Friday, January 07, 2005

"Remember, your aircraft was built by the cheapest bidder"

Babble on.

Welcome to the Upholder vs. L.A.-Class debate all over again.

The IL-76 is the only strategic airlifter available at a reasonable cost. Moving the equipment outlay for this strategic airlifter from DND to a Crown Corporation may seem rather like robbing Peter to pay Paul. The key advantage is that, as a non-military entity, this corporation is free to sell its services for profit when the aircraft are not required for use by the Canadian Forces or other government departments.

Let me summarize this proposal: we won't ever buy our military the best stuff, and buying even the cheapest stuff is a bit of a stretch, so let's sell the idea of strategic airlift to the mandarins in Ottawa by proposing to build our own cheap stuff and pay for it by pawning our surplus cheap stuff to the rest of the world, even though we have a $9B budget surplus this year.

I'm with Colin Kenny on this one. The only advantage the IL-76 has over the C-17 is price, and if you tell our uniformed Canadians that, once again, price is more important than value, don't expect them to remain in uniform much longer. They will only put their lives into the hands of the cheapest bidders for so long before they look for more meaningful employment elsewhere.

We can do better than thirty year old Soviet technology. In a rich and proud country like Canada, shouldn't that go without saying?

Babble off.


At 12:56 p.m., Blogger Sean McCormick said...

"You know we're sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn't it?" -- Rockhound (Steve Buscemi), Armageddon, 1998

At 1:02 p.m., Blogger Greg said...

Remember when we agreed that we needed a real defence review and soon? If this incident doesn't trigger it, nothing will.

At 1:23 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

I don't know, Greg. I thought 9/11 would have triggered a rethink. Or the fact that our op-tempo has been so far beyoned our current white-paper's projections for a decade now. Not a year ago, PM and the Fiberals ran TV ads that completely misrepresented the sealift proposals of the CPC as U.S. super-carriers, and Canadians bought it.

The signs regarding our declining influence on the world stage - military and political - have been clear for those who cared to look for years now.

The cynic in me wonders if Canadians care enough about their men and women in uniform, about national and global security, heck, about Canada's role in the world to put their money where their mouth is. I'm not just talking strategic airlift here, but everything up to and including foreign aid strategy and budget.

At 1:36 p.m., Blogger The Tiger said...

Here's what I found interesting -- there was a survey in the Globe and Mail a few weeks ago. Canadians are still slightly more hawkish than Americans about the morality of deploying troops abroad (take Iraq as an anti-American one-off). 92% favour it, as opposed to 85% of Americans. A healthy majority also favoured more spending on the military.

However -- a majority also opposed spending more on the military if it meant having to cut health care and education spending.

So, that's what happened to the determined Canada of yore -- it got universal health care. :-) (This also tells me that the right-wing loonies like my Californian grandfather (a Nixon fan) who claimed that it was the key step towards socialism actually weren't loonies at all.)

This is a situation crying out for a political figure telling people, "you can't have it all, folks -- this is a time for choosing." Then, we'll see whether we want to have a role on the international scene or we just want to sit around and feel all morally superior. (I suspect we'd go with the former; on the other hand, we did re-elect the Liberals, so maybe we're happy with the latter.) Either way, at least we'd know where we stand.

At 2:18 p.m., Blogger Chris Taylor said...

The IL-76 comes up short in every way that counts, with the exception being price. It's essentially the Soviet version of the now-retired C-141 Starlifter.

If you want to buy yesterday's strat-lift technology and capabilities with today's avionics slapped on as an afterthought, buy the IL-76. If you want to buy combat-tested modern avionics and a strat-lifter that can replace the Hercs as a tac-lifter too, then buy the C-17.

You summed it up best though, Damian: If price beats value, then the personnel will not linger in uniform for very long.

At some point Canada must pay a premium for superior equipment -- not just the cheapest on offer -- if it expects to engender the loyalty and longevity of those who serve.

It saddens me that Canada rarely if ever opts for the expensive but exquisitely capable, instead settling for the cheap and barely adequate.

At 2:19 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Statesmen offer choices, politicians offer bread and circuses. For now, Canadians seem far more fond of bread and circuses.

At 2:30 p.m., Blogger Greg said...

I have to disagree with Ben. You can have both a military and universal health care. What you can't have is a military, universal health care and tax cuts.

At 2:50 p.m., Blogger The Tiger said...

You can have universal coverage for essential health services -- and if you design it right, you can probably cover most things -- while still having a decent military. But you can't have an ever-expanding system.

(I thought tax cuts right at that moment were a dumb idea, too.)

At 7:09 p.m., Blogger VW said...

Well, here's the thing:

Let's say, as a hypothetical, the Liberals quadruple the budget of the Department of National Defence. Never you mind how they're going to pay for it, never mind if some other department gets cut, never mind if the polls argue against it, let's just say it happens.

Do you trust this lot to spend the money wisely?Contracts open up for new ships (aircraft, tanks, guns, etc.). What are the odds that some MPs are going to get in on the act yelling, "Build in the riding of X!"? What companies will attempt to influence the contracting process?

And more to the point: how many contractors will try to score using "tried-and-true / existing / off-the-shelf" technology, instead of taking this as an opportunity to try something new?

The last substantive defence review we had was in 1987. I say this because it proposed a radical way of thinking about defence policy, viz. the acquisition of nuclear submarines. Subsequent reviews, while important, never really questioned the status quo attitude on defence, which was just to hold to current operations on peacekeeping and the occasional aid mission.

The point is, until some serious thinking is done on defence policy for the 21st century, there will be no real incentive for reforming the procurement process. Which is the real bugaboo of defence spending.

At 1:56 a.m., Blogger Mike H said...

As VW points out, a new DOD mission statement/White Paper is long overdue. The strategic lift issue is, in my view, the new priority defence item that should, if common sense prevails, bump other traditional military expenditures off the wish list.

I don't think we can have it all anymore, in the context of a conventional western military configuration that places roughly equal emphasis on the naval, air and ground components. Cost dictates that something has to give.

If Canada truly wants to be capable of meaningful intervention when needed, whether for disaster relief or peacemaking/peacekeeping, then we must have our own strategic airlift capability, ready to go at a moment's notice. Combine this with a fully supported rapid deployment infantry brigade (as envisioned by Lewis Mackenzie, something along the lines of the U.S Army's Ready Brigade), and then Canada becomes a player on the international stage again.

Why not bite the bullet for one year, delay any payment on the debt for that year, and dump most of the surplus into air lift procurement and assembling a rapid deployment, all combat arms infantry brigade?

At 5:42 p.m., Blogger Gordon Pasha said...

Brooks wrote: "The cynic in me wonders if Canadians care enough about their men and women in uniform, about national and global security, heck, about Canada's role in the world to put their money where their mouth is. I'm not just talking strategic airlift here, but everything up to and including foreign aid strategy and budget."

Well, first, I think we need to get past thinking we are cynics if we call a spade a spade. For instance, if we say out loud what the vast majority in our society have become. The simple truth is, Canadians, in their majority, don't care enough.

The country needs a leader, if it is to rekindle the promise of being something more than a comfy mid-priced motel. I don't think it will happen though.

A rather annoying Englishman once said to me that the difference between lobsters and Canadians is that when you put Canadians in a pot of boiling water there is no need for a lid. If one tries to get out, the others will pull him back in.

At 7:45 p.m., Blogger Prolix said...

Does anyone remember talk of us co-sharing 6 C-17's with the US? I thought that was a reasonable proposal and would help integrate us into the US global distribution network as an added bonus. I just wonder why that isn't still on the table...


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