Military Procurement in Canada: A Flawed System

CALGARY, Jan. 5, 2016 /CNW/ - Federal elections may be good for democracy, but the campaigns — particularly the lengthy one recently held in Canada — can be crippling for plans to better arm our military. Just before the election was called, there were signs of progress being made in what has been a frustratingly slow and bureaucratically complex procurement process. But the campaign left the Department of National Defence unable to secure approvals from either a defence minister or the Treasury Board.   

Frustrating and disappointing delays have long been a matter of course in Canada's defence procurement process. In 2014/15, the number of ministerial or Treasury Board approvals to allow projects to proceed was half of that in 2009/10. Yet the demand for approvals has not abated.

The third annual status report on selected major defence acquisitions was released today by the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, Centre for Military and Strategic Studies and the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.  Author David Perry provides a comprehensive reference point on procurement and its troubles in Canada.   

According to the report, in addition to the turnover of key figures involved in the procurement and approval process, delays have come from a number of steps added to the process, making an already lengthy and complex system even more so.  The irony is that the budget for military procurement has increased. Between 2004 and 2009, the Defence Department's procurement budget nearly doubled. But the funding was never matched by the capacity to manage it. In 2003, the Material Group had a ratio of 2,600 staff for every $1 billion in procurement funds. By 2009, the ratio had become 1,800 staff for every $1 billion in procurement funds. Since then, the ratio has only gotten substantially worse.

There are continual improvements being made to the way the Defence Department conducts project costing as well as how the Treasury Board Secretariat evaluates the costs, which will help improve the compatibility between estimates and newly introduced frameworks.   The process for approving projects inside the Defence Department has also been streamlined.  For now, however, these attempts at improvement have been focused on the lower-dollar-figure approvals done by the Minister. It remains to be seen if, first, they work, and secondly, if they can then be used to facilitate Treasury Board approvals, as well. 

The paper can be downloaded at

SOURCE The School of Public Policy - University of Calgary

For further information: Media contact: David Perry, 613-728-7687


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