- Afghanistan (1) Government of Canada Info-Machine shares latest newsletter about what’s up in Afghanistan, with a mix of “packing up in Kandahar,” “training up the Afghans” and “it’s not JUST military help” stories.
- Afghanistan (2) NATO Info-Machine tells us about poppies on Canadians for Remembrance Day in Afghanistan.
- Kevin Megeney, 1982-2007, R.I.P. Court martial of soldier charged in Megeney’s death continues.
- Veterans’ Week kicks off in the House of Commons (and the Bloc Quebecois isn’t allowed to speak?) Discussion also available (7 page PDF) here.
- David Braun, 1979-2006, R.I.P. This year’s National Silver Cross Mother named: “The mother of a Saskatchewan infantryman killed in Afghanistan in 2006 will be the National Silver (Memorial) Cross Mother, the Royal Canadian Legion has announced. Patty Braun is the mother of Cpl. David Braun, a member of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. While on patrol in Kandahar on Aug. 22, 2006, he was killed in an explosion triggered by a suicide bomber. She lives in Raymore, north of Regina. In her new role, she will lay a wreath at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Remembrance Day on behalf of all mothers who have lost sons or daughters in the military, para-military or RCMP in the service of Canada. Originally from Semans, Mrs. Braun works for the Horizon School Division in the Raymore School ….” More here.
- “The widow of a Second World War veteran wants to honour her late husband’s memory by wearing his military medals on Remembrance Day, but in doing so she risks being arrested. Madrien Ferris of Charlottetown has kept the 10 medals her late husband Albert earned during his 30 years of service with the Canadian Armed Forces carefully stored in her home —and now she wants to wear them. “He earned them. He deserved them,” said the 79-year-old. “I want them to be out there for him because he’s no longer around to wear them.” ….”
- Justin Stark, R.I.P. Remember the death of a soldier at a Hamilton armoury? The family has issued an obit.
- Government of Canada Info-Machine Timelines (1) CF-18 pilot crosses 50 mission line in Libya, shared a month later (OK, I’ll cut some slack for protecting the identity of a pilot in combat).
- Government of Canada Info-Machine Timelines (2) CF helicopters in Jamaica pass 200 mission mark, shared two weeks later.
- Government of Canada Info-Machine Timelines (3) Minister to greet returning Libya mission folks, shared the day before it happens.
- Government of Canada Info-Machine Timelines (4) Associate Minister announces a purchase, shared the same day. “The Honourable Julian Fantino, Associate Minister of National Defence, and Chris Alexander, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, today announced the award of a $31.1-million contract to MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) for the building of two Unclassified Remote-sensing Situational Awareness (URSA) systems ….” (more on the deal here)
- Government of Canada Info-Machine Timelines (5) Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs heads Canadian team at South Asian talks, photo shared same day.
- Globe & Mail columnist keeps an eye out for the budget cutting axe at Defence. “This week, for the first time since Stephen Harper took office, there are no Canadian Forces on combat operations overseas. Now, the military is being thrust into the peacetime battle over budgets. But the map of the battlefield is out of date. The government’s 2008 long-term defence strategy still rests on spending budgets which are currently being cut. The strategy needs an update …. soon, before the choices shrink, the government’s going to have to say how it’s going to fit the military it planned for in 2008 into the realities of 2011.”
- F-35 Tug o’ War (1a) “The Conservative government’s approval of the multi-billion dollar F-35 plan was held up for over a year by reluctant Industry Canada officials who were angry with the U.S. manufacturer of the stealth fighter, say internal Defence Department documents. Frustrated air force planners said the delay damaged the program and the country’s aerospace industry, which was left hanging while the dispute over a previous purchase played out behind closed doors. Industry Canada blocked the federal cabinet’s “consideration/decision” of a replacement for the country’s aging CF-18s because of “concerns over a C130-J In-Service Support contract issue with Lockheed Martin,” said a May 17, 2010 briefing note prepared for the chief of air staff. The document, obtained under access to information laws by The Canadian Press, was written just weeks before cabinet finally agreed to purchase the F-35. The decision was announced publicly in July 2010 and set off firestorm of criticism that continues to this day ….” Guess what? No indication The Canadian Press is going to share the “obtained” documents.
- F-35 Tug o’ War (1b) “Military planners are concerned the Conservative government is buying too few F-35 fighters with almost no room for any loss of the stealth jets throughout their projected lifetimes, according to internal Defence Department briefings. “Canada is the only country that did not account [for] attrition aircraft” in its proposal, said an undated capability-and-sustainment briefing given to senior officers late last year. The eye-popping pricetag for individual joint strike fighters — ranging from $75 million to $150 million, depending upon the estimate — has limited the purchase to 65 aircraft. ….” Guess what? No indication The Canadian Press is going to share the “obtained” documents.
- F-35 Tug o’ War (2) Mark Collins compares and contrasts a former Navy officer’s assessment of the F-35 buy with that of a former Air Force pilot and aircraft fleet manager.
- F-35 Tug o’ War (3) “Staff from the federal auditor general’s office travelled to Texas in September to review progress on the F-35 stealth fighter program for a report that will be released next spring, Postmedia News has learned. The news comes as Australia prepares to ask Canada and other allies to perform a joint study of the program’s delays, and amid concerns from the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester over the speed with which the project is being pushed through safety checks. Officials within the auditor general’s office and Lockheed Martin, the company leading the multi-billion-dollar F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, confirmed the Canadian visit to Fort Worth, but would not say much else. “We do site visits during the normal course of our audits,” said Celine Bissonnette, a spokeswoman at the Office of the Auditor General. “We are planning a report in the spring of 2012, tentatively titled, ‘Replacing Canada’s Fighter Jets.’ However, we regret that we are not able to comment any further on audits in progress until our report has been tabled in the House of Commons.” Bissonnette said the audit’s terms of reference, which outline exactly what is being investigated, will be revealed about a month before the final report is made public. Lockheed Martin spokesperson Kim Testa said the Canadian officials were conducting an “assessment of program progress.” ….”
- F-35 Tug o’ War (4) MORE questions in the House of Commons.
- Editorial on subs for Canada: “…. Eventually Canada will have to decide whether it wants to purchase nuclear subs at $3 billion a copy, or stay with the diesel-electric variety, which have limited capability in the Arctic because of their need to surface to recharge batteries, although new technology has extended their ability to remain submerged for longer periods of time …. Canada should, however, remain committed to the platform, since submarines provide a variety of valuable services, including patrolling the coasts, intercepting smugglers, guarding our economic rights, contributing to scientific research and assisting our allies. With three coasts to defend and worldwide interests to monitor, the submarine is still relevant to Canada’s overall defence requirements.”
- What’s Canada Buying? Software to help develop better armour (or armour-piercing munitions) – more in bid document extract (4 page PDF) here and someone to teach security and survival to Kingston CF members to work outside the wire (try here – PDF – if link doesn’t work).
- “A former soldier battling a series of health problems says the Canadian Forces failed to inform him that medical tests showed he was carrying an unusually high level of uranium. Pascal Lacoste eventually filed a request under the Access to Information Act to see his own medical files, which revealed his hair samples contained “abnormally elevated” amounts of the metal. The federal government has expressed doubt about cases like Lacoste’s and, in an interview, one independent medical expert questioned the reliability of using hair samples to test for uranium levels ….” Meanwhile, an editorial calls for having all vets tested for depleted uranium.
- “Master Corporal Paul Franklin has become well known across Canada for conquering many challenges, but none as difficult as his passion and purpose in life after losing both legs. Paul was nearing the end of a second tour of duty in Afghanistan when a suicide bomber attacked his convoy. His left leg was gone; the second had to be amputated. That was in January 2006 and three months later, Master Corporal Franklin walked with artificial legs for the first time. On Thursday, Nov. 3rd you can meet Paul Franklin, a Canadian hero, then ask why he supports the Canada-wide Heroes Hockey Challenge series …. Heroes Hockey Challenge™ is a series of national hockey charitable fundraising events to take place in six cities across Canada. The funds raised by Heroes Hockey Challenge will benefit all wounded Canadian soldiers and their families with particular emphasis on amputees. The six Heroes Hockey Challenge events during the winter of 2012 are designed to motivate Canadians to support our heroes ….”
- “Canada’s financial intelligence agency pinpointed more than 100 transactions that may have involved terrorism-tainted cash last year — part of a record number of disclosures to police and spy services. In its annual report released Wednesday, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre says it passed along information about 777 dubious dealings in 2010-11, the most in its history. Of these, 626 were related to suspected money laundering, while 103 concerned possible terrorist activity or other threats to Canadian security. Finally, 48 may have involved both financial support of terrorists and the laundering of illicit cash — a process that involves converting the proceeds of crime into another form, such as stocks or property, to disguise the money trail ….” More from the money trackers here (FINTRAC news release) and here (FINTRAC report link).
- It’s that time of year again: “The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Afghanistan, today released the Government of Canada’s 10th quarterly report on Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan. The report covers the period from July 1 to September 30, 2010, and focuses on the progress achieved on Canada’s six priorities and three signature projects in Afghanistan, through the lens of security. “Improving security is at the core of Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan,” said Minister Cannon. “It is a factor in every element of daily life for Afghans, and has an impact on the delivery of basic services, the development of village-level governance and even the holding of national elections.” ….” Bitchiness Watch: Guess how often the name of Canada’s Defence Minister is mentioned in the news release? Check out the full report here.
- The Royal Canadian Mint says a “Highway of Heroes” coin is in the works: “In keeping with its proud tradition of issuing coins honouring Canada’s veterans and Remembrance, the Royal Canadian Mint today advised members of the Northumberland County Council that a collector coin commemorating the celebrated “Highway of Heroes” and Canada’s fallen in Afghanistan will once again illustrate these themes in 2011. Further to our intention to introduce this coin at a future date, we are pleased to assure supporters of the “Highway of Heroes” that their tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice during Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan will be immortalized by the Mint in 2011 …. The Mint will report on the status of this project to the Northumberland County Council in the next four to five months and we look forward to the addition of this collector coin to a long line of Royal Canadian Mint coins honouring the men and women who proudly serve the Canadian Forces.”
- More from the special forces conference taking place in Kingston – it’s safer having a lower profile as special forces, but it can also keep one out of the limelight when it’s time to dole out limited cash: “…. Domestic terrorism is a law-enforcement issue and the military works with Canadian intelligence, the RCMP and other police forces as it has no jurisdiction in Criminal Code matters. It considers a successful operation one in which it works at the invitation of local authorities and no one knows it was ever there. The special forces are trying to figure out what shape that function will take with military budget cuts looming as Canada’s mission in Afghanistan winds down. An outfit whose work is secret can be an easy target for politicians who can rationalize that if no one sees it now, no one is going to notice if it is cut back ….”
- It was a F-35 vs. Eurofighter Typhoon vs. Saab Gripen sales pitch to the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence (NDDN) this week: ” The makers of two different fighter jets Canada is not buying made their sales pitches anyway to Parliament’s defence committee Tuesday. Representatives from the German-based Eurofighter Typhoon and Sweden’s Saab Gripen appeared at committee and told members their planes can meet Canada’s air force demands, and are far cheaper than the fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter stealth jet the government agreed to buy in July. Canada intends to buy 65 F-35s for $9 billion — plus maintenance costs — to replace the aging fleet of CF-18s, with delivery expected to start in 2016. Antony Ogilvie with Saab said they could supply Canada with 65 upgraded Gripens, with 40 years of maintenance costs included, for under $6 billion. The Liberals have vowed, if elected, to cancel what they decry as a sole-sourced deal to buy the American F-35, and instead would open up the new jet purchase to a competition ….” More from QMI/Sun Media here. More industry reps in front of the committee today as well.
- Meanwhile, Canada’s Defence Minister Peter MacKay on the F-35s: The decision to buy is “firm”, and they’ll be on time, on budget.
- In other jet flogging news: “Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day made a stop at a River Road facility (in British Columbia) last Friday that will manufacture components for the highly advanced Joint Strike fighter jet. At the Asco Aerospace Ltd. plant, many military aircraft parts and the machinery that produces them were off limits to cameras, including some sensitive materials that were covered up, as the president of the Treasury Board and minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway announced the funding initiative. Day said the company would receive a loan, called a “repayable investment” by the federal government, of $7.7 million toward a $19 million project that involves researching and developing innovative manufacturing technologies to produce aircraft bulkheads and specialized metal components ….”
- Canada’s Auditor General is taking at how the New Veterans Charter was put into place: “Auditor General Sheila Fraser is planning to investigate the New Veterans Charter and the lump-sum payments that became a flashpoint for growing numbers of wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan. Fraser confirmed her planned audit in a Dec. 7 letter to Liberal Senator Percy Downe who pressed her office for an audit since studies came to light that predicted the new lump-sum disability payments would mean less money for veterans and save up to $40 million a year. “I’m concerned this became a cost-saving exercise rather than a service to veterans,” said Downe. In the letter, Fraser said the issue “is an important one” for her office and auditors responsible for Veterans Affairs are planning an audit on “aspects” of the charter. Her office expects to deliver the report on the audit in the fall of 2012 …. “ More from CTV.ca here.
- Parliamentarians also took some heat (again) from Canada’s Auditor General over less-than-ideal helicopter buying processes: “…. Canada’s favourite watchdog has again slammed National Defence for bungling two helicopter purchases. Auditor General Sheila Fraser reiterated to Parliament’s public accounts committee Tuesday what she wrote in her fall report — that National Defence “underestimated and understated” the costs and complexities of both the Cyclone and Chinook helicopters, and in the latter’s case, failed to hold an “open, fair, or transparent” procurement process. None of the new helicopters have been delivered. Also, Fraser’s audit of the two defence purchases found National Defence failed to follow its own purchasing guidelines and failed to fully appreciate what these helicopters would actually cost. “We found that National Defence underestimated and understated the complexity and developmental nature of these helicopters, describing both as non-developmental and using off-the-shelf technologies,” Fraser said Tuesday, adding modifications required to meet Canada’s needs has led to costly delays ….” A bit more in the A-G’s news release from 26 Oct 10 here.
- CF “to say sorry for Mohawk inclusion in counter-insurgency manual”: “ The Canadian military is expected to officially apologize early next year for including the Mohawk Warrior Society in a draft version of the military’s counter-insurgency manual (PDF), APTN National News has learned. The text of the apology has been approved by the upper echelons of the military command, but details still need to be worked out on how to deliver the statement and on how big of an event should be staged. A draft 2006 version of the military’s counter-insurgency manual was released publicly in March 2007 and it included a reference to the Mohawk Warrior Society in a section describing different types of insurgencies. First Nations leaders immediately reacted with anger, saying it appeared to equate First Nations with terrorist groups like Hezbollah and the Taliban. The apology is expected to be delivered in either January or February. The Assembly of First Nations and representatives from Akwesasne are involved in the discussions ….”
- Does Canada need a plane just for counterinsurgencies?
- The Canadian Forces now has uniform rules for men becoming women and vice versa: “…. the Canadian Forces have issued a new policy detailing how the organization should accommodate transsexual and transvestite troops specifically. Soldiers, sailors and air force personnel who change their sex or sexual identity have a right to privacy and respect around that decision, but must conform to the dress code of their *target* gender, says the supplementary chapter of a military administration manual …. Added as a chapter to a National Defence manual, the new document defines transsexual as someone with a psychological need to live as a member of the opposite sex, whether they have undergone sex-change surgery or not. Their unit must treat them with the “utmost privacy and respect,” meaning, for instance, that there is no need to explain why a person’s sex is being changed in computer records. A transsexual service person must comply with the dress code and standards of deportment of the gender to which he or she is changing, the document says. It draws the line, though, at retroactively changing the name associated with any medals awarded to the individual before their change, saying “there is no legal authority for rewriting history.” ….” More on that here.
- Taliban Propaganda Watch: Almost 90 claimed killed in Kandahar, Zabul, and Taliban Info-Machine’s trying out direct, unsolicited e-mails to media outlets.
Here’s this week’s report from Sheila Fraser.
And here’s Mark’s better-than-I-could-do-so-quickly overview over at The Torch.
My 2 cents: folks have been grousing about defence procurement for a looooooooooooong time, so it doesn’t surprise me to see:
1) the rules need work, and
2) the military is still walking the tightrope, balancing between following the letter of the rules and the need for new hardware to protect our troops.
The three-way pull of “make sure it’s built in Canada,” “we have to make sure the process is the best value” and “we have to get this quickly” makes the process difficult to speed up any time soon.