My opening remarks before the NDP’s roundtable on Canada’s next fighters (21 August 2012)

Thank you for this invitation to appear before you today.

The selection of Canada’s new fighter is an important issue that will require greater vigilance now that New Fighter Procurement Secretariat (NFPS) is in place.

Whatever its merits,  the NFPS is evidently an effort to depoliticize procurement of next fighter.

But de-politicization can come with loss of proper, vigorous accountability.

This outcome should be avoided.

In that vein, I’d like to focus my opening comments on the NFPS.

The government has made clear that the NFPS will provide Parliament with greater information about the procurement of the military’s new fighters.

The NFPS will also bring external reviewers and auditors in to ensure that the figures and assumptions that are made in costing the procurement are sound.

But it is not clear if the NFPS will address three key issues.


First, it does not appear that the NFPS is mandated to review or question the requirements that the Royal Canadian Air Force has set for the military’s future fighter aircraft.

As it stands, the requirements are such that only the F-35 can meet them (or so we have been told since July 2010).

Unless these requirements are subject to greater scrutiny, this means that there will be no competition to replace the CF-18s and the NFPS will merely oversee a sole-sourced procurement of the F-35.

This would go against the government’s insistence that no choice has yet been made about which aircraft will replace the CF-18s.


Second, it does not appear that the NFPS is mandated to conduct a comparative cost-benefit analysis of the various aircraft that the CF might consider to replace the CF-18s.

A comprehensive cost-benefit analysis would allow the NFPS to provide a picture of the various trade-offs that the military faces in choosing a new fighter aircraft, such as:

  •  Relative cost to relative capability (i.e. assuming that the F-35 will provide the CF with higher end capabilities, how much more is the government paying to get that capability)
  •  Savings associated with acquiring a 4th generation aircraft and how that money might be used to fund other capital equipment acquisitions listed in the Canada First Defence Strategy.
  • F-35 related industrial contracts versus a traditional industrial and regional benefit program
  • The training and infrastructure costs of the F-35 versus those of other aircraft

Simply put, conducting a comparative cost-benefit analysis would allow the NFPS to provide a truly comprehensive picture of what choices and trade-offs the government faces.

Conducting such as analysis would, of course, be very time consuming and complex, but it would help ensure that the government has the best possible information when considering a replacement for the CF-18s.

Finally, it does not appear that the NFPS will report on or examine the critical component of this procurement, namely, the underlying policy behind it.

All defence procurements must be linked to government policy.

This policy guides the military when they frame their requirements and it ultimately justifies the expenditure of funds associated with a capital program.

Thus far, there has not been a clear statement of what defence policies and priorities are guiding the procurement of the CF’s new fighters.

Instead, it appears that the RCAF’s requirements are driving policy, the exact opposite of how this relationship should unfold.

Perhaps this is an unfair statement.

Yet the government has not made an effort to properly explain the policy basis of this program.

Simply stating that the CF needs new fighters is not enough. We need to know what these fighters are expected to do and how that informs the setting of particular requirements.

These are not incidental questions.

Particularly at a time when defence expenditures are being cut and the government recognizes that the current capital program is not affordable, policy is expected to guide the difficult choices that must be made regarding what capabilities should be prioritized, which are not absolutely necessary, and which are merely optional for Canada.

I will stop there.

I look forward to our discussion. 

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