Janes Defence Review
June 3, 2012
Title: Canadian Tories hint at ending JSF hearings
Comments by a senior Tory government minister last week have raised concerns that a committee investigation into a damning report by Canada’s auditor general regarding the decision to purchase 65 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, could be coming to an end. Andrew Saxton told the House of Commons last week, that three sessions with Michel Ferguson, whose office audits federal departments, agencies and organizations, was more than enough.
In his report, Ferguson said that the Harper government had pre-selected the JSF, bypassing normal procurement procedures. The document also provided ammunition to critics’ claims that the government misled Parliament about the program’s eventual cost (which ballooned from an initially estimated at $15 billion but is currently projected to be in the $25 billion range).
Particularly damning say government critics is the fact that that the traditional Statement of Requirements generally produced prior to major procurements, appears to have been bypassed.
Particularly puzzling say cynical insiders, is why the Tories are sticking with the program despite the increasing damage that it is doing. For example the JSF deal does not include the typical offset and industrial regional benefits requirements typical in such programs. This leaves it with no apparent political constituency, except a select group of subcontractors such as Montreal based Heroux-Devtek.
As if that were not enough questions are also being raised regarding the plane’s suitability for Arctic defence (notably its limited range) one of its main operational roles. Conversely a numbers of critics have also noted the JSF’s obvious advantages for offensive operations, such as those undertaken in the Libyan and Afghan campaigns, precisely the type of engagements that Canada is trying to avoid.
An official government move to end hearings could come at any time said Joann Garbig, Clerk of the Committee. “They don’t usually announce these things in advance,” said Garbig. “For now the meetings continue.”
Peter Diekmeyer Peter@peterdiekmeyer.com is based in Montreal, Canada.
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