Has the F-35 been a boondoggle?

Peter MacKay objects to the use of the b-word

On his way out of National Defence, Peter MacKay objects to the suggestion that the F-35 constitutes a “boondoggle.”

Contrary to what Mr. Pugliese has reported, there was also no F-35 ‘boondoggle’ because no money has been misspent and no money has been spent at all on acquisition. DND has followed Treasury Board guidelines and a KMPG audit showed that our numbers were correct and no money was unaccounted for. 

Mr. MacKay is basically right, insofar as the F-35 is so far neither “a braided cord worn by Boy Scouts as a neckerchief slide, hatband, or ornament” nor “a wasteful or impractical project or activity often involving graft.”

Representatives of the Harper government did say that it had decided to purchase the F-35 and that a contract had been signed and that to not go through with the purchase of the F-35 would be perilous and it did then declare that no decision had been made and no contract signed and that it would consider its options. And the Auditor General did conclude that “full life-cycle costs were not presented and were likely underestimated.” And the Auditor General did note that “Treasury Board policies require consideration of all relevant costs over the useful life of equipment, not just the initial acquisition or basic contract cost.” And the comparability of the KPMG audit is debatable.

But to say that all of that amounts to a boondoggle would be unfair. A farce, sure. But a boondoggle? No. Let us be fair and precise here. Indeed, we must be very careful about the words we apply to matters such as these, lest we unfairly malign a fiasco by confusing with it another specific and unique kind of mess.

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