. We clearly recognize that the sooner we can get on with having trainers in place, the more this will increase our ability to give the Afghans capacity.” ….” More from the Canadian Press here.
  • In a surprisingly glowing assessment of the district where Canadian troops are concentrated, the new governor of Panjwaii, in southern Afghanistan, has declared the area “100-per-cent secure” from insurgents. “We have peace and stability in Panjwaii,” Haji Fazluddin Agha said Tuesday, referring to the region southwest of Kandahar City. “I can say Panjwaii is now 100-per-cent secure. We have government presence and influence all over the district, we can travel anywhere in the district, people are supporting us and we have created a level of good understanding with Canadian Forces.” ….”
  • QMI reporter learns about “no fraternization” rule (even within married couples) in Afghanistan.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – The Defence Department has joined the Harper government in questioning the credibility of the parliamentary budget officer’s report on the costs of stealth jet fighter program.  A top military official said Thursday the cost of buying 65 high-tech fighters would be about $15 billion over 20 years, including maintenance costs.  That differs from the recent report of PBO Kevin Page that pegged the entire cost to taxpayers at $22.6 billion over 20 years.  Page has been a thorn in the side of the Conservative government. His fighter jet assessment was criticized by Laurie Hawn, the junior defence minister, who called it speculative and illogical.  Dan Ross, a Defence Department assistant deputy, said Thursday the military has requested a meeting with Page’s office to discuss his figures.  Ross told a briefing at Defence Department headquarters in Ottawa that the PBO made a “mathematical error” in calculating the unit cost of the planes, and that its maintenance numbers were off too. His briefing was augmented by an array of slides, and documentation that was distributed to journalists ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) – You want the our cost figures?  Here you go, then. The federal government has finally made public a detailed cost estimate for its controversial F-35 fighter jet purchase in the wake of a committee hearing examining whether the Conservatives may be in contempt of Parliament for failing to disclose the material. The document dump follows a similar one a day earlier in which the government tabled a cost breakdown for its package of anti-crime bills. Some 55 F-35-related documents were apparently tabled before the Parliamentary Procedure and House Affairs Committee Thursday, however, those inside the committee room were not immediately aware of it. Shortly after, Dan Ross, the defence department’s assistant deputy minister of materiel, met with reporters to explain the cost breakdown, its methodology and to offer a few more details about why government figures differ from those released last week by Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page ….”
  • London, Ontario is getting “…. a new facility to house the Integrated Personnel Support Centre (IPSC) and 2 Area Support Group Signal Squadron Detachment London (2 ASG Sig Sqn Det). This facility at Area Support Unit (ASU) London will address the current lack of infrastructure needed to house the two units …. This project, valued at approximately $1.3 million, includes the construction of a new 871 m2 facility that will address current accessibility issues and be more conducive to providing the services required for ill or injured Canadian Forces personnel. The project also entails the demolition of the facility that currently houses 2 ASG Sig Sqn Det London ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  “Spaceborne Ocean Intelligence Network (SOIN) Operations and Research” (via Milnet.ca)
  • Ooopsie (1) – Military police are investigating a Canadian Forces reservist from Winnipeg who is alleged to have been planning to attend a white-pride demonstration this weekend in Calgary. Capt. Karina Holder says the military can take action even if the reservist doesn’t actually attend the event, providing investigators find evidence. “Having that attitude alone is completely incompatible with the military culture,” Holder said Thursday from Ottawa. “It runs contrary to effective military service. You have to have that basic respect for your fellow human beings, otherwise you cannot function in this organization.” She said they received a complaint from a member of the public but can’t confirm that it was that complaint which prompted the investigation ….”
  • Oopsie (2) – Someone Postmedia News thinks is quoted denying the claim. “A Winnipeg teenage military reservist under investigation by the Canadian Forces says allegations of racist activity levied against him aren’t true.  The 17-year-old also said while he’d considered attending the white pride march in Calgary Saturday to watch — not participate — he cancelled the plans weeks ago.  The teenager says while he is proud of his German-Ukrainian heritage, he does not believe in white supremacy.  “I do not believe the white race is the master race. I do not believe any races are inferior. I don’t want any harm to happen to anyone,” he said.  The teenager said he upholds all military values. “I don’t care if you’re homosexual, Asian, Muslim — we’re all there for the same reason, and that’s the defence of Canada.” …. The teenager said he’s since taken down postings on his Facebook page, including quotes from Hitler and Mussolini.  He said he put them up because he sees them as “powerful,” in the sense of being willing to stand up and fight for beliefs.  “I don’t want to give the wrong impression,” he said. “Just because an evil person did and said many evil things, does not mean everything he said was wrong.”  He said he’d previously posted on a white supremacist forum, but doesn’t belong to any such groups and has since “matured” in his beliefs ….”
  • Northwestern Ontario Canadian Rangers help train southern Ontario Reservists on how to fight in the winter in northeastern Ontario “Sixteen Canadian Rangers from Constance Lake were an important part of a major military exercise to improve the ability of southern soldiers to operate in the North in the winter.  The Rangers taught a range of winter survival skills to 115 soldiers from 32 Canadian Brigade Group, including members of the Grey and Simcoe Foresters. That group is part of the Canadian Forces Arctic Response Company Group, which is charged with responding to emergencies in the North.  “They’ve taught everything from ice water rescue right down to ice fishing, food preparation, fire starting, improvised shelter building, snaring, and helping the soldiers stay out overnight in shelters the soldiers put together themselves,” said Master Warrant Officer Robert Patterson, Canadian Ranger sergeant major with 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group.  Rangers also accompanied the soldiers when they went into the bush in two groups for the tactical phase of the week-long exercise. “They went out to ensure the movement of the soldiers was safe,” Master Warrant Officer Patterson said. “They’ve done a fantastic job. This is the first time the Constance Lake patrol has ever hosted an exercise of this magnitiude and they’ve done an outstanding job under the leadership of their patrol leader, Sgt. Albert Sutherland ….” More from the local paper here.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 13 Mar 11

  • Canada’s Defence Minister drops by Malta to congratulate the troops“…. “The Maltese government has been very helpful in assisting our evacuation efforts from Libya,” said Minister MacKay. “Without their support, this challenging operation would have been even more difficult. Canada’s bilateral relations with Malta have never been better.” “The short-notice deployment of Canadian Forces personnel and assets to the Mediterranean is another example of our ability and willingness to help those in need,” said General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff. “HMCS Charlottetown’s presence in the Mediterranean Sea provides the Government of Canada with the means to react rapidly should any new crises unfold in the region. We are proud of our troops and the support of their families.” ….”
  • There’s more from the CF information machine on how the evacuation of Canadians has been going. “Over 10 days of evacuation operations, the CC-130J Hercules tactical transports and CC-177 Globemaster strategic airlifters of Joint Task Force Malta have rescued 61 Canadians and 130 citizens of other nations from the turmoil in Libya. Deployed under Operation MOBILE, JTF Malta is the Canadian Forces contribution to a whole-of-government effort led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). At time of writing, the task force had 61 personnel (aircrews, medical staff, military police, liaison officers and air movements personnel) based at the Excelsior Hotel in Valletta, and two Hercules aircraft operating from Malta International Airport ….”
  • Here’s one way NATO troops are handing security responsiblity over to Afghans. “The Canadian military is warming to the controversial idea of arming local villagers in the Kandahar district of Panjwaii, a tactic credited with stemming violence during the Iraq war but criticized over concerns of insurgent infiltration. The Afghan Local Police program, launched by President Hamid Karzai last August, is an initiative where village-level fighting forces are given guns and undergo a training course to provide security to their communities. It’s a gamble that NATO military commanders hope encourages locals to fight back against the Taliban, much like some Iraqi villagers did when they rose up against al-Qaida during the Sunni Awakening. Canada’s top soldier in Afghanistan said the ALP could soon be set up in the Horn of Panjwaii, the western belt of the district traditionally used as a springboard for insurgent attacks in the provincial capital of Kandahar city. “We’re trying to invigorate it out in the Horn,” Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner said in a recent interview ….” Here’s one view about why the ALP may not be the best idea.
  • More from the CF information machine on what’s up in Afghanistan on the road to Mushan and in training Afghan troops about the beans and bullets.
  • Karzai issues his strongest statement yet to NATO: “An emotional Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday told international troops to “stop their operations in our land”, his strongest remarks yet over mistaken killings of civilians. Karzai’s comments came after a week in which a relative of his was killed in a raid by foreign forces and he rejected an apology by the US commander of troops General David Petraeus for the deaths of nine children in a NATO strike. “I would like to ask NATO and the US with honour and humbleness and not with arrogance to stop their operations in our land,” Karzai said in Pashto as he visited the dead children’s relatives in Kunar province, eastern Afghanistan. “We are very tolerant people but now our tolerance has run out.” In an apparent reference to neighbouring Pakistan, where insurgents have hideouts in lawless border regions, Western-backed Karzai said international forces “should go and fight this war where we have showed them (it is)”. “This war is not in our land,” Karzai added ….” How many minutes do you think Karzai would last if NATO just walked away?  Maybe worth considering?
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Attacks alleged in Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – Government bashes Parliamentary Budget Officer estimate of how much the program’ll cost“…. Kevin Page’s contention that the F-35 Lightning II will cost taxpayers $22 billion over 20 years — or nearly $30 billion over 30 years — was dismissed as “speculative” and “illogical” by the country’s junior defence minister. “There are areas in that report that we just simply disagree with,” said Laurie Hawn. There are flaws in the report’s methodology, he said. “It’s accurate based on the assumptions he made. The assumptions he made were speculation.” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) – “The Liberals are accusing the Bloc Quebecois of “flip-flopping” on their decision to support the purchase of F-35 fighter jets in the wake of a report by Canada’s budget watchdog that pegs the total cost at billions more than initially thought. “Gilles Duceppe has finally seen the light — I just hope it isn’t too late for Quebec’s aerospace industry,” Liberal industry critic Marc Garneau said. “Liberal MPs have argued all along that the Conservative numbers simply do not add up, which is why they breached Parliament’s privilege and refused to show us detailed cost figures for these stealth fighter jets.” …. Shortly after Page’s report came out, Duceppe said he was shocked and echoed the position of the Liberals that the deal should be cancelled in favour of an open bid process. The Bloc had supported the deal believing it would be good for Quebec’s aerospace industry. On Friday, the Bloc’s Pierre Paquette admitted the party had supported the purchase up until the release of Thursday’s PBO report ….”
  • The Harper government hopes the bruising, emotional debate over the ill-treatment of war veterans will come to an end now that the House of Commons has passed an improved package of benefits for former soldiers. Bill C-55 was given the green light on Friday, with all-party consent, and will now make its way to the Senate. But critics remained skeptical that the “insurance company” mentality of Veterans Affairs Canada staff will simply fade away, despite the injection of $2 billion in new and improved benefits ….” Some of the debate from the House of Commons Friday here and here, and how some wounded warriors feel about what’s proposed here.
  • Between 2007 and 2009, Canadian companies exported about $1.4-billion in arms with the United Kingdom, Australia and Saudi Arabia topping the list of buyers. The sales figures are contained in the latest report from the department of foreign affairs that tracks military sales from year to year. Those figures don’t include sales to the United States, which is by far the largest buyer of arms from Canada. Because of a long-standing agreement between the two countries, Canada doesn’t track sales to the United States the way it does for other countries, so it does not appear on the department’s list ….” Here’s the DFAIT report.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 11 Mar 11

  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  Parliament’s Budget Office (PBO):  Our estimates (based on production price per pound of plane and a longer service timeline – 30 years vs. the CF’s 20 years) show the F-35 will cost more than the Canadian government is saying now. (1.1 MB PDF, 65 pg).  The executive summary is downloadable here via Army.ca.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) Both the Liberals and the NDP started poking the government almost immediately during Question Period in the House of Commons on this one yesterday.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3) MSM are full of stories on this one as well this from the Canadian Press, this from the Toronto Star, this from the National Post/Postmedia News, this from CTV.ca, and this from Reuters.
  • Mideast Unpleasantness (1)Canada is defending the effectiveness of sanctions against Libya, despite their apparent failure after Moammar Gadhafi’s troops managed to drive rebel forces out of a key oil port. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Thursday that he thinks sanctions against Libya are working, but more are needed. He said all options for Libya remain on the table as he and fellow G8 foreign ministers prepare to meet in France early next week for talks on the crisis. “I think the sanctions regime is working. Obviously it has its merits and its objectives. There needs to be more, I believe. That is why we’re still examining the options.” Cannon rejected a suggestion that sanctions are failing because Gadhafi is still holding power and reclaiming rebel-held territory ….”
  • Mideast Unpleasantness (2) Retired General Lew Mackenzie with a reminder that a no-fly zone could morph into more than JUST a no-fly zone in Libya. “…. once you decide to militarily intervene in another country’s civil conflict, you have to be prepared to escalate even if it’s the wrong thing to do, because quitting your commitment when the initial plan fails is just not on …. Col. Gadhafi doesn’t need his air force to prevail, so its grounding or destruction would merely shift the fighting to the backs of his army. Libya is a big country, with 2,000 kilometres of coastline, so the major fighting would take place along the main coastal road. The opposition forces would be no match for even poorly organized army units if Col. Gadhafi decides to get serious.  Watching this unfold from 20,000 feet, the countries enforcing any no-fly zone would be unable to ignore the carnage below them. Backed into a corner, their political leaders would be forced to escalate and authorize attacks against the Libyan army – thereby becoming, in effect, the opposition’s air force. By so doing, they would assume a much larger role in Libya’s future, including reconstruction of the damage they inflicted ….”
  • Mideast Unpleasantness (3)  Speaker of the House of Commons:  Not unpleasant enough for an emergency debate right now.
  • A little more information on Canada coming through with more funding a school project in Kandahar. “…. the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, announced $250,000 in additional funding for the Afghan Canadian Community Centre (ACCC). This funding will allow the ACCC to continue providing successful literacy courses and training in Kandahar city …. The ACCC is a private training centre in Kandahar City that provides professional education in such subjects as business management, information technology, English and health care. This additional support will enable the Centre to continue delivering valuable training, establish a resource centre, and implement a self-sustainability plan. Translation of that last bit of government-speak in red:  some of the money the school is getting is to be used to come up with a plan to be able to run without any more outside funding (or at least from us).
  • A friend of Colin Rutherford, the Canadian reportedly being held hostage by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan, sees world for what it is“…. We as students need to recognize that terrorism does not only happen to other people. Terrorists exist to cause fear, and through that fear they gain power. Colin was not afraid to go into a place that has been torn by war to try to help people who are different from himself, and to help them on their terms instead of his. It may not have been the brightest thing to do, but it was brave and motivated by a good heart. He may not come home alive or, if alive, not whole and sound. I pray every day for him. I hope I will get to see him again and hug him and tell him that I am proud of him for wanting to bring something positive into a bastion of terror ….”
  • Remember the “MMA Visits Afghanistan to Fight for the Troops?” story earlier this week (eighth bullet here) Here’s the U.S. military information machine’s story on the event.
  • Ooopsie…. “At a time of unprecedented tension between the west and Hamid Karzai over the killing of civilians, Nato has accidentally shot dead one of the Afghan president’s own family members during a botched night raid. Officials in the southern province of Kandahar said Haji Yar Mohammad Karzai, a second cousin of the president, was killed during an operation by US special forces in Karz, the ancestral Karzai home on the outskirts of Kandahar city. In what appears to have been a major intelligence failure, the 63-year-old tribal elder was mistaken for the father of a Taliban commander …. Mahmoud Karzai, one of the president’s brothers, said he “smelled a very deep conspiracy” over the killing of Haji Yar Mohammad and said he feared Nato had been fed false information by someone from within the Karzai family ….” Here’s ISAF’s first statement on the incident, with a follow-up update here.  More on the touchiness of the situation from the Canadian Press here.
  • Canadian shipyard workers pipe in on Canada’s plans to look at foreign designs for new big honkin’ ships for the Navy. “Canada should not adapt foreign designs to replace its 40-year-old supply ships, says the man who represents over 1,000 workers at Halifax Shipyard. The navy is looking for consultants to assess the risks and cost of altering current German and Spanish military supply-ship designs to Canadian needs. They are also being told to be ready to assist federal officials with detailed drawings. “No matter what way you slice the pie, its Canadian tax dollars leaving Canada to go to another country to help them out in an economic crisis when we’re in our own,” Jamie Vaslet of the CAW/Marine Workers Federation, said Thursday. “Made in Canada is not a bad name, so designed in Canada is not a bad name, either. We designed and built some of, if not the best, world-class frigates.” ….”
  • Meanwhile, Mark Collins wonders how sloooooooooooooooooooow one can go to build new ships needed by Canada’s Navy.
  • Remember the shipload o’ Tamils dropped on the west coast by the MV Sun Sea last summerOne of the passengers admitted to being a bad guy, and has been ordered deported (eventually). “A passenger on the MV Sun Sea ship has admitted to being a member of the Tamil Tigers and ordered out of Canada, but don’t expect the unnamed man to be booted out anytime soon.  The man, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, initially denied being associated with the Tiger terrorist group but later admitted to officials with the Canadian Border Services Agency that he had been a member …. “We are pleased that these hearings are moving ahead,” said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, the man in charge of the CBSA …. Toews has stated several times that the ship has terrorist links but this case is the first to come with a deportation order.  “That ship, that voyage was co-ordinated by the Tamil Tigers,” Toews told QMI Agency on Wednesday. “Our commitment has been to ensure that individuals who are associated with terrorist organizations do not find refuge in this country.” ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 27 Feb 11

  • Operation GTFO Libya The good news:  Canadians are being flown out of Libya in a Canadian military plane.  The not-so-good news:  it’s Canada’s embassy staff, including the Ambassador. More on that here, here, here and here.
  • More on managing expectations of a military incursion (involving Canadians, anyway) into Libya“…. Defence Minister Peter MacKay told a group of defence experts Friday not to expect Canadian troops — or even United Nations peacekeepers — to intervene in Libya anytime soon. When asked about the UN’s Responsibility to Protect resolution, which allows for quick action by the Security Council to intervene militarily in cases where innocent civilians are being brutalized, MacKay said the resolution is a “very important concept,” but it isn’t applied evenly. “As we’ve seen in places like Darfur, it (the resolution) has lost its lost lustre,” MacKay said. “I think the corollary to the Responsibility to Protect is not to overextend, and not to raise expectations that can’t be met.” ….”
  • Here’s what Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian Attorney General, says Canada should be doing about Libya.
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • The Taliban is claiming to have “captured” a “Canadian national” in Ghazni, Afghanistan – no mainstream media confirmation as of this posting.
  • An editorial voice saying Canada should stay to finish the job in Afghanistan“This summer, as Kandahar bakes in the relentless heat, Canada will formally end its combat role in Afghanistan. After nearly a decade of fighting, Canadians will transition to a training role — behind the wire — teaching the Afghan National Security Forces.  Canada must maintain a presence in Afghanistan, but it is difficult for Canadians to walk away from combat operations in Kandahar before the job is done, given the heroic efforts and sacrifices of our soldiers …. Soldiers go where they are told to and do as the government orders because that’s their job. They are loyal to the core.  Quietly though, many wonder what it was all for. There is a feeling of unfinished business, of being taken off the field in the last moments of the championship game when the critical moves are being made, when the score is so close.  …. Now, as the surge is in full swing, Canadian troops have to walk away without being allowed to finish what they started.  This is all the more grating because combat has not affected Canada’s ability to fight — it has affected our will to fight.  Ultimately the decision to leave combat had nothing to do with tactical success or failure on the ground and everything to do with political debates at home …. Much of the reputation the Canadian Forces have earned us in Afghanistan will be left in the dust of Kandahar.  Asked what could be done for his troops, one veteran officer answered, “Let them win, if you really want their efforts to have not been in vain.” “
  • Taliban Propaganda WatchMore on the Taliban’s view of those nasty, nasty people who say they’re talking with NATO, Afghanistan, the Americans, whoever.
  • A top Canadian general wants to cut the fat at national defence headquarters in Ottawa, a move he says will help create a leaner, meaner fighting machine. Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie was heavily critical of a system that favours headquarters staff members over soldiers in the field. “Before you want to talk, and none of you should be, about cutting one ship, one reserve or regular unit, or one capability that can contribute to operational outputs, let’s talk about HQ staffs,” Leslie told a conference of defence analysts and military officers. His heaviest opposition is coming from the bureaucrats he is facing off against. “Nothing will defend itself so vigorously, much akin to a wounded badger, as a HQ that is threatened with being shut down.” ….” Some interesting discussion and suggestions on this topic here at Milnet.ca.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War This from the Parliamentary Budget Officer in his latest report (PDF): “…. the federal government still hasn’t given him, or the committee, the information they say they need to hold the Conservatives fiscally accountable on crime bill costs, the F-35 fighter jet purchase and costs to the federal treasury of corporate tax cuts ….” This, specifically on the F-35, from the report itself:  “The GC’s (Government of Canada’s) response to FINA (House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance) on October 28 2010 confirms some of the relevant cost drivers associated with the GC’s planned purchase of 65 F-35s. These include the importance of specifications such as weight and materials, deflator rates to account for changes in prices, and a specific delivery schedule in order to determine the average unit cost of the aircraft. That said, there are two insufficiencies in the data. First, the data provided does not cover all the cost drivers. Second, the response does not provide the necessary degree of detail with respect to both the underlying assumptions upon which the GC’s figures are based and cost drivers themselves …. The PBO (Parliamentary Budget Office) will be providing parliamentarians with an independent estimate of the costs of the F-35 aircraft in the upcoming weeks ….”
  • A Quebec museum has bought itself a submarine for the princely sum of $4, plus tax.  The submarine is the former HMCS Onondaga, one of Canada’s Oberon-class submarines that was decommissioned in 2000 when the navy picked up its new Victoria-class subs from the British navy.  Annemarie Bourassa, assistant director of the Musee de la Mer de Pointe-au-Pere, told the Canadian Press that the sub will be a big draw for her museum.   “Rimouski is not a big city and there’s not a lot of big tourist attractions, so there’s a lot of people who are convinced that this will be good for everyone,” Bourassa said.  The submarine was headed to the Canada War Museum as an exhibit for children to climb through, but that museum bailed out when it worked out the cost of transporting the submarine to its new building in Ottawa ….”