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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 2 Feb 11

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  • Oopsie…. “The Canadian Forces have handed out tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars in benefits over the past five years without the government’s approval. But it was bureaucratic bungling, not malfeasance, that caused the costly oversight.  While Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson, the vice-chief of defence staff, said Tuesday the payments were made in good faith, “we didn’t do our homework … we didn’t make sure that we actually had the authority to do some of these things.”  At issue for CF brass is that the Treasury Board oversees the military’s benefits and compensation regime, and has a specific list of what is allowed.  But as the Canadian Forces expanded and changed in recent years, bureaucrats at National Defence didn’t keep up with the rules.  Many of the unauthorized benefits, paid out to between 3,000 and 7,000 members and their families, were reimbursements for certain domestic expenses and others related to non-Afghanistan deployments.  For example, reimbursing a member who had paid to store their car while he or she was sent out of the country, or paying to cut the grass while they were away on the job.  But they also include the costs for repatriation ceremonies of fallen soldiers and, even though Donaldson said the unauthorized payments would stop Wednesday, the ramp ceremonies will continue with private funds, “to continue supporting the families of the fallen to make sure that we’re doing the right thing by our people.”  He added the Forces will also keep paying for family members to visit wounded or sick CF members, some of which were also unauthorized ….” More here.  To be fair, some of this appears to be doing the right thing (helping family see wounded members, or achieve closure by visiting where their loved ones died), but not following ALL the steps.
  • Wanna buy a slightly used Canadian Chinook helicopter? “The National Defence department has put “For Sale” signs on the air force’s Chinook helicopters in Afghanistan — two years after taxpayers shelled out $282 million to buy them. The department recently sounded out allies in the war-torn country to see whether any are interested in the heavy battlefield transports, bought second-hand from the U.S. Army …. So far there have been no takers for the five CH-147D choppers, which were rushed into Afghanistan after the Manley commission made it a condition of Ottawa continuing the war until 2011 ….”
  • Longer way home from Afghanistan = bigger bill to come home“It will probably cost Canada an extra $90 million to sustain and then wind up its mission in Kandahar by the end of the year because its military aircraft are still banned from the United Arab Emirates, according to calculations by Postmedia News.  Several senior officers have confirmed that the previously cited $300 million — which was widely reported in the media and attacked by the opposition in November — was far too high as the cost of leaving the U.A.E. base.  But the military and the Harper government have not provided a breakdown of the additional costs that will be incurred because the military has had to shift its air hub for Kandahar from Camp Mirage in Dubai to a U.S. airbase at Spangdahlem, Germany ….”
  • The NDP’s still trying to get Canada to pull ALL troops out of Afghanistan“I have a petition signed by dozens of Canadians calling upon the Government of Canada to end Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan.  In May 2008, Parliament passed a resolution to withdraw the Canadian Forces by July 2011. The Prime Minister, with the agreement of the Liberal Party, broke his oft-repeated promise to honour the parliamentary motion and therefore refuses to put it to a parliamentary vote in the House …. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Prime Minister to honour the will of Parliament and bring the troops home now.” Note to NDP:  the motion was passed in MARCH 2008, and only says Canada’ll be out of KANDAHAR, not Afghanistan.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch Attacks alleged in Kandahar, Zabul and claims of a UAV being shot down over Nimroz.
  • Parliamentarians were told Tuesday that Canada’s ability to search the Atlantic is severely inadequate for emergency calls that happen to come at night. While military search and rescue crews can usually respond to an emergency within an hour, that depends on a call coming during daylight. At night, two hours is considered permissible. Paul Clay, president of Seacom International, a St. John’s company that specializes in emergency response plans in the offshore oil industry, told the parliamentary defence committee that Canada is falling short. “The intention of search and rescue times is to save life and the attention of those resources is to save life,” Clay said. “Canada’s two-hour response is the longest in the world, as far as I know. It is grossly in my opinion, where it shouldn’t be. We should lower those times.” ….” More on this here.
  • No Arctic mapping camp THIS year. “The Canadian government is abandoning plans for a remote scientific camp on the Arctic Ocean ice this year, citing dangerously thin ice conditions. Over the past five years, scientists have set up ice camps in remote areas of the Arctic Ocean as they gather extensive mapping data that could help Canada claim a greater area of the seabed under the Law of the Sea convention … This year, 25 Canadian scientists were to conduct their mapping work from an ice camp about 400 kilometres offshore. Last year, a similar camp housed 12 researchers on an ice floe on the Arctic Ocean, about 250 kilometres offshore from Borden Island in the High Arctic. But that ice floe started breaking up, said Jacob Verhoef, director of Canada’s mapping program with the Natural Resources Department ….”
  • Canada and the U.K. may be talking about building a big navy ship together. “Britain is in talks with Canada about a possible joint program to develop a frigate for their respective navies, according to U.K. Defence Minister Gerald Howarth.  Responding to questions from parliamentarians Jan. 31, Howarth said the British government is in “close discussion with the Canadians” on a possible collaborative program to develop the Global Combat Ship, destined to replace Type 23 frigates in Royal Navy service by the start of the next decade.  The minister said Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Turkey have expressed interest in the warship program, to be called the Type 26 in Royal Navy service, when Defence Secretary Liam Fox recently visited the various countries ….”
  • More testing for Canada’s Sea King replacement. “The new CH-148 Cyclone, which arrived at Shearwater January 6, will be undergoing further testing on board HMCS Montréal. The tests will last several weeks, under the direction of Sikorsky International Operations Inc., prime contractor on the Maritime Helicopter Project. The CH-148 Cyclone will provide anti-submarine surveillance, and will have enhanced search and rescue and tactical transport capabilities. Tests of the operational limits of a ship-borne helicopter will make a notable contribution to the Project, which seeks to replace the existing Sea King fleet that has been in service since the 1960s …. “
  • What’s Canada Buying? New Trenton hangar build, Electric UAVs and Air Force Outerwear (via Army.ca)
  • Canada’s PM on Egypt:  “Following President Mubarak’s announcement …. that he will not seek re-election, Canada reiterates its support for the Egyptian people as they transition to new leadership and a promising future.  Canada supports universal values – including freedom, democracy and justice – and the right to the freedom of assembly, speech and information. As Egypt moves towards new leadership, we encourage all parties to work together to ensure an orderly transition toward a free and vibrant society in which all Egyptians are able to enjoy these rights and freedoms – not a transition that leads to violence, instability and extremism …. We urge all parties in Egypt to renounce violence and allow peaceful and meaningful dialogue between the people and government to address political, economic and social concerns. This dialogue should lead to free and fair elections and a government that supports universal values.”
  • Meanwhile, Canada’s cranking up the diplomatic machine to get more help quicker to Canadians needing a hand in Egypt. “The frustrating wait has ended for many Canadians who were trying to get the federal government to tell them how to escape the turmoil that has enveloped Egypt.  The Foreign Affairs Department’s decision to ramp up service at its operations centre in Ottawa, to deploy more staff to Europe and Cairo and to add several new telephone lines eased the backlog of people who could not get through to consular officials to ask for help.  “There are bumps in the road that obviously you wish you hadn’t encountered but I think there’s been an outstanding level of service and responsiveness to the situation,” Diane Ablonczy, the Minister of State for Consular Affairs, said Tuesday.  In the end, a large number of Canadians passed on the opportunity to leave the country, opting instead to wait out the unrest that shows some signs of abating ….”
  • NDP MP wants 5 May to be designated as “Maple Leaf and Tulip Day” to honour Canada’s links to the Netherlands during World War 2 (via milnet.ca).  Note:  private members bills like these rarely pass.
  • Jamaica’s trainee military pilots have a nicer place to live, thanks to help from Canada.
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