Archive for March, 2009

FORMER SOLDIER FIGHTS TO PRESERVE ARMY TRUCKS MLVW POSTED BY DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN JOURNALIST

March 29, 2009

 

FORMER SOLDIER FIGHTS TO PRESERVE ARMY TRUCKS MLVW

 

By David Pugliese,

The Ottawa Citizen

March 23, 2009

 

A Cantley man and former soldier is in a battle with the Defence Department over his efforts to preserve a bit of military history.

 

Gilles Chartrand is trying to convince Defence Minister Peter Mac-Kay to change the rules he says prevent surplus army trucks from being put on the road.

 

Chartrand, who collects and restores Canadian military trucks, drives the vehicles in veterans’ parades. His latest project centres on what is known as the Medium Logistics Vehicle Wheeled, a Canadian Forces truck built in 1982 that is being sold by the government as surplus.

 

Chartrand has two of the trucks, built by Bombardier, but says he is not allowed to put them on the road.

 

The Defence Department, however, disagrees and in an e-mail stated the trucks can be made roadworthy.

 

“These Medium Logistics Vehicles Wheeled (MLVW) were issued for sale as ‘non-repairable, for parts only,’ without vehicle ownership papers,” the e-mail stated. “Should a buyer wish to drive the truck on the road, they must comply with their provincial regulations, as they would with any other vehicle, through their province’s normal licensing process, including safety checks and vehicle registration.”

 

If those provincial standards are met, then a licence to use the trucks on the road can be obtained, according to the Defence Department.

 

Chartrand says that is not the case. In the sale of these particular trucks, the Defence Department’s designation as “non-repairable” means that they can only be used for scrap.

 

“The safety inspection people will not even let us in the door as long as the trucks are deemed ‘non-repairable’,” Chartrand said. “All we’re asking from DND is to remove that designation. Let us take it to safety and we’ll pass the safety.”

 

Chartrand has written MacKay and his member of Parliament, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, in the hopes they can reverse the Defence Department’s “non-repairable” designation on the trucks.

 

The two politicians have acknowledged receipt of his letter, but nothing more, he says.

 

A volunteer at the Canadian War Museum, Chartrand uses the restored vehicles to teach the public about the country’s military history. The former master warrant officer, who served as a mechanical engineer in the Canadian Forces, has his whole family involved in what he calls his expensive, but ultimately rewarding, hobby.

 

His son and his wife, Carolle, also a retired Canadian Forces member, are involved in the restorations, while another son collects military radios. “For us it’s a hobby, but it’s serious,” Chartrand said. “We’re trying to preserve some military history in the vehicles.”

 

Chartrand’s vehicles were in an Ottawa parade as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations for the end of the Second World War. He is also involved in a veterans breakfast at the end of May, where money raised will go to help injured Canadian soldiers who served in Afghanistan.

 

Chartrand said the U.S. government sells essentially the same truck on the surplus market — about 100 a day — and allows those to be driven on the road.

 

He said the Canadian-made version is far superior, with a different engine and extra safety features. They sell for between $5,500 and $7,500. So far, about 15 have been bought by collectors, Chartrand said. “We’re not talking about a whole lot of people here. It’s not like an army of trucks is going to be on the road.”

 

According to the Defence Department e-mail, before the trucks are sent to auction, the Canadian Forces strips the vehicles for any spare parts that are deemed useful for the remaining trucks in the fleet. “All vehicles are sold in an ‘as-is’ condition,” the e-mail states. “This means that there is no warranty and no guarantees associated with the sale of the vehicle.”

 

The army is now in the process of trying to replace the trucks. In 2004, the Defence Department warned in an internal report that the Medium Logistic Vehicle Wheeled truck could be hit by a “catastrophic” failure at any time because of poor brakes and steering systems.

 

But Chartrand said despite what the Defence Department claims, the vehicles are not only repairable, but in excellent condition. “Apart from a little bit of body work, these trucks are perfect,” he said of his vehicles. “You just walk in there and you hit the starter button and that engine fires right up.”

 

 

 

200 DEFENCE JOBS CREATED IN OTTAWA BY DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN JOURNALIST

March 29, 2009

 

 

 

By David Pugliese, Reporter

The Ottawa Citizen

 

Defence deal set to bring up to 200 jobs to Ottawa; Thales Canada wins military contract worth $184 million

The Ottawa Citizen

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

 

Up to 200 new jobs could be created in the Ottawa area as a result of military contracts announced Monday.

 

Thales Canada, which has about 190 employees in Ottawa, will receive a $184-million contract to develop software for the army’s command and control system. The contract runs for five years, but there is an option to continue such work for an additional five years.

 

Thales spokesman Conrad Bellehumeur said the contract will sustain 60 jobs at its Ottawa facility. Those employees had already been working on earlier versions of the software for the army’s command and control systems.

 

The new contract would also create 30 new jobs at the firm’s offices in Ottawa and Quebec City, he said.

 

With subcontracts and spinoff work going to other high-tech companies, there is the potential for another 170 new jobs in Ottawa because of the Defence Department contract, according to Bellehumeur.

 

The battle management system being developed by Thales is based on original software that the firm created for the French army.

 

Bellehumeur said the firm sees a growing market for such software for civilian agencies, such as for police forces and those who deal with large-scale security operations, such as the Olympics.

 

He declined for security reasons to get into specifics about what the firm is doing for the Defence Department. But Bellehumeur said it involves integrating the flow of information from various sources on the battlefield.

 

“Thales’s strength is systems integration, so it’s taking all of the components of the system, whether it’s a handheld (device) for a soldier on the ground or computer imagery and integrating all of that,” he said.

 

There is also great potential to export such software to other countries, Bellehumeur added.

 

Thales Canada has 1,350 employees in Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Toronto.

 

The Ottawa branch handles the defence portion of the company’s work, said Bellehueur. The bulk of the firm’s employees are in Toronto and work on systems for urban rail such as subways. The company’s parent firm is based in France.

 

The second contract announced Monday was awarded to General Dynamics Canada of Ottawa, but the bulk of the work will be done in the firm’s Calgary facilities.

 

General Dynamics Canada was awarded the long-term support contract for the Canadian army’s land command support system. The contract is valued at $341 million and runs for five years.

 

General Dynamics Canada spokeswoman Amy MacLeod said the contract will sustain 250 existing jobs at the company’s Calgary location.

 

General Dynamics has been providing support for the army’s digital communications systems since 2003.

 

 

MACKAY ANNOUNCES INFRASTRUCTURE CONTRACTS BY DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN JOURNALIST

March 29, 2009

 

 

The Ottawa Citizen

Saturday, March 14, 2009

 

By David Pugliese

Reporter, Ottawa Citizen

 

Defence Minister Peter MacKay launched a cross-country tour Friday to award infrastructure contracts on military bases in an effort to show the Harper government is helping put Canadians back to work during the recession.

 

Some of the projects are new while others have been under way or planned for some time. But defence insiders say the tour is designed to generate positive publicity in various regions for the Conservatives, as well as send the message the government is being decisive in pumping federal money into the economy.

 

In Victoria, MacKay announced $266 million worth of work, the bulk centred on the fourth phase of an ongoing modernization project for the navy’s fleet-maintenance facility. That project originally started in the early 1990s and has been unfolding over the years with the renovations of existing structures and the building of new ones.

 

Also included in the announcement is the construction of a hazardous-material facility. Work began last year on that project.

 

In addition, MacKay said a contract has been awarded to a Vancouver firm to design hangars and other facilities at Pat Bay, B.C., for the air force’s new Cyclone helicopters expected to arrive several years from now. The Defence Department’s contribution to road work near Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt was also included in Friday’s announcement.

 

On Sunday, MacKay will make an early-morning announcement at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton and then fly to Winnipeg that afternoon to unveil other infrastructure projects involving the air force’s 17 Wing.

 

The next day, MacKay will be at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, N.B., to announce yet more construction contacts.

 

“This is a first round of announcements,” MacKay said of his cross-country tour.

 

He noted that other contracts will be made public in the coming months.

 

MacKay said the contacts are “an important part of the government’s effort to stimulate the economy.”

 

He said the contracts announced at CFB Esquimalt will generate an estimated 1,400 direct employment opportunities over the course of the work.

 

Some defence analysts have pointed out that infrastructure improvements to military bases could be used to significantly stimulate regional economies. The Defence Department’s infrastructure holdings are immense, including about 21,000 buildings; 5,400 kilometres of road; and 3,000 kilometres of water, storm and sewer pipes. Much of that infrastructure is aging and needs to be replaced or upgraded.

 

Some Conservatives have privately complained that the government’s previous announcements of big-ticket defence procurements have not generated the political goodwill they had hoped for.

 

In the summer of 2006, then-defence minister Gordon O’Connor announced billions of dollars in new projects to purchase transport aircraft, helicopters, supply ships and trucks.

 

But defence analyst Allen Sens said the Canadian public expected that the Harper government would re-equip the Canadian Forces. “When they did do that people just shrugged,” said Sens, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia. “So the Conservatives were left standing around wondering where was all the music and confetti from Canadians on this.”

 

In January, the government was also criticized in the Commons and by the Canadian Auto Workers union after MacKay went to Quebec to announce a $274-million contract for new army trucks. But the selected firm, Navistar, is going to build the vehicles in Texas. At the same time, Navistar is laying off 700 Canadian workers at its Chatham, Ont., truck plant.

 

Navistar has said it would cost too much to retool its existing truck-assembly plant in Chatham to build the army trucks.

 

In addition, domestic aerospace firms have complained they have been frozen out of the defence equipment projects the Conservatives announced in the summer of 2006 or that such contracts have not created high-quality jobs in Canada.

 

The infrastructure projects being announced by MacKay are different, however, since they involve local companies and the results can be seen directly in the communities involved, Sens said.

 

“I’m not surprised that MacKay is hop-scotching across the country announcing infrastructure contracts,” he said. “It’s when you start spending locally that not only do you get constituency attention and support, but you get a bit of countrywide attention.”

 

MACKAY ANNOUNCES BUILDING CONTRACTS BY DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN

March 16, 2009

 MacKay begins cross-country contract tour

 

Military infrastructure announcements part of government stimulus plans

 

By David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen

 

March 14, 2009

 

 

Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the infrastructure contracts he is announcing are ‘an important part of the government’s effort to stimulate the economy.’

 

Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the infrastructure contracts he is announcing are ‘an important part of the government’s effort to stimulate the economy.’

Photograph by: Mathieu Belanger, Reuters, The Ottawa Citizen

 

Defence Minister Peter MacKay launched a cross-country tour Friday to award infrastructure contracts on military bases in an effort to show the Harper government is helping put Canadians back to work during the recession.

 

Some of the projects are new while others have been under way or planned for some time. But defence insiders say the tour is designed to generate positive publicity in various regions for the Conservatives, as well as send the message the government is being decisive in pumping federal money into the economy.

 

In Victoria, MacKay announced $266 million worth of work, the bulk centred on the fourth phase of an ongoing modernization project for the navy’s fleet-maintenance facility. That project originally started in the early 1990s and has been unfolding over the years with the renovations of existing structures and the building of new ones.

 

Also included in the announcement is the construction of a hazardous-material facility. Work began last year on that project.

 

In addition, MacKay said a contract has been awarded to a Vancouver firm to design hangars and other facilities at Pat Bay, B.C., for the air force’s new Cyclone helicopters expected to arrive several years from now. The Defence Department’s contribution to road work near Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt was also included in Friday’s announcement.

 

On Sunday, MacKay will make an early-morning announcement at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton and then fly to Winnipeg that afternoon to unveil other infrastructure projects involving the air force’s 17 Wing.

 

The next day, MacKay will be at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, N.B., to announce yet more construction contacts.

 

“This is a first round of announcements,” MacKay said of his cross-country tour.

 

He noted that other contracts will be made public in the coming months.

 

MacKay said the contacts are “an important part of the government’s effort to stimulate the economy.”

 

He said the contracts announced at CFB Esquimalt will generate an estimated 1,400 direct employment opportunities over the course of the work.

 

Some defence analysts have pointed out that infrastructure improvements to military bases could be used to significantly stimulate regional economies. The Defence Department’s infrastructure holdings are immense, including about 21,000 buildings; 5,400 kilometres of road; and 3,000 kilometres of water, storm and sewer pipes. Much of that infrastructure is aging and needs to be replaced or upgraded.

 

Some Conservatives have privately complained that the government’s previous announcements of big-ticket defence procurements have not generated the political goodwill they had hoped for.

 

In the summer of 2006, then-defence minister Gordon O’Connor announced billions of dollars in new projects to purchase transport aircraft, helicopters, supply ships and trucks.

 

But defence analyst Allen Sens said the Canadian public expected that the Harper government would re-equip the Canadian Forces. “When they did do that people just shrugged,” said Sens, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia. “So the Conservatives were left standing around wondering where was all the music and confetti from Canadians on this.”

 

In January, the government was also criticized in the Commons and by the Canadian Auto Workers union after MacKay went to Quebec to announce a $274-million contract for new army trucks. But the selected firm, Navistar, is going to build the vehicles in Texas. At the same time, Navistar is laying off 700 Canadian workers at its Chatham, Ont., truck plant.

 

Navistar has said it would cost too much to retool its existing truck-assembly plant in Chatham to build the army trucks.

 

In addition, domestic aerospace firms have complained they have been frozen out of the defence equipment projects the Conservatives announced in the summer of 2006 or that such contracts have not created high-quality jobs in Canada.

 

The infrastructure projects being announced by MacKay are different, however, since they involve local companies and the results can be seen directly in the communities involved, Sens said.

 

“I’m not surprised that MacKay is hop-scotching across the country announcing infrastructure contracts,” he said. “It’s when you start spending locally that not only do you get constituency attention and support, but you get a bit of countrywide attention.”

 

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news go to the Ottawa Citizen and David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:

 

http://communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/

DEFENCE FIRMS TO GET NEW WORK BY DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN

March 8, 2009

 

 

 

Military contracts going to city firms; General Dynamics Canada, Thales net deals

 

By David Pugliese

 

The Ottawa Citizen

March 7, 2009

 

Two Ottawa companies will be awarded major military contracts on Monday as Defence Minister Peter MacKay moves to quell criticism that the Harper government has left domestic firms on the sidelines when it comes to supplying the Canadian Forces.

 

The deal will see major upgrades for the army’s existing command and control and communication systems, as well as the purchase of new software and equipment to improve how units share information and are controlled on the battlefield.

 

The army has earmarked around $260 million for the overall program, which will run until 2015. The project will begin this year.

 

General Dynamics Canada as well as Thales Canada, both of Ottawa, will be awarded the contracts, with the bulk of the work going to General Dynamics.

 

New jobs are expected to be created by the contracts, but at this point it is unclear how many positions will be added at the firms. The work will also maintain existing jobs.

 

Defence officials declined to discuss Monday’s announcement at headquarters.

 

But the award to the two firms will be portrayed by MacKay and Public Works Minister Christian Paradis as contracts being supplied to “Canadian” firms, according to defence insiders. Although General Dynamics Canada is owned by a U.S. corporation and Thales by a French consortium, both firms have a significant presence in Canada.

 

General Dynamics has about 1,500 workers in the Ottawa area as well as facilities in Calgary and Halifax. Thales has more than 260 Canadian employees, the bulk in Ottawa. It also has offices in Kingston and Quebec City.

 

The production work on the communications equipment will be done in Canada.

 

Monday’s announcement is in contrast to many of the other large-scale defence contracts announced over the last two years that went to American firms who did the work in the U.S.

 

Members of the country’s aerospace and defence industry, as well as opposition MPs, have been critical about the lack of work for Canadian-based firms from the multibillion-dollar equipment programs the Conservatives have under way for the Canadian Forces. In the summer of 2006, the Harper government announced that it would spend billions of dollars on C-17 and C-130 J transport planes and Chinook helicopters.

 

The C-17s, already delivered, were built in California while the C-130Js are going to be built in Georgia. The Chinook helicopters that the government is in the process of trying to acquire will be built in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 

MacKay has also recently been pushing to launch a $3-billion program to buy new search-and-rescue aircraft for the Canadian Forces. His preferred choice is an Italian-designed aircraft being built in the U.S.

 

In January, MacKay came under criticism from Canadian autoworkers after he announced a $274-million contract to Navistar to build army trucks in Texas.

 

The same firm, however, recently laid off 500 Canadian workers at its assembly line in Chatham, Ont. Another 200 workers are expected to be laid off there by the spring.

 

Defence analyst Allen Sens said it is common for all governments to highlight military spending announcements as creating domestic jobs and supporting national economies. “But given all these big-ticket items purchased from foreign companies in the past couple of years, there’s a greater urgency to this particular announcement in highlighting the Canadian jobs it will create,” said Sens, a professor at the University of British Columbia.

 

MacKay has defended the awarding of various contracts to foreign firms, noting that, ultimately, Canadian companies benefit. In the case of the Navistar truck contract, he noted that the tires would be made in Canada and that Canadian mechanics would work on the vehicles.

 

Government officials also point out that each defence contract pays back more than its original value in what is known as industrial region benefits. In other words, foreign aerospace and defence firms that win contracts must spend at least the equivalent amount of the contract in Canada.

 

But the organization representing Canada’s aerospace industry has warned that domestic firms are not seeing quality work from the multi-billion-dollar defence contracts.

 

“Our industry remains acutely concerned that major defence procurements are proceeding in a way that will not fully engage and strengthen capabilities resident in the domestic industrial base,” Charles Lajeunesse, president of the Ottawa-based Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, wrote MacKay on Jan. 9. The association represents more than 400 companies in a industry that employs 90,000 workers.

 

There is a lack of “high value-added” jobs going to Canadian industry, Lajeunesse warned.

 

Those inside the Defence Department have been limited in what they can say publicly about the issue. But they privately argue that military needs come first and jobs for Canadians should be a secondary consideration.

 

Industry executives, however, say considering the ongoing economic problems facing the country, jobs for Canadians should be taken into account. They also argue that providing work to Canadian-based defence firms supports the military in the long run, since it develops and keeps much-needed expertise in-country.

 

Monday’s contracts are part of an ongoing army communications upgrade and support program that originally started in 2005. This is known as a “life extension” to that project, meaning that it will further modernize the equipment.

 

The work is designed to make use of improvements in technology to eventually electronically link various equipment in the military’s inventory so they can share information. In some cases, data from unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites would be quickly transmitted to troops. The project will also provide what is known as a “Battle Command on the Move” system to improve the flow of information from the battlefield back to senior officers.

 

 

JTF2 GETS VEHICLES BY DAVID PUGLIESE OTTAWA CITIZEN

March 7, 2009

NEW VEHICLES COMING FOR JTF2 NEXT YEAR

By David Pugliese

The country’s Ottawa-based commando unit will get a fleet of new war wagons next year in a deal expected to be worth more than $100 million.

 

Evaluation of new vehicles for the military’s Joint Task Force 2 command unit, based at Dwyer Hill, and the special operations regiment in Petawawa has narrowed the search down to two candidates, both to be built in the U.S.

 

JTF2 and the Canadian Special Operations Regiment currently use Humvees built by AM General in Indiana. Those were purchased during the early days of the Afghan war for JTF2.

 

Craig McNab of AM General said the company is actively pursuing the Canadian special forces vehicle project and is waiting for the second phase of the program to begin. That would involve the government issuing a request for proposals to the two companies whose vehicles have been selected.

 

McNab said he didn’t want to get into details about the specific type of vehicle offered to Canada. But he added that AM General has established a good relationship with Canadian special forces through a maintenance and battlefield repair program the company offers on JTF2’s existing fleet of Humvees. “We have a particularly good training program with U.S. special operations and the Canadians liked it as well,” he added.

 

Lockheed Martin is the second firm selected with its Supacat family of vehicles, according to industry officials. Those high mobility trucks were originally designed in Britain and some variants, such as the Jackal, are now in service with special forces and regular force units.

 

Lockheed Martin has a deal to sell the British vehicles to militaries in Canada and the U.S.

 

In January the Australian government announced that it had taken delivery of the first of 30 Supacat Jackal patrol vehicles for its special forces. Those vehicles are worth more than $1 million each.

 

Public Works and Government Services has declined to name the two firms selected for Canadian program. In an email the department claims it has to protect the “commercial confidentiality” of the firms.

 

It did not explain why it needed to protect commercial confidentiality when the companies in question have acknowledged their interest in the project.

 

Public Works will issue a request for proposals to the two qualified bidders and a contract is to be awarded in the summer. The requirement for 100 new vehicles.

 

In an interview last year, Col. Mike Day, head of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, said the existing fleet of Humvees will continue to be used as his personnel become proficient on the new vehicles. He noted the new vehicles will be available for use for various units in the command.

 

For logistics purposes, the command is also looking for a vehicle fielded by a number of countries so that parts would be readily available.

 

Col. Day noted that the requirements for the new vehicles mention that they have to be capable of being transported by helicopter. “I think that type of tactical force projection is a critical component,” he said. “Use Afghanistan as an example; use any other part of the world. Do you want to fly for an hour or do you want to drive for a day?”

 

Stephen Priestley, a researcher for the Canadian-American Strategic Review website at Simon Fraser University, said that the Supacat Jackal appears to meet the various criteria that Canada’s special operations command needs. He noted that the Supacat variant selected by Australia comes with the option of a bolt-on chassis that can convert the basic four-by-four vehicle into a six-by-six speciality vehicle. Such a conversion can be done in several hours.

 

Col. Day said the next major purchase for his Ottawa-based command will be to replace its fleet of rigid hull inflatables that are used for domestic counter-terrorism missions. He did not provide a timeline on when the replacement of those boats might happen.

 


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