Canadian Defence Review

April 6, 2016

Saijan confirms defence policy review consultations
Reiterates commitment to NSPS, next generation fighter. Refuses to rule out F-35.

Minister of National Defence Harjit Saijan today confirmed the launch of public consultations on Canada’s first major defence review in over two decades. The government also released a public consultation paper , which details the current force structure, operations and budgets, as well as questions that will be looked into. These include the role Canadian Armed Forces will play domestically, in cooperation with the United States in continental security and in United Nation’s peace-keeping operations.

Defence procurements will be addressed broadly in the context of new threats to Canada’s national security. Possible investments in space, unmanned systems and cyber-security will be addressed. Saijan also confirmed the Liberal Government’s commitments to the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy combat and non-combat vessels, particularly to ships slated to protect Arctic sovereignty.  

In the press conference following the announcement, the Minister denied a reporter’s suggestion that he had been “blindsided,” by cabinet colleagues in the recent budget, which left his department reeling from budget cuts, as the Liberal government focused on other priorities. The Minister also reiterated commitments to procurement of next generation fighter capability, and refused an opportunity provided by another reporter to rule out Lockheed-Martin’s F-35 Lighting II, as a possible candidate.

During the election campaign now-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to scrap the F-35. Saijan’s vagueness on the matter suggests that the government may be using the review process to provide it maneuver room to back away from that promise. If that is true, then Lockheed-Martin may be able to re-propose the F-35 should the government decide to hold an open and fair bidding process.

Saijan also announced the appointment of a panel of experts who will aid in the consultation process. These include Bill Graham, a former Minister of National Defence, Ray Henault, a former Chief of Defence Staff, Margaret Purdy, a former Associate Deputy Minister of National Defence and Louise Arbour, a former judge on the Supreme Court of Canada.

Saijan did not specifically address whether the review would include a redefinition of the private sector’s role in the Department of National Defence, which has been slow to sub-contract non-core functions, in order to boost efficiency.

According to Saijan, the public consultations on the Defence Policy Review will last until the end of 2016 and a final report will be issued in 2017.

Peter (at) peterdiekmeyer (dot) com


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