Laurie Hawn is unimpressed

by Aaron Wherry

Various ministers maintained last week that the Harper government accepted the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the Auditor General, but Bob Rae pointed out that this didn’t quite match the formal response offered by two of the government’s departments. Peter Van Loan clarified that “the position of the government is not the position taken by the officials in those departments” and that cabinet “agrees with the Auditor General.”

Now emerge the views of Laurie Hawn, Conservative MP and former parliamentary secretary to the minister of national defence (and a retired air force colonel).

That’s not how Mr. Hawn sees things — and in his letter to a concerned citizen he made clear he believes there is nothing to apologize for. “There has never been any wrongdoing or bad faith on the part of National Defence or other people involved with the program,” he said. 

He accused Michael Ferguson, the Auditor-General, of getting some figures are “just factually wrong.” “He says that, in 2008, National Defence estimated acquisition at $9-billion and sustainment [operating costs] at $16-billion. That is not correct — it was $9-billion plus $7-billion for a total of $16-billion, again over 20 years. If he can’t get some basic facts right, it makes you wonder about other things.”




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Laurie Hawn is unimpressed

  1. Isn’t Hawn a retired Air Force pilot? Might be worth mentioning in a story like this…

  2. “If he can’t get some basic facts right, it makes you wonder about other things.”

    Irony, thy name is Laurie

  3. I suddenly have a lot more sympathy for the CPC MPs.. because attacking the auditor general on basic facts means either you’re functionally retarded or the PMO treats its own cabinet like the mushrooms it treats the rest of us as.. to be kept in the dark and fed horse-crap.

    Although I suppose those two aren’t mutually exclusive either.

    • Why, is the auditor beyond reproach?

      My understanding is that the auditor is independent, not infallible!

      •  Because it’s his job as AG?

        Had the Libs used that excuse over Adscan, you’d have killed yourself laughing

      • Actually.. given the resources available to the auditor, given the requirements to be the auditor, given that the very focus of the auditors job is to uncover basic facts, given that the PM hired him despite the language requirement because he was the very best man for the job, then, HELL YES! In the area of basic facts the auditor general IS beyond reproach. The auditor general provides the very definition of *what the facts are*.  That’s the whole friggin’ point of the position at all, and if the auditor general is not beyond reproach in doing that, then we might as well just cancel the whole damn office.

        • I don’t have a problem with his numbers, just his analysis and the way it is being discussed in the media. The fact that something costs more over 36 yrs than 20 yrs is not in itself particularly insightful.

          The fact that he found little evidence of due diligence by DND should be more worrisome than operational costs.

          • That’s a lovely red-herring you have there.

            The point was Laurie Hawn saying that the AG got some figures “just factually wrong”, and your response was defending that statement.

            Now, upon realizing that your knee-jerk put your foot in your mouth, you’re trying to back out saying “Oh no.. I didn’t mean we should question the AG’s figures, just the presentation..”

            Yeah right, buddy. Careful of those herring bones there.. wouldn’t want you to choke on it.

          •  Yes, your brilliance has me at an utter loss.

          • No.. no.. I think it’s that foot in your mouth.

      • This is fascinating; I think we are witnessing the first federal government to set out to purposely take apart Canadian trust in our AG.  This is a talking point for only a couple of days; kudos to AT for getting it out so quickly.

        The only problem is: once we no longer believe in the AG, let alone the PBO or any other watchdog set up to look out for our money — well then we’re done, right?

        Remember: it’s absolute power that corrupts. 

        • Brought to you by the same gov’t that has set out to purposely take apart Canadian trust in:

          - Elections Canada
          - The Parliamentary Budget Officer
          - Nuclear Safety Commissioner

          etc. etc. etc.

          These guys haven’t been corrupted by power, they just have a limited playbook: destroy anything that stands in their way. Its Republican Party origins are unmistakeable.

          • Yeah of course, anyonewho disagrees with your point of view must work for the government!

            So long and thanks for paranoia!

          • Swing and a miss.

  4. Well, is Hawn right or wrong – very simple and easy to confirm.  Did the AG say the DnD 2008 estimate was $25B when it was actually $16B or did he not?  Given how much fury his report is generating among the opposition and their media enablers, isn’t it kind of critical to know how sacrosanct is that report?

    BTW, no surprise you didn’t reference the other highly interesting comments in Hawn’s letter, such as this one:

    “One of the big challenges in communication is that some of the capabilities of the aircraft are so highly classified that those details cannot be released without doing damage to our and our allies’ security. There is literally a handful of people in Canada [who have] read into the full capabilities of the F-35. I’m not one of them but I know them and all I can say is variations of ‘Holy Cow!’”

    The wider international backdrop to the F-35 purchase is an America concerned about the rise of China in the Pacific. The Canadian government’s decision to go with the F-35 appears to be part of a tacit political agreement between the United States and key allies like Japan and Australia to contain China’s ambitions.”

    In other words, “arctic patrol” is far from the only capability the replacement jets must have.  Any of the proponents of the F-18 Superhornet care to comment as to how well they think they’ll perform 20 years down the road going up against the latest Chinese jets as part of a joint task force trying to keep China from invading Taiwan?

      • So other than (undoubtedly inadvertently) ceding Iveson’s point, what is yours?  That we should now abandon the F35, because they haven’t “hacked” other planes?  That we should just hand over Taiwan now?

        •  The US and Canada consider Taiwan part of China, and have done for years….so we won’t be starting WWIII over it.

          And China hasn’t attacked anyone in thousands of years….there are far easier ways to achieve an objective than war.

          All our planes have been hacked….it doesn’t matter which one you pick.

          This whole exercise is a waste of time and money.

          •  I think a few Tibetans and Indians might quibble…

          •  They can quibble all they want, but we aren’t going to war over them.

    • You’re not suggesting a journalist do actual research, are you? I mean, that might require work! It’s much easier to write a single paragraph, quote selectively from a letter, and sit back while with a smug look on ones face.

      • Aside from quoting selectively from a letter, isn’t that what you’ve done with this comment?

        • Mine was a look of disdain, not smugness.

          • Ah, so difficult to distinguish between the two…

    • About the same as the F-35…. wait you don’t think the F-35 is some superior plane do you?

      Because that would be pretty stupid, the Chinese J-20 is already superior to the F-35 and would defeat them easily should they get into a dogfight so there probably wouldn’t have that much of an advantage over the F-18 Superhornet. Considering the Superhornets max speed is Mach.1.8+ and the F-35′s max design speed is Mach 1.6 maybe having a faster plane is more important when you’re getting your ass kicked. Also given the Superhornet would be much more maneuverable than the F-35 I don’t see the advantage to having the F-35.

      The ONLY thing the F-35 will be good for is short range bombing raids and that is only if they are carry TWO bombs internally. If they have to carry more than 2 bombs (extra bombs are placed externally) than there goes any stealth that it did have and any advantage it has over the F-18 Superhornet. They do not have the ability to be a good air-to-air combat vehicle nor have the ability to provide long-range surveillance so really what is the point of getting this plane? Who are we going to bomb?

      And what the hell does communication about price have to do with the ‘highly classified’ capabilities? Once again, Laurie Hawn shows us that he is an idiot!

  5. “He accused Michael Ferguson, the Auditor-General, of getting some figures are “just factually wrong.””

    Wow, now an accusation that the AG is wrong.

    Never heard that said before, and I doubt Canadians are going to buy it.

    • Why is it so hard to believe?  After all, he’s unilingual.

      •  Yeah, and a Harper appointee….so questioning him is so far outta line it pretty much makes Hawn a Taliban.

        • Albeit one that has forgotten more about fighter jets than you’ve ever known in your lifetime.

          •  LOL I was in the air force….but I can see it’s easier to attack me than defend Hawn for attacking the AG.

          • double post

          • At the risk of sounding impertinent, how does having piloted jets make Hawn better at assessing their value than Michael Ferguson?

      •  @GreatWallsofFire:disqus

        Pilots fly planes….something he hasn’t done since 94….and know zik all about much else.

        And don’t be standing by personal attacks on me….you know nothing about my life, and should be on topic anyway.

        I would trust the AG over a pilot-turned-Con MP anyday.

        • I and the  rest of the regulars know more about you than we ever wanted or desired to, since you so freely offer up snippets in support of your various effusions.  Perhaps if you did this less in the future, the “personal attacks” would diminish.

          Why the Hawn animus – did he make you do KP or something?

          • No, actually you don’t even know if I’m male or female…..but if you dislike my posts so much, don’t read them. It’s that simple.

            Just stop attacking ME when you can’t defend your govt.

            There’s no excuse for it.

          • You go, Em!  These conbots are unable to defend their government’s actions, so they make personal attacks on other commenters. When threatened, cons attack.

          • Let’s stick to the aviation motif and follow the trajectory:

            OE1:  Laurie Hawn is an idiot

            Me:  He knows a lot more about fighter jets than you.

            OE1:  I was in the air force!!!  Stop personally attacking me!

            OE1 sycophants:  not ANOTHER nasty personal attack by a Con – we feel faint!

            I promise not to read your posts in the future, not out of dislike, but because they’re drivel.

          •  Oh now you’re rewriting my posts….!  LOL

            Well it certainly isn’t an attack to misquote someone, or lie about them eh?

            And Cons claim to be moral and christian. Hah!

          • Wait, what?  It’s okay to make personal attacks if the person you are attacking shows some tendency to be a fully-formed individual?  So does that mean cardboard cutout commenters are off limits?

      • Exactly!  His accounting and auditing abilities were so great that they overshadowed the fact that he couldn’t speak French.
        That’s what the government told us.

  6. There’s something odd about Hawn’s letter to a ‘concerned citizen’ (according to Ivison’s piece) coming to light, attacking the AG.
     
    Was it intended to be disclosed publicly?  Ivison seems to think not.
     
    However, might this be a repetition of the tactic used when the Residential Schools apology was made, of Poilievre giving a radio interview that undermined it?  Send out your most loyal soldier to do the deed.  When it comes to fighter planes, who better than to badmouth the AG and rally the constituency in favour of the F35 than a former air force pilot?

    • An MP should always understand that anything they write to a member of the public is public information. 

    • When threatened, Conservatives attack.  I think there has been very much an attack on the credibility of the AG, like all the other watchdogs who call the government’s bluff.  I am concerned that would be the end of any accountability systems we have left.

      •  Yup….they are never wrong, and they attack anyone who says they are…..from a poster to the AG.

        Good thing the Queen doesn’t say much or they’d be attacking her!

        • Ah, good times!  Remember when they attacked the GG?

          •  Heh…yup, they were going to ‘go over her head’….kissing Canadian sovereignty goodbye.

  7. .A post that’s wandered off again….sigh

  8. Aaron, I think your heading is a bit oof.  It should read:  Laurie Hawn is unimpressive.

  9. Laurie’s email

    There is a lot of misinformation out there about the F-35 program. This
    is going to be long, but it’s important that you have the whole story.
    This is the biggest military program in our history as was the NFA
    program back in its day. Some of the same type of people are saying
    some of the same things now that they were saying 30 years ago.

    The concept of ops for the CF-18 was to operate the aircraft for
    phase-in plus 15 years, at which time we would be in the process of
    acquiring our next fighter. That would put that action at 2003. It made
    perfect sense for the Liberals to sign onto the JSF MOU in 1997 and to
    up the ante in 2001. We upped it again in 2006 and made the formal
    decision to acquire the F-35 under the MOU in July 2010. For the
    Liberals to say now that they had no intention of buying the aircraft is
    absolute nonsense. We are buying an aircraft to fly until at least
    2050.

    Let’s take process first. We’ve had subject matter experts, military
    and civilian, studying the JSF programs and other options for years at a
    very highly classified level. We have highly experienced fighter pilots
    and engineerson the military side, many of whom I have known for
    decades. On the civilian side, we’ve got people like BGen (ret) Dan
    Ross, ADM (Mat) for the past five years and a guy who has helped reduce
    acquisition times from over 100 months to less than 50 months. We also
    have a guy named Mike Slack, who has been exclusively involved with JSF
    for close to ten years, and who knows the nonsense that former ADM (Mat)
    Alan Williams is spreading. We initially looked at F-22, F-35,
    F-18E/F, Typhoon, Gripen and Rafale. F-22 was eliminated right away,
    because it would not be for sale to anyone other than the U.S. After
    analysis, the Gripen and Rafale were eliminated as not having any
    performance advantage over our current CF-18. A more extensive
    evaluation of the F-35, F-18E/F and Typhoon was conducted. The
    conclusion was that the F-35 is the only aircraft that meets the
    mandatory high level capabilities and the more specific operational
    requirements, and at the best cost with the best industrial
    opportunities. The same process was followed in the U.S., U.K.,
    Australia, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Italy, and Turkey within the
    MOU. Israel is on board outside the MOU and Japan, South Korea and
    others are poised to follow suit. There is a definite trend here and
    maybe we should listen to our own subject matter experts and all these
    people from so many countries

    Comparisons done by others, such as Wg Cdr Mills, RAAF, have one major
    flaw. They are based on 3rd or 4th generation fighter knowledge and
    very limited understanding of the real difference to 5th generation
    capability. There is a very limited number of people anywhere who are
    fully read-in to the classified details and capabilities of the F-35.
    I’m not one of them (and I guarantee Mills isn’t either), but I know
    what I don’t know. Also, my only agenda and that of the CF and other
    militaries is to get the best piece of kit for our folks. So, my
    question to Mills and others would be “How do you know?” and “What is
    your agenda?”. Despite their lack of truly current information, Mills
    and another guy named Peter Goon seem to have found a receptive audience
    in other parts of the world, whose agenda may also be different than
    ours.

    The F-35 is not a turn-and-burn king (dog fighter) compared to pure air
    superiority fighters, like the F-22 and some of the new Russian
    aircraft. It is on par with the Hornet, but becomes clearly superior
    with 5th generation technology. That has proven out in various
    simulator exercises and we have had a number of current CF-18 pilots
    involved. The other basic question is, is it superior to available
    4th generation fighters. To a remarkable degree the answer is yes. In
    basic areas of range, endurance, payload, turn, etc., the F-35 is at
    least equal to the other options. In other more high-tech areas related
    to 5th generation unique capabilities, there is no comparison. One of
    our handicaps is that we can’t explain all the reasons why, because of
    the very highly classified nature of some of the information. One of
    the bottom lines is that we don’t want an aircraft at the end of its
    development cycle and at the end of its production. We want one that
    is at the start of its development cycle and one that will be in
    production for at least the next 25 years.

    Let’s talk about interoperability. We had problems in Kosovo because
    our Hornets lacked the communications necessary to be part of many
    packages. Our allies had to be dumbed down, so that we could play. It is
    more than radios and data-link, when we talk about interoperability
    between 4th and 5th generation aircraft. If you have a package of F-35s
    with a package of CF-18E/F tagging along, we would stick out to enemy
    defences like a sore thumb and endanger the whole package. We would be
    relegated to decoy status and soak up a lot of unfriendly stuff.
    Without going into exact numbers, an F-35 can kill a CF-18 at many
    times the range that the CF-18 will even see the F-35.

    The Super Hornet production line closes in 2014 and the USN will retire
    the aircraft by 2025. We would be on our own after that and any
    software upgrades, system changes, R&D, test and evaluation, etc.
    would be on our hook for our fleet of 65 aircraft. That’s not very cost
    effective. The U.S. Government makes the decision on when to shut down
    the production line and a big chunk of the equipment is owned by them.
    The only way that the production could continue is with more off-shore
    sales. That doesn’t appear to be happening and we would still be
    orphaned after 2025. Boeing will cite the Aussies buying 24 Super
    Hornets (at a hefty price). The Aussies are very clear that those
    aircraft are a ten-year bridge from the F-111 to the F-35.

    Many people express concern about the single-engine configuration, and I
    was one of those. When I took a closer look at current engine
    technology, I was satisfied that the risk is very well mitigated by new
    materials, blade and engine design, and the level of redundancy. You
    can throw a lot of stuff down the intake and it will be spit out by the
    very thick and tough blades and the high by-pass. We should also
    remember that trans-oceanic commercial flights were restricted to
    four-engine aircraft. Now two engines is the norm.

    Let’s look at cost. If we translate the $16,090,000 that we paid for
    each CF-18 in 1980 dollars to 2016, they would then cost $63 million.
    Our price for the F-35 will be between $70 – $75 million, for a quantum
    increase in capability. That’s not bad. You hear a lot about cost
    escalation and there is truth to that, as there is for any leading edge
    technology program. The cost-per-jet numbers you’re hearing are the
    progressive average cost of the early aircraft, the very first of which
    cost $249 million. We are buying our aircraft starting in 2015 / 2016
    at the peak of production and lowest cost. You may have heard that
    Norway has delayed their acquisition. That was done to follow our
    example and get the aircraft at the cost sweet spot of the production
    cycle. Despite all their economic woes, the U.K. is continuing their
    program to acquire F-35s. The U.S. Government is underwriting any
    increase in R&D costs and the program is outperforming current cost
    curve projections. The Congressional oversight that is being exercised
    in the U.S. is good news for us and other members of the MOU. It’s
    about the reporting system in place at Lockheed Martin, not the aircraft
    itself. There is automatic triggering of Congressional measures at
    certain levels. That is based on forecast costs and does not take into
    account the very high costs of the early aircraft. Nevertheless, this
    process does put pressure on Lockheed Martin and that is good for all of
    us.

    Let’s look at the breakdown of the $16 billion you hear quoted. About
    $5.5 billion is for the aircraft. About $3.5 billion is for simulators,
    training, infrastructure, spares, etc., much of which will come to
    Canadian industry. The other $7 billion is a very educated estimate of
    what it will cost to support the aircraft for 20 years, the majority of
    which will come to Canadian industry. None of this is “borrowed”; it is
    all within the programmed funding envelope of the Canada First Defence
    Strategy.

    You will hear Boeing say that they can beat the price of the F-35. The
    number they quote is in 2009 dollars and does not include such niceties
    as external fuel tanks,
    pylons, helmet-mounted sight system, targeting pod, missile launchers,
    radar warning receivers, self-protection jammers, active self-protection
    counter measures (chaff and flares) and the GUN! Great for
    cross-countries and airshows, but not much else. Add $8 – $9 mill per
    aircraft to do the job. When we do an apples-to-apples cost comparison
    between F-35, F-18E/F and Typhoon in production year dollars, the F-35
    is by far the cheapest. I can’t give you the exact numbers, but they
    are contained in government-to-government documentation between PMA 265
    and DND. There will be 560 Typhoons worldwide, 500 Super Hornets and
    3000 – 5000 F-35s. The economies of scale not only for initial purchase
    under a multi-national MOU, but also for spares, are pretty obvious.

    Let’s look at the value of being part of the MOU. Every member of the
    MOU has one vote. Within the MOU we are exempt from Foreign Military
    Sales fees and that saves us about $850 million on the cost of the
    aircraft. For every FMS sale outside the MOU (e.g. Israel), we get a
    portion of the royalties. As part of the MOU, we also have the right to
    use all the classified intellectual property. We would lose that
    outside the MOU. As part of the MOU, we have guaranteed spots on the
    production line. This is critical to the timing of bringing the F-35
    into service and phasing out the CF-18 before it dies a fatigue life
    death.

    Let’s talk about industrial opportunities as part of the MOU. As an
    aircraft acquirer within the MOU, our industry has favoured treatment
    for contracts for the global supply chain for between 3000 and 5000
    aircraft. That global supply chain is being established as we speak,
    and that was one of the reasons for the decision in July. Although our
    companies could still technically participate under the MOU if we were
    still members but not acquiring aircraft, business realities would
    clearly say otherwise. For example, Pratt and Whitney makes engine
    components in Montreal and Turkey. If Turkey is acquiring aircraft
    under the MOU and Canada is not, guess where P&W will put the
    business. We have opportunities for at least $12 billion in business.
    If we are outside the MOU, we would lose that ground floor advantage for
    next generation technology and whatever comes after that. Now that we
    have activated the procurement provisions of the MOU, the negotiated
    Industrial Participation Plans (IPP) kick in and it is under those that
    Canadian companies have signed hundreds of millions worth of contracts
    since July. If we withdraw from the MOU to conduct a competition, our
    participation in the IPPs ceases. Canadian industry knows that and they
    are putting a lot of pressure on the Liberals to do the right thing.

    The Liberals have said that they would cancel the acquisition phase of
    the F-35 MOU that we have entered into and hold a competition and they
    say that there would be no consequences of doing that. What nonsense!
    We would have to negotiate our way out of the MOU at a potential cost of
    up to $551 million. We cannot compete the MOU deal for the F-35
    against an FMS deal for a Super Hornet. We would be buying the F-35
    directly from the U.S. Government on an FMS case with a
    take-it-or-leave-it price. We would lose our spots on the production
    line and we would be running a serious risk of a capability gap if we
    have to retire the CF-18 before the new aircraft is on the line. With
    all the information that we have on cost, capability, industrial
    opportunities, etc., the answer would still be F-35 and we would
    have lost time, money, jobs and international respect.

    In no other MOU partner is the political opposition taking such a
    position and it is having an impact on the credibility and confidence
    that our allies have in Canada. It absolutely will cost jobs if they
    don’t stop very soon. We have seen this partisan political movie before
    in 1993. Seventeen years and close to a billion dollars later, we’re
    still waiting for the first Sea King replacement. The implications of
    this one are infinitely greater.

    When this all started, I was a Super Hornet fan. Everything that I have
    seen, read and heard since has convinced me that the F-35 is the
    answer. No one who has studied the options with adequate information in
    at least ten countries has reached any different conclusion. It is not
    risk free; no new program is. There are echoes of the New Fighter
    Aircraft Program here, and that program turned out just fine. We need
    to get on with it.

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