Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Following the continued hard sell on the F-35

A few items here, first a follow-up on a pro-F-35 op-ed that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen last week, "The truth about those jets," written by two former military personnel, including a General Paul Manson. The op-ed was a top-ten styled list of myths about the F-35 that the authors sought to debunk by, as the title suggests, telling the truth about them. Bill Sweetman, an influential aviation analyst who edits Aviation week caught something notable about the piece, however, that really should have been included in the identifying information about one of the authors:
Two former Canadian air force leaders weighed in on the debate last week, as well. In an op-ed for the Ottawa Citizen, former chief of the defence staff Gen. Paul Manson and the immediate past chief of the air staff, Gen. Angus Watt set out "ten myths that need to be debunked" about the F-35.

Memo to the generals: First, it doesn't look good when you don't tell the readers that one of you is the former boss of Lockheed Martin Canada.
Sweetman was picking up on a point made in a letter to the editor of the Citizen last week. The point being that it's fine for the opinion to be written and shared by Manson and his general colleague. It's not fine, however, that the Lockheed Martin connection was omitted. That's information that would raise conflict of interest questions and the reader should know about it. For anyone who has read that op-ed, or anyone relying upon it as a reference for some of the F-35 issues, that information should be factored into the weight given it. Sweetman also challenges a few other technical points in the piece that are worth a look too.

That wasn't the only F-35 advocacy involving military of the past week. The latest government sponsored p.r. tour took place on Monday: "Department of National Defence staff criss-crossed the country on Monday, pitching the need for the jets to local reporters from Vancouver to Halifax." See also this QMI report on the day's F-35 media pitch, relying almost exclusively on one Major General's favourable view of the F-35.

Then we see the reporting in Embassy today, examining the Harper government's effort over the past six months to involve Canadian aerospace companies in the public relations push for the F-35s. The angle developed there is that the series of ministerial visits to companies is just as much about boosting the profile of these companies for future work in the F-35 program as it is about the sell to the Canadian public. Which reinforces the view of the Conservatives emphasizing the jobs component of a potential fighter buy when really the preeminent concern should be getting the right plane, something that has not been proven to the Canadian public. Regional benefits and job considerations should flow from a properly held competitive process in any event.

Lots more of the hard sell to come, that's a safe bet.