5

Liberals imposed gag order on officials over fighter jets

Permanent non-disclosure agreements were implemented in January on over 200 federal civil servants


 
A Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornet breaks away from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, after competing refueling, March 4, 2015, over Iraq. The Hornets are on a mission to strike Da'esh targets in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston/RELEASED)

A Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornet breaks away from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, after competing refueling, March 4, 2015, over Iraq. The Hornets are on a mission to strike Da’esh targets in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston/RELEASED)

OTTAWA – More than 200 federal civil servants involved in replacing Canada’s aging fighter jet fleet have been forced to swear they will not discuss the project for the rest of their lives.

Revelations of the “lifetime” non-disclosure agreements come as the government prepares to start negotiations with U.S. aerospace giant Boeing to purchase 18 Super Hornets.

The government says it needs the Hornets to address an urgent shortage of warplanes until a competition to replace all 77 of Canada’s CF-18s can be finished – a process it says could take up to five years.

Critics say the air force does have enough planes and the decision to buy Hornets now and punt a competition to later is part of a larger Liberal plan to avoid buying the controversial F-35 stealth fighter.

National Defence spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier says 235 officials were required to sign the permanent non-disclosure agreements starting in January to “remind” employees of their obligations to keep secrets.

“Given the subject-matter and commercial sensitivities associated with the work, it was deemed to be an appropriate and necessary procedure,” he said in an email.

Federal procurement officials have been occasionally required to sign such documents in the past, particularly when it comes to selecting a winning bid, Le Bouthillier said.

However, he said, “in this case, a non-disclosure is principally used as a reminder to ensure sensitive and corporate information is protected in the long term.”

Two former military procurement chiefs told The Canadian Press in separate interviews that they had never seen such agreements used for procurement projects before.

“I can’t recall anyone in any of my project teams having to do that,” said Alan Williams, who served as assistant deputy minister of materiel at National Defence from 2000 to 2005.

“Any of our people, I trust them to use their judgment.”

Dan Ross, who oversaw the F-35 project from 2005 to 2012 as assistant deputy minister of materiel, said there are significant technical and commercial secrets at stake with the jet program.

But he said such secrets are protected with existing security classifications, which carry the threat of prison time and have proven more than sufficient.

Both Williams and Ross said the decision to force officials to a lifetime of secrecy was worrying and a heavy-handed attempt to keep them on a tight leash.

The non-disclosure agreements were revealed in records tabled in the House of Commons this week in response to a question from Conservative defence critic James Bezan.

Bezan said he believes the Liberals are trying to hide the fact their decision to buy 18 Super Hornets and put off selecting a replacement for the CF-18s for five years is about keeping Canada from buying the F-35.

“My suspicion is that the Liberals don’t want anyone talking about how this has been completely politicized, or that this isn’t the plane that National Defence was recommending,” he said.

Comments from officials have previously raised questions about the Liberals’ plan to buy Super Hornets.

Testimony from Lt.-Gen. Michael Hood, the head of the Royal Canadian Air Force, to the Commons defence committee in April has been held up as proof such a rushed purchase is unnecessary.

Hood said the military was not in a rush to replace its CF-18s, as the air force had enough planes to conduct operations for the foreseeable future and the fleet’s “useful life” extends to 2025.

“I’m confident, heading into what the government has suggested for an open and transparent competition, about the timelines associated with that project,” Hood said at the time.

“I’m confident that if a decision were taken, certainly in the next five years, we’ll be in a comfortable position changing that aircraft.”


 
Filed under:

Liberals imposed gag order on officials over fighter jets

  1. There is just one reason for Canada to buy the F-35 fighter … to provide employment for Lockheed-Marten workers in the US.
    (Note; Manufacturing offsets for Canadian businesses will be available, no matter what aircraft is purchased.)

    • How does your comment address the concerns this article raises which are:

      1. That the head of the air force says they have enough functioning CF-18 fighter jets to see them through to 2025

      2. That the Liberals have taken an unprecedented step in forcing civil servants to a lifetime of secrecy when they promised transparency.

      This isn’t about your dislike for the F-35 fighter jet. If it is a lousy plane, the Defence Minister needs to grow a set and pull Canada out of the development program and cite the sources you have. Where is the honesty? What they are doing now is paramount to suppressing the civil servants just like Harper did. This isn’t what people voted for.

      • 1. “Canada’s current fleet is now more than 30 years old and is down from 138 aircraft to 77. As a result, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) faces a capability gap. We have an obligation to NORAD to have a certain number of fighter jets mission-ready at all times, as well as an obligation to NATO. The number of mission-ready planes we can put in the air today is fewer than our NORAD and NATO obligations combined. The RCAF does a good job risk-managing that gap, and has been doing so for a number of years. ”
        November 22, 2016 – Ottawa – The Government of Canada

        2. Transparency does not relate to Restricted, Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret documents or data, which are covered by the Official Secrets Act. This is not unprecedented.

        Does it not occur to you that the secrecy may be related to embarrassing comments made in various documents relating to the “lousy” F-35, of which the RCAF has no need.

        Of numerous sources of information, I direct you to the archives of Aviation Week magazine, et al.

  2. WTF do 200 plus of Jr’s ass kissers got to be quiet about. Boeing will be building the planes. Fire all of Jr’s ass kissers and the country could easily afford the F-35s

Sign in to comment.