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Monday, January 23, 2017

Companies Request Bidding for Surface Combatant Fleet be Delayed

By: David Pugliese, National Post 

Two companies looking to bid on the multibillion-dollar project to build a new warship fleet for Canada have asked that the process be delayed as controversy swirls around the removal of a top military commander.

And at least another two companies are also preparing to make similar requests to the Canadian government and its prime contractor, Irving Shipbuilding, industry sources have told the Ottawa Citizen.

While the removal of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman from his command for allegedly leaking sensitive shipbuilding information has sent shock waves through the maritime industry, the main reason for the requested delay is because the Canadian Surface Combatant project is poorly structured and allows little time for firms to properly prepare bids, sources say.

But some industry representatives say the removal of Norman has only contributed to their worries that the warship project, worth more than $26 billion, is in trouble.

Norman, the former head of the Royal Canadian Navy, was the vice-chief of the defence staff until Jan. 13, at which point he was removed from command.


Chief of the Defence Gen. Jon Vance, who originally selected Norman for the VCDS position, made the decision to remove him.

Vance has refused to provide any details about the situation and his office claims all aspects of the case — including whether taxpayers are still paying Norman — are covered under federal privacy provisions.

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The mystery surrounding Norman’s removal, and allegations from sources that it was linked to the unauthorized leak of information about the Canadian Surface Combatant program, has only further raised questions about the project, company representatives contend.

The Liberal government announced Oct. 27, 2016, that Irving Shipbuilding had issued a request for proposals from companies on the design of the new warships.

The firms have until April 27 to provide those bids, which must not only include the design but details of teaming arrangements with Canadian firms.

Allowing only six months to compile bids for one of the largest procurements in Canadian history doesn’t make sense, say representatives of some of the companies. The extent of the technical data and other information the Canadian government requires is overwhelming, they added.

Jean-François Létourneau, a spokesman for Public Services and Procurement Canada, confirmed Thursday that Irving has received two requests for an extension to the closing date for the bids.

He did not provide the names of the firms requesting the extension.

“Irving Shipyards and the Government of Canada are considering these requests,” Létourneau noted. “Responses to these requests will be provided to all bidders.”

Twelve firms have been pre-approved to bid on the surface combatant program.

Over the past several months, various firms have highlighted to the Liberal government their serious concerns about the project and are frustrated Procurement Minister Judy Foote has not acted to deal with those issues, industry sources added.

The project will provide a future warship fleet for the Royal Canadian Navy.

Norman has not commented on his removal from command.

But the senior officer has been vocal in his concerns that the federal government seriously misjudged on the amount of money needed to build the Canadian Surface Combatants. In addition, he has privately raised concerns that the Royal Canadian Navy might not get enough ships in the future because of how the shipbuilding plan is devised.

Norman’s concerns are well known inside the Liberal government.

In December 2015, he told CBC journalist James Cudmore that the Canadian public had not been given accurate information about the growing price of the surface combatants. He said just the warships alone will likely cost $30 billion. With added costs, that price tag could climb to $42 billion.

Cudmore is now a procurement advisor for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

Public Services and Procurement Canada declined to comment on whether Norman‘s removal will have any impact on the Canadian Surface Combatant program. It referred that question to the Department of National Defence.

DND refused to comment.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has refused to provide any additional details about Norman’s removal. But he and Sajjan said they supported Vance in his decision to remove Norman.

Lawson fears Liberals Fighter Jet plan too Pricey

By: Laura Payton, CTV News 

The former head of Canada's military says the Liberal government’s plan to buy an interim fighter jet fleet will be expensive and difficult to carry out.

Retired general Tom Lawson, who served as chief of the defence staff from 2012 to 2015, says he believes Canada will end up buying Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jet to replace the current fleet of CF-18 Hornets despite the government choosing Boeing's Super Hornet to beef up the current air craft.

"There are hundreds of these things flying now and they've been declared combat-capable in the United States," Lawson said in an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period.

Retired general Tom Lawson appears on CTV's Question Period on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2016.

"And they'll be getting better and better for years to come. The F-35 is the way forward, not only for the United States but all the members and the partners who have bought into that program."

Lawson, a long-time supporter of the F-35, is now retired from the Canadian Forces. In an email to CTVNews.ca, he said he has done several days of work for Lockheed Martin as a strategic adviser, but noted his support for the F-35 dates back to his time as assistant chief of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The F-35 was the source of considerable controversy during Lawson's time as Canada's top soldier, after the auditor general and parliamentary budget officer found a range of problems with a planned purchase of the Lockheed Martin jets. The problems included national defence not telling the government about the aircraft's potential drawbacks or the full costs of the program, as well as not having documents to support some of the decisions defence officials made.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised, during the 2015 election campaign, to hold an open competition to choose the CF-18 replacement, but pledged at the same time not to buy the F-35.

Last November, the government announced it was working on buying 18 Boeing Super Hornets as an interim measure while holding a five-year competition to choose a long-term replacement for the CF-18s.

Lawson, a former pilot, said that decision caught him off-guard because he believes Canada will eventually purchase the F-35.

"Every time the F-35 is in competition, it is the top -- in many cases the only choice out there, and it's becoming cheaper and developing an excellent reputation," Lawson said.

"So I think what caught me by surprise is that this putting off of that decision will of course be expensive and very difficult for the RCAF to carry out."

The current fleet of CF-18s is more than 30 years old and down from 138 planes to 76, according to numbers provided by the government.

During the 2015 election campaign, the Liberals estimated the cost of an F-35 at $175 million per plane, with the Super Hornet coming in at $65 million.

Canada has obligations to NORAD and NATO that require a specific number of jets to be "mission-ready," although officials won't say how many planes that means. Defence officials say there aren't enough mission-ready planes, but admit that is due to a change in policy under which they started counting the combined NORAD and NATO commitments. That policy changed on the day they announced the plan to purchase an interim fleet, a defence spokeswoman told

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Suspended vice-admiral being investigated for alleged leak of classified shipbuilding data

By: Murray Brewster · Defence and security · CBC News

An allegation that Canada's second-highest ranked military commander leaked classified technical information related to the country's shipbuilding program is being investigated by the RCMP, CBC News has confirmed.

Mystery still shrouds the sudden removal of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, but sources say the Mounties became involved after it was determined an investigation of the accusations by military police would constitute a conflict of interest.

As the vice-chief of defence staff, Norman has been responsible for the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, which includes military police.

The RCMP are conducting a full-fledged investigation, the sources told CBC News.

Norman, who was pegged as a possible successor to Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance, was relieved of his duties on Monday. The move was characterized as "temporary" by Vance's office, which has refused to answer questions about the circumstances.

The Globe and Mail reported Monday that Norman's removal was related to the possible leak of classified information.

Sources tell CBC News that the classified information involved technical information about the navy's shipbuilding requirements and expectations.

Defence sources, speaking to CBC News on the condition of anonymity, say the allegation predates Norman's appointment as vice-chief last summer and likely extends back to his time as commander of the navy.

None of the sources were able to say how serious the breach might have been, but insisted that neither the media nor a foreign power received the information.
Shipbuilding link

It has been suggested inside National Defence that the alleged leak involved the defence industry, which has been engaged in cutthroat competition over the planned multibillion-dollar frigate replacement program.

While in charge of the navy, Norman was intimately involved over several years in the development of requirements for the new warships. Those requirements are partly developed using intelligence and threat assessments of the capabilities of potential enemies, now and into the future.
A French navy frigate rests at berth in Halifax in 2013. Canada is in the process of selecting a design contractor for its frigate replacement program. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)
Before a request for proposals goes out to potential contractors, most of the military's classified annexes are removed.

Defence sources say a leak of data would likely have involved portions of those classified addenda.

Ken Hansen, a retired navy planner and defence analyst, said it would be a serious breach if that kind of data made its way into the defence industry.

"A competitor that saw the classified data would have a really good insight into what the Canadian government and what the navy itself thinks is most needed in going forward for future warships," he said.

"If this breach took place, it is a very serious compromise of intelligence information that should not be shared with unqualified people, and it could be an international incident depending on what the source of that intelligence was."

Bidders were recently asked to submit proposed warship designs to the federal government's go-to shipyard, Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax.

During his tenure as navy commander, Norman was also at the forefront of the decision by the former Conservative government to sole-source the lease of a navy replenishment ship from Federal Fleet Services Inc., which runs the Davie Shipyard in Levi, Que.
Probe began under Tories

The investigation into the alleged leak has been underway for some time and pre-dates the current Liberal government, according to one well-placed source.

Asked for comment, the RCMP said it "does not generally confirm or deny who or who may not be subject of an investigation."

"This is done to protect the integrity of an investigation, the evidence obtained and the privacy of those involved," Sgt. Julie Gagnon said in an email.

Military police said Monday they have not conducted a probe into Norman's activities, nor were they co-operating with an outside law enforcement agency, which has been the practice in previous national security cases.

Although the RCMP are apparently not bound by law to inform the military that one of their own was under investigation, the Mounties have served notice as courtesy in the past.

Additionally, whenever National Defence — or other federal departments — suspect a leak, an internal review is carried out by the department's security officer. There is no indication whether that took place in this instance.
High stakes

Dave Perry, an analyst at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said the stakes are high for Canada, particularly among its allies that share information with the federal government.

He said they'll need to be reassured, but cautioned the investigation needs to take its course.

"I think our allies will be asking us what's going on and basically they'll want to see what happens with the actual investigation that's underway," he said.

Late Tuesday, Vance, who is overseas in military meetings, attempted to address the growing controversy.

"I understand there is a great deal of speculation surrounding the circumstances that led to my decision with regards to Vice-Admiral Mark Norman," he said in a statement. "For privacy considerations I am unable to provide further information."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the controversy on Tuesday during his town hall in the Maritimes. He refused to discuss specifics, but said he backed the military's decision to suspend Norman.

"The chief of defence staff took a decision and this government supports Gen. Vance in the decision that he took, and I have nothing further to say on this at this time," Trudeau said.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale was similarly reticent.

"I really can't make a comment at all," Goodale told CBC's Power & Politics.

On Monday, Norman, who was appointed to the post of vice-chief of defence staff last summer, was suspended but not stripped of his command.
National Defence remains silent

There has been no official explanation from National Defence for the unprecedented move.

No military commander in recent memory, at such a senior a level, has been told to relinquish his duties, according to several defence experts.

Officials in the chief of defence staff's office put out a statement characterizing Norman's removal as "temporary" and that his successor at the helm of the navy — Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd — would step in on an interim basis and serve as vice-chief "effective immediately."

Under Defence Department procedures, Norman would have been given a letter detailing the allegations against him and he would have had 48 hours to respond.

The letter was apparently served to him Monday morning, but the internal directive ordering that he hand over his post was signed and dated on Friday.
Removal shocks colleagues

Sources say Norman was not in the office during the latter half of last week. The official explanation was that he was "working on a special project," but it is now believed that the crisis came to a head internally around that time.

His removal caught many at National Defence headquarters by surprise, with several key staff finding out news via media or social media.

Norman has a reputation as a no-nonsense straight-shooter.

He is overseeing an investigation into suicides and harassment at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont.

And in 2014, he led a crackdown on heavy drinking and partying by sailors during off-duty hours following a spate of embarrassing incidents.

Trudeau vouches for NATO after Trump calls military alliance ‘obsolete’

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau has affirmed Canada’s support of NATO, days after president-elect Donald Trump‘s pronouncement that the military alliance is obsolete.

But the prime minister stopped short of saying he would be willing to boost the defence budget so Canada could meet NATO’s spending target for its member countries.

READ MORE: Reality check: Donald Trump says NATO members need to pay more. What is Canada paying?

Trudeau cited Canada’s leadership in Latvia, where it will contribute 450 troops and command several national contingents as part of a military deterrent to Russia on Europe’s eastern flank.

He said that was “a great example of how Canada continues to be an extraordinarily important player in NATO and we will continue to be a reliable partner, not just to the United States, but to all of our allies as we move forward.”

The Liberal chair of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee has told The Canadian Press that Canada will have to contribute more to the 28-country alliance if the United States – its largest financial and military contributor – scales back its involvement as Trump has suggested.

“That means countries like ours will have to step up to the plate,” Bob Nault said in an interview Monday.

Speaking to reporters in New Brunswick today, Trudeau said: “When there’s heavy lifting to do, when there’s a need for people to step up, Canada is there on the front lines contributing fully to NATO operations.”

Howard Drake, the British high commissioner to Canada, told The Canadian Press that NATO remains highly relevant as the West deals with the challenge of a newly assertive Russia.

“That’s his view. Who am I to comment on that?” Drake said when asked about Trump. “If ever NATO was valid, it’s now.”

He recalled the 2006 London killing of former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, who sipped a cup of tea laced with a radioactive poison administered by a Russian operative.

READ MORE: Canada has to reach into its pockets to pay for NATO if US leaves: MP

“The Russian state killed a former KGB agent on the streets of London,” Drake said.

“We know all about what it is to deal with Russia, and we believe we should be on our guard.”

Trump criticized NATO during the U.S. election campaign, and sparked surprise in Europe when he levelled more attacks this week.

But Trump’s nominee for defence secretary, retired Marine general James Mattis, spoke in support of NATO during his congressional confirmation hearing last week.

Analysts say Trump will expect other NATO members to increase spending in the alliance to ease the burden on the United States.

Canada lags at 23rd in spending in NATO, and currently contributes about one per cent of GDP to defence spending – well below the alliance’s two-per-cent target. The U.S. is one of only five NATO countries that meet the spending target.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

NATO without U.S. means Canada will have to do more

By: Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Canada will have to contribute more to NATO if the U.S. follows through on president-elect Donald Trump's musings on withdrawing from the alliance, says the head of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee.

Liberal MP Bob Nault cautions that Canada and its NATO partners need to see how U.S. foreign policy formally takes shape after Trump's Friday inauguration.

But he says Canada remains committed to the 28-country alliance and can't let it become weakened if the U.S. — its largest financial and military contributor — scales back its involvement.

"That means countries like ours will have to step up to the plate," Nault said in an interview Monday.

Nault said the upcoming defence policy review will help Canada decide where and how it should deploy its military resources. With a federal budget coming this winter that could mean an increase in defence spending, he added.

Nault and the committee are going to visit Latvia and Poland, two of NATO's eastern European members and nervous neighbours of Russia, which annexed part of Ukraine almost three years ago.

The MPs will travel to Ukraine as well as Kazakhstan on their 12-day, fact-finding mission.

The visit is timely, given Trump's frequent compliments directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin and his renewed criticism that NATO is "obsolete."

Trump also said he might end sanctions imposed on Russia for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal.

Trump's latest NATO broadside sparked a backlash in Europe, while Moscow said his offer on linking sanctions relief with a nuclear arms deal should be treated with caution.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Trump's remarks "caused astonishment."

Trump criticize NATO during the election campaign, but his nominee for defence secretary, retired Marine general James Mattis, spoke in support of NATO during his congressional confirmation hearing last week.

In Ottawa, the government held firm to its current policy line, affirming Canada's commitment to NATO and its solidarity with Ukraine in the face of the "illegal annexation" of Crimea.

"Canada is a committed member of NATO; we have been a part of every single mission since its inception," said Joseph Pickerill, spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Canada is one of four countries playing a leading role in NATO's military build-up on Europe's eastern flank to deter Russia with a 450-strong contribution of personnel to Latvia.

David Perry, senior analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said if Trump is taken literally it is bad news for the alliance, but he said it could just be a salvo by a self-styled hard-bargainer to push more countries to increase their defence spending.

That has implications for Canada, which lags at 23rd in spending in NATO, and currently contributes 0.99 per cent of GDP to defence spending — well below the alliance's two-per-cent target, he said.

The U.S. is one of only five NATO countries to meet the target and Trump wouldn't be the first president to push for more spending. President Barack Obama chided Canada to increase defence spending during his speech to Parliament last summer.

Nault said his committee will be speaking with European officials about the continuing role of NATO, whether the sanctions on Russia are effective and how the region is coping and "how this is all translating into the new world order."

The committee will report back to Parliament on whether sanctions are in fact working, or if they are an ineffective political tool, he said.

If the U.S. removed its sanctions on Russia, it would likely undermine the whole regime, Nault said.

Nault said the issue of "unintended consequences" of sanctions needs a closer look. Canada-Russia trade has fallen by half since they were imposed.

"If we're putting sanctions on as Canadians and we feel good about it, and nobody else is doing the job then really, is it to our benefit? That's the question that has to be asked."