Liberals order 235 military personnel, bureaucrats to take fighter jet details to the grave
David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen | November 24, 2016 10:06 PM ET
The Liberal government has brought in an unprecedented gag order that prevents 235 Canadian military personnel and federal workers from ever talking about the program, now underway, to replace the country’s fighter jets.
The non-disclosure agreement for the equipment project puts the fighter jet replacement on the same level as top secret counter-terrorism missions undertaken by the Joint Task Force 2 commando unit as well as clandestine operations by the country’s spies, military sources say.
The permanent non-disclosure agreements were uncovered by Conservative defence critic James Bezan after he requested information through Commons “inquiry of ministry” process.
The information provided to Bezan noted that 121 individuals at the Department of National Defence were required to sign the non- disclosure agreement, 39 at Public Services and Procurement Canada; and 18 at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. The rest of the 235 were employed by the Department of Finance, Treasury Board, Department of Justice and Privy Council Office.
Five other individuals working on the fighter jet replacement project who are under contract to DND were also required to sign the non-disclosure agreement or NDA.
“The NDA is a life-time agreement,” the response to Bezan noted. Persons signing the NDA are considered “persons permanently bound to secrecy” on the future fighter jet capability project, it added.
Defence industry executives and retired public servants say they have never seen such secrecy surrounding an equipment program.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced Tuesday the Liberal government was entering in negotiations with Boeing to buy 18 Super Hornets as stop-gap measure before embarking on a competition to replace Canada’s existing fleet of CF-18s.
That competition, yet to start, will take at least five years.
Bezan has alleged that the Liberals are pushing off a decision to replace the fighter jets until after the next election. The move heads off what could have been an embarrassing decision for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Lockheed Martin F-35 had the potential to win any competition but Trudeau has stated his government will never buy that plane.
Sajjan blamed the previous Conservative government for mismanaging the fighter jet replacement and creating what he calls a capability gap that now requires the purchase of the Super Hornets.
But a number of defence sources say there is no capability gap.
Earlier this year, Royal Canadian Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Mike Hood said the CF-18s could fly until 2025 and potentially beyond.
In his appearance before the Commons defence committee, Hood didn’t mention anything about a capability gap.
“I know that some aircraft will end their useful life before that date (2025), starting perhaps in 2023,” Hood told the committee. “Others could last longer.”
But Hood added that he was confident that an open and fair competition would provide an aircraft in time for replacing the aging CF-18s. “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,” Hood said.
Original post nationalpost.com