New top general, PM had no lengthy F-35 talks
Lt.-Gen. Tom Lawson, picked to be the next head of the Canadian military, says he hasn't spoken at length with the prime minister or the defence minister regarding the purchase of the F-35 fighter jets.
Much was made in the media that Lawson, the government's pick to become the next chief of defence staff, was a member of the air force and a supporter of the F-35.
For his part, Lawson said it's difficult for him to know what "linkages" were made when it came time to pick a replacement for Gen. Walt Natynczyk.
"What I can say is that neither the prime minister nor the minister have spoken at length about the F-35 program with me," he told CBC News' James Cudmore at a NORAD base in Colorado.
"The F-35 program, the portion that we've spoken about...it's now a whole-of-government project," he said
By that, Lawson is addressing the government's move -- amid concerns about the cost of the purchase -- to strip the military of responsibility for the fighter purchase and hand it to a council of bureaucrats.
"What I find delightful about that is that now it's outside of the realm of just defence, and we have a whole of government team looking at it, and it will allow everybody to become comfortable with where Canada is going to go regards a new fighter," he said.
Lawson's appointment comes at time of transition for Canadian military - away from the combat mission in Afghanistan and away from federal government fiscal surpluses.
Lawson acknowledges the government is currently in the red and says defence has to be part of the solution.
"We always felt we're managing pretty well. If there were times that we looked kind of expensive, it was times that we were doing things, normally expeditionary for the government. So those are being reined in a little bit and expenses will come down from that."
The years of fighting in Afghanistan has left the military with combat veterans in all three services. Lawson said the military hopes to be able to capture a seriousness in its future training that comes with that combat experience.