Friday, February 17, 2017

Canada to spend more on defence, Sajjan says, but non-committal on NATO

By: The Canadian Press 

OTTAWA -- Canada expects to make significant new investments in defence following the forthcoming release of its defence policy review, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Thursday as he met with NATO leaders in Brussels.

But Sajjan was non-committal about the specific issue of Donald Trump's repeated complaints about NATO members whom the U.S. president has long alleged have failed to pay their fair share of the cost of the alliance.

Sajjan said he spoke with U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis, a strident spokesman for the Trump administration on the issue of NATO spending who on Wednesday delivered a stern ultimatum to member nations.

Pentagon chief says NATO members must boost defence spending
Troops prepare to leave for Ukraine amid uncertainty over mission's future

"America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to the alliance, each of your capitals needs to show its support for our common defence," Mattis said.

Canada is demonstrating its commitment to NATO by contributing troops and leading a multinational NATO mission in Latvia as part of what is known as Operation Reassurance, Sajjan noted.

"Obviously we did discuss (spending) in terms of the resources required for the impact that we want to have in NATO, and every nation is doing their part towards that," Sajjan said.

He repeatedly mentioned the ongoing defence policy review, which was part of his mandate as defence minister and which is looking at Canadian defence needs for the next 20 years, including NATO commitments and missions.

That means more money, Sajjan said -- although he didn't say how much.

"We knew that spending by the previous government was low and the defence policy review allowed us to do a thorough analysis of what was required," he said. "Yes, this will require defence investments."

NATO says member states should aim to spend two per cent of GDP on defence. Canada now spends about one per cent and has long been under pressure from the U.S., including long before the start of the Trump era, to boost spending.

The government is looking at predictable, planned investments, Sajjan said.

"We in Canada need to be able to demonstrate a thorough plan and what type of defence investment is needed, because this is significant money that needs to be invested, but the Canadian taxpayer also requires us to make sure that we are efficient with the money."

As well as the NATO talks and a meeting with a counter-ISIL group led by Mattis, Sajjan also had bilateral meetings with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and ministers from Australia, France, Germany, Portugal, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

He is heading to Germany for the Munich Security Conference, where senior decision-makers from around the world will discuss international security challenges.

Deadline for Surface Combatant RFPs Extended

GoC Press Release

The Government of Canada and Irving Shipbuilding Inc. (ISI) are extending the Canadian Surface Combatant Request for Proposal (CSC RFP) submission deadline. Originally due on April 27, 2017, submissions will now be received until June 22, 2017.

In order to meet the requirements of the Royal Canadian Navy and provide economic benefits to Canada it is important to ensure that the Government receives the maximum number of bids that meet technical requirements and offer high quality economic benefits to Canada. At this point, based on feedback from industry, an extension is the best course of action. It is not unusual for bidding periods to be extended, particularly for complex initiatives such as this one, which is the most complex procurement project in recent history.

This RFP was developed based on extensive engagement with industry. The 12 pre-qualified bidders had the opportunity to provide input on drafts of the RFP as well as the final version, prior to its release on Oct. 27, 2016.

With this extension, targeted completion for the procurement process remains Fall of 2017, with ship construction starting in the early 2020’s.

In addition to requests for an extension to the closing date, bidders have submitted a range of questions about the procurement. As of February 10, 2017, bidders submitted 164 questions and received 88 responses. Bidders have until March 10, 2017 to submit additional questions. All questions received prior to this date will receive a response.

The Government of Canada is committed to an open, fair and transparent procurement process, and providing the Royal Canadian Navy with the vessels they need to do their important work and at the best possible value for Canadians.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

HMCS Athabaskan to be Paid-Off March 10

RCN Press Release

The Royal Canadian Navy has announced that the ‘paying off’ date of the destroyer HMCS Athabaskan will be March 10, the Royal United Services Institute of Nova Scotia pointed out today.

Here is more information from Colin Darlington, Vice-President, RUSI (NS):

“Besides the ceremonial aspect of this event, there are other stories. Athabaskan is the last of the Iroquois-class destroyers in the RCN, really, the last destroyer at all in the RCN. Her departure marks the loss of the area air defence (long range anti-missile and anti-aircraft) capability for the Navy. Iroquois-class destroyers were also the Navy’s ‘command ships’ (sometimes known as ‘flag ships’ or ‘leaders’) that had additional telecommunications equipment, command information management systems, work spaces and accommodation to support an embarked commander and staff of a naval task group (a task group can be a destroyer, two-three frigates, a replenishment oiler). A number of Halifax-class frigates have been modernized to include a command capability to make up for the loss, pending building of the Canadian Surface Combatants. Athabaskan also provided a flight deck to train Sea King helicopter detachments.”

Canadian Navy destroyer  HMCS Athabaskan

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Operation CROCODILE members help at an orphanage in the DRC

CAF News Release

By: a Canadian Armed Forces member on Operation CROCODILE

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a country where the most grievous human rights violations are a daily occurrence, it is hard for anyone to feel optimistic about the future. Yet amidst all of the poverty, there still exist some beacons of hope. The members of Operation CROCODILE recently had the opportunity to take some time out of their busy schedules to extend a small gesture of love on behalf of generous Canadian donors, to one of these beacons, the Tulizeni Orphanage in Goma.

As we arrived at the orphanage, we pulled past the guards into a walled compound no larger than a typical suburban property in Canada. We were greeted by a sea of 86 small African children who were singing, laughing, and dancing. They were extremely excited by our arrival and even chanted, "Can-a-da", over and over again. Some of the smallest and cutest among them would approach and look up longingly with their little arms extended in hopes that they might get picked up and hugged in loving affection, while others would come and hug our legs. Picking a little one up was a touching moment for me as it made me think of my own toddler at home who is truly blessed to have two parents who love her, and will never have to experience the things that these orphans have had to endure.

While this was my first time at the orphanage, it was not for many of my fellow Canadians. There is a Canadian United Nations Volunteer, Gabrielle Biron Hudon from Quebec City, who comes out every weekend to volunteer at the orphanage, and several of the other task force members, who make the time to visit once a month to play with the kids. Sometimes they treat the kids and bring out a laptop and borrow a projector from work to show the kids a movie. Other times they bring candies or toys donated either from their own pockets, or from other generous Canadians. You could see in the children’s eyes and those of the staff, how much they appreciated having us visit, this gesture of compassion and generosity.

Sister Georgette Marjorie Thsibang, the orphanage manager, took us on a tour of the facility. As we took the tour of the orphanage, I noticed the very cramped living conditions of the 86 kids currently residing there. There were a few bedrooms filled with many beds. The first one we visited had three bunk beds packed into a 10'x10' room. The smallest kids sleep here, five to a bed, which makes for a room that houses 30 kids. We also visited a larger room, which was also packed with beds. We were told this was the room where the older girls (13-17) who had been raped, lived with their babies. My heart sank as I looked at the number of beds that were crammed into the room. To add to this, when I heard about all of the expenses I was shocked. It costs 195 USD per kid each year to go to school. Even just the operating cost for food is another 100 USD per day to feed the orphans a modest amount of food. I couldn't help but think that this place could really use more support and funding. They mentioned that they recently had to return several kids to the internally displaced persons (IDP) camp because they just couldn't afford to keep them and provide for them anymore. All of this comes in the midst of trying to build a new orphanage just outside of town; however, while the land has been purchased, the project is a long ways off. The project hopes to increase their capacity, decrease the cost of schooling by having an onsite school, and includes living quarters for the staff.

On this day, after the singing had settled down and the tour completed, the Operation CROCODILE Task Force Commander, Colonel Pierre "Pete" Huet, on behalf of a group of Canadian donors, and alongside the members of Operation CROCODILE, presented a large cheque donation of 2783 USD (4000 CAD before conversion) to the Tulizeni Orphanage to assist with the tuition expenses. The excitement of the kids and gratitude of the staff radiated and, not surprisingly, triggered the next round of singing and excitement. There was so much energy that the kids swarmed around Colonel Huet (pictured) and hilariously attempted to pick him up and put him on their shoulders to carry him around as they cheered. After the handshaking and the many gestures of thanks, they saw us off with big smiles and waves as we departed to get back to our primary task of combatting armed groups and protecting civilians in the DRC.

CAF Troops Simulate attack on Goose Bay Airport

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

Around 600 soldiers from the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, Valcartier, Quebec, are taking part in CASTOR BORÉAL, a winter warfare training exercise at 5 Wing Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador. The exercise started on Feb. 10 and runs until Feb. 18.

During the training, the troops will test their ability to defend a strategic site and a major attack and defence simulation will take place at the Goose Bay Airport, the Canadian Forces noted in a news release. Soldiers representing “enemy troops” will parachute in, and friendly troops will take position to defend the airport in order to maintain operations, the military noted.

The exercise will also include joint operations with the Canadian Rangers and officers from the Polish Army.

Air support includes:
One CH-146 Griffon helicopter from the 444th Combat Support Squadron
One CH-146 Griffon helicopter from the 430th Tactical Helicopter Squadron
One CC-130 Hercules aircraft from the 436th Transport Squadron
One CC-150 Polaris aircraft from the 437th Transport Squadron

Ex-MP Laurie Hawn resigns honorary military role after criticizing Super Hornets buy

Kristen Everson · CBC News

Laurie Hawn, Canada's first CF-18 fighter pilot and a former Conservative MP, says he was asked to resign his position as honorary colonel after he criticized the government's decision to buy up to 18 Super Hornet fighter jets.

Hawn revealed the move in a message posted to Facebook Monday night.

"Speaking truth to power can be risky. I re-confirmed that this week by speaking out rather more forcefully than was appreciated to the commander of the RCAF and the chief of defence staff," he wrote.
Super Hornet purchase could have $5B to $7B price tag
RCAF facing challenge of operating old and new fighter fleets
Conservatives made 'political' decision to cut flying time: Hawn

Hawn has been critical of the government's decision to buy the Super Hornets as an interim measure to fill what it calls a capability gap in Canada's air force. In his Facebook post, Hawn called the gap "fabricated," arguing the decision to buy the interim jets was "100 per cent politically motivated."

Hawn favours Lockheed Martin's F-35 Stealth Fighter as a long-term replacement for the CF-18s.
A U.S. Navy Super Hornet circles Naval Air Station Oceana, in Oceans, Va. in late January. Canada has opened negotiations for the sole-source purchase of 18 of the advanced jet fighters. (Murray Brewster/CBC)
Hawn said he sent the commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Lt.-Gen. Michael Hood, and Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance an email on Friday outlining his concerns, including his view that the interim purchase of the Super Hornets is "a waste of money and time and is something, in my view, that will ultimately kill the fighter (jet) force."

CBC News has not seen the email, but Hawn said his post on Facebook included the essence of his message in a condensed version.

CBC has reported the cost of the interim Super Hornet program could run between $5 to $7 billion, based on data being studied within National Defence. Those numbers are preliminary but are backed up by U.S. congressional budget information. The government maintains there is no price tag for the new fleet yet and is currently in negotiations with the U.S. government.
Super Hornets decision 'wrong'

In an interview, Hawn said the air force commander was already aware of his concerns, but said his email might have been "too specific and direct" for the military's liking. Hawn said that after some back and forth, Hood asked for his resignation on Saturday.

Hawn said he was disappointed but wasn't surprised he was asked to resign. As for Hood and Vance, Hawn said "their hands are kind of tied by what the government's doing. And in my view what the government is doing is entirely wrong."

In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for the air force said Hood asked for Hawn's resignation "as political advocating is not compatible with continued service as an honorary colonel."

The spokesperson also pointed to a section in the honorary colonel's handbook, which advises that those holding the position should "remain outside any public controversy concerning the Canadian Armed Forces... and never use the appointment to promote political opinion."

Hawn was appointed honorary colonel of 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron, based out of Cold Lake, Alta., in October 2015. He was recommended for the position by former chief of defence staff Tom Lawson and his appointment was approved then defence minister Jason Kenney and the Prime Minister's Office.
'More to follow'

Honorary colonels do not hold any command or authority. They are generally former officers or distinguished Canadians and their function is to promote the unit or squadron they are attached to and assist with ceremonial events and "fostering esprit de corps" or morale.

Hawn is a retired air force lieutenant-colonel, serving for 30 years before sitting as an Edmonton MP from 2006-2015. He was parliamentary secretary to the minister of defence for three-and-a-half years and served on the defence committee. He didn't run for re-election in 2015.

Hawn said he will continue to be outspoken about the Liberal government's decision to purchase an interim fleet.

"Most Canadians may not really care about Super Hornet versus F-35, but I think they do care about the waste of billions of dollars for very little return, especially if it's purely in the name of politics.

"More to follow," he wrote on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Former MP and RCAF Pilot Hawn Expresses his concerns over Super Hornet Stop-Gap

By: Laurie Hawn. PC, CD (Lt. Col Ret) 

Speaking truth to power can be risky...

I re-confirmed that this week by speaking out rather more forcefully than was appreciated to the Commander of the RCAF and the Chief of the Defence Staff, on the issue of the CF-18 replacement. This is a condensation of some of my main points, and I know that senior military leaders have their hands tied. As followers will know, I have been very critical of the 100% politically motivated plan to buy 18 “interim” Super Hornets for some time and the story only gets worse.

We could fill the fabricated “capability gap” with 27 F-18C/D aircraft from Kuwait at the bargain basement price of $330 million, but we’re not pursuing it. We could also upgrade our 76 CF-18s to Super Hornet system status for about 20% of what it will cost us to buy 18 Super Hornets. Rather than pursue either of those options, we’d rather waste about USD 5.4 Billion on 18 aircraft with no real increase in capability. The cost of 90 F-35As will be USD 8.5 Billion (USD 94.6 million per) in the latest contract; and that unit cost will come down to USD 85 million by the time we should be receiving our first aircraft about 2020. What is wrong with this picture?

The F-18C is virtually identical to our CF-18s, while the Super Hornet is very different in size, radar, engines, mission computers and other systems. We don’t have the qualified technicians, pilots and support capacity to manage our current fleet; and adding a dissimilar fleet will make a very difficult job impossible. We are losing pilots to release at a rate that is unsustainable, and there is no ether that we can dip into to hive off more to get trained on the Super Hornet.

Neither the CF-18 nor Super Hornet actually has the kinematics to properly execute our primary mission of peacetime air sovereignty, with commercial aircraft operating above 40,000 feet. F-35 can properly execute that mission, and many more. The real experts were not consulted and, in fact, 240 of them have been muzzled with lifetime non-disclosure agreements. Why would a government with nothing to hide do that? The answer is that they wouldn’t, and this government has a lot to hide. It would be nice if the Auditor General and the Ethics Commissioner would take an interest. The options analysis that was conducted and clearly showed F-35 to be the answer has been suppressed, because it didn’t conform to the Prime Minister’s foolish and inaccurate statements during and since the 2015 campaign. And you thought that Donald Trump was the only purveyor of “alternate facts”.

Super Hornet also has serious safety concerns with the oxygen system that has resulted in 297 (reported) incidents that have resulted in the permanent grounding of some aircrew. Can we afford that and has anyone done a risk analysis of operating Super Hornet?

An open and fair competition could be started tomorrow and take no more than a year; but the government wants to kick the can down the road until after the next election. If the Statement of Requirements (SOR) is not “modified” to eliminate F-35, that aircraft would win any fair competition, just as it has in so many other cases. There’s good reason to believe that the SOR is being “massaged”. There will be nothing interim about a Super Hornet buy. Even if F-35 were to win a rigged competition, the sudden realization will be that, “Gosh, we just cannot afford a mixed fleet and we’ll just have to buy more Super Hornets.” The first part of that statement would be correct – we cannot afford a mixed fleet of Super Hornet and F-35 down the road, just as we cannot afford a mixed fleet of CF-18 and Super Hornet today.

The latest bit of insanity is that we are looking at buying two-seat Super Hornets and putting navigators in the back seat as Weapons System Operators (WSO). Our primary mission is air defence and there are no two-seat air defence fighters in the world today. There is a reason for that - navigators in fighters and many other applications have been overtaken by technology years ago. To be sure, fighter pilots will also eventually be overtaken by technology; but for the next few decades they have a job to do. We have no capacity to train WSOs, even if someone did invent a reason to want to do so.

The bottom line is that we can’t afford to do what we’re doing for a wide variety of reasons – Canadian sovereignty and security, financial, technical, personnel, moral, alliance support, Canadian industry, etc. If we carry on, I firmly believe and many others share my belief that we will kill the fighter force. I simply can’t support that and my conscience will not let me stay silent and be deemed complicit by that silence. I have been in and around the RCAF for 53 years and it is soul destroying to see what is happening in the name of politics. As anticipated, my vocal opposition to the plan was not well received by the most senior leadership of the RCAF and Canadian Armed Forces. I was asked to resign my position of Honourary Colonel of 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron (the oldest Squadron in the RCAF, 20 Nov 1918). That, I dutifully did, but since I’m not important enough to have a sword, I just fell on my pen-knife.

I will continue to advocate for what I think is in the best interests of the RCAF, Canada, our aerospace industry AND taxpayers. Most Canadians may not really care about Super Hornet versus F-35, but I think they do care about the waste of billions of dollars for very little return, especially if it’s purely in the name of politics.

Shipbuilders Seek Simplified Government System

By: ANDREA GUNN, The Chrinicle Herald 

Having someone make swift decisions would save time and money on the National Shipbuilding Strategy, according to the government’s two key shipbuilders.

Both Irving Shipyard in Halifax and Seaspan in Vancouver have recommended Ottawa take a page from other seafaring nations and hire someone to act as a single point of accountability and decision-making in shipbuilding.

Jonathan Whitworth, CEO of Seaspan — which has contracts to build DFO and Coast Guard vessels as well as the navy’s Joint Support Ships under the NSS — told the Chronicle Herald the current system is cumbersome, often requiring extensive consultation among different bodies and levels of bureaucracy for simple decisions on things like engineering changes or matters of priority on the shipyard floor.

“What we’re asking for from the government side is that we have one person that can speak for all of the stakeholders within the government,” he said.

Whitworth said it’s often unclear who the point of contact is for a particular decision, and queries could end up with any number of government bodies: national defence, DFO, Public Works and Procurement Canada, or even the Treasury Board.

“There’s a lot of individuals,” Whitworth said.

“I will say we get along well, we talk in large groups, but that’s just really not the most efficient way to really make decisions.”

Whitworth said ideally there would be a central point of accountability within government for the NSS combat package, which Irving is building in Halifax, and one for Seaspan’s non-combat package.

“Just like any project, especially complex projects, time is money. The ability to make decisions on a more timely basis means the ship will be built quicker, which means it will inevitably be cheaper,” Whitworth said.

Though Irving president Kevin McCoy was not available for an interview, he offered similar comments to the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence in Ottawa earlier this month. Asked why the U.S. and U.K. tend to not have the same issues with delays as Canada when it comes to naval procurement, McCoy sa speed of decision-making as a major concern.

“I think one thing that does work against the system here is the very distributed authorities and responsibilities through many departments rather than what I’m used to, a single accountable officer, particularly for a program as huge as the Canadian service combatant,” McCoy told the committee.

“Somebody that can say, yes, in that area I’m going to go with Canadian content, in that area I’m going to go with operational requirements, in that area I’m going to go with low costs and risks and be able to push forward rather than debate it for a very long period of time.”

He went on to say that for major builds like the Canadian Surface Combatant, inflation is a real killer to a ship count, putting even more importance on swift decision-making if the navy wants the best bang for its buck.

Whitworth told the Chronicle Herald that Irving and Seaspan have already made the recommendation to government both at the defence committee as well as at a regular private meeting with government officials several weeks earlier, but have yet to get any sort of concrete answer.

He said the recommendation is not a particularly new or groundbreaking one and is something both the U.S. and U.K. have employed for years.

In fact, Whitworth said, Steve Brunton — the man hired by Ottawa last year as the government’s independent advisor on shipbuilding and ship acquisition — used to hold that position within the U.K. ministry of defence.

“This is something you don’t have to plough new ground with,” he said.

Retired navy commander and defence analyst Ken Hansen said there is definite value in having a single point of accountability on shipbuilding, from a time-saving point of view, but also to avoid issues with industrial capacity and workforce management.

“In a country like Canada where shipbuilding has not been very active for a long time, the suppliers have dwindled and their industrial capacity is reduced, so if you suddenly inject two, three, four more different construction programs under the central policy you can create conflict between them,” he said.

By putting a point of co-ordination in place, the government could better prioritize its shipbuilding activity to get the most value for the money.

The only potential issue, Hansen said, is that sometimes decisions will have to prioritize a certain project over another to arrive at the best option for the NSS as a whole.

“Whenever you have to make choices between various priorities, there’s always someone who is disappointed in the outcome.”

Public Works and Procurement Canada did not respond to an interview request by the Chronicle Herald’s deadline.