Friday, 30 November 2012


   It has been announced that the  Department of Public Works will be issuing a formal request for information to F-35 rivals like Boeing, which produces the Superhornet, and the consortium that makes the Eurofighter Typhoon, asking them what jets are available, and at what cost.

When asked whether she would make public the statement of requirements which detail what the military needs from its aircraft, Rona Ambrose, the Minister of Public Works said these “will be set aside while that full option analysis is done”.

It is assumed that the Conservatives are taking this highly unusual step in order to deflect criticism that has grown since they announced their intention two years ago to buy 65 f-35s from Lockheed Martin, in a deal estimated to cost $16-billion.

 The Auditor General has issued a report that questioned the accuracy of the cost estimates. The report said National Defence reached the conclusion in 2008 that the F-35 offered “the best value” but provided little analysis to support the conclusion and did not provide operational requirements to Public Works until after the government had announced its decision to go with the plane.

The government responded with a seven point plan to address the A-G’s concerns, which included freezing the funding envelope and creating the new secretariat within Public Works to co-ordinate the purchase.

The most unusual thing about this announcement is that the Statement of Operational Requirements “will be set aside while that full option analysis is done”.

In the normal course of events the military provides a Statement of Requirements and then those in charge of procurement look for something affordable that will meet those requirements. This seemingly straight forward sequence can be turned and twisted by competing agendas but still produce something.

 The idea that one will first look at what is available and then decide what is needed is a not a unique one. It has been suggested in more then one forum  that the Department of Defence looked at what was available, liked the F-35, and then built their Statement of Requirements around that specific aircraft.

Whether done by the military or the bureaucracy or the politicians this practice reflects the belief that all of Canada’s military engagements will be wars of choice and by that, of course, we mean our choice. It suggests that defence spending is considered almost entirely discretionary. It is because of this belief that all too often decisions have been made based on the domestic politics of defence policy, parochial bureaucratic interests, and sheer inertia rather than rigorous planning.

While it is true that unlimited funds cannot be spent in an attempt to achieve the illusion of security, it is also true that a prudent government, one dedicated to the ideals of Peace, Order, and Good Government, should always make provision for adequate insurance. Insurance in this context means reasonable spending on security and an understanding that critical choices regarding the size and structure of the armed forces, based on the aforementioned rigorous planning, are not optional.