Statement by the Department of National Defence on the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s Report on the Joint Support Ships
November 17, 2020 – Ottawa (Ontario) – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces
We thank the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) for their work. We will continue to work with the Office of the PBO in all of the important work that it does.
The Department of National Defence (DND) has reviewed the PBO report entitled, The Joint Support Ship program and the MV Asterix: a Fiscal Analysis, and notes that there are a number of key factors that were not taken into account as they are outside the scope of the report.
The two types of ships compared in the report are very different. As the PBO noted, the assessment did not consider the capabilities of MV Asterix and MV Obelix as commercial vessels converted for military purposes versus those of the built-for-purpose Joint Support Ship, as this was outside the scope of their report.
When sending our sailors into dangerous situations, we insist on providing them with the best and safest equipment possible. That is always our first priority.
MV Asterix, and the proposed MV Obelix, do not have the same capabilities as the future Joint Support Ships. The Joint Support Ships were designed to be able to deploy into harm’s way, a key element of the military design. Examples of capabilities that were designed into the Joint Support Ships that are not available on MV Asterix include:
- a mine-avoidance degaussing system,
- systems to detect and protect against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats,
- a dual redundant propulsion system,
- damage control capabilities that meet military standards,
- a cyber-resilient command management system,
- self-defence capabilities, including a combat management system, naval remote weapon systems and close-in weapon systems,
- a hangar and flight deck that can support the Cyclone aircraft, and
- certified, fitted magazines to transport specialized ammunitions, such as torpedoes.
These additional features provide a survivability that is critical to ensure the safety of our sailors in high-risk areas, as the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) must have the capability to maintain a persistent presence in high-threat areas if the security of Canadians demands it. No modifications to MV Asterix could provide the survivability offered by a built-for-purpose ship. Purpose-built warships like the Joint Support Ships provide the best available protection for our sailors with a military design that incorporates higher damage control standards and counter-measures against threats from torpedoes, mines, or missiles.
It is important to note that the figures included by the PBO do not include the money already spent on MV Asterix, or money that would be needed to be spent in the future. The figures only consider the cost of purchasing two modified, used commercial ships, whereas the cost for the Joint Support Ships includes a number of expenses, such as the salary of project staff since the project’s inception, design costs to incorporate RCN operational requirements, engineering services, government supplied material, and initial spare parts.
The proposed life expectancy of MV Asterix of 40 years from the time of its conversion is unlikely to be realized without significant investments. The operational and maintenance costs that would be required to keep MV Asterix operating would not represent value for money.
Our choice of the Joint Support Ships was made after years of industry consultation and analysis of possible options, including the conversion of used ships. The Joint Support Ships are the right ship for the Royal Canadian Navy, and will provide the best value for the military, Canada, and the Canadian economy.
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The Joint Support Ship program and the MV Asterix: a Fiscal Analysis
Office of the Minister of National Defence
Department of National Defence
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