Federal bureaucrats are the ones who “hijacked” the F-35 procurement process, but Cabinet ministers went along without questioning it when they should have in order to avoid the controversy the government is facing today on acquiring 65 stealth fighter jets at a newly-projected cost of $45.8-billion over 42 years, say some critics.
“We know that the fiasco certainly started by the bureaucrats hijacking the process,” said Alan Williams, former assistant deputy minister for procurement in National Defence and a leading critic of the government’s F-35 procurement process.
Since 2010 when the government signalled it would in fact buy the F-35s in a sole-sourced procurement process for $9-billion and $7-billion in operation and maintenance costs, it has been mired in controversy over several issues—the two major ones being a disputed cost (the Parliamentary Budget Office estimated the price tag to be $29-billion over a life-cycle of 30 years for acquisition, operation and maintenance which Auditor General Michael Ferguson later verified in his own report at $25-billion over 20 years) and the secrecy behind the sole-sourced procurement, which eventually led to the government being found in contempt of Parliament and triggered the May 2011 election.
All along the way, the majority-governing Conservatives have maintained that their numbers are correct, that the PBO was wrong, that the Canadian Air Force needs the F-35s and would not go to an open competition for new fighter jets to replace Canada’s ageing CF-18s, that the opposition was not patriotic enough or standing behind men and women in uniform, that they followed Treasury Board guidelines, and that they won a majority government which clearly meant Canadians were behind them on the purchase.
When Mr. Ferguson said in his critical April 2012 report that the government did not apply due diligence in this case, the government slightly retreated and set up the National Fighter Procurement Secretariat, moving the procurement process from DND to Public Works, and introducing its “seven-point plan” to address the F-35 acquisition.
It back-pedalled again last Wednesday when it released an audit by KPMG which analyzed the stealth fighter jets’ full life-cycle costs at $45.8-billion over 42 years, including $565-million for development, $9-billion for acquisition, $15.2-billion for maintenance, $20-billion for operations and $65-million for disposal.
The estimate was for 30 years of operation and 12 years of research and development and disposal.
Mr. Williams said it didn’t have to come to this, however. (end of excerpt)
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