Nobody in the government or the Department of National Defence comes off well in this politico-techno-bureaucratic mess:
The acquisition process to replace our aging CF-18 fighter jets can now officially be proclaimed as the F-35 boondoggle.
In a damning report Tuesday, Auditor General Michael Ferguson said the whole process in which the Harper Conservatives decided to allocate at least $25 billion over the next 20 years to buy 65 F-35 Lightning II “fifth generation” fighter jets was gummed up by Department of National Defence bureaucrats — and possibly air force officers — who flat out lied to their political masters and to Parliament about the costs and risks associated with the program.
The only good news is we have not yet spent that $25 billion or signed any contracts.
Canada has generally been well served by the civil service (I grit my teeth to say that, as I’m not at all fond of big government), if only in comparison to other countries. One of the better inheritances from Britain is the (relatively) non-political, impartial bureaucracy. In this case, however, the bureaucracy has failed, and failed spectacularly:
But the politicians, like any prime minister or cabinet minister before them, has to be able to rely on the bureaucracy to give them the straight goods.
That did not happen.
Here’s Ferguson in his report: “National Defence told parliamentarians (last year) that cost data provided by U.S. authorities had been validated by U.S. experts and partner countries which was not accurate at the time. At the time of its response, National Defence knew the costs were likely to increase but did not so inform parliamentarians.”
In other words, DND bureaucrats lied. Full stop. Period.
Here’s another paragraph from Ferguson: “Briefing materials did not inform senior decision-makers, central agencies, and the Minister [of National Defence] of the problems and associated risks of relying on the F-35 to replace the CF-18.”
And another: “We found that the ministers of National Defence and Industry Canada and those ministers on the Treasury Board were not fully informed (in 2006) about the procurement implications.”
I’ve been less-than-fully-supportive of the F-35 acquisition, as a quick perusal of F-35 related posts will show, but this is now much more important than the question of what aircraft (if any) the RCAF will be purchasing. It’s now a case of finding out how deep the rot is in the DND and whether the RCAF actively aided the deception. If so, heads must roll.
Update: MILNEWS.ca has a round-up of reporting on the Auditor General’s report, focusing on the F-35 program.