The Department of National Defence has launched public consultations for the development of a new defence policy for Canada. Canadian Defence Matters is attempting to come up with some answers to the ten questions contained in the “Defence Policy Review Public Consultation Document 2016".
Question nine asks “What additional measures could DND undertake, along with partner departments, to improve defence procurement?”
According to the Public Consultation Document “An effective defence procurement process and a strong and vibrant Canadian defence industrial base are important to Canada’s security and economy – not only for reasons of economic prosperity – but also to ensure a range of capabilities available to provide Canada with an operational and technological edge. It is imperative that the CAF have the tools they need to carry out their day-to-day duties at home and abroad.”
It would not be unreasonable to point out that the DND has faced challenges in delivering both large and complex defence procurement project as well as smaller ones. To be fair, as the department points out, the DND has let over 40,000 contracts a year for both services and goods since 2009, with an upward trend to 60,000 in the last two fiscal years.
What is needed, according to Douglas Bland in his introduction to Allan Williams’ Reinventing Canadian Defence Procurement: A View from the Inside, is “a predictable defence-management system that joins strategic analysis to statements of defence requirements to efficient procurement, which in concert produce appropriate military capabilities. The system in its entirety” he says “ought to sustain the Canadian Forces by flowing force development and the resultant future force into the engaged present force”.
Currently defence procurement as practiced in Canada does none of those things. The truth is that the current Canadian defence-procurement ‘system’ is, in Alan Williams’ words, “a bureaucratic muddle,” characterized by a lack of accountability at all levels.
What is not needed is adding more layers of ‘accountability’ to the system, it will not help. Departmental reviews and new studies will not make things better; in fact these are exactly the kind of things that have given us our current convoluted and drawn out process, one overburdened by non-defence considerations, overly bureaucratic, and rife with political interference
What is needed is a single point of responsibility for defence procurement.
It is long past time that a single agency, one with cabinet level representation, be responsible for the 53 percent of federal government acquisition dollars that are devoted to defence outputs. In the past three years alone 52 percent ($10.3 billion) of all government contracts in excess of $100 million were for defence materiel and 56 percent of the total asset base of the federal government is held by the Department of National Defence.
The additional measures the DND could undertake, along with partner departments, to improve defence procurement would be to create a stand-alone defence procurement agency, under the direction of the minister of National Defence, which would be exclusively responsible for all military procurement contracts.
Defence Policy Review
Defence Policy Review Public Consultation Document 2016
Reinventing Canadian Defence Procurement Foreword by Dr. Douglas Bland
Reinventing Canadian Defence Procurement: A View from the Inside