Tuesday, June 20, 2017

BOEING, BOMBARDIER, BLUFFS AND BLUSTER

Almost had it...

In late 2016, Canada's fighter jet saga seemed to finally be reaching a resolution (at least in the short-term) after Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced that Canada would be purchasing 18 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as an "interim" fighter.  These fighters would fill a "capability gap" whilst Canada pursued a permanent CF-18 replacement.

The move made sense.  The Super Hornet is readily available, affordable, and similar to our current fleet.  Some questioned that the move would give Boeing an unfair advantage going in to a full competition, but whomever said defence acquisitions were fair?  At the very least, the RCAF would finally have some new fighters.

Of course, this being a story of Canadian military procurement, a plot twist was inevitable.  That plot twist came from Canada's own Bombardier.

All this over a little airliner...
To say Bombardier has a controversial history is an understatement.  At any given time it simultaneously a both the worst of crony-capitalism and best of Canadian innovation.  Bombardier is a two-sided coin with corporate welfare marking one side and innovation marking the other.

Case-in-point:  The Bombardier C-Series airliner.

At first glance, the C-Series looks like any other airliner.  The generic tube-with-wings design could be mistaken by the layperson as any sort of Boeing, Airbus, or even Embraer design.  It is certainly no Concorde , nor does it stand out as a "airliner of the future".

So what is the fuss?

The C-Series real innovation comes in its size and layout.  Its size bridges the gap between smaller regional jets (like the Embraer E-Jet and Bombardier's own CRJ) and larger airliners like the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320.  It does this by implementing an asymetric seating arrangement.  Instead of three seats on either side of the aisle (like the A320 and 737) or two seats (E-Jet and CRJ), the C-series splits the difference with three seats on one side and two on the other.

Along with its novel seating arrangement, the C-Series utilizes the first use of geared turbofans on an airliner.  These, combined with lighter construction materials, helps keep operating costs down. The C-Series could very well steal routes (and sales) away from Boeing's 737 and Embraer's E-Jet.

3+2 seating.
Neither Boeing or Bombardier are willing to take this laying down, of course.  Unfortunately, this is the business world:  So if you can't beat 'em...  Sue 'em.

Both Embraer and Boeing have launched legal action against Bombardier on the basis that the C-Series is unfairly subsidized by the Canadian government, allowing Bombardier to sell the C-Series below its actual cost ("dumping").

Both are absolutely correct.  The C-Series would undoubtedly not exist were it not for Bombardier taking advantage of Federal and Provincial financial assistance.  Without a seemingly never-ending supply of government bailouts, the C-Series likely never would have left the drawing board...  In fact, Bombardier itself likely would no longer exist.

Boeing 737 MAX

Embraer E-190
Boeing and Embraer's case against Bombardier share a tragic flaw, however.  Both seem to forget that they are living in glass houses whilst they throw their stones.

Embraer enjoys a subsidy given to Brazilian airlines that favor its smaller aircraft to larger airliners made by Boeing and Airbus.  Embraer also enjoys government subsidies, much like Bombardier.

Boeing, on the other hand, is in an entirely different league.  In 2015, Boeing received an $8.7 billion corporate tax break from the state of Washington.  This made for a total of $13.2 billion worth of subsides.  To put that in perspective, Bombardier's entire revenue for that year was $11.2 billion.

Keep in mind that these subsidies are for commercial operations.  Both Boeing and Embraer's defense divisions enjoy lucrative military contracts as well.   Notable examples include Embraer's KC-390 and Boeing's P-8 Poseidon, both of which are being marketed on a global scale.

This, of course, brings us back to the Super Hornet.

So close?
The Trudeau government found themselves in a tight spot once Boeing implement legal action against C-Series sales.  It had no choice but to take Bombardier's side.  Politically, it would be seen as abhorrent to be propping up Bombardier whilst a the same time purchasing billions of dollars of fighters from the same corporation blocking Bombardier's attempt to gain a market foothold.

Trudeau and company used the most effective leverage they could think of: Threatening to cancel the Super Hornet purchase.

Boeing may regret calling Canada's bluff.  Plans to purchase the Super Hornet are now "On hold" with Defence Minister Hajjan stating that Boeing's actions were “not the behavior we expect of a trusted partner.”

Ouch.

Canadian officials are now meeting with various fighter manufacturers at the Paris Air Show this week, albeit after some confusion.

The winner in all this may in fact be one of the "Eurocanards".  Airbus (part of the consortium behind the Eurofighter) has been strangely silent regarding the C-Series, other than politely declining a partnership.  Saab is hot off the first flight of its Gripen E, and will be promoting it alongside its Swordfish and GlobalEye (both based on Bombardier airframes).  Dassault will undoubtedly have home court advantage in Paris as it awaits Canada's RFP.

Then again, perhaps this entire kerfuffle plays in the Liberal government hands.

The "interim" Super Hornet buy was not exactly met with universal acclaim.  The so-called "capability gap" did not seem to be an issue until the government said it was.  Perhaps the most glaring question was:  "Why bother with an interim fighter in the first place?'  The Canadian government should have more than enough information at this point that it should proceed directly to RFPs (requests for proposals) and let the bidding commence.

Perhaps the Liberal government was beginning to get cold feet?  Boeing's trade action against Bombardier may have been all the excuse needed to back out of the deal while at the same time saving face by appearing tough towards an American aerospace giant.  A sort of "soft reset", if you will.

Full circle?
Despite an election promise to cancel any F-35 purchase, the Trudeau government has not yet closed the door on the JSF.  It has continued to pay its membership dues in order to remain an industrial partner.  It has also been made clear that the F-35 will remain "on the table" as an option to replace Canada's aging F-35s.

Whether this entire process was brought about by happenstance or design is anyone's guess.  If the Liberals truly wanted to back out of the Super Hornet for another aircraft, it would not need the Boeing/Bombardier dispute to do so.  All they would need to do is proclaim "new information has come to light" or some such.

More than likely, this is all nothing more than a negotiation where all the parties have called each other's bluff...  But nobody wants to show all their cards yet.

One year ago, the Boeing Super Hornet was the odds-on winner to become Canada's next fighter aircraft.  Six months ago it was almost a sure thing.  As it stands now, it almost seems to have no chance at all...  Unless Boeing drops its beef with Bombardier and then it will be the frontrunner again.

Confused yet?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

GRIPEN E FIRST FLIGHT!

One for the record books.

The Gripen E (née "Gripen NG") can no longer bed accused as being a "paper aircraft".  On June 15, Saab successfully flew its first JAS 39 Gripen E.

The flight went off pretty much on time, with Saab promising a flight in the second quarter of 2017.  Initial plans were to hold the test flight in late 2016, but Saab chose to delay the flight due to self-imposed software requirements.  Saab insists the aircraft is still on track for deliveries to begin in 2019.


The upcoming years may indeed be the "perfect storm" for Gripen E sales success.  Contemporaries like the Typhoon, Rafale, and Super Hornet have had middling sales success, but are not even close to representing a true sales rival to the F-35.  Simply put, these fighters do not seem to offer enough of a cost and/or performance benefit to entice qualified buyers away from the still troubled JSF.  

But the Gripen E is different.  

Saab is promising the Gripen E will continue its predecessors' low operating costs as well as equipping cutting edge avionics and sensors.  Saab is clearly marketing the Gripen as the most "fighter bang for the buck".

Just the thing for a nation needing to rebuild its military on a budget, hmmm?


Friday, June 9, 2017

Just when I thought I was out... They pull me back in.


Welp...  So much for my hiatus.

Back in March, it seemed like Canada's protracted fighter jet saga was entering a stage of (relative) stability, with an "interim" purchase of 18 Super Hornets pending followed by a open fighter competition.

That was then...  This is now.

Boeing would rather we DON'T sell these...

...Then to sell us these.
The Canadian government has now suspended talks with Boeing thanks to a trade dispute over allegations that Bombardier is "dumping" (i.e. selling below cost) C-Series airliners onto the US market.  Whether this is simple posturing remains to be seen.  As of now, a Canadian Super Hornet purchase appears unlikely...  Interim or otherwise.



The Government of Canada dropped another bombshell this week with the release of its new defence policy (available here).  In it are plans for Canada to increase its defence spending by a whopping 70%.  This would bring Canada's military spending up to 1.4% of our GDP up from its current .99%.   Much of this new spending will go towards new personnel, fifteen new Canadian Surface Combatant ships, more focus on UAVs and cyberwarfare, and (most relevant to this site) 88 new fighter jets.

The plan to buy 88 CF-18 replacements, up from the previous planned 65, is a welcome surprise.  I've argued that Canada needs more than the scant 65 fighters planned under the previous government.  It almost feels like someone in Ottawa may actually be spending time here...

Keep your eyes on the skies for this one...  

In the coming weeks, I will attempt a more in-depth analysis of the Boeing vs. Bombardier spat, as well as a closer look at Canada's new defence policy.  On top of that, it looks as if the Saab Gripen E will soon make its first flight.

In the meantime, enjoy the summer and keep a watchful eye for the beautiful red-and-white CF-18 celebrating Canada's 150th birthday.




Wednesday, March 15, 2017

My work here is done. For now...

It's happening...
On March 13th, the Canadian government sent a letter of request to the the US regarding the purchase of 18 Boeing Super Hornets.  After years of debate, controversy, and outright stalling, the RCAF is now on its way to receiving new fighter jets to supplement the aging CF-18.

While I am unconvinced that the Super Hornet is the best fighter to ultimately replace the CF-18, I do believe it is the only reasonable choice as an interim fighter.  Whether or not Canada should simply initiate a full competition seems to be a moot point at this stage.  For good or ill, the Canadian Super Hornet IS HAPPENING.

This leaves your humble author at an odd impasse.  The Canadian fighter saga is not yet over...   Not by a long shot.  Yet the upcoming months (years?) will have little to discuss until Super Hornet deliveries start and/or a permanent fighter replacement program begins in earnest.

What am I to do during this Limbo?

I could continue to rant about the F-35, its saga is far from over.  Its relevance to Canada has been diminished, however.  There would be little I could add to that particular discussion for the time being.

Instead, I have decided to declare victory...  Such as it is.

When I started this blog (and its progenitor) in what seemed to be an eternity ago, my main mission was for Canada to reconsider its F-35 purchase in favor of a more affordable and less risky alternative.  My hope was that, at the very least, Canada would avoid re-evaluate its commitment to the JSF program to ensure the best possible outcome.

That is pretty much what happened.



In the upcoming years, Canada may decide to stick with the Super Hornet.  It may ultimately decide on the F-35 after it overcomes its teething problems.  Perhaps we will do something altogether different...  Who knows?  The fighter jet market could very well be a much different place five years from now.

As many of you have noticed, my post frequency has dwindled in the last few months.  There just does not seem to be much worth talking about when it comes to fighter jets.  Not pertaining to Canada, anyway.

I will continue this blog into the foreseeable future.  I will have little in the way of new posts, however.  Not until things pick up, anyway.  I will continue to moderate the lively Facebook group and I invite all those who have not yet joined to do so.

I also hope to branch out a bit.  My thoughts lately have been towards that big, orange elephant that now occupies office south of the border.  I have great worries that Trump-style politics will migrate to the north.  I also find myself concerned about the current state of journalism and the rise of partisanship.  To this end, I have started a new blog:  http://liberaltarianmanifesto.blogspot.ca  I welcome all my readers to join me there where I hope to make a case for common sense politics.  (The blog is in its infancy, so please pardon the mess.)

To all of you who have participated in the discussion and tolerated my ramblings over the years:  I humbly thank you.  I had no idea I would garner such a following.  For that I am truly grateful.

Until next time...  Thank you...  And keep fighting the good fight.




Monday, February 20, 2017

Of axes, defibrillators, and fighter jets... [RANT]


This is an axe.

It is simple tool, dating back thousands of years.  It consists of a wooden handle with a sharpened stone fixed to one end.  While this axe is primitive in its origins, it is an ingenious design.  By placing the sharpened stone at the end of long handle, early humans were able to increase the moment-of-force, allowing the stone to make a much deeper cut than if the stone were held in the hand directly.  This made it great for cutting and bashing things.

The stone axe provided early man with an invaluable tool.  Useful as a both a building tool and a weapon, it helped catapult man into the most dominant life-form on the planet.


This is also an axe.

This SOG "Fast Hawk" tactical tomahawk utilizes a 420 stainless steel blade with high tech ballistic polymer handle.  It is sharper, harder, lighter, better-balanced, and comes with a nylon sheath.  It is better than the stone axe in every conceivable way.

But it is still just an axe.  It cuts and bashes things.

Now imagine a wood-chopping contest between two people.  Each is tasked with rendering a equal-sized log into firewood.  One contestant gets the stone axe, the other gets the high-tech tomahawk.  No contest, right?

Not so fast.

Imagine the tomahawk is given to a 75-year-old grandmother who just finished off a cup of sleepytime tea.  The stone axe is given to a 28-year-old lumberjack who just finished off a six-pack of Red Bull.

In this case, the tool being used is not nearly as important as the person using it.

This uses a stone-age tool as an example.  Surely things would be different using something more modern, right?

Since my "day job" is in the medical field, allow me to wax poetic about one of the more dramatic devices I get to use:  The defibrillator.



LifePak 300 Defibrillator (Ah the memories...)
That big white box you see above is the Physio-Control LifePak 300 defibrillator/monitor.  This device is capable of monitoring heart rhythms and performing defibrillationsynchronized cardioversion, or transcutaneous pacing as needed.  It is heavy, cumbersome, and utilizes a dim LCD display that is nearly impossible to read in direct sunlight.  These machines proved popular with EMS agencies in the 90s due to their ruggedness and ease of use.

I hated these damn things.

LifePak 12...  Better in every way.  
The LifePak 12 ended up replacing the venerable 300 in many EMS agencies.  While still heavy and cumbersome, the LifePak 12 offered many advancements and improvements.  12-lead electrocardiograms (instead of 3-lead) were now possible in the prehospital setting, allowing improved diagnostics, treatments, and improved patient outcomes.  The LifePak 12 also offered a myriad of other options including capnographypulse oximetry, and non-invasive blood pressure monitoring.  Defibrillation was now done using "gentler" biphasic energy.

Despite all of the extra bells and whistles, the Lifepak 12 did not have a particularly profound effect on cardiac arrest outcomes.  In the out-of-hospital setting, the odds of surviving a sudden cardiac arrest was about 4%.

Not only did fancy new defibrillators have little effect on cardiac arrest survival outcomes, but it was also found that more advanced techniques found in the Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) had little effect as well.  Intubation and IV drugs like epinephrine, atropine, and lidocaine, seemed to be of little help.  In fact, it was found that cardiac arrest survival rates were slightly better when treated with basic life support (BLS) techniques.

After a review, it was surmised that the emphasis on advanced techniques was taking focus away the most important factor in cardiac arrest survival:  High quality cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

In 2005, the ACLS guidelines were re-written to focus more on the basics:  High quality CPR and early defibrillation.  Therapies like intubation were now considered "nice to have" rather than "need to have".  Thanks to this change, cardiac arrest survival rates pretty much doubled, with over 8% of pre-hospital cardiac arrest patients surviving without severe neurological deficits.

Training, not technology, resulted in the largest paradigm shift in the outcomes of cardiac arrest patients.  Much like our example of the two axes, the determining factor in the end was not the tool being used, but the person using it.

LifePak 15



Zoll X-Series
The two defibrillators you see above represent the "cutting edge" of the market.  Both feature full color LCD screens, wi-fi and bluetooth connectivity, and lithium-ion batteries for longer life.  More importantly for cardiac arrests, both devices utilize a feature that assist CPR performance.  The LifePak 15 uses a metronome, while the Zoll uses a "Real CPR Help" feature that gives feedback on both speed and depth of CPR compressions.

So, as someone who uses defibrillators on a regular basis; which device would I prefer?

Both devices have their advantages as well as their faults.  The LifePak is easier to use, as it uses dedicated controls as opposed to the Zoll's "soft keys".  Its printer is front-and-center and uses larger paper, making ECGs easier to read.  It is also more rugged.  The Zoll, on the other hand, is smaller, lighter, and its "Real CPR Help" feature is more advanced than the LifePak's simple metronome.

In the end, it does not really matter.  Both devices work equally well at delivering an electrical shock to a patient's heart.  Cardiac arrest outcome will have much more to do with the competence of the health provider than whatever equipment they are using.  That competence can only be achieved through training, practice, and experience.

If it was my loved one laying on the floor; I would prefer to have an experienced, well-trained paramedic using the venerable LifePak 300 than a newbie with a Zoll X-Series.

F-35B
Much like an axe or a defibrillator, a fighter jet is a tool.  Whereas the ax chops stuff and the defibrillator shocks hearts, the fighter jet delivers ordinance unto an enemy combatant.  Also like the axe and defibrillator, jet fighters have become more technologically advanced with time.

While many (myself included) have extolled the virtues of one fighter platform over another, the most important factor is often the most ignored:  The person using it.  Like the lumberjack using an axe, or a paramedic using a defibrillator; a fighter's effectiveness has more to do with the crew behind it.

An aircraft cannot fly without well-trained pilots, maintainers, and logistics personnel.  Without these people and their skills, even the most advanced fighter cannot leave the ground.  And like any other tool, it is the the competence of these people that make it work.

Purchasing a modern jet fighter is just the first step.  These fighters are of little use if they end up being "hangar queens".  These fighters need to be used, not necessarily out of anger, but to increase the competency of the crews behind them.

The Best Fighter for Canada will depend not on the various fighter manufacturers, but the men and women of the RCAF.  Whatever the Government of Canada ultimately decides to replace the CF-18 with, the more important decision will be what level of support is given in the long term.  Emphasis must be placed on proper training time.

Concentrate not on the machine, but the person behind it.








Saturday, January 28, 2017

Defence Policy in a Post-Trump Era


Kakistocracy

nounplural kakistocracies.
1.
government by the worst persons; a form of government in which theworst persons are in power.

Well...  Here we are.

The largest, most powerful, most technological advanced military in the world has a new Commander-in-Chief.

This Commander-in-Chief campaigned on a premise of American nationalismisolationism, and military build up.  He has promised to ban immigration of an entire religion while forming a registry of those whom are already citizens.  He is a climate-change denier.  He is a racist.  He is an unabashed misogynist whose advances toward woman may be sexual assault.  

One would have hoped that Trump would have tempered his controversial ascension by surrounding himself with a less-controversial staff.  Instead, his Vice-President is an outspoken critic of LGBT rights.  His Chief Strategist is known for promoting white-nationalists views.  Trump's pick for Secretary of Treasury made millions by foreclosing on people's homes when the housing market crashed.

I could go on, but you get the idea.



The election of Donald Trump has sent the rest of the world into a tailspin.  His isolationist views, combined with his anti-NATO rhetoric and "bromance" with Vladimir Putin has left American allies worried...  For good reason.

For decades now, the good ol' USA has deemed itself "the protector of the free world".  Following World War II, it has been omnipresent around the world, devoted to fight the global spread of Communism.  After the end of the Cold War, it continued its presence under the auspices of fighting a War on Terrorism.  This meddling has run the gamut from polite political pressure, to rigging foreign elections, to outright military occupation.  Of course, this has all been done under the auspices of "securing freedom".

America's aggressive foreign policy has allowed other nations to take advantage.  Friendly nations in "hot zones" see their own militaries supported by the USA's considerable military might.  Friendly nations in the Middle-East and South Pacific regions have come to depend on this.  Other friendly nations, like Canada, have taken advantage of America's largesse by cutting military spending.

It would seem as if that era is coming to an end.

Trump has promised to increase American military strength while simultaneously reducing its footprint around the world.  This seemingly contradictory plan would likely leave a huge power vacuum in certain areas while simultaneously encouraging other major military nations to both fill that vacuum and beef up their own forces.

One could argue that it is America's prerogative what it does with its military.  The problem with this argument is that many of the world's current conflicts have been influenced by, if not directly caused by American intervention.

In other words, America made this mess...  And may be up to the rest of us to clean it up.

You guys better start getting busy.  
This new era leaves Canada with no other option.  We must pay more attention to our defence.

Trump's America still needs Canada, make no mistake.  Expect the relationship to change, however.  Our two leaders are off to a rocky start.  While President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau got along famously, Justin and Donald are downright adversarial.  Considering their respective
election platforms, one could not imagine these two having much in common.

Trump will likely demand that Canada spend more on defence.  As a NATO member, Canada is obliged to spend at least 2% of its GDP doing so, but only contribute about half of that.  We likely will not have much choice in the matter...  Not because Trump says so but to compensate for the USA's decreased presence worldwide could make the world a more dangerous place.

Check out the latest SKIES Magazine for a look at the RCAF Super Hornet!
Given the potential quandaries surrounding a Trump presidency, the current Canadian government's plan to acquire 18 "interim" Super Hornets may be surprisingly prescient.

The reasoning behind the acquisition was a "capability gab" that many questioned.  The truth is a matter of semantics.  With its current CF-18 fleet, Canada had no issue fulfilling its NATO and NORAD commitments...  Just not simultaneously.

The timing behind the decision seem suspiciously in tune with Trump's rise to power.  The announcement itself came less than two weeks after the US election.  The first declaration of a "capability gap" came within days of Trump's selection as the Republican presidential candidate.

Coincidence?

While Trump's rise to power is certainly not the sole reason behind the Super Hornet acquisition, it was undoubtedly a part of the discussion behind closed doors.  Canada's defence policy is heavily influenced by American defense policy; and Trump symbolizes a monstrous paradigm shift in that department.

Do not expect Canada to be the only nation influenced by America's new leadership.

Trump's commitment to South Korea is secure for the moment, but the future may prove shaky with The Donald threatening to pull troops out.  America's softening towards Iran under Obama will likely be put into full reverse.  Plans to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is not exactly going over well with some.   Expect this to become the "new normal" for American diplomacy.



Some of the rhetoric coming from the White House goes beyond the pale and gets to be damn right scary, subtly threatening adversaries and allies alike.  The message is clear:  US military support can no longer be taken for granted.

Thankfully for Canada, Trump has yet to mention NORAD in his late-night Twitter ramblings.  Canadians should not get too complacent however, as it may just be a matter of time.  Canada would do well to pursue a more independent defence policy now that its neighbor has gotten much more rowdy and unpredictable.  It does not help that Canada's other neighbor is being down-right creepy lately.

Given the differences in our two leaderships, expect a widening rift between the US and Canada.  Some would blame that rift on our current Liberal government, yet even former Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stated: "The Trump presidency is a major source of global uncertainty," that will reverse seven decades of US foreign policy.

Canada would seem to have two choices:


1)  Attempt to stay in America's favor.  Doing so would require cutting ties to the rest of the world, and imposing similar bans on muslims, etc.  This would help keep our relationship with our largest partner healthy.  In doing so, however, Canada would be relinquishing our foreign policy and our very sovereignty to the whims of President Donald J. Trump.  We would be a medium-sized fish sharing a tank with a great white shark.

or

2)  Relinquish our coveted partnership with the USA and pursue better relations with other nations.  Step up our NATO and UN commitments to help fill the gap left by the US.  Most importantly, assert our independence to assure the world that Canada is not simply "America Lite".

Not an option, unfortunately.  

One would hope that Trumps ascension to the presidency is a mere outlier that will be corrected in forthcoming American elections.  We cannot afford to make this assumption, however.  This could be the hallmark of something far more sinister.

For decades, Canada has based its defence strategy on the assumption that the good ol' USA would have our backs.  As of January 20th, 2017 that is no longer the case.

Time to get busy.












Saturday, January 21, 2017

Who is fit to make procurement decisions?



One of the prevailing thought regarding military equipment procurement is to simply "let the troops choose".  This is a great idea...  In theory.

As the end user, they are no doubt the MOST IMPORTANT stakeholder in procurement selection, as their very lives may depend on that equipment.  Unfortunately, they do not have the final say in such matters.  New equipment is often foisted upon them, with little regard to their desires.  Not only that, but their voice is often the quietest, assuming it is heard at all.

In reality, it is not the soldier that picks out his or her rifle, the sailer that picks his or her ship, nor the pilot who picks his or her aircraft.  That decision is not even carried out by the upper-echelon brass like generals or admirals.  Instead, the decision is ultimately made by those holding the purse strings: Politicians.

Notice the look on the SAR Tech's face?  
While the thought of a greasy politician having the final say in military procurement may seem odorous to many of us, the politicians are ultimately answerable to us the taxpayer.  It is our money that pays for this stuff, after all.

Anybody who has been paying attention the last few decades can see how this system can (and well) go horribly, horribly wrong.

In an attempt to balance budgets, military procurement spending can be drastically cut.  Programs can be delayed, reduced in scope, or sometimes cancelled altogether.  These actions are all too familiar to Canadians.  Some more egregious examples of politics causing disastrous consequences to military procurement projects include:

  • Avro Arrow
  • EH-101
  • Used British submarines
  • Long delayed FWSAR replacement
  • CF-18 replacement announced then postponed, then "reset", then restarted from scratch
  • And so on, and so on, and so on...
Using these examples, it is easy to suggest that a more effective process be implemented.  The fix would seem to obvious, let the military choose its own equipment?

This leads to its own set of problems.

The military utilizes a "top-down" command structure.  Decisions are made by high-level staff and disseminated throughout the lower ranks.  Debating or criticizing those decisions is highly discouraged.  Upper-echelon staff may take popular sentiment into consideration but are under no obligation to do so.  

Would a general not want the best rifle for his or her soldiers?  The best aircraft for his or her pilots?

Sure.  But...

General Mark Anthony Welsh III 
Meet General Mark Welsh.

Welsh served as the USAF's Chief of Staff from 2012 until his retirement in July, 2016.  During his tenure as Chief of Staff, Welsh was a staunch advocate for the modernization of the USAF.  According to him, the three biggest priorities were the F-35 fighter, the KC-46 aerial tanker, and the LRS-B (now known as the B-21).

Welsh was undoubtedly influential in the selection of Northrop's Grumman's B-21 Raider winning the USAF's LRS-B contract back in late 2015.  

In the year that followed, Welsh retired from active service...  And was then appointed to Northrop Grumman's board of directors.  

Lt. General Charles Bouchard

Like Welsh, Bouchard rose to the very top of the command structure, serving as Commander for 1 Canadian Air Division.  Bouchard is an honored officer that led the NATO mission in Libya.  Welsh also happened to be a top man at the RCAF during the Harper government's ill-fated announcement to procure the F-35.

Bouchard retired from the RCAF in 2012.  Shortly after, he was offered a position as a government appointed "independent monitor" looking into the CF-18 replacement.  Bouchard bowed out, stating he was "too busy".  

Less than a year later, Bouchard was named as the lead for Lockheed Martin's Canadian operations.  The transition from top man in the RCAF to military contractor took less than eighteen months.  Federal law requires a minimum of a one year "cooling off" period between holding a senior military position and taking up a corporate position.  

Fans of the The Walking Dead know that revolving doors can be scary.

While one should not assume any conflict-of-interest with Welsh's and Bouchard's rapid (and lucrative) transition to the private sector, neither one really passes the smell test.  

Both are shining examples of the "revolving door" that exists between defence contractors and the militaries that warrant their existence.  Corporations like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing fill their executive ranks with ex-military brass.  This allure is obvious, as high-ranking military officers can transition from a relatively modest military salary to a much more lucrative private-sector one...  All whilst still collecting a pension.  

By recruiting high-ranking staffers like Welsh and Bouchard, military contractors not only get access to years of military experience, but they get access to that member's sphere of influence and contacts. For top brass, this often includes government contacts as well as military.  This influence furthered by the countless lobbyists and political donations made to those seeking power.  

All this translates into an all-to-chummy relationship between the military, the government, and the defence contractors.  Meanwhile the end user (the troops) and the financier (the taxpayer) are often left out of the conversation.  



If all this sounds eerily like the Military-Industrial Complex that Eisenhower warned against in his farewell address...  It is.  A self-perpetuating cycle where procurement drives industry, which drives politics, which drives procurement.  

It is up to us, the common citizen, to ensure this cycle does not continue.  We do this by holding our elected official accountable and making our voices heard when needed.