Published in the Globe and Mail, April 3, 2012.
In the wake of Tuesday’s expected report by the Auditor-General, the Conservative government’s hedging about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is likely to accelerate. After nearly two years of bold rhetoric and confident pronouncements, Canada’s procurement of 65 of these “fifth-generation” aircraft is now in doubt. Last week’s budget promised three years of cuts to the defence budget and mentioned only that Canada’s aging CF-18s will be replaced, making no mention of the F-35.
On one level, the government’s new-found caution is not surprising. The aircraft’s budget woes are well documented and much is being made of recent revelations of below-advertised performance. Despite the hype, however, revelations that the aircraft will be seriously over budget and may not yet meet all of the minimum requirements are not, in themselves, particularly newsworthy. Few defence procurements come in on-budget or meet all requirements out of the box. This is not news, although the government’s refusal to acknowledge these realities until forced to do so is troubling….
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