The Department of Defense's damage-control effort instructed officials to spread the blame, rather than accept or address their responsibilities.
Canada is among nine other countries who were purchasing the F-35 and given how tightly knit the project was, any change in order from one country would impact the order of the others, explaining a $40,000 meeting in February 2012 at the Embassy in Washington among the countries.
On March 13, 2012, Canada sent the first shock-wave down the partnership when then-associate defense minister Julian Fantino said, “We have not yet discounted the possibility of backing out of the program.”
The following day, National Defense director general Andre Fillion wrote in an email to procurement chief Dan Ross, “Dan, those are pretty specific words (from Fantino) and are not going unnoticed within the partnership.”
When Fantino's remark made international headlines, the Department of Defense was forced to issue a statement, affirming Canada’s “position has not changed,” that Canada remained “committed to the Joint Strike Fighter Program,” and that “a budget has been allocated.”
As the price tag ballooned, the next shock-wave struck, and struck hard. On April 3, 2012, Auditor General Michael Ferguson revealed the Defense Department was purposely misleading Parliamentarians and taxpayers by whitewashing reports that showed cost over-runs to ensure the purchase was made.
Diplomats responded to the department that the story made international headlines, including “a lot of articles on the subject in Norwegian and Dutch papers these days!”
Answers were demanded from foreign diplomats, the Dutch emailed the Canadian embassy saying, “In the Netherlands this report is already used by the factions which are against the F-35.”
The department's Director General Wendy Gilmor responded by emailing the partners telling that she must "emphasize" the issue was “tied primarily to internal Canadian bureaucratic processes.”
Officials were instructed to assure partners “we remain part of the JSF Partnership,” even though “specific decisions related to the timetable for the acquisition of Canada’s next generation fighter aircraft will be deferred.”
Whether the order was made at the political or departmental level remains unclear, but while the Defense Department accepted Ferguson's report, the Public Works department rejected the report claiming they managed the project with due diligence.
Canada's top military officer, Rear-Admiral Richard Greenwood focused the attention of foreign counterparts to specific lines in media releases.
“Canada remains committed to ensuring that the Royal Canadian Air Force has the aircraft it needs to do the jobs we ask of them,”one of the lines read, another stated $435 million in contracts created contracts for Canadian companies participating in the F-35 program.