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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Cost Concerns Stall JTF2's Planned Move to CFB Trenton

By: David Pugliese, National Post 

As Canada’s special forces prepares to increase in size, a planned move of its counterterrorism unit from Ottawa to a larger base has been stalled.

The cost to move Joint Task Force 2 to a new installation at CFB Trenton has tripled to more than $1 billion.

The Department of National Defence says it is now going back to the Liberal government for a decision on how it wants to proceed.

JTF2 had planned to leave its Dwyer Hill facility in Ottawa after 2019 for a new installation at CFB Trenton. The previous Conservative government had authorized $346 million for construction of the new JTF2 site and the move of the unit.

But the special forces command has significantly added capabilities to the proposed site, expanding it beyond its original scope. That has driven costs up to about $1.2 billion.

The Liberal government recently announced it was boosting the size of Canada’s special forces by 605 personnel, although it’s unclear how many of those would be for JTF2.

Still, the military has been warning for years that the counterterrorism unit has outgrown its Dwyer Hill installation.

Last year, the Department of National Defence told the Ottawa Citizen it would have a decision on the move by this summer. But it now acknowledges there are no clear timelines for the project, if it happens at all.

“Due to the complexity of the project, the scope continues to be developed to meet minimum operational requirements,” the DND stated in an email. “The Department will seek further direction from the government on the implementation plan as the project progresses.”

Jordan Owens, a spokeswoman for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, said the request for direction has not yet arrived from the military.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance has been warned the project is facing major risk in “cost and scope,” according to documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen through the Access to Information law.

The military has been talking about the need for a new base for JTF2 since 2005. Among the options considered was an expansion of the existing Ottawa site or moving the unit to Garrison Petawawa.

In 2008, the Conservative government announced JTF2 would be relocated to CFB Trenton, but in 2014, DND officials said the unit would remain at its Ottawa location at least until 2019.

In a controversial move, the Conservative government in 2012 expropriated a 90-hectare farm, near the Trenton base. The farm’s owner, Frank Meyers, made an unsuccessful bid to have the expropriation stopped. The farm had been in his family for more than 200 years.

The military took over the property, tore down barns, and built a berm and some access roads. Little else has been done with the land.

Due to the complexity of the project, the scope continues to be developed to meet minimum operational requirements

Meyers’ supporters have asked the Liberal government to return the property, but it has declined to do so.

There are currently around 1,900 personnel in Canadian special forces. That will be increased to 2,500, but the Liberal government has not detailed the time frame in which this will take place.

The Liberals have also pledged to spend $1.5 billion on new equipment for the special forces. That gear will include new vehicles, surveillance aircraft and boats.

Canadian Special Operations Forces Command or CANSOFCOM oversees Joint Task Force 2, in Ottawa; the 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron and the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, both in Petawawa; and the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit, a Trenton, Ont.-based organization that deals with weapons of mass destruction.

The Liberal government defence plan also calls for new infrastructure for the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit, which will see additional personnel added to its ranks. Some existing buildings will be remodelled while other new facilities will be constructed at Trenton.

If JTF2 vacates its Dwyer Hill installation, the site will be offered up within DND and then to other federal departments. After that it could be offered to provincial and municipal governments. “If there is no interest at these levels, the property will be sold on the open market through an open and fair process,” a DND spokeswoman has said.

Nanisivik Naval Refueling Station On Track For Fall 2018 Opening

By: Sara Frizzell, CBC News 

Roofs are being welded onto two giant fuel tanks at the Nanisivik naval facility under construction near Arctic Bay, Nunavut.

The refuelling station will enter the home stretch of construction this summer, with final checks occurring next summer before it becomes operational in the fall of 2018.

"Much of the infrastructure will be near complete within the next month and a half and we expect that commissioning activities, that means our tests and trials, will begin," said Rod Watson, project manager for the facility.

The project budget is $130 million and Watson expects the port to come in on budget and on time for the revised 2018 deadline.
Fuel tanks under construction. (Department of National Defence)
Each of the two fuel tanks is designed to hold 3.75 million litres and a pipeline has been built to run from the tanks directly down to the jetty.

There will be an unheated storage facility and a small office, but the port will only be staffed during the navigable season, which Watson estimates is from the beginning of August until October.

Initially slated for completion in 2015, Watson said they realized the short summer window for construction would delay the project.
Arctic naval facility at Nanisivik completion delayed to 2018

Environmental and geotechnical studies needed to be done before construction could begin and he said the team had difficulty getting the necessary equipment to the northern location.

The project was also scaled back from the plans announced in 2007 by Stephen Harper in his "use it or lose it' speech about Arctic sovereignty due to high construction costs.

Now, the facility will be mainly a refueling point for vessels from the Canadian navy and Canadian Coast Guard.

Watson says the coast guard has used this facility for years as it marshalls cargo vessels through Strathcona Sound and he expects they will continue to do so.

The original Nanisivik port was part of a lead and zinc mine that closed in 2002. While the buildings and fuel farm that were there have been removed, the jetty will look much the same.

The construction crew is currently pouring concrete to resurface the area.

Around 60 crew are on-site this summer, 11 of whom are local hires. 
The general use storage building shown under construction. (Department of National Defence)
"We've worked very hard to make sure people from the community are involved and are hired to work at the site and we expect to continue that as we move from construction into operation," Watson said.

Operational staff will help with the refueling of some of the Arctic patrol vessels that the new liberal defence policy promised to deliver.

Related:
In new defence policy, Liberals turn focus to Arctic sovereignty

The first of which will be delivered in 2018, though that doesn't necessarily mean it will make it north to Nanisivik next year.

DND Refuses to Discuss Combat status of Canadian Exchange Officers

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News 

New figures show there are 104 members of the Canadian military serving with other nations on exchange programs, but National Defence has refused to say how many of them are deployed in front line operations.

Officials are withholding the information even though internal government documents show at sometime in 2015 several Canadian fighter pilots — flying with an unidentified allied nation -—were engaged in combat against the so-called Islamic State.

The heavily redacted records, obtained by CBC News under access to information legislation, are dated April 15, 2015, and asked permission of former defence minister Jason Kenney to deploy a non-commissioned officer with a partner nation.

The Department of National Defence refused to discuss that case, but it was likely a dangerous assignment as a spokesperson said asking for ministerial approval was an "infrequent" occurrence.

When asked for up-to-date information about current exchange deployments, the department refused to provide any detail, citing a blanket of operational security.

"Due to force protection and operational security considerations, we cannot provide identifying information of our members who might be deployed while on exchange," said spokesperson Dan LeBouthillier.

The documents show the vast majority of Canadian exchange troops — 66 — are embedded with U.S. forces.

There are also more than two dozen attached to the British military, and a handful of others occupy positions with Australian, New Zealand, French and Dutch forces.

The exchanges, which are a long-standing practice meant to give Canadians practical experience with other countries, involve all branches of the military — the army, special forces, the air force and the navy.
Combat vs. non-combat

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says it's unacceptable that the Liberal government, which promised transparency, is refusing to answer the pertinent question of how many Canadians are in harm's way in the service of other nations.
U.S. Army Sgt. LeRoy Bierfreund works with a Canadian instructor during an exchange program and live-fire training exercise at the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering at CFB Gagetown, N.B. (U.S. Military Photo/Master Sgt. Benari Poulten)
"If Canadians are involved in the military missions of other countries, Canadians have to know that," said Mulcair. "We know what the Americans are doing there. We know what the British are doing there."

Mulcair said if Canada is sending troops to be embedded with those forces "how can Mr. Trudeau continue to pretend this is not a combat mission?"

Canada has up to 850 troops in Iraq, including 200 special forces operators, on its own mission in Iraq. The Liberal government recently extended the deployment until the end of March 2019.

Both the current Liberal government and the previous Conservative government have said the elite soldiers on the ground are advising and assisting Iraq's forces, and open fire on extremists only to protect civilians and allies.

The NDP say that constitutes a combat mission.

Steve Day, a former special forces commander, says he doesn't understand why the government simply doesn't come out and say the country is involved in a "low-intensity conflict" alongside its allies.

"Politicians do not give the Canadian public enough credit on why we have to do certain things," said Day, a retired lieutenant-colonel and head of the private security firm Reticle Ventures Canada.

"I think if they gave the Canadian public a bit more credit, they wouldn't be afraid to say combat. They don't have this debate in any other leading Western democracy."

Washington, under former president Barak Obama, parsed its words carefully when it came to military operations in Iraq, sending in special forces and using similar language about advising and assisting local forces.

Since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump that rhetoric has largely been jettisoned and the U.S. has openly acknowledged deploying troops in Syria to aid in the campaign to unseat ISIS from its de facto capital in Raqqa.

National Defence acknowledges Canadian special forces are eligible to serve "where opportunities exist" with other militaries on exchange, but refused to disclose how many, if any, are involved in U.S. operations in Syria.

And spokesperson Dan LeBouthillier, who declined to offer specifics about the current exchanges, recently drew a sharp distinction between the activities of Canada and its allies.

"Canadian Armed Forces personnel on exchange with other allied countries staff may be deployed by their host nation," he wrote in an email. "This can include a wide spectrum of activities, from humanitarian assistance to dynamic operations. In these instances, it is not a Canadian mission and Canada is not deploying these personnel. The host nation is."

The documents noted, however, that the federal government has discretion on whether to allow Canadians to serve in another nation's combat unit, noting "each situation is unique."
Political legacy

Mulcair argues the secrecy is more to do with politics than security.

"Justin Trudeau owes it to Canadians to come clean," Mulcair told CBC News. "For our troops to be in harm's way; Canadians have every right to know what's going on."

There was a political uproar in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq when it was discovered Canadians were serving in an exchange capacity, even though the government of former prime minister Jean Chr├ętien had decided to sit out the war.

During that time as many as 100 Canadians served in Iraq with U.S. and British forces.

Former chief of the defence staff, retired general Walter Natynczyzk, served as a brigadier-general commanding 35,000 U.S., British and Australian troops in Baghdad.

Retired lieutenant-general Peter Devlin, who later commanded the Canadian Army, also served in Iraq.

Internal government documents from 2008 show as many two dozen Canadians soldiers worked in the plans division of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in the run-up to the invasion and a further 35 were under U.S. command in an exchange capacity participating in the 2003 ground campaign.

The former Conservative government, with little fanfare, chose to acknowledge Canadians who fought in those campaign when it approved modifications to the existing General Campaign Star medal. The change meant campaign bars, which used to be attached to the medal, were replaced with theatre or service specific ribbons.

Monday, July 10, 2017

First Female to Command at 22 Wing/Canadian Forces Base North Bay

By: BayToday Staff

The 51 Aerospace Control and Warning (Operational Training) Squadron Change of Command took place today and CFB North Bay has its first woman commander.

Major Shawn Guilbault officially relinquished command of 51 Aerospace Control and Warning (Operational Training) Squadron to Major Brenda Tinsley.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to take command of 51 Aerospace Control & Warning (Operational Training) Squadron," said Tinsley, incoming Commanding Officer, 21 AC&W Squadron ‘A’ Flight Commander Squadron. "This squadron holds a fundamental role in NORAD, using the highly trained officers and NCMs to train the future control and surveillance experts of the RCAF. I wish Shawn good luck in the Joint Services Command and Staff College at Shrivenham, United Kingdom.’’

Colonel Henrik Smith, 22 Wing Commander and Canadian Air Defence Sector Commander, presided over the ceremony which was witnessed by members of 51 AC&W (OT) Sqn, 22 Wing and local dignitaries.

“Major Shawn Guilbault's exceptional drive and determination has ensured that the important mission of training members of the Canadian Air Defence Sector, 22 Wing/CFB North Bay, has been flawlessly executed throughout his tenure as commanding officer. NORAD has received a great service in his quest to institutionalize the aerospace training within 51 Squadron; a no fail mission to continually develop and train new controllers keeping CADS operationally effective."

Guilbault says it has been a privilege to command.

"The Jaegers are some of the most dedicated and hard-working operators, instructors, and aviators I have had the honour of working with – the future of the RCAF is in good hands! Maj. Tinsley brings a wealth of battle management and training systems experience to the fight; she will be an excellent fit and I wish her all the best.”

The squadron’s primary mandate is occupational and trade training for Aerospace Control Officers and Aerospace Control Operators in 12 different positional qualifications or certifications, training nearly 200 operators annually. Additionally, 51 Squadron is tasked to provide readiness training (first aid, small arms, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence) for all wing members.

Canada's Iraq Mission Extended until 2019 at Cost of $371 million

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

The Liberal government has extended Canada’s military mission in Iraq for almost another two years.

The mission will be extended until March 31, 2019, the government announced Thursday.

“Canada is providing $371.4 million over two years to support the cost of this renewed contribution to the Global Coalition against Daesh,” the government noted in a news release. Daesh is another name for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The Canadian military will be able to deploy capabilities as needs arise, the government noted. “This extension includes the authority to provide training for new potential partners within the Iraqi security forces and a CC-130J Hercules aircraft for tactical airlift,” it added in the news release.

Canada will also continue to contribute existing capabilities, including:

o Aerial refueling and surveillance capabilities;

o Tactical helicopters;

o Training, advising, and assisting Iraqi security forces;

o Capacity building in Jordan and Lebanon;

o A Role 2 medical facility; and

o Personnel, including intelligence support.
This extension includes the authority to deploy up to 850 military personnel.

Peggy Mason, president of the Rideau Institute in Ottawa, pointed out that the Liberals extended the mission without Parliamentary debate.

“The situation on the ground in Iraq is about to radically change with the impending demise of the territorial phase of the Islamic State enterprise,” Mason said in a statement. “Canadian military trainers may find themselves not only confronting a diffused Islamic state insurgency but a Kurdish independence movement and deep sectarian divisions between the Shia- controlled Iraqi government and the Sunni majority population.”

That type of situation should prompt a full debate in Parliament, she added.

“Instead what we have from the Trudeau government is a press release, after Parliament has recessed, and two days before the July 1st festivities begin, which appears to delegate the responsibility for updating the mission in light of evolving circumstances to the Canadian military, without even the involvement of the government, let alone Parliament,” Mason said.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told journalists on Thursday that the original mission was already debated in the House of Commons.

Canadian Military Officials hope Procurement Now On-Track

The Canadian Press
 For anyone hoping the Liberal government plans to blow up Canada's much-maligned military procurement system, Patrick Finn has some advice: Don't hold your breath.

Finn is the Defence Department official responsible for overseeing the $6-billion-per-year procurement system, which has been criticized far and wide in recent years over a perceived failure to deliver critical military equipment.

The problems have been blamed on poor planning, red tape and internal bickering, which has tied up efforts to buy new aircraft, naval ships and other equipment.

There were expectations that the Liberal government would finally start to unravel the problem with its new defence policy last month, which promised an extra $62 billion for the military over the next 20 years.

But the policy made little mention of the procurement system, even though its proper functioning will be all the more critical if and when the promised new defence spending starts to flow.
There were expectations that the Liberal government would finally start to unravel the problem with its new defence policy last month, which promised an extra $62 billion for the military over the next 20 years. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)
Finn, whose official title at National Defence is assistant deputy minister of materiel, believes that after a decade of hard-earned lessons, the system has finally turned a corner.

"Do I think we're on the right path? I do," he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"Do I think we're at the end of that path? We're not. Do I think we're through all the growing pains? We're not, but we're a lot more mature than we were three, five, eight or 10 years ago."

The reference to 10 years ago is important.
Materiel section gutted in the 1990s

National Defence's materiel section had only a handful of procurement specialists, many of whom were inexperienced, when the Harper Conservatives unveiled their own defence policy in 2008.

Gutted in the 1990s, the section struggled to produce accurate cost estimates and schedules for the billions of dollars in new military equipment the Tories promised.

Finn said many of the problems can be traced back to that shortage of staff and experience, and he acknowledged that having enough skilled personnel remains his top risk.

His 4,200-strong workforce is in the process of adding 300 more staff by the end of next summer, he said, while many of his staff have the hard-earned experience to know what works, and what doesn't.

"The nature of the conversations that we're having compared to 10 years ago, it's kind of exciting because we're really kind of getting into: 'Be careful, we've done this over the years,"' Finn said.

Another significant problem was the fact the Conservatives didn't set aside enough money for their policy, which led to a merry-go-round of trying to match available funding to the military's needs.

Finn is hopeful that the Liberals' defence policy, which the government says has been rigorously costed by six accounting firms, will finally fix that problem by acknowledging the real cost of different gear.
A worker grinds a component at the Irving Shipbuilding facility in Halifax in June 2016. While the Conservatives said 15 warships would cost $26 billion, the Liberals say the actual price tag will be closer to $60 billion. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)
One example: while the Conservatives said 15 warships would cost $26 billion, the Liberals say the actual price tag will be closer to $60 billion — the same number as reported by the parliamentary budget officer.

Many critics of the military procurement system, including some of those who held Finn's position before him, have also lamented what they see as an onerous amount of red tape and lack of accountability.

The reason is that while the ultimate purpose of the system is to buy the gear the military needs, there are other interests as well, notably the desire to maximize economic benefits and competition. That means heavy involvement in the system by two other federal departments: Economic Development Canada and Public Services and Procurement Canada.
'It's up to us now'

Critics of the system have repeatedly asked the government to create one single department responsible for all military procurement. Finn said that isn't on the radar right now.

"Are we going to fundamentally change the authorities of ministers or are we going to smash it all together? Not at this point," he said.

"And I would caution to anybody: Be very careful. Because even just smashing that all together is probably going to distract us for a year or two while this kind of stuff sits on the backburner."
Liberal defence policy promises to spend tens of billions of dollars on 50 major military equipment purchases over the next 20 years, including the long-delayed purchase of new fighter jets and warships. (Rick Bowmer/Canadian Press)

Finn's optimism will soon be put to the test. The Liberal defence policy promises to spend tens of billions of dollars on 50 major military equipment purchases over the next 20 years.

Those include the long-delayed purchase of new fighter jets and warships that are expensive, complex and politically sensitive, but absolutely necessary if Canada is to have a modern military.

Finn noted many other projects previously tied up in the system are moving ahead or being delivered, such as new armoured vehicles for the army, Arctic patrol ships for the navy, and search-and-rescue planes.

"It's up to us now," he said of his unit. "The government has done their part to kind of sign up to this, and we're very seized departmentally."

CAF Send Reconnaissance Support to BC Wild Fires


By: Simon Little, Global News - CKNW 

Canadian Forces aircraft are on their way to British Columbia to assist with the province’s out of control wildfires.

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Sunday that Ottawa had received and approved a request for help battling the hundreds of wildfires that have prompted a state of emergency in the province.

Chris Duffy, executive director of Emergency Management BC, said three Griffon helicopters are due in Kelowna Sunday afternoon, and that several fixed wing aircraft are due later this week.

“The Canada Forces assets are a resource of last resort,” Duffy said.

BC Wildfire crews will be prioritizing the use of provincial assets, but the military aircraft will be available for requests from the BC Wildfire Service, he said.

“From a readiness stance they would consider it ‘forward leaning.’ So the helicopters that will go into Kelowna, they will be on standby and ready to support provincial efforts, whatever that ask may be.”

Duffy said the aircraft will not be pressed into immediate fire suppression efforts, though could be called on in that capacity by the province if needed.

However, aside from a half-dozen reconnaissance and liaison staff, no Canadian Forces ground troops are currently expected.

Chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said the last time soldiers were called on to help fight fires on the ground in B.C. was in 2003.

“At this point we would first utilize our partner agencies from around Canada for trained wildfire staff before we would turn to support from the armed forces in terms of a front line fire suppression role,” he said.

Skrepnek said in order to trigger a request for ground forces, wildfire problems in other provinces would have to grow to the point where other fire services could no longer spare staff.

Additional Details by David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

A C-17 Globemaster, a C-130J Hercules, two CH-147F Chinooks, and three CH-146 Griffons are being sent by the Canadian military to support crews fighting wildfires in British Columbia. The government in British Columbia requested help from the federal government in the form of RCAF aircraft to conduct a variety of tasks. Those include assisting with the evacuation of the local population affected by the wildfires and assisting the ground operations by providing airlift capacities for first responders and equipment, according to the Canadian Forces.