Monday, November 22, 2010

F-35 gets the hard sell and a hard look

David Pugliese has details today on the latest p.r. push by the Harper government to sell their sole-sourced F-35 proposal to the Canadian public. They are concerned, it seems, about that Ekos poll that showed Canadians are not so enamoured of this proposed purchase ("...more than half of Canadians either strongly oppose or somewhat oppose the government's plan to buy F-35 fighter jets.") So the new harder push is on.

This one involves DND/Canadian Forces personnel going across the country to brief various "defence analysts" in academia (and maybe elsewhere, it's unstated, maybe think tanks) so that they'll be primed to speak to the media with their talking points about the F-35 purchase proposal.
Sources say that DND/Canadian Forces representatives aren’t expecting too much pushback or tough questions from the analysts, many of who are already on side with the JSF deal or are inclined towards such military expenditures any ways.
So, this is more fuel for supporters to go forth and sell the F-35. Implicit in this story seems to be the notion that those in academia, or elsewhere, of the defence analyst variety who are neutral or even opposed to the F-35 purchase wouldn't be offered the same opportunity of this briefing. So that they too could ask questions, for example. If government resources are being used to provide such briefings, presumably any defence analyst type should be able to have the same opportunity.

Another question here is the use of military personnel to sell this plane. This is a civilian decision, ultimately, that our elected representatives make. Sending Canadian Forces officials around the country to participate in the issuing of Harper government talking points doesn't seem like something they should be involved in. Let alone whether the government should be doing this, focusing on the hard sell rather than ensuring that the right plane is being purchased in the first place and in the right way, i.e., a competitive bid process.

Further, from Pugliese's reporting, the Harper ministers are out in Montreal and Waterloo doing their usual job fear mongering push today. The jobs they will highlight, though, are jobs obtained as a result of previous F-35 agreements that have nothing to do with any future purchase. 
Sources tell Defence Watch that the politicians aren’t highlighting new contracts (some of these were awarded years ago). They say that the ministers will be sticking closely to their “talking points” so they won’t be straying from the prepared script the Conservative government has outlined in the Commons and at other press conferences. The idea is to get more articles and broadcasts out there about the multitude of jobs the government maintains will come from any F-35 deal.
Jobs, jobs, reliant upon that F-35. So how's the F-35 program doing down in the U.S. today?
In what has become a regular event, senior Pentagon officials will meet today to review why the F-35 joint strike fighter has fallen behind schedule and over budget yet again and what to do about it.

The top Pentagon weapons buyer, Ashton Carter, is scheduled to convene a defense acquisition board with military and civilian experts to try to understand why development and testing of the airplane is lagging behind a schedule that was revised this year for at least the seventh time.
Experts convening to try to understand the problems with the F-35 versus our government briefing sympathetic experts on how to sell the F-35. Seems quite off and typical for the Harper government.