The political dogfight over the cost of Canada’s proposed purchase of 65 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters continues unabated in that nation’s capital.
The Canadian Auditor General Michael Ferguson disputed the assertions of Department of National Defence (DND) officials that they aren’t required to count the full life-cycle costs of aircraft like the F-35 of 15 May.
“I am concerned with suggestions that accurate estimation and the inclusion of personnel, operating and maintenance costs are not important, since they would be incurred regardless of the aircraft selected to replace the CF-18,” Ferguson told the Canadian parliament’s public accounts committee.
According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, life-cycle cost are required by the DND’s own internal polices and also by Canada’s Treasury Board, which is responsible for setting those standards.
Earlier, Robert Fonberg, Canada’ deputy minister of defence, told parliament that the DND normally only includes the purchase price and sustainment costs. The DND doesn’t normally count operating costs because those are included in annual budgets. The F-35s is being bought the same way as four previous RCAF equipment purchases, he says.
Ferguson’s report showed that internal DND estimates peg the cost of Canada’s future F-35 fleet at $25 billion over 20 years, but those estimates weren’t shared publically.
Fonberg told Parliament that there were two estimates as described in Ferguson’s report. According to the CBC, one column in a chart shows DND’s internal estimate in 2010 for the F-35s as $25 billion over 20 years, and the second column shows its public response to a report that says the total estimate in 2011 was $14.7 billion.
Canadian parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page offers another estimate that suggests that the total cost of 65 F-35s might be as high as $29 billion over 30 years.