News, Politics, Technology

How Much Did Fighter Jets Really Cost?

F-35 Fighter Jet
A F-35 Fighter Jet. Image: Bill Thorton

In 2010, new F-35 Fighter Jets were ordered by Canada’s Defence Department (the department that oversees the country’s military).The new jets were supposed to cost around $15-billion.

Now, however, the Auditor General of Canada has said that the 65 planes will actually cost $25-billion, $10-billion more than expected. The Auditor General’s office watches over Government spending.

NDP and Liberal MPs (Members of Parliament) have accused the Defence Department (part of the Conservative government in power) of “hiding” the extra $10-billion in their financial reports when the 2011 election was coming up. Some are saying that the Conservatives wanted to keep it secret so people wouldn’t see the real costs and not vote for them.

Now that it is in the open, some MPs have demanded that Canada’s Defence Minister, Peter MacKay, step down from his job.

The Defence Department has explained their position saying that their original estimate did not include many costs such as operations (day-to-day expenses), people to run the project, or a “contingency fund” (in this case, this refers to money set aside for unknown problems in the project). Some of that money was already recorded in other budgets.

But the Auditor General said that the government had to report all costs related to the purchase of F-35s, even if they already had some of it set aside.

Another question is whether the Defence Department allowed for enough money to maintain and fly the planes over a period of time. They budgeted for 20 years, when in fact they planned to fly the jets for 36 years, which could cost much more.

For more than two years, the NDP and the Liberals have been suggesting that the F-35s were going to cost more than reported. But it took information provided by the Auditor General’s review of the government’s accounts to explain how it was done.

By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Why do you think Canada chose to buy 65 fighter jets?

Do you think buying the jets was a good decision, or do you think the money should have gone somewhere else? Why?

Reading Prompt: Comprehension Strategies
Before you started reading this article, you may not have known much about fighter jets or the issues surrounding these jets in Canada. However, by the time you finished reading the article, you probably had a better idea of what fighter jets look like, how much they cost etc.

To figure out this information, you used comprehension strategies before, during and after reading. What strategies did you use? (Did you activate your background knowledge, visualize, make comparisons, think of connections, make predictions or reread the text in order to confirm your understanding?). Which strategies were the most effective? Why?

Junior and Intermediate
Identify a variety of reading comprehension strategies and use them appropriately before, during, and after reading to understand increasingly complex texts (OME, Reading: 1.3).

Grammar Feature: Writing Numbers
When single-digit whole numbers are written, they are spelled out in words. For example, I would like five dollars. 

Numbers that are larger than 10 are written in digits. For example, “They budgeted for 20 years, when in fact they planned to fly the jets for 36 years, which could cost much more.”

Circle all of the numbers in the article. Write out the very large numbers (e.g. 25-billion) using only digits. Are these large numbers easier to read when they are written in words or digits?