MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 12 Oct 11

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 8 Oct 11

  • “Canada’s top soldier is defending the use of Challenger jets in an email to all the staff at the Department of National Defence ….”  Here’s the text of the e-mail sent to all CF members this week – media coverage here, here, here, here and here.
  • Latest to the defence of the Minister, CDS on Challenger use:  former Ministers Graham and Pratt & former CDS’s Manson and Henault:  “…. We the undersigned, having served in the past respectively as ministers or chiefs of defence, view with concern the recent attacks regarding the use of government jets by the current incumbents. Alarming the Canadian public with dollar figures that dramatically inflate the real cost of using the Challengers, while misconstruing the context and realities of that use, does a disservice to the Minister of National Defence, the Chief of Defence Staff and the people they serve.”
  • Blogger/info curator Mark Collins on future missions for the CF (if the U.S. gets its way).
  • Afghanistan (1)  A timeline, ten years in – more here.
  • Afghanistan (2)  Quebec Senator welcomes Valcartier troops back from Afghanistan.
  • Afghanistan (3)  Khadr Boy on his way back to Canada?  “Omar Khadr has started the process to come back to Canada. Lawyers for Khadr, who is serving eight years in a U.S. prison for killing a U.S. soldier when he was 15, have filed the paperwork required to start the repatriation process. Corrections officials have received the request for transfer and now have to determine if Khadr is eligible to return to Canada to finish out his sentence. Once Canadian officials determine that, they send an official request to American officials. If U.S. officials agree, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has the final say. He has the option of refusing the transfer if he decides Khadr is a risk to public safety. The process is expected to take about 18 months ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch  Ten years after Americans hit Afghanistan, Taliban claim “divine victory is with us alike the previous ten years”.
  • One Naval Reservist’s job in the fight against pirates.  When she arrives at work each morning in a northwest suburb of London, Lt.-Cmdr. Susan Long-Poucher steps into the North Arabian Sea. Her windowless office at the the NATO shipping centre in Northwood is lined with maps of exotic locations such as the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Somali Basin and the Persian Gulf. From here, Long-Poucher, 49, helps keep tabs on pirates who, equipped with tiny speed boats and a handful of small arms, prey on a fortune of commercial shipping. “Even though I work in the United Kingdom, when I come to work I am in the gulf,” said Long-Poucher, commanding officer of HMCS Cataraqui, the local naval reserve unit. Long-Poucher is in the midst of a six-month assignment to the shipping centre as part of an international anti-piracy campaign. Long-Poucher is the senior of three Canadian officers assigned to the centre as part of Operation Saiph, Canada’s commitment to increasing maritime security in the waters around the Horn of Africa ….”
  • Changes proposed to military law, specifically in how courts martial are run and military judges get to be more independent – more here and here.
  • Talkin’ search and rescue way up north. “Delegates from eight circumpolar countries met in Whitehorse this week for a conference on Arctic search and rescue co-operation. The purpose of the meeting of members of the Arctic Council Oct. 5 and 6 was to study the Arctic Search and Rescue agreement signed in May in Nuuk, Greenland, and to examine ways to enhance search and rescue capability and response across the North. Besides Canada, the members of the Arctic Council are Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia and the United States. It took 30 hours for some of the delegates to get to Yukon ….”
  • “Come lookit our non-lethal weapon tech” conference and trade show scheduled for Ottawa 25-27 Oct 11.
  • What’s Canada Melting Down?  Loads of old pistols, apparently“Despite all its bluster about saving money and honouring Canada’s armed forces, the Conservative federal government is poised to melt down millions of dollars worth of military memorabilia. Specifically, the Department of Defence is planning to send 19,000 highly collectable Browning Hi-Power pistols made in Toronto more than 60 years ago to the smelter and destroy them, instead of allowing licensed firearm owners to buy them for hundreds of dollars each. As reported recently, the Canadian Forces are replacing the Browning Hi-Power semi-automatic pistols starting in the fall 2015. The decommissioned sidearms, the standard military issue pistol for the forces since 1944, are set to be destroyed ….”  Just a reminder – the process to replace the Browning HP has been “cancelled” – still no word from Public Works Canada re:  why.
  • Congrats on hour #3000“Major Miguel Bernard joined an elite club on Aug. 15, 2011 when he flew his 3,000th hour in the CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft while transiting from Bagotville, Que. to Trapani, Italy, to support Operation Mobile. “It’s a significant milestone because not many people have it,” he said from Trapani. “It just takes time.” Maj Bernard is one of only two active CF-18 pilots with 3,000 hours in the aircraft ….”
  • Canada’s Veterans Ombudsman, Guy Parent, will travel to Quebec City to host a public town hall session (on 12 Oct 11) for Veterans, RCMP members, military members, families and other interested parties. Mr. Parent will deliver a short presentation outlining the mandate and services of the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman. This will be followed by a question and answer period with the audience ….”
  • (Alleged) Terrorist Bad Guy Update  Two men from a group accused of plotting terrorist attacks in Canada appeared briefly in court in Ottawa (this week) to learn some of the conditions of their upcoming trials. Misbahuddin Ahmed and Khurram Syed Sher and a third man, Hiva Alizadeh, were arrested and their homes raided last year in an RCMP investigation dubbed Project Samossa. All three were charged with conspiracy to facilitate terrorism. Police accused the three men of plotting with others in Canada and abroad to aid terrorism activities. Ahmed, an Ottawa X-ray technologist, is also charged with possessing an explosive substance with the intent to harm. On Wednesday, an Ontario court judge set aside a time from June 18 to July 13 next year for the pre-trial for both Ahmed and Sher ….”
  • (Maybe) (Alleged) Terrorist Bad Guy Update  The RCMP was last night interviewing a man in connection with a plot involving the national security of Canada. The man was first seen on Oct. 1 at a DocuServe Etc., store at 20 Dundas St. E., Mississauga, the Mounties. “We believe he can corroborate some information that we have received,” Const. Richard Rollings said. Rollings refused to comment on specifics citing an ongoing national security probe. Police said the man, who may be a suspect, holds answers regarding the legitimacy of a plot or where an incident may occur ….”  More from Postmedia News here, and a copy of the RCMP news release downloadable here (via Milnet.ca).
  • Oopsie…. “Researchers in Winnipeg’s National Microbiology lab must now obtain extra approval before they transport lethal pathogens, after a “miscommunication” three years ago left senior officials scrambling to find out why a shipment of Level 4 viruses was sent out of the secure lab ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 5 Oct 11

  • We have a border security deal (reportedly)!  A much-ballyhooed perimeter security deal between Canada and the United States will come with a $1-billion price tag for new border facilities and programs to make trade and travel easier, The Canadian Press has learned. The Conservative government will use money cut from existing programs to cover the hefty cost of the international pact — an attempt to protect the continent from terrorist threats while speeding the flow of people and products across the 49th parallel. The deal, as described by several sources, is more evolutionary than revolutionary, falling short of the grand vision outlined with fanfare eight months ago when Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama announced negotiations ….”  More here.
  • Libya Mission  Latest ROTO takes first flight downrange“The CP 140 Aurora aircraft continued to add to an impressive list of firsts, flying its first mission over Libya and its first strike coordination and armed reconnaissance-coordinator (SCAR-C) mission during Operation MOBILE. On 22 September 2011, crew from 405 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 14 Wing Greenwood, flew its first intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission over Libyan soil ….” (via CEFCOM Info-Machine)
  • NATO defense ministers are exploring ways Wednesday of ending the alliance’s aerial campaign in Libya and training Afghan security forces for a larger role in their country’s war. In a speech before the meeting, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urged NATO member states to cooperate more closely and pool their resources in order to make up for the shortfalls that have plagued the alliance’s operations in Libya and Afghanistan. “It would be a tragic outcome if the alliance shed the very capabilities that allowed it to successfully conduct these operations,” said Panetta, who is making his first visit to Europe after taking over from Robert Gates as Pentagon chief in July. European members and Canada provided most of the strike aircraft used in the Libya campaign. But the war exposed shortages in their capabilities in strategic transport, aerial surveillance, air refueling, and unmanned drones, most of which had to be supplied by the U.S. ….”  More on the U.S. poking allies to crank up the military capabilities here.
  • Afghanistan (1)  Poking the Defence Minister in Question Period – again – on (based on a book that’s not out yet) being out of the loop on Afghanistan.
  • Afghanistan (2)  Canada fighting the fight (against polio) in Afghanistan.
  • Afghanistan (3)  Editorial“Part of the rationale for military intervention in Afghanistan was the deplorable state of women’s rights, and the need to free women from the gender apartheid practised by the Taliban. This was a country where women could not have direct contact with men after the age of eight, could not go to school or work outside the home, visit public baths to stay clean, wear nail polish, high heels or be seen in public without a burqa, or a male relative. As the 10th anniversary of the military invasion approaches on Oct. 7, the hard-won gains that women have made over the past decade must be safeguarded. They cannot be sacrificed for the larger goal of ending Afghanistan’s protracted conflict ….”
  • Provincial politicians use CF search & rescue as provincial campaign lighting rod. Newfoundland nd Labrador’s premier and the opposition leader say search and rescue services provided by the federal government must be investigated to see if improvements are necessary. Progressive Conservative Leader Kathy Dunderdale said a recent episode of CBC’s The Fifth Estate on search and rescue has left her with concerns about the military’s service. “It is not satisfactory to the people of this province, to the people who earn their living on the sea, to be at further risk because of a slow response time or policies that affect response time in marine search and rescue,” she said. Dunderdale said she plans to vigorously pursue the issue of search and rescue with the federal government. Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward agreed and went further, calling for a full inquiry into federal search and rescue services. Both Aylward and Dunderdale are campaigning in preparation for the provincial election on Oct. 11 ….”
  • Wounded Warriors, Mental Health & Suicide (1)  For decades, the issue of suicide in active soldiers and retired veterans was something that no one wanted to talk about. But a number of programs both within and outside the military are finally focusing attention on the issue. How big a problem is suicide in Canada’s military? It’s difficult to say. The Canadian Forces reports that the suicide rate among currently active soldiers is actually lower than that of the general public. But once many of those soldiers are released from the military, research shows their suicide risk can rise to higher levels than that of civilians. Assessing the toll can be difficult, because beyond the clear-cut suicides are the more subtle instances in which soldiers end their own lives. A veteran who drinks heavily to dull mental pain might be engaging in a slow form of suicide. A soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder and anger issues might take reckless risks if he’s lost his will to live. And how about the veteran with depression who ends up homeless and dies far too young? None of these deaths would register on the books as a suicide, but all might well be traced back to the soldier’s time in service ….”
  • Wounded Warriors, Mental Health & Suicide (2)  From Question Period (QP)“Hon. John McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, last week, the Minister of National Defence and I, along with others, attended a conference put on by the military called “Caring for our Own”. One of the concerns raised by some of the soldiers was the fear that the military would not be there for them in their hour of need. Specific worries included PTSD, suicide ideation and suicide itself. The next budget will be under severe pressure for cutting these “soft services”. Could the minister give the House assurances that our vulnerable soldiers and their families will be protected from these budgetary pressures? Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, my colleague is correct. My friend was in attendance, along with many members who are specifically tasked with how we deal with the scourge of post-traumatic stress and many of the challenges related to overseas deployments. I am very pleased to report that Canada has in fact become a world leader in fighting the stigmatization and raising awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and other operational stress injuries. As well, we have increased mental health awareness and we have increased the number of mental health professionals who are dealing specifically with these challenges.”
  • Wounded Warriors, Mental Health & Suicide (3)  More from QP“Mr. Sean Casey (Charlottetown, Lib.):  Mr. Speaker, there is a great need to enhance suicide prevention programs in Canada. With respect to our veterans, the data is alarming. The suicide rate in the armed services is nearly three times that of the general population. According to a departmental study of all males who enrolled in the regular forces after 1972 and were released before 2007, a total of 2,620 died and almost 700 of them were suicides. Could the minister outline new steps or strategies that his department is undertaking to tackle this crisis among veterans?  Hon. Steven Blaney (Minister of Veterans Affairs, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his important question. While mental health was taboo then, it is a priority for our government now. That is why we have established, in conjunction with the Department of National Defence, 17 operational stress injury clinics that provide services to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress across the country and at various levels that they might experience. This approach is working. As of June, Veterans Affairs Canada is helping more than 14,300 veterans with mental health conditions and their families ….”
  • New fur hats for the troops (and the animal rights activists are unhappy)“The Department of National Defence has decided to add fur to the winter gear of the Canadian Forces, a move that’s getting a frosty reception from animal-rights advocates. The government says fur is part of Canada’s heritage and the winter tuque currently in use doesn’t stand up to the rigours of the Canadian winter. So it’s buying an initial run of 1,000 fur-trimmed caps at a cost of $65,000, for use by guards of honour and Canadian Forces starting this winter …. “There are synthetics that are just as good and that don’t necessitate the killing of animals,” Elizabeth Sharpe of the World Society for the Protection of Animals said from Toronto. “Killing animals for their fur is completely unnecessary and cruel.” Lesley Fox of the British Columbia-based Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals says muskrats are known to chew off their limbs to free themselves from leg-hold traps ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  Defence Minister Peter MacKay, facing questions from the NDP on the upcoming F-35 buy:   “These aircraft, as the House will know, will replace our aging CF-18 fleet of fighter jets. These aircraft, like other aircraft, have served our country extremely well. They are used in Libya today. They have been used in previous missions, but that they aging. As a matter of course we are taking the responsible step of following a procurement process that has been in place for a significant period of time in which a number of countries are participating …. We committed $9 billion for the replacement of the CF-18. In fact, it not only includes the cost of the aircraft, this will include: spares, weapons systems, infrastructure and training simulators as well as the contingency associated with this important procurement. We are purchasing the most cost-effective variant at the prime of peak production when the costs will be at their lowest. Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer has admitted to that. Why are the NDP members constantly against getting the best equipment for the best forces in the world?”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  The latest from the Associate Minister of National Defence Julian FantinoAn overall $9 billion cost estimate is more honest than relying on individual plane costs, says the minister handling the purchase of Canada’s new fighter jets. Despite a promise by manufacturer Lockheed Martin that Canada will get its F-35 fighter jets at a cost of $65 million each, Julian Fantino, Associate Minister of National Defence, says the government’s overall $9 billion estimate is the more honest number. The cost of the F-35 depends on the number of planes ordered by other countries, as well as on how early Canada wants to get its order. The manufacturing cost goes down as more planes come off the assembly line, with Canada expecting the U.S. to absorb the bulk of the F-35’s development costs. “There are just so many variables, and that’s why I think the more honest, ethical response to all these issues is the $9 billion figure, which in fact will be the ceiling that Canada will be investing in these particular aircraft,” Fantino told Evan Solomon, host of CBC’s Power & Politics ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Someone to make fake explosives to test detection equipment (more in Statement of Work – 4 page PDF – here), upgrading the range at CFB Valcartier, someone to manage Canada’s presence at the Farnborough Air Show, and CADPAT rank slip-ons.
  • Canada’s top military cop to chair NATO committee“The Canadian Forces Provost Marshal (CFPM), Colonel Tim Grubb assumed the post of Chairman of the NATO Nations Military Police (MP) Chiefs’ Committee at a brief ceremony last week in Prague, Czech Republic. The ceremony concluded the committee’s annual meeting …. Colonel Grubb has been the CFPM since 2009 and during his tenure has overseen significant transformation in the Canadian Forces Military Police organization ….”
  • The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre engaged in some diplomacy of its own recently when its leaders invited ambassadors and military attachés to its Carleton University headquarters to update them on its activities. Michael Snell, project manager for the centre, told the group of about 30 diplomats about the work the centre has been doing with the 10 training centres that compose the Association of Latin America Peacekeeping Centres. The centre’s three causes, Snell said, are: women and peacekeeping; supporting new training centres; and enhancing police participation in UN missions from Latin America ….”
  • How some of the Americans are doing the War of 1812 anniversary.  Out of the murk of history and the trough of government funding, here comes the War of 1812 again, 200 years old and as ambiguous as ever on both sides of the Canada-U.S. frontier. “The festivities reach a crescendo!” trumpets the Maryland Bicentennial Commission, as if three years of bombarding, cannonading, spearing, shooting, scalping, burning, sinking, drowning, pillaging, invading, retreating, ambushing, marching, fleeing, starving, freezing, and occupying had been a holiday for all concerned. Undeterred by the carnage – after all, the war didn’t kill THAT many guys, compared to, like, Gettysburg or Hitler or whatever – we are going to have “a Star-Spangled tribute to the defense of America” down here, a display at the U.S. Naval Academy of “the British flag captured at Fort York (Toronto),” plus “a week-long maritime event to kick off the bicentennial celebration.” In other words, there are going to be a lot of people in pantaloons hoisting mainsails and firing muskets before this thing is put away for another century ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 3 Oct 11

  • Afghanistan (1)  Troops getting ready in Gagetown to head to Afghanistan“Efforts are continuing to prepare hundreds of soldiers from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown for duty early next year in Afghanistan. Approximately 450 personnel from The Second Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (2RCR) will be joined by another 100 from the greater Land Force Atlantic Area in deploying to the war-torn region for an eight-month training mission. The first group of soldiers will depart Gagetown in mid-February with the process continuing until mid-March. It’s expected to take about a month to get everyone into the Kabul theatre of operations ….”
  • Afghanistan (2a)  Nichola Goddard, 1980-2006, R.I.P.  Father of fallen returns to Afghanistan to help get more women teachers trained.
  • Afghanistan (2b)  Speaking of such things….  Canada is being urged to use whatever influence it has to ensure gains made over the last decade for women in Afghanistan are not lost in any peace deal that might materialize. Late Sunday, international aid agency Oxfam released a report saying there is a risk that many of the improvements made for women since the Taliban were toppled 10 years ago could be given away in bargaining as different factions in the war-torn country, including the Taliban, negotiate an end to a decade of war. “The women’s movement is quite worried about the potential that a peace deal with the Taliban could imply setbacks to the progress that women (in Afghanistan) have achieved and the potential for further progress,” Mark Fried, policy co-ordinator with Oxfam Canada, said in an interview ….” 
  • Afghanistan (3)  New book says LOADS o’ central control over execution, communication about the Afghanistan mission.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office was so seized with controlling public opinion of Canada’s shooting war in southern Afghanistan that even Defence Minister Peter MacKay wasn’t always in the loop, says a new book about the conflict. “The Savage War,” by Canadian Press defence writer and Afghanistan correspondent Murray Brewster, paints a portrait of a PMO keen to preserve its tenuous grip on minority power and desperate to control the message amid dwindling public support for the war. MacKay, who took over Defence from Gordon O’Connor in August 2007, was blindsided by the Harper government’s decision later that year to set up a blue-ribbon panel to review the mission headed by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley, Brewster writes. “It wasn’t discussed with the broader cabinet, no,” the minister says in the interview. “I didn’t know all of the specifics.” ….”‘
  • Veterans Affairs Canada’s Virtual War Memorial web site, listing detailed information about Canada’s fallen, has moved from here to hereLast month, the CF webmeisters moved the “Fallen Canadians” page from here to here.
  • Trees to honour the fallen“When Elizabeth Pratt had her first brush with Canadian Forces soldiers four years ago, she couldn’t believe how young the men and women in uniform were. In Halifax, as part of the Royal Nova Scotia Military Tattoo in 2007, the then-Grade 11 student met hundreds of soldiers serving in Afghanistan, many of them only a few years older than she was. “I was so surprised at how close in age they were to me,” she said, “not to mention the fact that they were out there fighting and maybe even sacrificing their lives. That hit home.” Now, the 20-year-old University of B.C. student and her brother, 14-year-old Michael, are launching a project they hope will ensure a lasting memorial for those Canadians who have indeed sacrificed their lives in Afghanistan. The pair have created Langley Youth for the Fallen, a non-profit organization that is raising money to buy 157 trees that will be planted in a commemorative grove at the Derek Doubleday Aboretum in Langley ….”
  • Libya Mission (1)  A columnist shares his perspective of “security”.  “How are we doing in the war on terror? Against the terrorists, tolerably well. Against our governments — that’s a different story. As travelers, we’re coping. We can put up with being treated like inmates at Alcatraz. We display our anatomies to the extent requested; take off our shoes like lambs, purge our carry-on bags of liquids and stuff them with photo IDs. We’re a little dismayed, though, that we may have Grandma strip for nothing. Our governments that protect us so brilliantly from our underwear, seem less effective when it comes to protecting us from portable ground-to-air missiles. That’s right. NATO lost sight of about 20,000 of the suckers, each one capable of shooting down a civilian airliner, while helping rebel forces overrun Colonel Muammar Gaddafy’s Libya. This week the White House’s Jay Carney confirmed an initial ABC news report that thousands of the shoulder-fired weapons, ideal for terrorist operations, are missing from the Colonel’s unguarded military warehouses ….”
  • Libya Mission (2)  Another columnist on when we know it’s done“Last week, the Canadian Parliament briefly debated and then voted to extend our military commitment to the NATO mission in Libya. In announcing the extension, Defence Minister Peter MacKay explained that “Canada was in at the very beginning [and] we should be there until the job is done.” Of course, no one in the Harper government has yet to explain exactly what our “job” is in Libya. Therefore, it remains impossible to determine when or if that task will ever be completed ….”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers!  OK, in this case, piling on the Parliamentary Secretary (not the “Defence Secretary” as the headline writer claims) “Commenting on an investigation that found the minister of national defence racked up nearly $3 million worth of flights aboard federal jets, the minister’s parliamentary secretary reiterated on Sunday that Peter MacKay did not break travel rules. When asked on CTV’s Question Period whether MacKay “at no point” contravened the government’s guidelines for ministerial travel, Chris Alexander said “the short answer is yes,” before adding that members of the Conservative government have “used challenger aircraft three-quarters less” than their predecessors. “This government has been extremely exacting of its ministers and everyone in government by putting in place the toughest measures for accountability, transparency, making sure we know what assets ministers have and making sure we watch like hawks what their means of travel are,” Alexander said. Every ounce of evidence shows MacKay and others members of government have followed the rules.” ….”
  • A senior federal cabinet minister breathed a sigh of relief upon word of the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, a nod to the late radical cleric’s ability to inspire young westerners — including Canadians — to embrace Islamic extremism. “This is good news not only for the United States and North America, this is making the world a safer place,” said Defence Minister Peter MacKay. The death of the U.S.-born al-Awlaki in Yemen — possibly in an American missile strike — appeared to be the latest in a series of targeted killings of al-Qaida kingpins. The charismatic lecturer spent his early childhood in the United States, moving with his family to Yemen before returning to Colorado to pursue university studies. He become an imam whose pronouncements and dealings drew the attention of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Members of a Toronto-area group implicated five years ago in terrorist plotting had watched one of al-Awlaki’s videos at their makeshift training camp ….”
  • On soldiers, tattoos and blood types.
  • Cape Breton Highlanders get their new Camp Flag – shame there’s no link to a photo, no?
  • Editorial:  history =/=. conspiracy. “…. There is no doubt that Mr. Harper is highly political, maybe too political at times, but the promotion of Canadian history and the symbols of national identity are not evidence of a dastardly plot. The prime minister is reportedly equally interested in the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Selkirk settlers in Manitoba and is considering a visit to Winnipeg next year to help mark the occasion. The fact is that Canadians have demonstrated a greater interest in their history over the years, an evolution that seemed to begin in the 1980s with celebrations of significant military dates from the first and second world wars. In 1994, the city of Winnipeg staged a downtown parade, complete with military vehicles and even a Sherman tank, to mark the 50th anniversary of D-Day, the first such parade since the war ended. Sometimes they are controversial, such as the 250th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, and the upcoming celebration of the War of 1812 (Canada won, didn’t it?), but they have never been seen as part of a political agenda. Unfortunately, significant political events from the past have received less attention, but if Mr. Harper (and the CBC) want to ignite a passion in the broader Canadian story, let’s at least not call it a conspiracy.”
  • Divers will search for unexploded munitions this month on the wreck of HMCS Thiepval, a former warship that hit an uncharted rock and sank in Barkley Sound more than 80 years ago. The Department of National Defence organized the search after recreational divers reported spotting artillery and shells on the anemone-covered 1917 Battle-class naval trawler. The vessel boasts a colourful history, including a secret spying assignment and a gin-drinking Japanese bear adopted by the crew. The wreck is resting in about 12 metres of water ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 2 Oct 11

  • Libya Mission  AFRICOM boss says they could be wrapping up pretty soon?  “The military mission in Libya is largely complete and NATO’s involvement could begin to wrap up as soon as this coming week after allied leaders meet in Brussels, according to the top U.S. commander for Africa. Army Gen. Carter Ham, head of U.S. Africa Command, told The Associated Press that American military leaders are expected to give NATO ministers their assessment of the situation during meetings late in the week. NATO could decide to end the mission even though ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi is still at large and his forces are still entrenched in strongholds such as Sirte and Bani Walid ….”
  • Afghanistan  What Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney had to say at the ceremony honouring ROTO 10 troops in Valcartier back from Afghanistan“At an event such as this, words are often unable to fully convey what we feel. This is an occasion for celebration, pride, and perhaps even sorrow. Your return home is a source of joy to all of us, especially to your families, who have hoped and prayed for this day. It is an occasion for pride, because you have completed a demanding and perilous mission with the same courage and selflessness as those generations of Canadian soldiers who have marked the history of our country with their valour. Please accept our congratulations and our thanks ….”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers!  If Defence Minister Peter MacKay felt any pressing need to defend his use of government-owned Challenger jets, it certainly wasn’t evident in his first trip the U.S. since the controversy about flying habits erupted. MacKay, meeting Friday at the Pentagon with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, was asked by a reporter whether he flew aboard a Challenger for the short jaunt to the American capital. “I certainly didn’t,” MacKay responded during a media availability with Panetta. Why not? “Because there’s commercial flights available.” And with that, MacKay changed the subject. After a brief speech about how it was “wonderful to be a reliable, robust security partner” with the U.S., MacKay turned to Panetta and said a quick farewell before jumping in a waiting van. “I’ve got to catch a plane,” he said. “I am flying commercial.” ….”
  • Defence Research and Development Canada paper (129 page PDF):  what did users have to say about Counter IED Operator training via distance ed?
  • Way Up North  One QMI reporter’s ideas for a new rifle for the Canadian Rangers.  “…. One option would be for the government to contract Colt Canada, the Canadian Forces’ small arms manufacturer in Kitchener, Ont., to build a new generation of improved, modernized Lee-Enfields chambered in .308 Winchester, or buy Enfield replicas currently produced by an Australian firm. But concerns about quality, and the need for an off-the-shelf product rule both of these out. Another option still — proposed by this writer — would be the Ruger Gunsite Scout with a few notable modifications: a 20-inch barrel, and a light, durable fiberglass stock in army green with the Ranger emblem embedded in the buttstock. Whatever gun the government decides to buy for the Canadian Rangers, one thing is certain, it should be the best firearm available to them for the self-defence, military, and hunting applications they need it for ….”  Follow the progress of the hunt for a new Ranger rifle here (via Army.ca).
  • Veterans Affairs Minister joins the troops (for a while, anyway).  “The Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, took part in a military training exercise in the Charlevoix area, organized by the infantry primary training audience of 35 Canadian Brigade Group. Minister Blaney spent last night at the camp with members of the Canadian Forces. Today, he joined approximately 800 members of the Reserve Force in field operations, which included crossing the St. Lawrence River between Les Éboulements and Isle-aux-Coudres in military craft ….”
  • Compare and contrast War of 1812 prep – this from an American editorial“…. The war ended in a draw, but the contest to conduct the most comprehensive commemoration isn’t even close. The Canadians have appropriated millions, the Americans hardly anything. At this rate, the Canadians will appropriate the war entirely, at least for the next several years. Which brings us to a lesson for our time: Even forgotten wars can be lost 200 years later.”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 29 Sept 11

  • Libya Mission (1)  Parliamentary Secretary for National Defence Chris Alexander throws a dig at those who voted against the mission extension in the House of Commons.  “Mr. Speaker, this Monday, a crushing majority of members voted in favour of extending Canada’s involvement in Libya. A total of 198 members stood in support and their votes sent a clear message to the Libyan people: they can count on Canada during this post-Gadhafi transition. At that time, the members of the official opposition refused to support the Libyan people, they refused to support the excellent work of the members of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Canadian Navy. They believe that the job is finished. They are wrong. The job is not done and Canada does not cut and run. We do not shirk our responsibilities. We will continue to protect and promote Canadian values around the world. We will support the Libyan people as they build a brighter future for themselves. The NDP members of this place should be ashamed of their vote on Monday. They are wrong on the issues and incoherent on foreign policy. The NDP proves yet again it is just not fit to govern.”
  • Libya Mission (2)  One of the “usual suspect” web sites still opposing NATO’s mission.  “…. Due to the targeted killing of the Chief of State’s family, the NTC detention-killing-torture of civilians who are black, current reports in Tripoli and Sirte of group kidnapping of women, the NTC’s pledge to surround the City and starve it out, the destruction by NATO of targets protected by Geneva Conventions, the lack of balanced reporting in Western countries, inaction by global human rights organizations including the United Nations, the fabric of international law is broken and maintains credibility of intention through its support by the African Union, left of centre nations in the Americas, possibly Russia and China, and non-aligned groupings globally ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  Columnist not happy with training mission.  “…. when asked whether there would be a vote on the third extension, Harper replied, “when we’re talking simply about technical or training missions, I think that is something the executive can do on its own.” The Prime Minister may have dodged a few political bullets then, but this doesn’t change the fact that our soldiers are dodging real bullets now. At what point should political expediency give way to moral responsibility? How will Canadians react when — as is almost inevitable — some of our “trainers” are killed?”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Mark Collins pulls together a swack of “training Afghan forces” commentary.
  • Six thousand Canadians served in Afghanistan and with most of them now back home, the military network needs to know how to care for their well being. Top military brass and defence leaders met in Ottawa Wednesday to send a message through the ranks: Mental health is as crucial as physical wellness. “I expect you to create a command climate where those who need help can get it,” said Chief of Defence Staff Walt Natynczyk. “Ten years ago it was inconceivable to see young macho men and warrior women asking for help, to talk to a counsellor. Now they know they can do so right away.” ….”
  • A bit of back and forth in the House of Commons on this question:  “Why is the government spending $450 million just this year on one of the parts of the Conservative crime bill while neglecting Veterans Affairs Canada and all of the invisible veterans who do not have the family or the ability to actually file a complaint and insist on help?”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (1a)  Still – this from the House of Commons yesterday:  Hon. Gerry Byrne (Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence made a public declaration that, while a guest at a luxury fishing lodge, neither his host nor his companions had any business dealings with the Government of Canada, and yet the facts speak very differently. Mr. Rob Crosbie is a political appointee in control of a federal crown corporation that receives $200 million in annual subsidies from which he draws a personal salary. How does the minister square this contradiction and, while I am on my feet, was the fish this big or just this big?  Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, as I said a number of times, I was on personal time in Gander, Newfoundland with some friends on a trip I paid for myself. As a result of work, I made the decision to go back to work early.  Mr. Scott Andrews (Avalon, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in 2002 the current Prime Minister criticized a minister for staying at a cottage owned by a client of his department. At the time, the current Prime Minister said that he had either acted extraordinarily unethically or extraordinarily stupidly. My question is for the Prime Minister. When a minister accepts a vacation at a luxury fishing lodge owned by the chair of Marine Atlantic, would he say that minister was acting extraordinarily unethically or extraordinarily stupidly?  Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, as has been made clear, the minister paid for his own vacation, so obviously the facts are different. If anyone in the Liberal Party actually has any evidence that the minister or anyone else acted improperly, he or she can say so outside the House.”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (1b)  Along the same lines as above, only from the NDP.
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (2)  Squeezing every last drop out of a flight log request. “Peter MacKay has racked up nearly $3 million worth of flights on the government’s Challenger jets since assuming the role of defence minister in 2007, documents obtained by CTV News reveal. A probe into MacKay’s use of the jets shows that he is the government minister with the most frequent flyer miles aboard the exclusive Challenger fleet. The total cost of MacKay’s 35 flights amount to $2,927,738.70. Challenger flight logs were obtained through an Access to Information request ….”  Same angle from the Globe & Mail Still nobody sharing the documents with readers who may want to see the context for themselves, though.
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (3)  Not to mention herd journalism…. The Conservative Party of Canada knows that the politics of government plane usage is the low-hanging fruit of oppositional politics….”
  • Hey, why not look into the RCMP boss’ plane rides, too? 
  • Is anyone going to compare/contrast, oh, I don’t know, the current Minister’s flying record versus previous Defence Ministers’ flying records?  Just askin’….
  • Speaking of aircraft,Defence Minister Peter MacKay says buying surplus American aircraft will boost the availability of Canada’s beleaguered Cormorant search-and-rescue helicopters. National Defence spent $163 million this summer buying leftovers from Washington’s cancelled VH-71 presidential helicopter program, which are an updated version of CH-149 Cormorants. A briefing note to MacKay warned last year that the Cormorant’s availability is “barely adequate” to meet search-and-rescue requirements, requiring aging Sea King helicopters to be put on standby along the East Coast to replace them …. A Defence Department briefing, obtained by The Canadian Press under access-to-information laws, says cannibalizing spares from U.S. helicopters will allow air force mechanices to stop robbing their own aircraft of parts to keep the fleet in the air ….”  No apparent sharing of “obtained” documents here, either.
  • What’s Canada (Not) Buying?  Defence Minister Peter MacKay has been told that new engines should be a priority for the country’s C-115 Buffalo search-and-rescue planes if the air force is to keep them flying until 2015. But the Defence Department has no plans for new engines. The 44-year-old, twin-engine aircraft were ordered replaced a decade ago when Paul Martin’s Liberal government announced a $3-billion plan to update the country’s fleet of fixed-wing rescue planes. It is a program that has been repeatedly stalled and delayed, despite being named as the Conservative government’s top procurement priority. Last year, MacKay spoke to the only commercial operator of the Canadian-built Buffalo about the “feasibility of replacing the CC-115 Buffalo engines with newer models,” said a Sept. 2, 2010 briefing note prepared for the minister’s office. “The Buffalo airframe is remarkably sturdy, however, the aircraft faces severe obsolescence issues in supporting its engines in particular. “It should be noted that engines are not the only C-115 obsolescence issue; other obsolescence issues would also need to be resolved,” said the document, portions of which were censored. “Re-engine of the C-115 should definitely be considered.” But the Defence Department has not acted on the advice. “While ensuring the day-to-day support of the existing Buffalo engine, the Canadian Forces have made no decision to pursue engine replacement in our existing Buffalo fleet,” said department spokeswoman Kim Tulipan in an email response ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Canada has restarted its politically charged procurement of search-and-rescue aircraft to replace its aging fleet of de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Buffalo and Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules transports. The Fixed Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) project has been overhauled significantly since becoming mired in controversy over claims the Department of National Defense (DND) was limiting competition and the potential for Canadian industrial participation. After essentially sole-source procurements of Boeing C-17 transports, CH-47F heavy-lift helicopters and C-130J airlifters — and a decision to proceed with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter without competition — politicians accused the DND of directing the FWSAR procurement toward Alenia’s C-27J ….”
  • A reminder:  The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Canada’s constitution, guarantees the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.  A member of the military at CFB Trenton, Ont., has been charged with one count of possession of child pornography. The charge against Corp. Mario Desrochers, of 1 Canadian Air Division, was laid by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service under the National Defence Act. A court martial hearing will be held Oct. 31 in Trenton. No information was released about any material seized, other than the alleged offence did not involve the use of military computer equipment. Desrochers, an aerospace control operator, has been a member of the Canadian Forces for 20 years ….”  None of this has been proven in court.
  • A Conservative bill that would make it a crime to prevent someone from flying the Canadian flag is an unnecessary distraction when Parliament has real work to do, a New Democrat critic said Wednesday. NDP MP Charlie Angus said the private member’s bill, introduced by rookie backbencher John Carmichael, is akin to “tabloid-style politics” at a time of a looming economic crisis. “I never knew, until John told me 30 seconds ago, that we had a flag crisis of people being intimidated and not being allowed to use the flag,” Angus said on CTV’s Power Play. Angus, who is the NDP’s ethics critic, also pondered why the government would support a new flag bill when it continues to buy Maple Leaf pins from China. “People come to my office and see a flag that says ‘Made in China,’ so I’ve actually stopped giving out the Canadian flag pins, because my constituents say they don’t want to see something made in China,” Angus said. “Why is this government shipping out our jobs overseas?” ….”
  • Stephen Harper is stepping up his efforts to renew Canadians’ sense of history by creating an $11.5-million fund to recognize the War of 1812 as essential to forming the Canadian identity …. The War of 1812 commemoration is actually a four-year process ending in 2015. Heritage Minister James Moore is to announce the 1812 Commemoration Fund within weeks, designed to help support projects – including new plaques, refurbished monuments, battle re-enactments, films, plays and musical performances – in communities across the country, to mark the 200th anniversary of the war. The Federal Secretariat, Bicentennial of the War of 1812, has also been created to administer the funds and help organizations, including schools, aboriginal groups, municipal, provincial and territorial governments, with applications ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 28 Sept 11

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 27 Sept 11

  • Libya Mission (1a)  House of Commons approves three month extension to mission – House debate transcript here and here (91 page PDF of debate and vote here), softball question in the House on Libya here, Government of Canada’s news release here, and media coverage here, here, here, here and here.
  • Libya Mission (1b)  NDP going back to their usual stance“The NDP drew its first solid line in the sand on foreign policy since taking on the role of official Opposition in Parliament on Monday, stepping away from a position adopted under Jack Layton. The party withdrew its support for Canada’s participation in the international military mission in Libya ….”
  • Libya Mission (2)  One editorial“…. the New Democratic Party is using its role as the Official Opposition to argue against continued military involvement in Libya. The Conservative government is right to point out there is still fighting in Libya, right to argue that an end to conflict and a peaceful transition to a new government will require international support, in the security arena as well as the diplomatic. Now’s not the time to get squeamish.”
  • Libya Mission (3)  Something else Canada could do, according to our ambassador there“Getting guns out of the hands of young, heavily armed rebels is a way for Canada to help bring lasting peace to the new Libya, says Ottawa’s envoy to Tripoli. The possibility of Canada working to disarm the Libya’s rebel fighters who overthrew dictator Moammar Gadhafi was raised last week by Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the United Nations. Canada’s ambassador to Libya, Sandra McCardell, says Libya has a strong economic base on which build a functioning democracy. Indeed, some two dozen Canadian companies have come forward to express interest in doing business in Libya. But the rebuilding will be much harder if Libya remains the heavily armed society it is today ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  Questions in the House about translators not making it into CanadaMrs. Sadia Groguhé (Saint-Lambert, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, the government has broken a promise it made to the Afghans who risked their lives alongside the Canadian Forces. The special immigration program ended this month. It was a program that was supposed to allow Afghan interpreters to live in safety in Canada. Two out of every three applications were denied. Can the minister responsible explain why this program was not changed in order to achieve its objective?  Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is mistaken. Indeed, no commitment was made to the interpreters who worked with the Canadian Forces or with our international development agency in Kandahar. Three years ago we introduced a discretionary program, which included certain parameters to ensure that the applicants were qualified to come to Canada as permanent residents. The initial estimate was roughly 400 to 500 people and we will exceed that objective by welcoming more than 500 former Afghan interpreters to Canada.”
  • Afghanistan (2)  More debate on the extended mission in Afghanistan here (3 page PDF of exchange here).
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (1)  “…. Mr. MacKay should have known the chopper episode would come back to bite him. While Canadians deserve to know who is blowing their money, and how, it is highly suspicious that all these explosive details stockpiled at DND have suddenly been turned into ammo. The timing coincides with the delivery of a major report to the government — itself leaked to the national media — which advocates reorganizing the Forces, chopping 11,000 personnel, most in the Ottawa bureaucracy, in order to realize savings of $1 billion a year. The real disservice to taxpayers would be if the government retreated and shelved this report simply to stop the high-level strafing.”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (2)  Interesting response from the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the Minister’s plane work:  ” “I don’t pay any attention to anonymous sources on Sunday morning chat shows. Especially ones who are wrong on every count,” Harper spokesman Andrew MacDougall told The Globe. “The Canadian government and the Canadian Armed Forces have a hard-working and dedicated minister – and his name is Peter MacKay.” ”  This, compared to the PM’s chosen words in the House of Commons about the CDS using a plane to join his family after being recalled to attend a repatriation ceremony:  “I have spoken to the Chief of the Defence Staff. He understands what those expectations are and is certainly prepared to live according to those rules. As members know, the Chief of the Defence Staff does fly very frequently on government business, but obviously where there are alternatives we will look into that usage.”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (3)  “…. Media, of course, feed on the scent of fear and particularly enjoy seeing senior officials pointing fingers or blame. Internally, the senior brass are blaming the media for a witch hunt while, at the same time, trying to figure out among themselves exactly who is the internal source behind what appears to be a smear campaign against Natynczyk ….”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (4)  Minister’s not the ONLY one getting rides in the choppers“Hon. Gerry Byrne (Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence continues to insist that his commandeering of a search and rescue helicopter for his personal fishing camp taxi was a logical opportunity for a training mission. Out of the 30-minute ride that was taken, what new information did the minister receive? Specifically, what was the objective of the mission? What equipment was used? Was there an actual practical demonstration of the technician/victim hoist within the 30-minute ride, which is a principal use of that platform? Could the minister confirm or deny that his use of this asset was originally turned down by ….  Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC): Yes, Mr. Speaker, the demonstration did occur. Using the same calculations as the media and the member’s party have been using, I now know that the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor took a five-hour demonstration in a Cormorant. Using that calculation, that would be $160,000 of taxpayers’ money.”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (5)  Picking on the Minister during Question Period about public affairs officers leaving the Forces, alleged staff cuts in the Minister’s office showing the PM’s lack of confidence and, naturally, using military helicopters.
  • What’s Canada Buying?  “…. This Request for Proposal is for the procurement of thirty (30) ruggedized Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) for use by Nuclear Emergency Response (NER) teams of the Department of National Defence in CFB Esquimalt, British Columbia and CFB Halifax, Nova Scotia. The PDAs will provide the means to run existing NER software in various NER team survey assets to simulate nuclear emergency radiation levels during a NER exercise (NEREX) ….”  More details in Statement of Requirements (3 page PDF) here.
  • Almost a year after a commercial landing rights dispute between Canada and the United Arab Emirates eventually ended with the Canadian Forces being kicked off a military base there, Canada has still to launch its planned alternate location in Kuwait. The Prime Minister of Kuwait, Sheik Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, revealed the news at a Sept. 26 appearance in the Centre Block of Parliament alongside Prime Minister Stephen Harper, when he expressed his desire that a new Canadian military staging ground in his country be up and running as soon as possible ….”
  • Campaigning Newfoundland Premier promises more for vets. “Progressive Conservative Leader Kathy Dunderdale is promising to do more to honour and remember Newfoundland and Labrador’s veterans. “We must always remember the individuals, both those serving now and those gone before us: the sons, the daughters, the brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers who have bequeathed to us peace and stability,” Dunderdale said at a campaign stop in Corner Brook on Monday. Speaking at the Royal Canadian Legion, Dunderdale pledged $4 million in initiatives to honour current and past military personnel. The plans include a Beaumont-Hamel interpretation site at Bowring Park and a bronze caribou statue to be built in Gallipoli ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 24 Sept 11

  • Libya Mission  Motion tabled in House of Commons for Monday vote on on three month mission extension – another motion condemns the bad guys and supports the troops hereMedia version here, here and here.
  • MCPL Nicole Stacey, R.I.P. “Soldiers and members of the Army reserve community across Alberta and Yellowknife are grieving the loss of a much loved member of 41 Canadian Brigade Group who died suddenly in the tragic aircraft accident which occurred in Yellowknife on September 22nd, 2011. Master Corporal Nicole Stacey served most recently with the Yellowknife Company (C Company Loyal Edmonton Regiment), a unit within 41 Canadian Brigade Group ….” – downloadable PDF of statement here, condolence thread at Army.ca here and media coverage (via Google News) here.
  • Afghanistan (1)  Recent Canadian firefight in Kabul comes up in Question Period“Mr. Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, today, Canadians learned that our military trainers in Afghanistan were involved in active combat last week when a NATO compound in Kabul came under attack. The Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence repeatedly told Canadians that this would be a non-combat mission. Clearly, that is not the case. This training mission is a combat mission that continues to put Canadian troops at risk. Will the government now acknowledge that there is no non-combat military role in a war?  Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the combat mission in Afghanistan has now come to an end. We have transitioned to training. That training is taking place in and around Kabul. However, I do not think the member is naive enough to suggest that Canadian Forces are not going to protect themselves when in a volatile city like Kabul. They will return fire and protect themselves. That is what happened in this instance. The member and Canadians would expect no less ….”  Reminder to Mr. Dewar:  I guess you missed the PM’s warnings from April of this year here, here and here.
  • Afghanistan (2)  A senior member of the military says the Afghan army is well on the road to self-sufficiency thanks in part to Canada’s newly established training mission in Kabul.  But the upbeat assessment from Brig.-Gen. Craig King stands in contrast to a warning from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which said in a report earlier this week that allied nations have no plan in place to sustain Afghan troops and cops once they’re trained.  King, who sits on the military’s strategic joint staff, appeared before a House of Commons committee Thursday, where he faced a number of questions about how sustainable both the military and political situation is in Afghanistan.  “We have made some real, significant, systemic institutional progress to get them to the point where (Afghan security forces) will be self-sufficient,” said King, who served nine months at NATO’s southern Afghan headquarters in Kandahar.  But Matthew Kellway, an Ontario New Democrat MP, said the army being raised in Afghanistan far exceeds the country’s ability to support it.  “Afghanistan itself will not be able to take over funding the military and security forces that we’re attempting to build here,” he said. “So, is this financially sustainable?”  The U.S. study, released Tuesday, shows the U.S. paid 90 per cent of Afghanistan’s security bills between 2006 and 2010. According the stark review, Washington covered 62 per cent of the Karzai government’s overall $14-billion annual budget, other donors picked up 28 per cent of the tab ….”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (1)  This from Question Period yesterday“Hon. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.):  Mr. Speaker, whether it is a tony royal gazebo, fake lakes, G20 spending or now fishing trips on search and rescue aircraft, the government’s ministers think taxpayers’ money is their personal reserve. No one is buying the defence minister’s excuse that his lift from a fishing camp was a preplanned training demo. Training demonstrations are day-long exercises. Could the minister confirm that his office overrode the local base, which initially denied his demand for vital rescue equipment to give him a lift to the airport?  Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday, I was on a trip to the beautiful province of Newfoundland and Labrador, a trip I paid for myself. As a result of pressing government business, I was called back from that vacation. I left the vacation early to come back to work. As the member might know, the government has reduced the use of government aircraft by over 80%. We take the use of government aircraft very seriously. It is used for government business. That is the line we will follow ….”  More from Question Period here, and the media here, here and here.
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (2)  This from the National Citizens Coalition (the group the PM used to be president of):  “With new information surfacing about Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s misuse of public funds for personal transportation, the federal government has a lot to answer for. Minister MacKay’s recent use of a military search-and-rescue helicopter for transportation following a holiday carried a price-tag of nearly $32,000 for less than an hour of flying time. “Let’s be clear,” says Peter Coleman, President and CEO of the National Citizens Coalition, “we are not talking about taxi receipts here – this is exactly the kind of wasteful spending this government has promised to eliminate.” ….”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (3)  This editorial from the National Post“…. Minister MacKay has been a strong champion of Canada’s military, and is understandably popular among the troops. Canada’s military will need such a strong, passionate champion in the lean years ahead. Mr. MacKay owes it to himself, the troops and the Prime Minister to avoid any further acts that give others fair cause to question his judgment and commitment to living within his government’s limited means.”
  • Calgary Stampede board member backs CDS’s fly-in work appearances at the Stampede.
  • More media regurgitation of the same flight logs.  The majority of flights on the government-owned Challenger jets in the month of June were taken by defence officials who could have used commercial aircraft, according to documents obtained by CBC News ….”
  • This columnist asks a very different question on the CDS-Challenger non-fracas:  “…. Natynczyk says the Challengers are often being flown empty on training flights that are needed for to maintain the certification of the aircraft and pilots. That being the case, he argues he is only making use of flights that would have taken place anyway, but without a meaningful destination. After all, the added costs of actually using the jets, after deducting the fixed costs of ownership, is reported to be only about $2,600 an hour, a pittance compared to the $2.4 million an hour we spend on the armed forces that Natynczyk leads. Yet here’s my question. Why are we looking for make-work projects for such expensive aircraft? Three are equipped for medical flights. Why don’t we sell them if there isn’t enough cost-effective work? ….”  Along the same lines:  “…. Perhaps the key is not to expand the VIP list but the VIT (very important task) list.  Three of the fleet of six Challengers are occasionally used for medevacs. What other secondary roles might they be able to perform that could be of value to ordinary Canadians or Armed Forces members with important needs — subject, of course, to the planes’ availability?”
  • The Defence Department says HMCS Chicoutimi will be ready for action by 2013 but a former crew member who was on the sub the day it caught fire seven years ago believes it will never sail again. In an email Tuesday, a department official said Chicoutimi began a refit in July 2010 and work is expected to be finished by late next year. Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison, the head of Maritime Command, welcomed the news on Wednesday. “We are looking forward to getting Chicoutimi back to sea where she is needed,” he said in a separate email.  But a former submariner, who had to leave the navy because of health complications from the 2004 Chicoutimi fire, laughed at the idea the submarine would be ready for 2013. Chicoutimi has been cannibalized,” said the man, who did not want his name used because he still has friends in the navy …. “Chicoutimi will be nothing more than a harbour training sub,” the former crew member predicted.  Still, the sub’s former skipper, Cmdr. Luc Pelletier, is more optimistic about Chicoutimi’s future. “It will be a significant milestone for me personally and for many, I am certain, when Chicoutimi returns to the operational fleet,” Pelletier said. “A lot of effort, dedication and sacrifice was made by the initial Canadian crew during her U.K. reactivation and repatriation to Canada. So her return to the fleet means our plight was not in vain and Chicoutimi can now shape her future in the defence and security of Canada.” Pelletier’s response was emailed to The Chronicle Herald by a Defence Department spokeswoman ….”
  • Way Up North  “Just days after Gen. Walt Natynczyk, Canada’s chief of defence staff, left Moscow after meeting his counterpart last weekend, a Russian official announced that the country would be increasing its Arctic military presence, a move that could increase tensions in the resource-rich area. Anton Vasilev, a special ambassador for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was quoted this week by the Interfax news agency as saying his country would be beefing up its presence in the Arctic, and that NATO was not welcome there ….”  In case this looks familiar, check bullet # 13 here from Tuesday’s MILNEWS.ca summary.
  • Commander of Canada Command, Lieutenant General Walter Semianiw speaks to Washington D.C. university think tank – highlights of his speech via Twitter here (PDF of Twitter feed of speech also downloadable here if link doesn’t work)..
  • Canada, UK issue “Joint Declaration” – here’s some of the security bits:  “…. We will continue to work with Afghan and international partners to help build a more viable country that is better governed, more stable and secure, and never again a safe haven for terrorists. Through the training of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), regional diplomacy, and development assistance, we are working to help enable the transition of security in Afghanistan to the ANSF by the end of 2014. We will create greater interoperability between our defence forces and deepen cooperation on procurement and capabilities, to be enabled in part by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Defence Material Cooperation, existing MoUs and the “Partners in Defence” dialogue, which will draw on the lessons of current and recent national and NATO-led operations. We will strengthen our counter-terrorism collaboration, in particular in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel and South Asia, including our efforts to tackle terrorist finance activity in third countries ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 22 Sept 11

  • Libya Mission  NATO goes for three month extension – more from the SecGen here.
  • Afghanistan (1)  A new ROTO is training and getting ready in Edmonton.
  • Afghanistan (2)  Terry Glavin on negotiating with the Taliban“…. In Washington, London and Brussels, the whole point now is to convince “war-weary” electorates that capitulation is compromise, that the whole nightmare was brought about by stupid neo-conservatives, and that the problem is an incorrigibly violent and uncivilized Afghan people in whom we need not see the basic human rights we ordinarily recognize in our fairer-skinned selves. In the world’s rich and comfortable countries, and perhaps especially in Canada, this is what it means nowadays to be on the side of the angels.”  More here.
  • MacKay’s Helicopter Ride  New Target:  the Defence Minister“Defence Minister Peter MacKay used one of only three search-and-rescue helicopters available in Newfoundland to transport him from a vacation spot last year, CTV News has learned. MacKay was picked up at a private salmon fishing lodge along the Gander River last July by a Canadian Forces Cormorant helicopter. Military sources said the order to collect MacKay came from the defence minister’s own office. “This is not a common practice . . . this is the only time a search-and-rescue asset was used as shuttle service,” a source told CTV News ….”
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (1)  Opinion, from former RCAF officer: “…. Any use of military aircraft by the chief, to my mind, is justifiable if he as the head of Canada’s military makes a decision to use them. Come on folks, the general is not out for a joyride on a Challenger aircraft ….”
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (2)  Opinion, from a blogger“…. While Robert Fife should not be criticized for bringing the issue forward for debate, he should be taken to task by not providing a more through analysis of the Chief of the Defence Staff’s travelling costs, especially since they were pre-authorized or incurred to satisfy the obligations of his position as head of the military ….”
  • The old adage that good advice is certain to be ignored is given new meaning in a study that concludes Canada’s Defence Department pays almost no attention to what experts and parliamentarians say. The report, “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie,” argues that mountains of studies and recommendations from academics and even House of Commons and Senate committees almost never find their way into government policy. The advice is allowed to collect dust, according to the study being released this week by the defence management institute at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. Researchers Douglas Bland and Richard Shimooka paint a picture of combative defence bureaucrats and advisers who pay lip service to suggestions and then stuff reports into filing cabinets once the media has lost interest ….”
  • Why was a Canadian military with 65,000 men and women on active duty and 25,000 reservists sorely tested by the task of keeping 1,500 soldiers in the field in Afghanistan? Why are Arctic sovereignty patrols a strain on the same military? The way Andrew Leslie sees it, it’s because the Canadian Forces’ tail has grown bigger than its teeth ….”
  • More on what one former officer says Canada’s Reserves should be looking like – the report here (PDF), and some more media coverage of the report here and here.
  • A bit of editorial comment on “what should be done with the Reserves” report:  “…. The army likes a big standing army because it wants regular soldiers it can order around full-time, not part-timers who come and go. The smaller the standing army, after all, the less justification there is for a bloated bureaucracy. (Not that there’s ever a good justification for bureaucratic bloat, but it’s easier to dismiss for a large organization than for a small one). So they just didn’t do it ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Nasty allegations over the contract to provide moving services to the CF and rest of the public service “The losing bidder for a billion-dollar contract to relocate Canada’s military, RC-MP and public servants levelled allegations of bid-rigging and an ensuing attempt at a coverup against the federal government on the first day of a civil trial Wednesday. Bruce Atyeo, president of Envoy Relocation Services, is seeking $62 million in damages and is accusing Public Works of having a conflict of interest when it twice awarded a competitor, Royal LePage Relocation Services, the contract to provide the services in 2002 and again in 2004. The awarding of the contracts has been mired in controversy, internal probes and several investigations by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  “The Canadian Space Agency in collaboration with Environment Canada, the Department of National Defence, Natural Resources Canada and the Communications Research Center (hereinafter referred to as the clients) is examining the potential for a communications and weather services satellite system referred to as the Polar Communications and Weather (PCW) Mission, a Mission which will in its operations, contribute to resolving some of the challenges and at the same time, leverage opportunities in the Arctic. This Mission is currently in Phase A (Concept study) of development with a launch date targeted for 2017. PCW will provide high capacity, continuous communication services throughout the Canadian Arctic as well as meteorological Earth observations leading to improved weather forecasting …. The purpose of this Request for Proposal is to …. perform a study that will quantify and delineate the socio economic benefits resulting from the proposed Polar Communications and Weather (PCW) Mission, in terms of the projected improvement in the quality of weather forecasts, including those associated with space weather events, and in terms of the benefits accruing from filling the gap in communications over the Canadian high Arctic region ….”  More on the study and the PCW mission here (14 page PDF).
  • What’s Canada Buying? (3)  Wanted:  slick new live fire target system with robotic figures “running” around on their own for research at CFB Suffield.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (4)  Wanted:  someone to “build and install a new monument on Tilley Avenue, Gagetown, New Brunswick”.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (5)  Wanted:  “Support to analytical, numerical and experimental investigations in flight mechanics” various projectiles, mini-UAVs or missiles – more in the tech documents here (6 page PDF).
  • What’s Canada Buying? (6) Wanted: “Suspenders, Trousers, overall cotton, elastic and webbing color: average green, adjustable length; leather six-point button straps”, quantity: up to 24,600 sets – more technical details on what the CF specifically seeks in a set of suspenders here (11 page PDF).
  • Letter to the editor writer seeks “balance” in submarine coverage “…. The point is, these are not like the Chevy sitting in your driveway. Submarines are incredibly complex machines and require huge amounts of maintenance. The Royal Canadian Navy has four submarines. At the moment, none is operational, but one will be next year, followed by another the year after. With only four hulls, that is to be expected. When you talk of the submarines being laid up longer than expected, you also have to remember the huge expenditures (and rightly so) on military equipment acquired due to the war in Afghanistan, which obviously took funds away from the work on the boats ….”
  • A chunk of Canada’s aviation history to be paved over to make a hockey rink“Second World War pilot Philip Gray says it is “immoral” that Downsview Park is evicting the Canadian Air and Space Museum. “This is a terrible way to repay young 21-year-old boys who went to war and never turned 22. I am disgusted that their heritage can be just wiped out,” the 89-year-old Gray said Tuesday as the museum was packing up artifacts. “I got the shock of my life when I heard this. We could lose all this history. It makes you wonder what these boys died for … a government that doesn’t care about heritage.” Downsview Park — which gave the eviction notice on Tuesday — is a federal park. There was no notice given for the eviction, museum CEO Robert Cohen said ….”