Mark Collins – New Super Cabinet Committee for Canadian Defence Procurement

As this blog has been describing time and time again Canadian defence procurement–under both Conservative and Liberal governments–has long been a right royal cock-up, dominated by politico-economic motives rather than concern for effective and efficient armed services.  Those services themselves also bear considerable blame for pushing some acquisitions largely out of their own self-interest rather than concern for the country’s overall defence capability within the pretty thin budgetary limits most governments impose (see: “Another Decade of Darkness for the Canadian Forces? Part 3“; “No plans to undo Conservative cuts to military spending, says [MND] Sajjan”).

The new government has already established a “secret” cabinet committee to review the RCN’s Canadian Surface Combatant project awarded to Irving, Halifax–shipbuilding, because of all parties’ insistence on building in Canada inefficiently at greatly inflated prices, is far and away the most expensively balls-upped of procurements:

RCN Ship Procurement, or, the Curse of Irving: Canadian Surface Combatant Section

Now we learn that another committee which would seem to have considerable power has been formed to look into defence procurement overall (including Canadian Coast Guard shipbuilding, though the CCG is a civilian agency); it includes the three ministers most concerned with these procurements plus the minister in charge of controlling government spending:

Canadian Panel To Guide Major Procurements

The Canadian government has formed a Cabinet committee to shepherd high-profile defense purchases, including those of fighter aircraft, through the country’s notoriously problem-plagued procurement system.

The committee will oversee billions of dollars in new purchases and ensure they do not get stalled in a federal bureaucracy that has seen other defense acquisitions derailed or delayed for years.

The committee, which has the political clout to liaison directly with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will keep tabs on the Canadian Surface Combatant project, which will see the building of new warships to replace Canada’s destroyers and frigates [more here and here (foreign design)]; the fixed-wing search-and-rescue aircraft program [more here]; the logistics vehicle modernization program, which will provide trucks for the Canadian Army [more here]; the replacement for the CF-18 fighter jets [more here, here and here (US general speaking)]; and the acquisition of an Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel [more here].

The Liberal government has promised to overhaul Canada’s procurement system and cut through the red tape that has created delays of up to a decade on some large acquisitions…

The committee is made up of Procurement Minister Judy Foote, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Navdeep Bains, minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and Scott Brison, the president of the Treasury Board [government spending].

The Liberal government declined to discuss details about the committee…

As Mr Bryson is from Nova Scotia one can be pretty certain that he will do his damnednest to protect the position of Irving, Halifax, and all those jobs in his province.  To my mind another major flaw with this new committee is that, one assumes, it will have no mandate to examine the types of new vessels planned for RCN and CCG (and it is those types that drive the costs);  that sort of examination will presumably be the purview of the broader defence review the government will be conducting:

“A letter to the New [Canadian] Minister of National Defence on the Defence Policy Review”

Relevant to that review:

Royal Canadian Navy: 15 Canadian Surface Combatants? Maybe Some Offshore Patrol Vessels Instead

Why not more Canadian Coast Guard Icebreakers Instead of RCN JSS?

What Is the RCN For? Reprise

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


3 thoughts on “Mark Collins – New Super Cabinet Committee for Canadian Defence Procurement”

  1. Will the fact that the shipbuilding consultant is a retired British admiral give a UK design some advantage for the CSC?

    “RCN’s Canadian Surface Combatant Will be Foreign Design”

    E.g. this ship?

    “Type 26 Global Combat Ship (GCS) Programme, United Kingdom”

    Mark Collins

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