Canwest reports on the big backtrack on the withholding of the Afghan war's future costs. Absolutely right of "the Defence Department" to fess up here on this egregious error. This is, after all, still a democracy last time any of us checked. The key excerpt then a few points below:
The Defence Department admitted Wednesday that it was wrong to withhold the future cost of the war in Afghanistan on the basis that releasing it would violate national security.First thing here, "the Defence Department" admitted it was wrong in withholding these numbers? But the Defence Minister Peter MacKay said on Monday that he had nothing to do with the military's censorship decision. So apparently we are to believe that the department acted on its own in refusing to provide the numbers, in contravention of or unbeknownst to civilian leadership. So we must ask, does civilian leadership run the defence department or not? It should. Perhaps it's not Mr. MacKay's civilian leadership though, perhaps it's someone else's that Mr. MacKay was hinting at. Such as the PMO, for example.
Earlier this week, Canwest News Service revealed that the military had censored the projected costs in the coming three fiscal years in a recent Access to Information request by the federal NDP. The military withheld those costs even though they released them in an identical request by the NDP in April 2008.
"It was unnecessarily severed. It was a human error and we acknowledge that mistake," military spokesman Jeremy Sales said in an interview.
When the military finally divulged the numbers on Wednesday, the cost to taxpayers turned out to be almost $2.6 billion higher than the figures provided in 2008.
The figures released Wednesday show that cost of the war for 2009-10 is estimated at $1.513 billion, while for 2010-11 the cost is pegged at $1.468 billion.
Those 2008 figures showed a $261-million price tag for 2009-10 and $150 million projection for 2010-11. (emphasis added)
It's also quite difficult to believe that a decision of this magnitude could be chalked up to a "human error" and we shouldn't accept this attempt to minimize it so easily. The decision was thought through enough for someone to go to the trouble of justifying the refusal to provide the information on the grounds of national security in an access to information request. To make it sound like an innocent error stretches credibility.
Also note that the figures released now with Wednesday's batch of information for the cost of the mission in the next few years are $2.6 billion higher than the 2008 projections. The explanation? That the 2008 figures didn't factor in the cost of the extension to 2011 yet. That explanation doesn't, however, account for the figures that were on the Treasury Board website that pegged the cost overrun at $1.35 billion. So now we're up to $2.6 billion beyond what was projected in 2008. The discrepancy suggests that they have been holding back on such figures and low balling the costs to date in order to save political face. Games with numbers, all part of the credibility deficit this government has.
Final point, a figure of $1.2 billion has been placed on the costs of the military mission post-2011, the end date as agreed to by parliament. That should start some discussion.
All in all, it's another banner week for your Conservative government in action...
Update (8:00 p.m.): Dave's take at Galloping Beaver, informed military opinion.