Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Bezan: Liberal’s fighter jet capability gap becomes a credibility gap
Conservative Party defence critic James Bezan submitted this opinion piece on the Liberal government’s decision to purchase Super Hornet fighter jets as an interim measure to deal with what they say is a fighter aircraft capability gap:
By James Bezan
As the Liberals attempt to rationalize their sole-source deal of Boeing’s Super Hornet fighter jets, their credibility gap on the file continues to widen.
Justin Trudeau’s credibility on the issue first took a hit when he made an impossible campaign promise. He committed to holding an open and fair competition to replace Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets while simultaneously excluding the F-35. Aside from the fact that this promise is self-contradicting; to directly inject politics into a decision of this magnitude is disheartening.
In June, the National Post revealed that the Liberals intended to purchase an interim fleet of fighter jets to fill a so-called ‘capability gap’. However, in April, Lieutenant-General Hood, the Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, confirmed to Members of Parliament that Canada’s fleet of CF-18s are able to meet our current NORAD and NATO commitments and will be able to do so confidently until 2025.
The day before the Liberals announced their intention to enter into negotiations with Boeing, officials from the Department of National Defence reconfirmed Lieutenant-General Hood’s comments in writing.
However, in a recent Senate appearance before the Senate, Lieutenant-General Hood attempted to clarify the government’s position, confirming what critics had long expected – the Liberals created their own capability gap. Prior to concluding the Liberals’ Defence Policy Review, Prime Minister Trudeau gerrymandered the policy of jet requirements to fit with his own political views.
The commander of the RCAF was not privy to the decisions behind this policy change as it was a purely political move enforced by the Prime Minister’s office.
By purchasing the Super Hornets now, the Liberals have jeopardized any hope of a fair competition moving forward. Of course with 18 of their jets already purchased by the Government of Canada, Boeing will have a guaranteed edge over any competitor.
The Liberals have promised to launch a five-year ‘open and transparent’ process to replace the entire fleet of fighter jets. Experts agree this amount of time is unnecessary. In fact, The Netherlands, Norway, and South Korea each ran an open and fair competition for their fighter jets and not one lasted more than two years.
Not only is the Liberals’ decision to sole-source the Super Hornet unnecessary, their approach to the process has been unethical.
In the lead up to the Liberal’s announcement, Boeing representatives appeared to have been given preferential access to Cabinet Ministers. Lobbyists from Boeing met with members of the government seven times more often than any of their competitors. Other companies had their meeting requests denied.
To make matters worse, Prime Minister Trudeau is forbidding federal employees from speaking out against this cynically political process. He has placed an unprecedented life-time gag-order on all 235 individuals working on the Future Fighter Capability Project. This is a blatant attempt on the part of the Liberals to silence their own critics so that they can move ahead with this politicized partisan procurement.
This uninformed campaign promise could also impact Canada’s reputation as a reliable ally. As more than 10 of Canada’s allies have committed to 5th generation fighters in the F-35, Canada will be one of the last developed nations to be flying 4th generation
With fewer capabilities and less in common with our allied partners, the RCAF will be less likely to be called upon for international operations.
A key component of the Liberal’s misguided campaign promise was that they would buy a cheaper alternative to the F-35. But we don’t know the price of the Super Hornets.
Prime Minister Trudeau is giving Boeing a blank cheque. Operating an interim fleet comes with significant additional costs on infrastructure, training, and maintenance.
If the Liberals continue with their commitment to operate a mixed fleet of fighters, the RCAF’s capabilities and interoperability will be reduced for years to come. The Liberal’s plan would force our current fleet of fighters to fly beyond their current 2025 life expectancy into 2030, which the Department of National Defence has accessed as a high-risk option.
This highlights the Prime Minister’s naïve approach to the needs of our military and his inability to manage our country’s finances. Earlier this month Kuwait purchased 40 Super Hornets at $335 million apiece, five times more expensive than the $65 million the Liberals promised during the election.
In addition to hitting every taxpayer’s pocketbook, the Liberals’ political strategy could cost thousands of Canadian aerospace workers their jobs. There are currently 70 companies across Canada that have already benefited from over $1 billion worth of contracts under Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program. If executed, the Liberals’ sole-sourced deal with Boeing could put these jobs in jeopardy.
By ignoring the experts, in a desperate attempt to fulfill a campaign promise, the Liberals have created a political mess of their own doing. Prime Minister Trudeau needs to acknowledge that fighter jets are not just for simply ‘whipping out to show how big they are’. They serve an integral part in maintaining our national security and sovereignty, and are essential to our status as a reliable ally.
The Prime Minister needs to realize that this decision is larger than himself. He should listen to the experts and cancel this sole-sourced deal before his credibility gap has consequences for Canadian taxpayers, aerospace workers, and our military.