OTTAWA, Oct. 21, 2014 /CNW/ - A new report released today by The School of Public Policy and the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute takes aim at Canada's defence procurement system, and provides unprecedented research into the effect of that process on the actual state of military procurement in Canada. Needless to say, the report comes at a time when Canadians have heightened awareness of the needs and materiel of our armed forces as we prepare to embark on a mission against ISIS.
Author Elinor Sloan cites "recent waves of political controversy over military procurement programs, most notably the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project", and describes them as "symptoms of an ongoing and increasingly strategic choice Canada is making in the way it equips its military. From the failure to settle on a design for the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship to the un-awarded contracts for new fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft and the incomplete Integrated Soldier-System Project to the delay in cutting the steel for the Joint Support Ship, Canadians are witnessing the results of military procurement process where industrial and political goals are simply at odds with getting equipment to our troops, fast."
Canadian governments insist on industrial and regional benefits when buying military equipment. Emphasis has now formally been placed on favouring industrial benefits for Canada in defence acquisitions, while heightened political cautiousness has placed a higher priority on ensuring maximum value for taxpayer money with zero tolerance for mistakes. Combined, that makes defence acquisition politically risky, slow and often difficult to justify when the yardstick of success is not the efficacy of a military tool, but its industrial benefit to Canada. Canada's relatively small defence budget has put pressure on military officials to be creative when ordering new equipment — in some cases, perhaps too creative – demanding a basket of requirements for each military ship or vehicle that make them very difficult to source.
Last February the government released its Defence Procurement Strategy with the ambitious goal of maximizing Canadian industrial opportunities, while at the same time equipping the Canadian Armed Forces in a timely fashion. But these goals are unfortunately mutually exclusive. Either industrial benefits will be lost as equipment is purchased "off-the shelf", or the forces will have to wait longer for equipment.
Buying off the shelf is always easier, faster and almost certainly cheaper, but the government has made it clear that Canadian industry should receive a share of benefit from tax dollars spent on defence. Granted, this is to nurture a permanent base of domestic capability and ensure that Canada retains a permanent level of ability in equipping its military. But it's a slow approach. Clearly, the government has decided that a delay in the acquisition of military equipment is the price it is willing to pay to preserve to preserve its industrial and political strategies.
SOURCE: The School of Public Policy - University of Calgary
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