Re: "Re-arming the military, with Kim Richard Nossal," (The Hill Times Hot Room, April 8, episode 93). I would like to comment on two of the points raised by Kim Richard Nossal in his recent Q&A with Peter Mazereeuw. First, Mr. Nossal makes many insightful and helpful observations. However, he is wrong when he states that the Conservative government of Stephen Harper had “an exceedingly solid case” for going forward with a sole-source contract for the F-35A in 2010. Nothing could be further from the truth. The arguments put forward at that time by the government—that the F-35A was the best plane at the best cost, and that it would provide the best economic benefits—were all flawed. With respect to costs, in 2010 the average procurement cost for an F-35A was about $126-million, including the cost of the engine. However, at this time Lockheed Martin was just in its fourth low-rate initial production contract. Costs were significantly higher than expected and delays were occurring. More ominous were the high life-cycle costs. Its hourly costs were estimated at more than $30,000 per hour, double that of the F-18 Super Hornet. With respect to the F-35A's capabilities, in 2010 it was impossible to state that it was the best aircraft for Canada. It was still in its embryonic stage of development. At the time of the announcement, the Block 1 software had not yet been completed. Timing of the future software upgrades was still in flux. No one could be assured of its capabilities. With respect to economic opportunities, they would certainly be plentiful. In fact, that is why I signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. in February 2002 committing Canada to the program. Without joining the program, our industry would have been excluded from bidding on contracts valued at $200-billion. Nevertheless, it was recognized at that time that these industrial benefits were not guaranteed and would pale in comparison to the level of benefits bidders would have to guarantee in a competition. When spending billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money, it is vital that there is transparency in the process. Furthermore, the only way to objectively ensure that the military is getting the best product to meet its needs is through a competition. The decision to sole-source in 2010 was unnecessary and the linchpin for the chaos that followed. Second, Mr. Nossal asks “whether or not Mr. Trudeau takes this opportunity to do a really serious look at what we need to spend $20-, $22-, $24-billion a year on and why.” To me, the real questions are whether the Department of National Defence will provide an honest costing of the government’s proposed defence policy and whether the government either agrees to that level of funding, or modifies its policy to reconcile with the amount of funding it wishes to provide. Alan Williams Former assistant deputy minister of materiel at DND Ottawa, Ont.