Saturday, 18 January 2014


The Honourable Robert Nicholson
Minister of National Defence
National Defence Headquarters
Maj.General George R. Pearkes Building
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0K2

Dear Bob,

Time once again to give you the benefit of more uncalled for advice. Honestly, Bob, it’s worth every penny you’re paying for it.

This whole fighter jet business is coming to a boil again; it seems as if it’s getting harder and harder to make it go away. The whole “lets have a panel review the retched business” idea was good for a while, but it’s beginning to wear thin. Some less then charitable types, and were talking NDP here Bob, are even beginning to say that the whole thing was a scam just to ensure that by the time the study was done there wouldn’t be any other candidates besides the F-35 available.

Its time to beg, borrow or steal a new idea, of course “steal” is such an unfortunate term. I personally prefer “appropriation”.
I probably don’t need to tell you this Bob, but when appropriating someone else's idea it’s best to steal from some one smarter then ones self. In this case it’s Doug Allen at Best Fighter for Canada. It really is a great site and it could be a real advantage to someone in your position, surrounded by all sorts of conflicting, and conflicted, advice ( lets not even think about substituting the word ‘weasels’ here) to have a sane outside source of information.

The basic idea here is to split the fighter buy into two parts. The truth is, those F-35’s are going to cost an arm and a leg. To make things worse, at this point you have to buy them early on in the production run when both cost and risk are highest. You need an out, one that you can sell politically, so here’s the pitch.

Every thirty years or so Canada has to buy a new fleet of fighters. Every thirty years or so some poor government gets stuck with telling the taxpayers how much more it’s going to cost them to buy fewer fighters then the last time. The solution is to split the buy and purchase half the fighters every fifteen or so years. That way the average age of your fighters is never too high, and the numbers you have to take to the public don’t hurt as much. 

OK, let’s be honest here, it still hurts, but after some of the figures people are throwing around (who really believes anyone knows how much “x” number of fighters will cost over 45+ years) anything will sound better.

In this case what you need to do is announce that after reviewing the results of your review, you have decided to buy 40 Super Hornets. At the same time retire around 37 of your highest time current Hornet fleet. You can point out to people that gives you a total of 80 fighters in service, more then the current number, proving once again that Conservatives care more about Defence then anyone else.

At the same time you announce that somewhere down the road, in ten or fifteen years, when the F-35 has proven itself, and at its cheapest production point, you will buy roughly (you can hedge here, it’s not as if  you will be answering questions as Minister of National Defence in fifteen years) 40 F-35’s to upgrade the fighter fleet.

This really is a workable idea Bob. It’s true that Doug Allen suggested buying Gripens, which is a better idea, but its more complicated then buying Super Hornets which means that Super Hornets will be an easier idea to sell to the public, if only because it seems simpler.

To put it in Doug Allen’s words;

“Splitting a fighter buy would, at the very least, give the appearance of a compromise.  It would also have the effect of reducing the "sticker shock".  A "$5 billion" fighter program sounds more reasonable than a $9 billion one...  Even if it is for half the number of jets”.

Best of all, with a staggered buy, there's a very good chance your political party will have its day to criticize a future government on their fighter purchase.

Now I know that straight ahead chaps like you and I don’t go in for that sort of cynical thinking Bob, but you know, it just might work. And besides, Flaherty is going to love this one. Talk about balancing the budget and paying the deficit! Just try to hold on to some of the money not being spent on fighters for other Defence projects, after all those WW1 commemoration events are going to cost a bundle.

Remember Bob, we’re all pulling for you.