Sunday, September 30, 2007

President Karzai, negotiations and the UN

I think the Afghan president's offer is meant to express a simple desire for a reasonable peace--which I have no doubt he wants. Moreover the offer should help gain internal and international support. But note the conditions in the offer which the president clearly would not have expected the Taliban to acccept:
President Hamid Karzai yesterday [Sept. 29] offered to meet the Taliban leader and give militants a government position only hours after a suicide bomber in army disguise attacked a military bus, killing 30 people – nearly all of them Afghan soldiers.

Strengthening a call for negotiations he has made with increasing frequency in recent weeks, Karzai said he was willing to meet with the reclusive leader Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former prime minister and factional warlord leader.

"If I find their address, there is no need for them to come to me, I'll personally go there and get in touch with them," Karzai said. "Esteemed Mullah, sir, and esteemed Hekmatyar, sir, why are you destroying the country?"

Karzai said he has contacts with Taliban militants through tribal elders but there are no direct and open government communication channels with the fighters. Omar's whereabouts are unknown, although Karzai has claimed he is in Quetta, Pakistan, a militant hotbed across the border from Afghanistan's Kandahar province.

"If a group of Taliban or a number of Taliban come to me and say, `President, we want a department in this or in that ministry or we want a position as deputy minister ... and we don't want to fight any more [emphasis added]' ... If there will be a demand and a request like that to me, I will accept it because I want conflicts and fighting to end in Afghanistan," Karzai said...
The conditions were clearly unacceptable to the Taliban who have promptly rejected the president's suggestions:
Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents rejected President Hamid Karzai's offer of peace talks on Sunday, citing the presence of foreign troops, a Taliban spokesman said...

...[President Karzai has] excluded any preconditions such as the withdrawal of nearly 50,000 troops under the command of NATO and the U.S. military, as demanded by the insurgents.

Karzai said U.S. President George W. Bush and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had both supported the idea of peace talks when he met them in the U.S. this month...

Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf told Reuters from an undisclosed location that talks with Kabul were out of the question.

"Karzai government is a dummy government. It has no authority so why should we waste our time and effort," Yousuf said.

"Until American and NATO troops are out of Afghanistan, talks with Karzai government are not possible."..
The Canadian government, sensibly, is singing from the same songbook (I wonder if the Canadian Forces wrote President Karzai's appeal?):
Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the Taliban will have to renounce violence and accept the NATO mission in Afghanistan if it wants to work with the Afghan government.

MacKay was speaking at an enrolment ceremony for new military personnel in Halifax as Afghan President Hamid Karzai yesterday [Sept. 29] renewed his call for talks with the Taliban after a deadly suicide bombing in Kabul.

But MacKay said any co-operation must include the Taliban's acceptance that NATO forces aren't leaving the country any time soon...
No good can come from this:
In Ottawa, Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre said he will make an unauthorized fact-finding trip to Afghanistan after his request to visit the troops has been consistently ignored by the Harper government.

"(Afghanistan) is a major issue for the Canadian people," Coderre said yesterday. "I think that for the sake of the debate it's important that I go. Since I couldn't get an answer I decided to go on my own."..
But this seems good to me:
Canada will call on the United Nations to dramatically raise the profile of the global effort in Afghanistan, saying the world body should name an envoy of major stature to the country -- in the same way the global Middle East peace process has named former British prime minister Tony Blair.

Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier will make the case for stepping up the UN's Afghan role when he delivers Canada's address at the annual General Assembly summit on Tuesday. Other countries, principally France, Norway, Spain and the United States [there's also the UK - MC], also seek enhanced UN leadership in Afghanistan, believing there is room to better co-ordinate reconstruction and other help currently arriving from around the world...

"The UN mission [one of its largest] is already there, and Canada is there under UN mandate, but we believe that the UN itself has to be more active in the co-ordination process."..
Maybe Paddy Ashdown is the person for the job.

I wonder if the NDP will support President Karzai's efforts and the suggestion the UN take a broader role in Afghanistan. Just kidding. Especially if the NDP are aware of this:
UN head in Afstan wants more NATO troops
Update (from Damian Penny): today's Globe and Mail reports that the Taliban are divided over Karzai's offer:
"It's a joke," Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told Reuters early yesterday. But the insurgents' spokesman sounded less confident about dismissing the idea of negotiations hours later, when contacted by The Globe and Mail.

"My bosses have not decided on a policy about this," Mr. Ahmadi said by telephone from an undisclosed location. "They will think about it, and when the Taliban has a decision, I will call you right away."

The fact that the Taliban's main spokesman could shift his position on such a crucial matter so quickly is an indicator of a larger conflict within the insurgent ranks about the idea of negotiations.

A member of the Taliban's ruling council recently told one of his guests in Quetta, Pakistan, that the council is divided about how to respond to Mr. Karzai's increasingly urgent calls for talks.

A majority of senior Taliban oppose negotiations, the council member said, but they're having difficulty persuading the minority.
If this story is accurate, Karzai is a much more shrewd politician than anyone - especially Canadian critics of the Afghan mission - give him credit for.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Afstan: What are M. Dion's principles?

Babbling has expressed his doubts about them. Now Norman Spector puts the Liberal leader on the Afghan rack: was Jean Chrétien's government, in which Mr. Dion served, that sent our soldiers to fight alongside American troops in ousting the Taliban government; from that decision in 2001 flows Canada's moral and, arguably, legal responsibility to help put Afghanistan back together.

Today, our soldiers and aid workers are serving in Kandahar, where they were deployed by Paul Martin, under a recently renewed United Nations mandate and at the invitation of the Karzai government. Surely Mr. Dion, who says he's interested in bringing other, yet-to-be identified nations into the heat of the Afghan fray, would not be so rigid as to rule out staying in Kandahar before seeing the mission enhancements that Mr. Harper was able to negotiate at next year's NATO summit. Were he to do so, voters might reasonably conclude that, when the going gets tough, the Liberal Leader – no matter how lofty his rhetoric about human rights, the UN and multilateralism – is among those who believe that Canada should get going. Or, worse, that Mr. Dion is prepared to besmirch Canada's international reputation, and even to abandon the Afghan people to the Taliban, in order to advance his partisan interests.
Update: Charles Adler questions the NDP's principles (via a_majoor at
She wore a long black veil to cover her mind by Charles Adler Sept 27/07 “That’s over the top Charles. We never said Karzai was a puppet of the Canadian military,” said the NDP’s Alexa McDonough. Over the top?

Alexa McDonough in a radio interview on Adler on Line, was delivering the “scoop” that much of the messaging in a speech delivered by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the Canadian House of Commons last year, was prepped for him by Canadian military officials. She insisted that the messages we got weren’t necessarily those that the people of Afghanistan would want us to have. By any objective standard, the NDP is calling Karzai a puppet. What’s over the top is not my characterization of the NDP position. What’s completely out of bounds and over the line is patently false charge that Afghanistan’s first democratically elected leader is a puppet of Canada’s Department of National Defense.

When I asked McDonough to name one single fact in the Karzai speech that was untrue, she said this issue wasn’t about the truth. The former boss of the New Democratic Party spoke volumes with that little chestnut. Ideologues care little about the truth. It’s all about ideology...

...The NDP could learn a lot from the graciousness of the Afghan leader. He has far more respect for our military than the NDP does. And it isn’t because military communications people laid down a few words on a piece of paper to help him get his message across. It’s because they laid down their lives to give his people an opporunity to have a life.

I gave Alexa McDonough three chances to come up with a single fact stated by the President of Aghanistan that wasn’t accurate. Three times she swung her propaganda bat and missed. The NDP’s issue, in their own words, isn’t about the truth...

When McDonough was asked if she could admit that our troops were doing some good down there, she would not do so. I offered her the litmus test of honesty by asking her to tell me how many of the 2 million girls now going to schools in Afghanistan would be attending school if our troops and other NATO forces had not been sacrificing their lives? “Charles you know that is a question that is impossible to answer.” “How about zero, Ms McDonough? That would be a truthful answer.”

She then called my arithmetic ridiculous. What requires public ridicule is the idea that the NDP has even a shred of moral authority on issues involving our military. What’s clear as a bell is that the party has no respect for the military because of their inability to distance themselves for their core pacifist ideology. The NDP refuses to acknowledge that sometimes when bad things happen to people, the only way to stop it is to kill the bad guys, or as General Hillier once called them, the scumbags...
I betcha Alexa likes Joan Baez too--still it's a great song, shivers and all that.

Upperdate: Meanwhile, the Afghan ambassador wants an apology from Dawn Black. Good luck.


David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen reports on the CF's use of a certain security firm for certain types of specialized training. The story gets the main front page headline--why?
Private firm trains Canadian troops
Forces send soldiers to Blackwater outfit under scrutiny for killings in Iraq

The Canadian Forces is [are?] using a controversial private security firm to train some of its troops sent to Afghanistan.

Select Canadian soldiers have been sent to Blackwater U.S.A. in North Carolina for specialized training in bodyguard and shooting skills. Other soldiers have taken counter-terrorism evasive-driving courses with the private military company now at the centre of an investigation into the killings of Iraqi civilians and mounting concerns about the aggressive tactics of its workers in the field.

Critics of Blackwater label the firm as a mercenary organization and question why a professional military such as the Canadian Forces can't do its own training in specialized areas...
Because a small military such as the CF just cannot do everything, Mr Pugliese.
Canadian military police trained by Blackwater operated in Kandahar last year in support of coalition special forces. Members of the Strategic Advisory Team, which operates in Kabul, also underwent counter-terrorism driving training.

The Ottawa-based counter-terrorism unit, Joint Task Force 2, has also maintained ongoing training links to the company. For instance, in February 2000, JTF2 operatives went to the Blackwater skills school at Moyock, North Carolina, while others from the unit's 2 Squadron took shooting courses at Blackwater in October 2000 and enrolled in the firm's tactical shotgun course a month later. More recent data on JTF2's training with Blackwater was not available.

Canadian Forces spokesman Lt.-Col. Jamie Robertson said the military does not discuss its special forces training. But he said that Blackwater and other firms have been contracted to provide services for other units.

"The Canadian Forces has occasionally contracted companies to provide specialized training to our personnel in those cases when specialized training is not available within the Canadian Forces due to a range of factors, including the unavailability of training resources, expertise or specialized facilities and equipment," Lt.-Col. Robertson said. He said the training is adapted to Canadian Forces requirements and procedures.

The Canadian Forces does not use such contractors as advisers or in combat operations.

But Dawn Black, the NDP's defence critic, questioned the need for Blackwater to be involved in training Canadian troops in the first place. "My understanding is we have some of the best-trained forces in the world, and great trainers, so why do we need our armed forces personnel to be trained by a mercenary organization?" Ms. Black said. She said she was also concerned because of allegations regarding the firm's track record in Iraq.
Your understanding is sadly limited, Ms Black. See the part on her in this post of Babbling's. And, to follow her line of thinking, should the CF not train (as they do) with the US military because members of the US forces have been convicted for unlawful killings in Iraq?

Not so Jolly Roger

It's hard dealing with pirates off Somalia:
Fighting between the government and the country's infamous insurgent groups has forced hundreds of thousands of Somalis from their homes, including Mogadishu, the capital. And drought in the countryside has led to one of the poorest harvests in years, forcing aid groups to prepare to feed more than a million people in the coming months.

The best way to deliver the food is by freighter, but for shipping companies, the waters off Somalia are among the most dangerous in the world.

"The pirate situation in Somalia is extremely worrying to us," says Peter Smerdon of the UN's World Food Program (WFP) in Nairobi...

The situation is so dire that, on Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced at the United Nations that France is prepared to send a warship to the region for two months to protect WFP deliveries. And this week a six-vessel North Atlantic Treaty Organization flotilla, including the frigate HMCS Toronto, is patrolling the Somali coast...

The simple solution would seem to be naval protection for the aid's three-day journey from Mombasa to Somalia. But any warships in the area are usually looking for terrorists, not pirates. Last year, crew from the USS Winston S. Churchill captured a gang of Somalis, but the encounter was accidental. More often, naval vessels fail to respond to pleas from ships under attack because of legal issues.

Engaging suspected pirates at sea is not something a country takes lightly. Officials must confirm that a criminal act has been committed in international waters and receive political approval to act, which can take hours. If, in that time, pirates reach the 12-mile limit of Somali territorial waters, foreign vessels cannot follow without permission from Mogadishu, which the government has yet to grant...

Dealing with pirates isn't an official part of the mission, says Lieutenant-Commander Angus Topshee, the ship's executive officer, but the attacks off Somalia are no secret. "The crew is very aware of piracy - we've adopted an unusually high force-protection posture," he says by satellite phone. "Every nation is required under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to repress piracy. ... And I'll be honest: The ship's company would like nothing more than to come across a pirate attack and do something about it."

He, like Mr. Mwangura, realizes pirates know that foreign ships like HMCS Toronto can't enter Somali waters. So, the week of patrolling may just be a dry run for future deployments, something that senior naval officials in several countries seem willing to consider...

It is hoped that, by the time HMCS Toronto and its squadron leave for the Red Sea, a French vessel will be on the scene. But many observers believe that unless there is a forceful, long-term naval presence, the temporary patrols and hand-wringing over legal issues will only embolden the pirates into believing that the West doesn't really care.

"Since the 1990s, I think Somalia has frightened the West, it certainly frightened the Americans, and many countries are just fairly tired of it," says the WFP's Mr. Smerdon. "We're trying to feed people in need, but logistics - delivering food - is not that sexy. There are no blue helmets, no white UN vehicles, no Western troops handing out food to dying people in a war zone. This is nuts-and-bolts work we're doing, but it is among the most vital things the United Nations can do...

Effective Communication

I found this article interesting and worth some further discussion. I met the article's author here in Windsor recently and he agreed to let me repost it here.
Combating the Islamic Terrorist/Insurgency Threat
By: Carl R. Hospedales
Date: May 21, 2007

Having returned from the Sand Box seven months ago, I have been catching up with the North American Counter Terrorism perception of radical Islamic Terrorism. After spending time in-country, I've gained a Mark One Eye Ball perspective, not just a Signal & Electronic Intelligence one that some would call an armchair quarterback perspective. One thing I have learned is, it doesn't matter how expensive, complex or computerized your intelligence sources are, there is no substitute for the Mark One Eye Ball on-the-ground to give you a good insight into what is going on, on the ground. I am surprised and disappointed that some if not all three major parties involved in combating this threat (Government, CT Professionals and Mass Media ) are still not getting it.

What do I mean? I mean effective communication – one of the fundamental forms of conflict resolution – about how we in the Western, non-Islamic world talk about and discuss the Islamic Terrorism/Insurgency organizations and their threat. One should remember that Islamic Terrorism and Insurgency ideology manipulates religious words and ideas to impose its goals on Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, through violence. By discrediting that ideological belief, one of the first and most essential tasks in addressing the root cause can be accomplished. Moderate Muslim/Islamic voices receive little notice in Western media. In other instances, individuals are fearful to speak out too loudly because of the threat from terrorists/insurgents and their supporters. Western society should encourage Muslim political, religious and social leaders to denounce terrorism, and cooperate in defeating terrorist groups and offer alternatives to terrorism that are real, credible and achievable. How quickly we have forgotten the lessons of the past, and are now making the same old mistakes. Remember the phrase "Hearts & Minds"? The British Special Forces used this phrase in the Counter Insurgency Operations in Malaya (1950-58), and Borneo & Brunei in the 60's (1962-66) with good results.

Counter Insurgency COIN Operation 101

In order to defeat the Terrorist/Insurgency organizations and their operations, one of the main goals is the starvation of their manpower – new recruits and converts that supply to these organizations. This is done by communicating with the Islamic communities that these terrorist organizations draw their power and strength from. And it should be achieved in a language the community and culture understand, not in our own language and culture.

We have allowed the media and the subsequent political bandwagon to have their catch phrases, which have become ingrained in the CT vocabulary and dictionary. In reality, some of these words and phrases help legitimize the Islamic Terrorists and Insurgency actions in the eyes of the Islamic world. Here are some examples.

Jihad: To the Terrorist/Insurgency organizations and the popular Media and Politicians of the day the interpretation and meaning is "Holy War". In fact, the correct literal translation means "Striving". Within the Islamic/Muslim context "Jihad fi sabil illah" translates as "Striving in the path of God". This basic principle of the Islamic religion and the goal of all Muslims is similar to principles of a Christianity's Ten Commandments. An example of this can be a Muslim working in an office or at home conducting their life in God's name. Therefore, for Western society using "Jihad / Jihadist" or any other religious term to describe Terrorists/Insurgency operations and their actions only helps to legitimize an ideology within the Islamic society that CT professionals seek to defeat. Therefore, it should be removed from the CT vocabulary completely.

Mujahideen: "One who participates in Jihad." This designates one's activity as against the enemy of the Islamic Jihad.

Al Qaeda's Caliphate: "Successor" This does not mean a re-establishment of any historical regime, but a Global Totalitarian State. A good example of such a State would be the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Allah: "Arabic for God." This is a name that is not specific to Muslims. Arabic speaking Jews and Christians use this word as well. All three religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, identify God/Allah as the God of Abraham, but they do not share the identical concept of God/Allah.

Words that should be incorporated into the Anti & Counter Terrorist vocabulary and subsequent dictionary are:

Hirabah: Hirabah is derived from the Arabic referring to war/combat means, sinful warfare, or warfare contrary to Islamic Law, and should be applied when describing Terrorist/Insurgency organizations as "Global Hirabah" and NOT "Global Jihad".

Mufsid / Mufsidun: Meaning an evil/corrupt person. The specifics of this denotation of corruption carry enormous weight in most of the Islamic world. So we should describe the Terrorist/Insurgency organizations as "Mufsidun" and not as "Jihadist".

Fitna: Literally means temptation or trial, but has become a reference to the discord and strife amongst Muslims. This best describes what is currently going on in Iraq today.

Fattan: A fattan is a tempter or subversive. Applying this term to Terrorist/Insurgency organisations condemns their activities as divisive and harmful, and also identifies them with movements and individuals with negative reputations in Islamic history, such as the Assassins of Caliph Utham in 656 AD.

How we in Western societies speak and think about Islamic Terrorism/Insurgency will shape its eventual conclusion. Only by using the correct vocabulary, instead of the current incorrect vocabulary popularized by the media/political bandwagon, can we bridge the division of difference between both societies, and thereby divide, weaken, and defeat the Islamic Terrorist/Insurgence Organizations' Threat.

Carl's career spans 26 years in the Military, Aviation, and Law Enforcement Specialist group of occupations. This includes service in the British Armed Forces (1979 - 2001) and currently sits on the Michigan Tactical Officers Association Executive Board as Training Director.

Throughout his career, Carl has placed a special focus on anti-terrorism procedures, training and operations. He has operated in important theatres like, Europe, Balkans, the Middle and Far East, the United States, and Canada.

Carl is a member of the International Counter Terrorism Officers Association, International Association for Counter Terrorism & Security Professionals, International Law Enforcement Educators & Trainers, National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, Canadian General Standard Board on Personal Body Armour Committee, International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors, and he is an Associate Member of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Friday, September 28, 2007

How to use the federal surplus

That $14.2 billion might go a bit of the way towards meeting to last October's goals of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence:
We conclude that, while the current federal government has promised to purchase several pieces of military equipment, neither the scope or the pace of its military program are adequate to meet the threats Canadians are likely to face in the coming decade. The projected budget of $20 billion by 2012 will come up at least $5 billion short, and more probably $15 billion short...
Use some of the shudder-making surplus to fund some things the Canadian Forces need. Just to mention aircraft: maritime patrol; UAVs; fixed-wing search and rescue.

Besides which the Army's LAV IIIs, Bisons and M113s in Afstan are being used up much more rapidly than otherwise. Naval thought: the Big Honking Ship. One dreams on. Then there are new icebreakers the Canadian Coast Guard desperately needs (think Northwest Passage).

More here--note the comparative defence spendings per capita. Take this Steve Staples.

And what will happen to the defence budget if the government loses the next election, and in any event once the Afghan mission is basically over?

The points here on Army equipment and future budget matters were inspired by attending today "Beyond Afghanistan: Canadian security and defence priorities in light of – and in spite of – the Afghan commitment", the annual conference of the Security and Defence Forum (SDF) Centres.

Griffons and politics

Further to Mark's piece below, I think a few things need to be said about Senator Kenny's piece in the Citizen.

First of all, the comments of Loachman over at have been echoed by a correspondent of mine in the Tac Hel community:

Loachman is bang on, obviously one of my colleagues, though not sure if he's at my squadron. For shits and giggles... I looked at the charts he's mentioning to see what we could lift. We'd be quite limited... there is no way we could carry ten troops, we can't even do that in Canada without door guns.

So much for the idea of using Griffons for troop transport. Which isn't to say they couldn't have any use over there - say, in a Close Combat Attack (CCA) role, using the C6 for offensive rather than defensive purposes. But that's a discussion for another post.

Secondly, there's some question about the wisdom of using more choppers in COIN ops rather than less. Bruce at Flit pointed out an interesting paper the other day, one that draws a correlation between the level of mechanization of a military, and its chances of success in a COIN campaign. The use of both helicopters and armoured vehicles was said to negatively affect the ability of a military to develop the HUMINT required to effectively fight a counterinsurgency campaign:

As Figures 2 and 3 demonstrate, increased levels of mechanization are associated with diminished incumbent success in counterinsurgency warfare. Countries with no main battle tanks in their stockpiles managed to win or draw 61% of their wars, while countries with one thousand or more tanks won or tied only 35%, a statistically significant difference. The impact of helicopters is even more profound: countries that did not employ helicopters on the battlefield won or tied 70.3% of their wars, compared to only 43.5% of those that used heliborne assaults. The win/loss rates are even more dramatic: helicopter-capable states won only 9% of their wars, compared with nearly 38% for those without helicopters. These differences are also statistically significant.

While I would like to delve deeper into the framework of the study before conceding the conclusions the authors draw, the issue of force structure and mechanization in COIN warfare is controversial enough within professional military circles that some serious thought should be given to whether we want to further mechanize in our Kandahar efforts, even with the obvious force-protection benefits.

For these reasons, I think Senator Kenny's suggestion to deploy Griffons to Afghanistan as means of avoiding death and injury to our troops by IED isn't a realistic solution.

But I have no doubt he's making that misguided suggestion in good faith. Which is why Peter MacKay should be ashamed of himself. It's said that the liar's tragedy is that he can never believe anyone else; I wonder if a one politician can ever accept that another might not be speaking out of pure partisanship? I often disagree with Senator Kenny's conclusions, but it's plain to me that he's one of the few politicians in Ottawa willing to criticize his own party as well as his opponents when it comes to the CF. For this he should be applauded, not subjected to a cheap political attack.

I have no problem with MacKay telling the world that Kenny is wrong about the Griffons - I think the senator is wrong too. But our MND should know better than to accuse the least partisan parliamentarian on the issue of national defence of political spin on this topic.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

All choppers: Griffons for Afstan?

Sen. Colin Kenny says we should deploy CH-146 Griffons to support the soldiers in Afstan in a transport role in order to avoid IEDs. A response to the suggestion is here.

Ongoing problems with Cormorants

Dear oh dear:
It will take years to fix a serious problem with Canada’s main search-and-rescue helicopter, say documents obtained by The Canadian Press.

Cracks in the hub assemblies of the CH-149 Cormorant’s tail rotors have led to flight restrictions on the 14 choppers, which often perform life-saving operations off the east and west coasts.

Defence Department documents, obtained under access to information laws, say a critical part is being re-engineered "under a high priority, but (is) still several years away" from a complete solution.

A Powerpoint presentation, dated October 2005, suggested the problem wouldn’t be solved for up to six years.

It is unclear how much the redesign will cost, if it will be covered by warranty, or whether taxpayers will foot the bill. Much of the information on cost overruns and maintenance is considered proprietary by the aircraft manufacturer and the company contracted to do maintenance, say defence experts.

The defect, combined with a shortage of spare parts and recently discovered corrosion problems, are a source of frustration for the new chief of air staff.

Lt.-Gen Angus Watt said the ongoing issues with the Cormorants have not affected search-and-rescue missions, but they continue to limit the number of aircraft available for ongoing training of crews.

"I need nine serviceable Cormorants every day . . . out of the fleet we have and I have yet to achieve that," Watt said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.

"It’s getting better, but it’s not where I would like it."

Watt said the ongoing maintenance issues have meant he can only field six or seven rescue helicopters a day. Other helicopters in the air force inventory often make up the slack.

The redesign of the crucial part is "taking much longer than I would like," Watt added.

The Italian-made Cormorant helicopters are a relatively new addition to the search and rescue fleet, introduced in 2000 — at a cost of $779 million — to replace the 1960s-era Labrador helicopters...

...there’s been a chronic shortage of parts because the relatively new aircraft are burning through spares at an unexpectedly high rate. In July 2006, a Cormorant taking part in a search-and-rescue exercise with a Coast Guard auxiliary boat, crashed into the ocean off Canso, killing three crewmembers. A preliminary flight safety investigation ruled out the tail rotor as the cause of the accident, but has yet to assigned blame.

In signing an extended maintenance contract with Halifax-based IMP Aerospace a few weeks ago, new Defence Minister Peter MacKay praised the helicopters as reliable.

"They have proven their worth over and over again; I would say (they) are worth their weight in gold," MacKay said the announcement for the seven-year $591 million agreement.
One just hopes the Cyclone acquisition goes better and the first delivery is made on schedule in January, 2009. Remember, the CH-148 is a new aircraft, originally designed for civilian use. Canada is the launch customer of the naval version and the only purchaser of it so far as I can find.

Dealing with IEDs

The third type of specialized vehicles we are acquiring makes its appearance in Afstan:
The deadliest war within the war in Afghanistan entered a new era yesterday as Canadian combat engineers tried out, for the first time, some high-tech devices designed to keep Taliban improvised explosive devices from killing Canadians.

A South African-made Husky mine detection vehicle, which looks like an awkward road grader with wheeled extensions trailing behind to detonate buried explosives, was put through its paces on a dusty field near the Kandahar airfield...

The Husky, which has four wheels set far apart, with the driver riding high in the middle on an armoured, V-shaped hull, is designed to work in concert with two other huge vehicles. One, called the Buffalo, will be equipped with a long robot arm to defuse, disable or detonate whatever is found hidden in the ground. The second, known as a Cougar, will carry explosives experts, robots and electronic suppression devices.

The vehicles, originally designed for the U.S. army to counter IEDs in Iraq, are used to "prove" -- or drive over -- roads most often used by Canadian patrols and convoys "to make them safe for the boys on suspicious roads," Capt. Holsworth said.

The military quietly announced in May that it would purchase the specialized anti-IED vehicles from the U.S. military for close to $30 million, with the first of the vehicles expected to arrive in the fall. In all, there will be six complete multi-vehicle suites: four of them expected to be fully operational here by the end of the year and two more deployed in Canada for training purposes. Some Husky vehicles may be on the road sooner...

"The best thing about the Husky is that it is simple," Sgt. Jean-François De Wolfe said. "That is the way it is designed. It is all the training that we get that makes this a winner."

Sgt. De Wolfe added that he considered the Husky to be "the best vehicle there is against explosions. It's like you step on every inch of the ground."..
Canada is buying 16 vehicles, including six Huskies, at a cost of $29.6-million. Two of the Huskies will remain in Canada for training purposes, while the rest will be deployed in Afghanistan.

The U.S.-built Buffalo has an arm used to dig out IEDs while the crew remains inside the heavily armoured vehicle.

The Cougar is equipped to disable and destroy roadside bombs.

The Buffaloes and Cougars will arrive at a later date.

It has not been decided whether the Huskies will immediately begin to accompany Canadian convoys or will be deployed when the other armoured vehicles arrive.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

President Karzai's speech to Parliament and CF involvement

A comment thread at

A400M: You've been reading it here

One wonders if any of our media's writers on defence matters will report this (just noticed, h/t to Retired AF Guy at
France's new defence minister predicted a delay in the A400M airlifter in another blow for planemaker Airbus, and criticised costly projects to build over-sophisticated weapons when cheaper ones would do.

Herve Morin's remarks, in an interview with newspaper La Tribune published on Monday, reflect growing fears that deliveries of the A400M will be hit by a flaw in its turboprop engines.

"There is a slight delay. It will reach our forces several months later than planned," Morin, who was appointed in May, told La Tribune.

The newspaper quoted unidentified sources as saying French procurement agency DGA expected the A400M to enter service as much as six to nine months behind an end-2009 target date.

France is the first customer for the tactical airlifter being developed for seven European nations as well as for export...

It is not yet clear whether the production delays will hit deliveries, which determine the timing of revenue payments to Airbus, already facing a cash squeeze due to civil jet delays.


The chief executive of Airbus parent EADS (EAD.PA: Quote, Profile, Research), Louis Gallois, told Reuters last month such delays were "probable".

Under pressure to minimise disruption, Airbus has started a detailed review of the A400M programme and is expected to make a final decision on delivery delays before the end of the year.

Industry officials blame a flaw related to the engines, which feature the world's largest aircraft propellers...
The new French government seems refreshingly realistic.

Update: More details on what the delay may mean (full text subscriber only):
Delivery of the first flight-test TP400 engine will now be nearly a solid year behind schedule at best, and the effects of this delay are starting to reverberate throughout the European A400M airlifter program. At least a half-dozen of the Airbus Military transports are expected to be handed over late.

The Europrop TP400-D6 had originally been due in November 2006 at Marshall Aerospace, with flight testing to begin in early 2007. That U.K. facility is modifying a Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules for the role...

...The A400M contract is a fixed-price commercial pact with delay penalty clauses. A late hand-over of aircraft could increase the financial risk for Airbus-parent EADS and its partners.

A government program official indicates that at least five A400Ms will not be completed on time. A senior German air force officer notes that they’ve been told the first seven A400Ms will not meet the present schedule.

Although Germany deliveries aren’t affected as yet, the military is preparing for that contingency, the officer says...

Moreover, when the first A400M is delivered, the government official indicates, the story will still not be over. The first aircraft will not meet government requirements and will have to be returned to industry for rework, he suggests.

Concerns have been mounting for months about the serious schedule slippage, although, so far, only one contractual milestone—the start of final assembly—has been missed...


It's often said that the key to counterinsurgency warfare (COIN) is winning the hearts and minds of the local population. If that's true, then here's another sign ISAF and the Afghan government are winning in Kandahar:

Two days of fighting have bloodied Canadian troops west of Kandahar city, but after the intense battles several local officials and villagers say they now believe the Taliban lack the strength they enjoyed in their heartland last year. [Babbler's bold]

What the ordinary residents of Kandahar province believe is of huge importance to us. And it goes to show that now is not the time to falter, or even to waver in our resolve to see this mission through.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

You're willing to play chicken with the future of millions of Afghans for the sake of a test?

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion says Canada should end its combat role in Afghanistan in 2009 even if no other NATO country is prepared to step in.

"We need to know if NATO works," he told The Globe and Mail's editorial board yesterday. "Because otherwise other countries will be more and more reluctant to take any responsibility, because they will be afraid to be there forever."

Talk about giving primacy of place to the truly peripheral. I'm beginning to believe this man is educated far beyond his intelligence. Stephane Dion hereby fails one of the fundamentals of leadership: the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

When it comes to Afghanistan, the main thing isn't creating a false crisis to determine whether NATO is effective or dysfunctional, it's bringing Afghanistan into the community of nations as a positive and productive contributor, in order to enhance the security of all.

That I should even have to explain this to a man who wishes to become Prime Minister of our country is astonishing to me, and troubling to the extreme.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

For Valour

Another Canadian soldier will be decorated for valour, and a number of his comrades will receive Meritorious Service decorations:

Sergeant Derek John Scott Fawcett, M.M.V., C.D.
Meaford and Ottawa, Ontario
Medal of Military Valour

On September 3, 2006, while serving with Charles Company, 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group, in Afghanistan, Sergeant Fawcett demonstrated great valour during an intense firefight in which one Canadian soldier was killed and others were wounded. Continuously exposed to intense enemy fire, Sergeant Fawcett repeatedly crossed open terrain to lead the evacuation of casualties back to the designated collection point. Realizing that much of the Company’s senior leaders had been wounded, he took charge of a subsequent mass casualty evacuation. His actions and professionalism in combat saved the lives of his fellow soldiers and inspired those around him.

BZ to Sgt Fawcett, and to the following recipients of Meritorious Service decorations:

Lieutenant-Colonel Simon Charles Hetherington, M.S.C., C.D.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Marc Lanthier, M.S.C., C.D.

Brigadier-General Donald Joseph Quenneville, M.S.C.


Master Warrant Officer John Gerard Barnes, M.S.M., C.D.

Chief Warrant Officer Stephen Stanley Bartlett, M.S.M., C.D.

Major J.M. François Bisaillon, M.S.M., C.D.

Lieutenant-Colonel Shane Anthony Brennan, M.S.M., C.D.

Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Claude Caron, M.M.M., M.S.M., C.D.

Lieutenant-Colonel John David Conrad, M.S.M., C.D.

Major Mark Anthony Gasparotto, M.S.M.

Commander Darren Carl Hawco, M.S.M., C.D.

Master Corporal Lance Thomas Hooper, M.S.M., C.D.

Major Gregory Wayne Ivey, M.S.M., C.D.

Lieutenant-Colonel Colin Roy Keiver, M.S.M., C.D.

Colonel Frederick A. Lewis, M.S.M., C.D.

Major Andrew John Lussier, M.S.M., C.D.

Captain Steven Kelly MacBeth, M.S.M., C.D.

Master Warrant Officer Bradley William John Montgomery, M.S.M., C.D.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Anthony Patterson, M.S.M., C.D.

Captain Anthony Peter Robb, M.S.M.

Corporal Jean-Paul Somerset, M.S.M.

Lieutenant-Colonel Barry Marshall Southern, M.S.M., C.D.

Major Matthew Bruce Sprague, M.S.M., C.D.

Major Michael Charles Wright, M.M.V., M.S.M., C.D.


I wish I could get every single Canadian who argues we're fighting an imperialist war for George Bush and Haliburton in Afghanistan to listen to ordinary Afghans on the issue:

"What is the point of sending your army to Afghanistan if it isn't going to fight?" demands Muhammad Noor Sahak, director of the OMAR war museum and a graduate student in Pushtun literature.

"Given Afghanistan's famous warrior culture, most Afghans like ISAF, but they will only continue liking ISAF if they think it is making their lives more secure. And the only way to do that is to fight. If ISAF fails, the Russians, who don't want NATO here, could interfere. So will Iran. Pakistan is already interfering."


"I don't like ISAF. I love them. They are good people," Balyaly, a 22-year-old carpet salesman, said.

Using a variety of obscene hand gestures, Balyaly, who, like many Afghans, uses only one name, denounces the Taliban as "very dirty." He seemed genuinely shocked that Canada is considering withdrawing its 2,500 troops from the volatile south of Afghanistan and that the Netherlands is contemplating a similar pullout.


"Our whole country profits from the gifts of ISAF," Mr. Subur says. "If they leave, we all know the Taliban will come back and the Afghan people will have trouble again."


"They are not like the Russians who tried to take our whole country," Mr. Fahim said. "ISAF comes to fight beside us, not against us. It is much better for us if they stay."

They're asking for our help. That's all they want: a hand up. It baffles me why so many Canadians want to deny them that.


It looks like the charlie-foxtrot banning the CF from a job-fair at UVic has been broken up, at least for the time being:

Today was a victory for democracy and freedom of choice. In an overwhelming display of disapproval for the UVic Student Society board of directors' paternalistic and elitist attitude toward the student body, we packed over 100 students into the upper lounge of the Student Union Building (SUB) for the UVSS meeting. Many spoke of their frustration over the motion passed earlier this month, students abhorred by the decision of the board to give in to the demands of a small faction of the student body who wished to "send a message to the military" by banning them from recruiting in our SUB and condemning our men and women in uniform as "war criminals" on nothing but allegation.

At the beginning of tonight's meeting, a motion was added to the agenda to put the matter of the ban to a student body-wide referendum at the annual general meeting, a movement which was passed. What ensued was more than 2 hours of speeches from students, both for and against overturning the motion from earlier this month to ban the Canadian Forces, though admittedly, we outnumbered the UVic Students Against War (SAW) group by an extremely wide margin.

The SAW crowd claimed that they were not suppressing freedom of speech or freedom of choice. They brought forth their usual tirades about "imperialism", "militarism of Canadian society", "allegations of torture", etc, which they felt justified them in campaigning to the board on September 10th, even without a representative of the military present to defend the CF. One anti-war activist stood up and accused us of attempting to intimidate them by organizing and rallying our numbers to the meeting, saying that in fact it was US who were in the minority. I sincerely doubt that. They had just as much warning about the meeting as we did, organized appropriately, and brought out everyone who supported their argument. It just so happened we did the same thing and brought nearly ten times their numbers. One of them even played the race card, denouncing our side as "mostly white" privileged and upper-class students. When one member of our side, a student-soldier who had served seven months in Afghanistan, spoke of the merits of the Canadian Forces' work in that country as well as emergency responses in crises at home, the minute SAW crowd interrupted with cries of "whatever!" "bullshit!" and "shut up!"

The motion to overturn the ban until the vote at the AGM was carried easily. Most of the board members who voted in favour of the ban abstained, while the remaining directors unanimously voted to overturn it.

Now they just have to make sure the vote at the AGM goes the right way. But given what Graham Noyes and his friends at UVic have been able to accomplish so far, I figure the chances are good.

Bravo Zulu!

No Afstan April Fool

Foreign affairs minister MacKay supplies, at last, a firm timeline for a decision on the future of the Canadian mission:
Canada will advise NATO whether it will extend its combat mission in southern Afghanistan by April of next year, Defence Minister Peter MacKay says...

"There is a NATO meeting in April, 2008," Mr. MacKay said in Orleans, an Ottawa suburb. "It will be necessary to communicate a final decision before that meeting."..
So, unless the Conservatives win an election in the meantime, or enough opposition members (Liberals?) vote against their party to support the government--most unlikely, our combat role will end in February 2009.

What if we do quit? Richard Gwyn of the Toronto Star (surprise!) provides an excellent analysis of the consequences of such a decision, and of a foolish reason to oppose the mission:
...noteworthy is the fact that one principal reason why many Canadians today oppose our involvement in Afghanistan will have vanished by the February departure date.

By then, George W. Bush will no longer be president of the United States. Ever-increasing media attention to the U.S. presidential contest will cause more and more Canadians to realize global power decisions will soon be made by someone else – perhaps by a President Hillary Clinton, but certainly not Bush.

Though it's relatively easy to argue that it's best for us to leave Afghanistan, it's difficult, if not impossible, to argue that our doing so would leave Afghans better off...

If we go, it's virtually certain the Dutch will go. If the Dutch go, the Australians have already said they will go.

In the words of a spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that has "consequences for the whole alliance and for the whole western world."

The solution of course would be a real contribution – a fighting one – by the major NATO nations like Germany, France, Spain and Italy.

A precondition for that solution to be possible would be for Canada to stay. No less so a precondition for Canada to stay would have to be for those nations, at last, to make serious contributions.

It's not about cutting and running. It's about standing back – we've more than contributed our share – and then watching, as the gap we'll leave behind turns into a huge hole into which the entire country eventually tumbles...
But I still can't accept the notion that we pick up our marbles and quit if more players don't join in. If the goal is worth achieving it's worth continuing unless our situation gets much worse and no realistic hope of achieving our goal remains at any reasonable cost.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Afstan jaw-jaw?

I think the Senlis Council is being rather over-optimistic concerning prospects at this time (and concerning the attitude of our opposition parties), especially in terms of Canada's taking a lead role that could produce rapid results. But the heart is in the right place regarding troops.
Canada is throwing away an opportunity to help Afghan President Hamid Karzai fracture the Taliban by not actively supporting his repeated peace overtures to moderate insurgents, an international think-tank charged Monday.

The Senlis Council, a European-based agency that's conducted extensive research in war-torn southern Afghanistan, says the appeal to less-dogmatic Taliban has a good chance of succeeding if NATO countries throw their full support behind it.

Norine MacDonald, a Vancouver lawyer and council president, says separating hard-core Islamic fundamentalists and Al-Qaeda supporters from moderates would weaken the insurgency and reduce its offensive capacity.

It's time for Canada to take the diplomatic lead and step out from the shadow of U.S. foreign policy, she said...

This so called fast track for peace and stability should also include keeping Canadian troops in Afghanistan past the February 2009 deadline and opposition to a U.S. demand that opium poppies be eradicated with aerial spraying...

MacDonald said she believes the opposition has "shown some willingness to fall in line behind a proper, well thought out plan."..

Bloc Quebecois defence critic Claude Bachand, who attended the Senlis conference, says it's already too late to salvage the current Canadian mission politically...
Publicly taking the diplomatic lead is rather easier said than done; quiet backroom work with the Afghan government and NATO allies would be more to the point at this time, to explore what in reality might be achieved by "negotiations" and with whom. And any efforts to negotiate either around or behind the government would be deeply mistaken.

Update: This is the sort of realism about which the Canadian government should be speaking (and acting on in concert with allies rather than trying to take some sort of grandstanding "lead"; it's all in the air anyway):
The Taliban will need to be involved in the peace process in Afghanistan at some point and it may not be possible to establish a Western-style legal system there [imagine a Canadian politician being so frank], the [UK] defense secretary said Monday...

In Kabul, Karzai recently reiterated his long-held willingness to engage the Taliban diplomatically.

A Taliban spokesman originally signaled that the hardline militia might consider that. But the group's leadership has since said the U.S. military and NATO must first leave the country and that a harsh brand of Islamic law must prevail in Afghanistan--conditions the West will not accept.
Nor, it should be added, the majority of Afghans.

Upperdate: This is part of the Senlis Council news release that the CP story excerpted above did not mention. Hmm. No wonder Canadians are ill-informed about Afghanistan.
MacDonald also called on more NATO countries to take the burden off Canadian soldiers [emphasis added] currently fighting in Kandahar. “It is imperative that NATO has more troops on the ground in the south to secure a decisive military victory [emphasis added],” she said. “This would reduce the need for bombing campaigns, which are causing enormous suffering and turning the local population against us.

“The lack of a sufficient NATO deployment means that the military do not have the troops necessary to hold territory. Often, when they move on to another hot spot, the Taliban simply return to areas already cleared, meaning our troops are having to go back and fight over and over again for the same territory,” said MacDonald.

2007 Ross Munro Media Award

We speculated, and as it turns out, we were pretty much on target.

From an e-mail:

The Conference of Defence Associations (CDA), in concert with the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI), is pleased to announce that Matthew Fisher has been chosen as the recipient of the 2007 Ross Munro Media Award.


Matthew Fisher was born and raised in northwestern Ontario and in Ottawa, the son of parents who both served with Canadian forces in Europe during the Second World War. He is presently the Middle East correspondent for CanWest News and is currently on his 12th trip to Afghanistan. Mr. Fisher previously worked for the Globe and Mail and the Sun Media newspaper group. He has worked abroad for 23 years, traveling to 153 countries and has reported on every Canadian Forces mission overseas since the mid-80s. He has reported on 14 wars including Chechnya and both Gulf wars and was the only Canadian to be embedded with a combat unit during the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq - a Marine recon outfit that was involved in several major battles. He has returned to the war in Iraq six times since then.

The Ross Munro Media Award Selection Committee unanimously singled out Matthew Fisher from the other candidates based on “his superb battlefront coverage that has for years enlightened Canadians about the world they—and their servicemen and women—inhabit. He is a brave warrior in his profession, whose reporting has been a model for others. We acknowledge, as well, the high esteem he has earned amongst the elite of his professional peers.”

Congratulations to Mr. Fisher.

Institution of higher what?

Read this, but be sure to pop a Gravol or two first, lest the nausea overcome you (ht:sda):

The Canadian Armed Forces are banned from recruiting in the Student Union Building (SUB).


The ban voted in on Sept. 10 means that the Canadian Armed Forces will be unable to attend the annual recruiting fair put on by UVic’s Career Services in the SUB every January. The Armed Forces attended last year’s recruiting fair.


Director-at-large Christine Comrie said it was important to ban the military from recruiting because some students are ignorant about the issues.

“A lot of students don’t know about the issues and don’t know about the facts,” she said. “We have to make this decision for students.”

Ignorance and arrogance, a dangerous mix on display here.

A few of the comments over at are worth noting: that nobody seems to be banning private firms that support the CF, that another Student Union director who wasn't at the first meeting is introducing a motion to rescind this idiocy, and finally, that maybe the best course of action is to simply not hold the career fair at the Student Union Building.

This whole episode reminds me of a line I once heard, although I can't seem to recall where or when: "Why are school politics so heated and vicious? Because there's so little on the line."

Update: More silliness on evidence at Quebec schools:

Depuis l’hiver 2006, le cégep du Vieux-Montréal ainsi que le cégep Saint-Laurent ne reçoivent plus la visite des Forces canadiennes (F.C.) depuis que des étudiants ont manifesté leur opposition, directement en face des kiosques de l'armée. Au cégep Marie-Victorin, un recours au Conseil d'administration de l’établissement a permis aux étudiants contestataires de faire plier boutique aux recruteurs.

Ces faits se retrouvent en page de présentation d’une opération de démilitarisation qui a vu le jour fin août. Menée par une association anti-guerre – le Centre des ressources sur la non-violence (CRNV) ¸– l' « opération objection » vise l'opposition au recrutement militaire dans les établissements scolaires.

Alexandre Vidal, du CRNV, est le meneur du volet québécois de cette opération qui se veut pancanadienne. Selon l’ancien étudiant du cégep Lévis-Lauzon, la démarche de l’armée constitue une propagande inappropriée qui doit cesser.« Nous n'avons peut-être pas autant de moyens financiers que l'armée, mais nous sommes tout de même en mesure de dénoncer leurs mensonges et d'entreprendre des moyens pour faire de nos écoles des zones démilitarisées », soutient M. Vidal. Le pacifiste perçoit ces kiosques comme une forme de publicité « malsaine et subjective » exercée auprès des étudiants; une façon de les charmer en proposant le remboursement de leurs études et la subvention de leur baccalauréat.

Once again, the CF is accused of lying to potential recruits, and this monstrous proposition is used to justify banning CF recruiters from speaking with students on campus. I like the way Maj Guy Paquin refutes the charge, though:

De telles allégations sont clairement réfutées par le major Guy Paquin. Commandant du centre de recrutement des forces canadiennes à Montréal, il assure que ces kiosques n’ont rien de vicieux, mais qu’au contraire, ils existent à titre informatif, pour les curieux. Selon le major Paquin, informer faussement les étudiants lors de leur passage à l'un des kiosques ne procurerait que des désavantages. « Les coûts d'un processus de recrutement sont élevés et très longs. L'armée ne désire perdre ni temps ni argent auprès d'intéressés mal informés », expose-t-il. D'ailleurs, explique le commandant, quiconque désire abandonner le processus d'embauche à n'importe quel moment lors de son adhésion aux Forces est invité à le faire.

For those whose french isn't up to the task, roughly translated, Paquin says "It costs a lot of money and time to recruit people to the CF. We have no desire to waste that time and money on misinformation." And as he also notes, if you feel you've been misled in your initial training, you can bail out (voluntary release).

Recasting CF recruiters as the "Child Catcher" from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and adult students as the helpless waifs walking unknowingly into a cage, is such a grotesque twisting of reality, it should need no rebuttal.

Unfortunately, it does.

Kustom Kopters

On July 16 then MND O'Connor said he expected contracts for CH-47 Chinooks (and for C-130J Hercules--still not done) to be signed in a "couple of months". Now this. One hopes a Conservative government will still be in office when a contract is finally ready for signature and that the aircraft will still be needed in Afstan when they become operational--a point on which I'm sure the opposition parties will jump (not that one wants our troops there any longer than necessary). Is the best the enemy of the good?
Canada's air force wants to upgrade the design of its planned CH-47 Chinook battlefield helicopter and is offering Boeing a limited contract to construct a couple of prototype aircraft, defence sources say.

The Chief of Air Staff, Lieutenant-General Angus Watt, confirmed project staff have asked for changes, but would not discuss the specifics of the negotiations under way with the Chicago-based aircraft giant.

He said he's confident the continuing talks and the redesign will not affect the delivery date of the 16 medium-lift helicopters, which the army has identified as essential in getting Canadian troops off the bomb-strewn roads of southern Afghanistan.

But air force observers are worried the request, made earlier this year, will knock the project off schedule, pushing the arrival of the aircraft out past 2011.

Much like vehicles coming off the assembly line, helicopters can come with a variety of different features and Lt.-Gen. Watt compared the impending $4.7-billion purchase to buying a pickup truck or SUV.

"We don't want a basic truck," he said in an interview. "Because we have a relatively small fleet without all of the additional bells and whistles and extra capabilities, we want that fleet to be more than a basic truck so it can do those missions in a little more demanding circumstances."

One of the most important upgrades the air force wants to see is better armour and weapons so the choppers can perform casualty evacuation.

Canadian troops wounded in battle in Afghanistan are currently airlifted to hospital in specially outfitted U.S. Blackhawks. The modifications being requested would not upgrade the Chinooks to a full Medevac role, which would require the installation of a suite of life-saving equipment, but would allow for the timely airlift of most wounded soldiers.

Lt.-Gen. Watt said there are other design changes meant to allow the Chinooks to operate in bad weather and fly over vast distances - necessary features if the aircraft are to be useful to the army in the Arctic during the summer. The air force also wants the CH-47 to act as a backup search-and-rescue helicopter for the sometimes troubled Cormorant.

When the medium-lift helicopter program was announced, former defence minister Gordon O'Connor said he expected delivery of the first aircraft in 2010 or 36 months after a contract was signed.

Yet, over a year after the Conservative government invoked an advanced contract award notice, citing national security and Boeing as the only company capable of delivering the required aircraft, it has yet to strike a formal contract. The delay, coupled with the possibility Canada's combat role in Afghanistan could end in February, 2009, has military experts nervous and wondering about the future of the program.

Alex Morrison, president of the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies, said it's possible to analyze a program to death.

"I think they have to very quickly settle on what they want," Mr. Morrison said. "My strategic concern is that if we do leave Afghanistan, if we stop engaging in combat in Afghanistan at the end of February, 2009, and contracts aren't signed, there's an awful temptation to say, 'We don't need these things.' " Air force planners say 16 helicopters are the minimum needed to do the job required, but documents released by the project office suggest the fleet size could eventually grow to 35 [where will the money come from? Maritime patrol? UAVs? Fixed-wing SAR?].

Defence sources said that offering Boeing a so-called risk-reduction contract to build a couple of helicopters to Canadian specifications would be a way to move the project forward.

Lt.-Gen. Watt said planners are "looking at all possibilities," but they're confident they can meet the stringent guidelines demanded when you fast track a contract."
Here's a comment thread at

Chechens in Afstan

Matthew Fisher of the Ottawa Citizen appears not to realize that his story excerpted below is essentially amplifying this June 14 story in the Citizen:
The toughest fighters confronting Canada's Van Doos in Afghanistan are not Afghans, but guerrillas from the volatile Russian republic of Chechnya.

That is the conclusion of a veteran Canadian infantryman who spends most of his time deployed in the Panjwaii/Zahri districts establishing relationships with tribal elders and making security assessments.

"The Chechens are hard core. They are the best we face," said the soldier, a Montrealer who works in a secretive cell devoted to what the Canadian battle group calls Information Operations and what other armies call information warfare.

"We're dealing with all kinds of insurgents. With Chechens, Egyptians, Saudis, Pakistanis, guys from the Yemen. It isn't one group more than the next." Asked whether he had encountered foreigners on the battlefield, the sergeant, a veteran of six previous Canadian overseas missions who was only allowed to give his name as Pete, replied with a grin and classic military jargon: "I have not interacted verbally with them."

The trend toward more foreign fighters here was confirmed by Brig.- Gen. Marquis Hainse, Canada's top-ranking soldier in Afghanistan and deputy commander for NATO in what is its main combat theatre, Sector South.

"We see an increase in foreign fighters," the general, who has been based in Kandahar since May, said, although he cautioned that there were not huge numbers of them.

"This may be because less people from Afghanistan are joining the fight. They are not getting the numbers they need here. They are not regenerating forces. What is their pool? It is not extremists, but people who feel they don't have a choice. And that pool is reducing."

In separate interviews, the general and the Information Operations sergeant also noted what they regard as growing resistance on the part of Afghans to hosting foreign guerrilla fighters...
The amplification is useful though.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Afstan: Strategy and negotiations

A thoughtful piece in the Ottawa Citizen; I agree with the conclusion; but I think the bit about "no negotiation" being possible is rather a straw man as clearly some sort of negotiations with some elements of the Taliban will take place--it's not an all or nothing proposition. And clearly foreign troops will be withdrawn in any case if and as the situation improves; nobody just wants to stay there:
The choice that faces Canada may come down to whether serious negotiations with some important elements of the Taliban are possible or not. If there is some glimmer of hope that the Taliban, or even some of its factions, may be considering a negotiated alternative, then withdrawal from the combat role may be the worst tactic at this time. If Canada is convinced that no negotiation is possible, then abandoning Afghanistan to its fate may be a sensible option -- although there are no guarantees that it will not again be used as a base for terrorist attacks against the West, thereby requiring us to go back later at even higher cost than today.

But between these two extremes may be a third option, which would be to accept that the February 2009 deadline is an arbitrary one that is relevant to Canadian politics but not to the situation in Afghanistan [emphasis added]. Instead of focusing almost entirely on political issues in Canada, the leaders of all our parties might do well to ask why we are in Afghanistan in the first place and what interests there would be served by a debate that frames the issues around a requirement that we decide today whether we either totally withdraw from or stay in the combat role over a year from now. The training of the Afghan National Army continues and we simply do not know where negotiations with the Taliban, or elements of the Taliban, may be in early 2009.

Perhaps a wiser course would be for Canada and NATO to hold out the prospect of phased withdrawal of combat forces as the situation improves. That may provide an incentive to the Taliban, or its moderate elements.

Peter Jones is associate professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.
Update: Susan Riley, a Citizen columnist who really does seem to think that PM Harper is a clone of President Bush, inadvertently (I am sure) identifies the sheer absurdity of opposition posturing on Afstan:
If we do have an election over Afghanistan, we would likely end up with another minority. Harper would campaign to send more troops, the opposition would prefer conflict resolution teams and social workers.
Meanwhile, new Foreign Minister Bernier gives a pretty decent defence of the mission and concludes:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said it several times in recent weeks: Any extension of our military mission past February, 2009, must be approved by Parliament. We must pursue this debate as realistic and responsible adults who are aware of our obligations to our allies and to the Afghan people.
Good luck finding "realistic and responsible adults" amongst the opposition.

When will the subs surface?

I really do wonder whether they will be worth it (and if we really need them):
More than 200 tradespeople have been working on HMCS Victoria since it was hoisted into drydock for what's called an extended docking work period in 2005. The job requires some 600,000 combined worker hours, installing 500,000 parts supplied by 1,600 different suppliers. The navy says it's a more complex, costly and time-consuming job than refitting a Boeing 777 commercial airliner.

"It's a hell of a job," said Wilson. "I may never do something this complex in my career again."

At first, the navy estimated repairs would be done this year. That's now been extended to mid-2009.

"The first time you tend to do anything, it tends to take a lot longer than the next," said Wilson, the project manager.

Canada bought four of the Victoria-class diesel-electric subs from Britain in 1998 for around $750 million. They have to be stripped and serviced after so many hours in the water. And even though Canada has barely used them - Victoria has spent only 115 days in the water since 2000 - the British-run hours are enough to warrant an overhaul.

All that work is above and beyond the "Canadianization" refits Canada completed when it bought the subs. It also doesn't count the time and money spent on subsequent emergency upgrades, such as when the fleet's high-pressure air tanks were found to be rusting, when cracks were found in diesel exhaust backup valves, when Victoria's engines started sparking during a mission in 2005, or when HMCS Chicoutimi suffered a fatal fire in 2004 during its maiden voyage back to Canada.

Three of the four subs are currently out of service. HMCS Windsor is undergoing its own extended docking service in Halifax. HMCS Chicoutimi was yanked from the water after the fire and will be serviced when Victoria is done. HMCS Cornerbrook is still out at sea running missions on the East Coast.

When it's all said and done, the navy estimates repairs for Victoria alone will cost approximately $195 million...

When work on Victoria is finally complete, the sub will be good for five years before heading back into another, shorter, extended docking period scheduled to last fewer than two years, said navy Cmdr. Scott McVicar, submarine operating authority for Maritime Forces Pacific commander Rear-Admiral Tyrone Pile...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hurl to the max

I've just lost any respect for puffed-up, pseudo-hard-boiled Don Martin of CanWest News. His lead paragraph today:
Many Canadian soldiers were pledging a return to Afghanistan even before they left the last lethal rotation, tempted as much by combat pay premiums of about $3,000 a month as by the mission's merits...
And this climate change nonsense:
Defence Minister Peter Mac-Kay did a grin-and-go tour of our chicken-clucking allies in Europe, trying to scare up combat replacements for our troops this week from among those who deploy their soldiers for sunbathing duty in northern regions...
Not much sunbathing in Mazar (where the Germans mostly are) from, say, December through February.

What a mockery of journalism. And how Canadian.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A failure of planning and foresight: blame the politicians

The lifespan of a fleet of aircraft isn't unknown or unknowable. Oh, you don't necessarily know the exact hour a part will fail, but you know the probabilities to a fair degree of certainty. This many hours of flying time will produce this much wear, and if we fly them at this rate per year, then presto!, the magic lifespan number appears.

It's not a secret, and contrary to my frivolous description above, it's not magic. It's math.

That's why when I read stories like this, my eyebrows draw together, my mouth tightens, and a slow and angry burn grows in my gut:

Ottawa has halted a $1.6-billion upgrade that would extend the life of Canada's aging fleet of Aurora patrol aircraft, CBC News reports.

The Defence Department has already spent more than half the budget of the planned 10-year overhaul – adding $1 billion worth of new equipment, such as navigation systems and flight data recorders, to the 18 planes.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay on Thursday confirmed the department is considering winding down the 30-year-old fleet and replacing it with new planes.

The Defence Department says it will make a decision by Nov. 20 on whether to replace the Auroras.

Ottawa could face financial penalties if the hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts is cancelled.

I get angry, because it didn't need to be like this. The wear and tear on the aircraft is so very predictable. And yet successive Canadian governments have put off funding the inevitable, leaving us in a situation where every option hurts: buying a whole new fleet at once, when we're already spending piles on other priorities; throwing good money after bad trying to keep planes far past their best-by date in the air; or going without a maritime air patrol capability completely.

It's disgraceful. It's disgraceful because it shows our government has either been incompetent (if they didn't know this was coming), or indifferent (they knew and just didn't care). Either way, the current state of affairs is an indictment of the Government of Canada.

You want to know how we should handle capital procurement? I'm hardly inventing the wheel here - this is Planning 101.

Start by figuring out what tasks you want to be able to accomplish. Then figure out what resources you'll need to accomplish those tasks. In the case of equipment, buy the best long-term value - that is to say, the kit that provides the biggest bang for the buck over its lifetime. Short-term solutions are to be avoided whenever possible, in favour of the long-term view; we're not going to be getting out of the defence-of-our-nation business anytime soon, so our planning horizon should be as far out as we can reasonably predict.

Then, look at when we'll need to replace our kit, assuming usage in line with what we've predicted our op tempo will be - hopefully with a bit of a buffer to err on the side of caution (Anyone remember the supposed "peace dividend" after the Cold War ended? How'd that work out?). Then look at how long it's going to take to buy and take delivery of new kit, and start planning for gradual replacement of worn items with new ones.

So, for example, when it comes to maritime patrol, we should have been planning and budgeting for replacements long ago, so that as our first high-time airframes came due, there were new ones to slip into the stream. A few at a time, too, not a whole fleet replacement all at once.

As I said yesterday, DND still hasn't got the procurement process completely squared away. They make mistakes. But by far the biggest mistake in Canadian defence procurement for decades now has been a lack of stable, long-term funding by the federal government.

Because, without that known funding level, DND can't do what it should.

What, you think the staff officers down at NDHQ don't already know everything I've just said? There's an officer sitting in a cubicle on some soulless floor of NDHQ who has staffed this problem to death. He or she knows just what it's going to cost to stop refitting now, or to stop refitting after the next block is complete - both in terms of capabilities lost, and of money spent, in some inverse proportion. There's probably another officer whose entire job is to look at what might be used next, after the grounded Auroras have all been cut up into scrap: do we go with another manned aircraft, or patrol with sophisticated drones? Someone in a sky-blue uniform was probably screaming about the Auroras years ago, in meetings, with memos, to anyone in the senior ranks who would listen. In fact, I suspect everyone in the maritime patrol world, all the way up the chain of command, knew this was coming. Hang around with staff officers for any length of time, and you can't help but understand that they've got a grip on the scope of the challenges they face.

What they don't have, most of the time, are the resources to meet those challenges. And that's a political problem, a budget resources problem, not a CF problem.

Canada is a big country. We have lots of airspace, lots of territory, lots of coastline and water that we have to protect. We're also a middle power in the world, economically reliant upon a stable international order, which means we have to engage and participate in the world outside our borders.

That. Costs. Money.

There's no way around it. So, to all those citizens out there who want a Canadian Forces, but don't want to pay for it, give your head a shake. And to all those politicians who understand full well the need for a capable military, but aren't willing to invest the political capital required to support that military, for shame. The defence of our country cannot be accomplished with one eye on the next election.

We desperately need more ships. We need more aircraft (manned and unmanned, fixed-wing and rotary). We need more kit of all sorts, and we need more Canadians in uniform to use it in the pursuit of our national interest.

Message to those who infest Parliament Hill: you can't plant and reap the seeds of national defence in one election cycle. Stop trying to, and start doing the right thing instead of the politically expedient thing.

Oh, and start asking the Air Force how they think we should patrol our nation's coastline when the Auroras are done. Because I can guarantee they've thought about it a hell of a lot more than you have.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

ISAF is indeed a UN mission...

...that the Security Council wants strengthened. Though Canadians are unlikely to realize that since our media do not seem to have reported this:
Security Council extends authorization of International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan as Russian Federation abstains from vote
I wonder what our opposition politicians have to say about the Security Council's
Reiterating its support for the continuing endeavours by the Afghan Government, with the assistance of the international community, including ISAF and the Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) coalition, to improve the security situation and to continue to address the threat posed by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist groups, and stressing in this context the need for sustained international efforts, including those of ISAF and the OEF coalition...
And about this operative paragraph of the resolution in which the Council
Recognizes the need to further strengthen ISAF to meet all its operational requirements, and in this regard calls upon Member States to contribute personnel, equipment and other resources to ISAF [emphasis added]...
Why isn't the government doing all it can to highlight the paragraph above?

More on the Russian abstention (good ol' prickly Putin) here.

Procurement, and the reporting thereof

I have no idea if DND purchased the right targeting pod for the CF-18 upgrades. The contract specifications and results are mostly under wraps, so nobody other than those involved in the process as a seller or a buyer really knows for sure, and none of them are allowed to talk openly about it.

Which doesn't mean some haven't spoken clandestinely about it, mostly in order to boost their own position, I suspect. Unfortunately, that's made the coverage of what might be an important story somewhat sketchy.

First off the mark was CTV's Graham Richardson in print and on video. The on-air piece is so riddled with errors, I don't know where to begin.

Wait, strike that, I do know: the idea that this contract was for "smart bombs." It was, in fact, for a complex electronic device that does not go boom:

The Advanced Multi-Role Infrared Sensor is a targeting pod that is mounted on the weapons station of the CF-18. It is a state of the art electro-optic and infrared sensor, which includes a laser designator, a laser marker and a tactical data link capability.

“The AMIRS pod will provide the CF-18 with enhanced targeting as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities that make it an invaluable asset for the Canadian Forces’ air, land and sea operations,” said Lieutenant-General Steve Lucas, Chief of the Air Staff. “The modernized, combat-effective, multi-purpose and globally deployable CF-18 fleet will continue to play an important role over the next decade as the Air Force transforms to meet the 21st century security needs of Canada.”

AMIRS is about targeting and ISR (watching closely what's happening on the ground). It's not about getting our CF-18's "outfitted with laser-guided smart-bombs" as Richardson says. He's just plain dead wrong on that.

Secondly, we've had technology that does this in a less capable way for years now:

In 1998, Canada purchased nine AN/AAS-38B NITE Hawk laser targeting pods to allow the CF-18 to deliver precision guided munitions. (Three more pods were later bought as spares). The NITE Hawk is carried on the CF-18’s portside ‘shoulder’ station (right). The AAS-38B was used during OP Echo, NATO’s bombing campaign in the Balkans when CF-18s flew from Aviano, Italy against targets first in Kosovo, then in Serbia itself.

The NITE Hawk was an obvious choice at the time. A small number of early model AAS-38s had been trialed by US Navy F/A-18s during the first Gulf War. And the NITE Hawk was considered one of the better ‘second-generation’ targeting pods. However, the next generation of precision-guided munitions required a new pod.

Note that we've actually used our CF-18's in real-life bombing operations, in concert with our allies, with the older technology.

Richardson goes on to make the point that the AMIRS contract wasn't awarded to the lowest-cost bidder. That would be a real red flag, if only the procurement had been framed as a lowest-cost purchase. Except that it wasn't, it was a best-value procurement, one that is supposed to take into account a whole list of factors above and beyond purchase price. And we have no idea - Richardson included, I'd wager - which system will actually provide the best value.

Furthermore, Richardson's suggestion that "if the Air Force ever wants to help out in Afghanistan and relieve the stress on the ground troops there, they need this technology; they can't operate in any theatre with the British and Americans without this technology" is bunk from start to finish. The Air Force is already "helping out" in Afghanistan by getting personnel and materiel to and from Kandahar (a gargantuan logistics operation), by operating a kick-ass Tactical Air Unit in theatre, by operating a TUAV (surveillance drone) unit at KAF, and by staffing hundreds of positions at both CEFCOM and on the ground in theatre with airmen and airwomen (can we not just find one name to fit both genders, please?). Any deployment of CF-18's to Kandahar wouldn't necessarily relieve the stress on ground troops there, because they're not short of CAS right now. And here's the kicker: our CF-18's actually can operate alongside our allies without this particular piece of kit. Would that interaction be optimal? No. But the more significant restrictions on our CF-18's come from other avionics issues, not from the lack of a targeting pod:

Phase I of modernization

This first phase of CF-18 modernization is a cornerstone project that entails the procurement and installation of a new radar, “Have-Quick” jam-resistant radios, combined interrogator/ transponders, stores management systems, mission computers and embedded global positioning systems/inertial navigation systems.


Phase II will outfit Canada’s CF-18s with the latest in technologically advanced equipment.

The fighter jets will be equipped with a secure data and communications link that allow CF-18 crews to stay in constant contact with other jets, ground stations and airborne warning and control systems (AWACS) to maintain awareness in their constantly evolving environment.

New state-of-the-art colour display panels will provide pilots with improved access to flight data and communications. The colour displays will significantly improve the pilots’ ability to refine the reams of data they receive. Pilots’ helmets will be outfitted with new visors that display readings from the instrument panel, so that they can maintain visual contact with a target without having to look down into the cockpit to monitor flight instruments. A new ejection seat, in support of this new helmet display system, will also be procured under Phase II. The aircraft will also be outfitted with a new missile countermeasures chaff/flare dispenser.

The real reason our CF-18's aren't in theatre, though, is that we don't need them to be at this point. Oh, I'd like for Canadian pilots to be supporting Canadian ground troops, since it would likely lower the number of blue-on-blue incidents, and even if it didn't, it would stifle the cries of "cowboy Americans" we hear all too often. But the truth, when you talk to guys on the ground, is that CF units are rarely without what's called "fast air" - the jets that drop bombs and strafe enemy positions - on call. It's one area where ISAF forces aren't lacking.

David Akin also weighed in on this issue, and was the beneficiary of some excellent qualifying and correcting information from our own Chris Taylor:

[from Akin] Remember in Gulf War I when we saw video of a missile zeroing in on a target and then explode? Well, that's smart bomb stuff. The U.S. have it. The U.K. has it. Even the French have it. (That's why they were able to deploy Mirage fighters into Afghanistan recently to support NATO troops there.) But Canada's fighter jets don't have it.

We know we need it, mind you. Five years ago, Canada's Air Force generals started the ball rolling to put these systems on our fighter jets.

[from Taylor] That's only partially correct, David. We have had the second-generation AN/AAS-38B NITE Hawk laser targeting pods for precision-guided munitions since 1998. And we used them over Serbia in 1999.

But as in every other aspect of life, technology is not static. The old target pods are not good enough to operate the third-gen bomb guidance hardware at the level of precision desired. That is why a brand-new targeting pod (the Advanced Multi-Role Infrared Sensor, or AMIRS) is required. And where the next-gen pods really shine is not targeting, per se, but ISR -- intelligence, surveillance and reconnaisance. A good ISR pod turns an ordinary pointy-nosed turn-and-burn fighter into an intelligence platform not unlike a Predator UAV. Giving us the ability to snoop and shoot as the situation requires.

Meanwhile we still have the ability to drop bombs with less-precise precision guidance using the old pods.

And you may be interested to know that the LockMart Sniper XR pod is being tested by USAF, RAF and RN on a variety of platforms. It's a little disingenuous to suggest that the die is already cast and everyone is selecting Litening III. The aviation arms of most of our major allies, including the US and the UK, use a mixture of Litening and Sniper pods, depending on the avionics and interface capabilities of the various airframes that they fly.

Not every pointy-nosed-fighter has compatible mounting, targeting and data transfer methods. A mix of pod types is necessary for a fleet with many different platforms. We can get away with one because we've only got one type of ground attack fighter.

It's not as cut and dried as you make it out to be.

Well and fairly spanked, I'd say.

So that's where the reporting went off the rails - with one notable exception.

Here's what we know for sure: the Canadian International Trade Tribunal has said that errors were made in the bid evaluations. CTV's Richardson blows even this tidbit of news by saying the tribunal has instructed the government to "redo large parts of the process." That's just flat out wrong. Here's what the tribunal actually said:

78. Pursuant to subsections 30.15(2) and (3) of the CITT Act, the Tribunal recommends, as a remedy, that PWGSC, within 30 days of the publication of this determination, re-evaluate the proposals with respect to rated criteria R13 and R44 of the RFP for all three bidders. The Tribunal further recommends that, in accordance with the Evaluation Plan: (1) regarding rated criterion R13, PWGSC permit the use of RMS and any other technically supportable definitions of the term “error”; and (2) regarding rated criterion R44, PWGSC award points to only those stores that were cleared or certified prior to bid closing and for which adequate documentation was provided. If this re-evaluation results in the identification of a different winning bidder for the contract, the existing contract should be cancelled and awarded to that bidder.

I know there's a lot of gobbledygook in there, but the essence of it is that the tribunal has asked the government to go back and reassess two points of the bid process. That's two, out of a total of forty-some-odd, which hardly qualifies as "large parts of the process."

The problem, as I see it, is that one of those criteria seems to be an all-or-nothing concern:

55. Northrop submitted that simply providing test and analysis reports, without clearance or certification at the time of bid submittal, is not responsive to rated criterion R44. Northrop submitted that Lockheed was clearly awarded points on the basis that its stores could be cleared or certified, not that they were already cleared or certified. It claimed that its complaint was never that the proof of existing clearance or certification came from a “government authority”, as alleged by PWGSC, but rather that Lockheed did not provide any clearance or certification in its bid...


58. In the Tribunal’s view, the wording of the detailed scoring methodology found in section of the Evaluation Plan makes it clear that, for a bidder’s proposal to receive points from the evaluators, clearance or certification was required prior to bid submission and that the documentation supporting the claim was to accompany the proposal. The Tribunal notes that answer 35 of amendment No. 12 indicated that “. . . it may be possible for some stores to be cleared purely by analysis . . .”, but it believes that this statement merely indicates that analysis may be acceptable as substantiation for certification. It does not indicate that the analysis is an acceptable alternative to certification. Because the Tribunal is of the opinion that the RFP required clearance or certification at the time of bid closing, the Tribunal finds that PWGSC failed to evaluate the bids according to the RFP and, hence, failed to observe the requirement of Article 506(6) of the AIT.

In other words, because of a lack of precise language in the competition specifications, LockMart was awarded points in their bid that the tribunal thinks it shouldn't have been. And if points were awarded, it's obvious to me that the Air Force thinks LockMart's answer was good enough - it's just that the bid evaluation criteria weren't written in a way that accurately portrayed the evaluators' intent.

That's the real big deal in all of this.

Which brings me to an article this morning by Aaron Plamondon in The Calgary Herald:

The Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) is still bad at business. The Canadian International Trade Tribunal announced last week that a $126-million program to outfit CF-18 fighter jets with new targeting systems may have been given to the wrong contractor.

Although the contract has been signed with Lockheed Martin, deliveries are being made, and the system is currently being tested in Cold Lake, the decision may force DND to select a new supplier for technology that will help the CF-18s track enemy targets and facilitate smart-bomb technology.

Plamondon details, in an agonizing historical parade of incompetence and mismanagement, the Canadian government's seeming inability to get defence procurement right. In this, he's all too correct: we haven't mastered the process.

What he doesn't acknowledge is that we're beginning to. Part of the problem with procurement at DND is that they don't have much practice with making things work well and quickly at the same time, and are learning on the go. Part of the problem is that we simply don't have enough people to handle all the projects that are on the go right now (hence the C-17 taking precedence while the C-130J and CH-47 processes cool their heels to some degree, waiting for their turn in the bureaucratic spotlight).

Remember, NDHQ took the Globemaster acquisition from a politician's idea to first tail delivery in eighteen months. A multibillion-dollar project, that. And the Leopard acquisition was brilliant: using existing money, getting maximum value by buying mothballed stores in a market glut, and securing a loaner from allies in the meantime. Brilliant stuff. So you can't say they're not getting better.

But as this story goes to show, there's still a long way to go for the purchasing teams at DND. Of course, given the way the story was mangled by CTV journalists, I'd say the same thing about defence reporting in this country: there's still an awfully long way to go. Giddeup, folks.