Saturday, 26 May 2012

In which I attempt to avoid a post title like "Bureaucracy and Defence Procurement: The Case of Canada"...

...which would probably be the Trifecta of Boring. I've already lost basically everyone foolish enough to read this. But seriously hold on, this matters.

As everyone knows, we were supposed to spend a Carl Sagan amount of money on the F-35 Lightning II, a plane that has the demerits of sucking and costing too much, but on the plus side comes armed with unintentionally hilarious music videos. So I wake up to find that the Conservative government is considering a new agency for military purchases at arm's length from National Defence. This has the right kind of image: a Responsible Government, well meaning but duped by clever pencil pushers in a broken administration that our heroes are now fixing. 

It is hard to know what to make of this. You don't do this sort of thing without signalling that somebody really screwed up. Even the most somnolent bureaucracy can bolt to its hind legs with the sudden manic, slavering energy of a coke-addled Rottweiler to defend its territory. Especially when the hound is a defense department, and the particular patch of turf in question is the one where it can dig up its tastiest chew toys. 

But we still may be buying the damn things. Maybe. Ah, who knows?

As for this new agency plan. The implication that it's all the bureaucrats' fault tempts me to language that would get me into serious trouble if I worked for a respectable publication. The government misled Canadians about the true cost of the fighter, and then ordered the RCMP to investigate the leaks on "national security" grounds that the Mounties could not bring themselves to buy. The Defence Minister claimed that it was standard practice not to include life-cycle costs, when in fact it was. Mr. MacKay told us, rather wonderfully, 
If you went out and bought a new minivan and it was going to cost you $20,000, you wouldn't calculate the gas, the washer fluid, the oil and give yourself a salary to drive it for the next 20 years.
 If nothing else, MacKay did buy himself a lot of attention from disreputable used-car salesmen.

Anyway, MacKay didn't improve his case by arbitrarily knocking 50 per cent off the cost of the Libya mission. Chump change compared to the Lightning-II, so why bother? I can only attribute that last bit of old Peter's bull to sheer force of habit.

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