Procurement Politics

Observers of Canada’s tortuous military procurement system have long since come to the conclusion that there are major problems. We have lost far too much procurement expertise and that lack of skilled procurement professionals is hampering our ability to acquire the equipment that the Canadian Forces need to conduct its various missions.

While this problem is certainly a major one, it is not insurmountable. Acquisition success will tend to lead to more success as skills are gained. We can “train” the needed skillset by making relatively straightforward purchases. We have to ask though… does the current Liberal government want to fix military procurement?

Instinctively, we answer “Yes, of course they do!”

Instinct may be wrong though. Making progress on military procurement would reveal that the cupboard is bare, there’s no money to make the needed purchases. The current backlog of needed purchases is rapidly approaching $100 billion. It may even exceed that already. Add it up, new frigates, new tankers for the Royal Canadian Navy, new fighters, new tankers for the Royal Canadian Air Force… the list is extensive. And all we see is pushback. Projects are delayed by “definition” phases that transparently exist only to delay the eventual expenditure. Two projects for the Royal Canadian Air Force stand out, the fighters and the tankers.

The fighter project has widely been faulted for taking far too long. We know the players, we know what we need, we even know we need the replacement soonest. And yet, he project languishes as Canada pretends to need time to study what is on offer and what we need. It would be laughable, if the delay wasn’t wasting billions of dollars on things like the acquisition of used Australian fighters, and life extension (beyond what was recommended by the RCAF) of our existing CF-18’s. Farce becomes tragedy.

On the new RCAF tanker front the delay is downright disingenuous. We hear that there is a need to wait until the fighter decision is reached. Funny that, there are only two rational choices of a replacement tanker/transport. Those choices are the Boeing KC-46 and the Airbus A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport). Either choice can refuel via the flying boom system used by fighters such as the F-35, AND can use the probe/drogue system used by other aircraft such as our current CF-18’s. There is no need to wait, none at all. It is only rational that the RCAF receive a new tanker that can refuel both ways, it expands the usefulness of our fleet and allows us to make a greater contribution to allied operations.  So, why the delay? Replacing the 5 CC-150 Polaris aircraft is not a huge program by numbers or cost. 5 total airframes, with a cost of about $300 million US each. We could do this now. Give procurement a win and get the planes started on the assembly line.

Unless the plan is to avoid wins, avoid expenditures.



15 year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces. I now write to let the thoughts in my head get out where I can see 'em. :)

Posted in Acquisitions, Canadian Forces, CDN POLI, RCAF, RCN
3 comments on “Procurement Politics
  1. Rou Paquette says:

    I have been wanting to comment on this article for sometime. I believe that it is the bureaucrats that is causing the problems. It has been stated in this article that Canada has lost its expertise in procurement. Personally, I don’t believe it. What I believe is that we have useless unaccountable bureaucrats, gumming up the works. Also, there are to many departments with their fingers in the pie. This, in my opinion, they have a study to study the studies and have a study to study all the studies, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars to feed their little kingdoms.

    The bureaucrat is the biggest enemy of defence procurement, in my opinion. We don’t need anymore studies, Canada needs action. Every year of a delay makes that piece of equipment more expensive. Here is one program that should be scuttled, The Nation Ship Building Procurement Strategy. Canada will pay up to 400 percent more per ship. Look at the Arctic patrol ship. We could have paid 200 million per vessel but we are paying 700 million. The refueling vessels, We are going to pay 3.1 billion for 2 maybe 3 for the type 702 Berlin class and that is based on a 27 year old design. I like Davies interim Supply vessel. 2.8 billion for 4 vessels saving what? Do the math. We would have 4 vessels. I could go on but I wont.

    I think what Canada needs to do is get back to basics. CASR had some wonderful ideas. Saab offered Canada 65 JAS 39 C/D for 6 billion dollars with a 40 year service support and if Canada wanted to purchase the 5 gen, E/F it could be built here in Canada. It is designed for Arctic operations and relatively cheap to fly and would bolster our aerospace industry.A small number of F-35 say 24 and 24 growlers. Also 60 Super Hornets E models with conformal fuel tanks and 12 F models for training.

    Now there are a host of equipment that Canada need to get but the longer we wait the more expensive things will get. So my question to the 4 Liberal members of Parliament is this. Why aren’t you pushing the Prime Minster to get the equipment our soldiers, sailors and airmen need. Another level of bureaucracy is not what we need.


    • D. says:

      Sorry Rou Paquette, but any fighter purchase that doesn’t have Stealth capability would be purchasing O-B-S-O-L-E-T-E equipment. The delay in purchasing a fighter replacement is not bureaucratic. The delay is purely Political as our Prime Minister foolishly promised not to buy the F-35. As a former RCAF Pilot, I am appalled that non-experts have such uninformed arrogant opinions on what the RCAF needs.


      • Roy Paquette says:

        I’m not talking just about aircraft, I’m talking about the whole procurement system. I think you need to re-read. Oh bye the way, I’m retired Army


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CASR has announced that it will cease operations on 31/December/2016.

I have grateful to have been given the opportunity to write for them, and to repost my material on Defence Muse.

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