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Friday, February 17, 2017

Canada to spend more on defence, Sajjan says, but non-committal on NATO

By: The Canadian Press 

OTTAWA -- Canada expects to make significant new investments in defence following the forthcoming release of its defence policy review, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Thursday as he met with NATO leaders in Brussels.

But Sajjan was non-committal about the specific issue of Donald Trump's repeated complaints about NATO members whom the U.S. president has long alleged have failed to pay their fair share of the cost of the alliance.

Sajjan said he spoke with U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis, a strident spokesman for the Trump administration on the issue of NATO spending who on Wednesday delivered a stern ultimatum to member nations.

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"America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to the alliance, each of your capitals needs to show its support for our common defence," Mattis said.

Canada is demonstrating its commitment to NATO by contributing troops and leading a multinational NATO mission in Latvia as part of what is known as Operation Reassurance, Sajjan noted.

"Obviously we did discuss (spending) in terms of the resources required for the impact that we want to have in NATO, and every nation is doing their part towards that," Sajjan said.

He repeatedly mentioned the ongoing defence policy review, which was part of his mandate as defence minister and which is looking at Canadian defence needs for the next 20 years, including NATO commitments and missions.

That means more money, Sajjan said -- although he didn't say how much.

"We knew that spending by the previous government was low and the defence policy review allowed us to do a thorough analysis of what was required," he said. "Yes, this will require defence investments."

NATO says member states should aim to spend two per cent of GDP on defence. Canada now spends about one per cent and has long been under pressure from the U.S., including long before the start of the Trump era, to boost spending.

The government is looking at predictable, planned investments, Sajjan said.

"We in Canada need to be able to demonstrate a thorough plan and what type of defence investment is needed, because this is significant money that needs to be invested, but the Canadian taxpayer also requires us to make sure that we are efficient with the money."

As well as the NATO talks and a meeting with a counter-ISIL group led by Mattis, Sajjan also had bilateral meetings with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and ministers from Australia, France, Germany, Portugal, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

He is heading to Germany for the Munich Security Conference, where senior decision-makers from around the world will discuss international security challenges.

Deadline for Surface Combatant RFPs Extended

GoC Press Release

The Government of Canada and Irving Shipbuilding Inc. (ISI) are extending the Canadian Surface Combatant Request for Proposal (CSC RFP) submission deadline. Originally due on April 27, 2017, submissions will now be received until June 22, 2017.

In order to meet the requirements of the Royal Canadian Navy and provide economic benefits to Canada it is important to ensure that the Government receives the maximum number of bids that meet technical requirements and offer high quality economic benefits to Canada. At this point, based on feedback from industry, an extension is the best course of action. It is not unusual for bidding periods to be extended, particularly for complex initiatives such as this one, which is the most complex procurement project in recent history.

This RFP was developed based on extensive engagement with industry. The 12 pre-qualified bidders had the opportunity to provide input on drafts of the RFP as well as the final version, prior to its release on Oct. 27, 2016.

With this extension, targeted completion for the procurement process remains Fall of 2017, with ship construction starting in the early 2020’s.

In addition to requests for an extension to the closing date, bidders have submitted a range of questions about the procurement. As of February 10, 2017, bidders submitted 164 questions and received 88 responses. Bidders have until March 10, 2017 to submit additional questions. All questions received prior to this date will receive a response.

The Government of Canada is committed to an open, fair and transparent procurement process, and providing the Royal Canadian Navy with the vessels they need to do their important work and at the best possible value for Canadians.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

HMCS Athabaskan to be Paid-Off March 10

RCN Press Release

The Royal Canadian Navy has announced that the ‘paying off’ date of the destroyer HMCS Athabaskan will be March 10, the Royal United Services Institute of Nova Scotia pointed out today.

Here is more information from Colin Darlington, Vice-President, RUSI (NS):

“Besides the ceremonial aspect of this event, there are other stories. Athabaskan is the last of the Iroquois-class destroyers in the RCN, really, the last destroyer at all in the RCN. Her departure marks the loss of the area air defence (long range anti-missile and anti-aircraft) capability for the Navy. Iroquois-class destroyers were also the Navy’s ‘command ships’ (sometimes known as ‘flag ships’ or ‘leaders’) that had additional telecommunications equipment, command information management systems, work spaces and accommodation to support an embarked commander and staff of a naval task group (a task group can be a destroyer, two-three frigates, a replenishment oiler). A number of Halifax-class frigates have been modernized to include a command capability to make up for the loss, pending building of the Canadian Surface Combatants. Athabaskan also provided a flight deck to train Sea King helicopter detachments.”

Canadian Navy destroyer  HMCS Athabaskan

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Operation CROCODILE members help at an orphanage in the DRC

CAF News Release

By: a Canadian Armed Forces member on Operation CROCODILE

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a country where the most grievous human rights violations are a daily occurrence, it is hard for anyone to feel optimistic about the future. Yet amidst all of the poverty, there still exist some beacons of hope. The members of Operation CROCODILE recently had the opportunity to take some time out of their busy schedules to extend a small gesture of love on behalf of generous Canadian donors, to one of these beacons, the Tulizeni Orphanage in Goma.

As we arrived at the orphanage, we pulled past the guards into a walled compound no larger than a typical suburban property in Canada. We were greeted by a sea of 86 small African children who were singing, laughing, and dancing. They were extremely excited by our arrival and even chanted, "Can-a-da", over and over again. Some of the smallest and cutest among them would approach and look up longingly with their little arms extended in hopes that they might get picked up and hugged in loving affection, while others would come and hug our legs. Picking a little one up was a touching moment for me as it made me think of my own toddler at home who is truly blessed to have two parents who love her, and will never have to experience the things that these orphans have had to endure.

While this was my first time at the orphanage, it was not for many of my fellow Canadians. There is a Canadian United Nations Volunteer, Gabrielle Biron Hudon from Quebec City, who comes out every weekend to volunteer at the orphanage, and several of the other task force members, who make the time to visit once a month to play with the kids. Sometimes they treat the kids and bring out a laptop and borrow a projector from work to show the kids a movie. Other times they bring candies or toys donated either from their own pockets, or from other generous Canadians. You could see in the children’s eyes and those of the staff, how much they appreciated having us visit, this gesture of compassion and generosity.

Sister Georgette Marjorie Thsibang, the orphanage manager, took us on a tour of the facility. As we took the tour of the orphanage, I noticed the very cramped living conditions of the 86 kids currently residing there. There were a few bedrooms filled with many beds. The first one we visited had three bunk beds packed into a 10'x10' room. The smallest kids sleep here, five to a bed, which makes for a room that houses 30 kids. We also visited a larger room, which was also packed with beds. We were told this was the room where the older girls (13-17) who had been raped, lived with their babies. My heart sank as I looked at the number of beds that were crammed into the room. To add to this, when I heard about all of the expenses I was shocked. It costs 195 USD per kid each year to go to school. Even just the operating cost for food is another 100 USD per day to feed the orphans a modest amount of food. I couldn't help but think that this place could really use more support and funding. They mentioned that they recently had to return several kids to the internally displaced persons (IDP) camp because they just couldn't afford to keep them and provide for them anymore. All of this comes in the midst of trying to build a new orphanage just outside of town; however, while the land has been purchased, the project is a long ways off. The project hopes to increase their capacity, decrease the cost of schooling by having an onsite school, and includes living quarters for the staff.

On this day, after the singing had settled down and the tour completed, the Operation CROCODILE Task Force Commander, Colonel Pierre "Pete" Huet, on behalf of a group of Canadian donors, and alongside the members of Operation CROCODILE, presented a large cheque donation of 2783 USD (4000 CAD before conversion) to the Tulizeni Orphanage to assist with the tuition expenses. The excitement of the kids and gratitude of the staff radiated and, not surprisingly, triggered the next round of singing and excitement. There was so much energy that the kids swarmed around Colonel Huet (pictured) and hilariously attempted to pick him up and put him on their shoulders to carry him around as they cheered. After the handshaking and the many gestures of thanks, they saw us off with big smiles and waves as we departed to get back to our primary task of combatting armed groups and protecting civilians in the DRC.

CAF Troops Simulate attack on Goose Bay Airport

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

Around 600 soldiers from the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, Valcartier, Quebec, are taking part in CASTOR BORÉAL, a winter warfare training exercise at 5 Wing Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador. The exercise started on Feb. 10 and runs until Feb. 18.

During the training, the troops will test their ability to defend a strategic site and a major attack and defence simulation will take place at the Goose Bay Airport, the Canadian Forces noted in a news release. Soldiers representing “enemy troops” will parachute in, and friendly troops will take position to defend the airport in order to maintain operations, the military noted.

The exercise will also include joint operations with the Canadian Rangers and officers from the Polish Army.

Air support includes:
One CH-146 Griffon helicopter from the 444th Combat Support Squadron
One CH-146 Griffon helicopter from the 430th Tactical Helicopter Squadron
One CC-130 Hercules aircraft from the 436th Transport Squadron
One CC-150 Polaris aircraft from the 437th Transport Squadron