Mark Collin – Canadian Surface Combatant Procurement Process Re-Float: So What?

First a February article:

Government considers changing course on $26B warship program in hopes vessels will be delivered sooner

The Canadian government is looking at changing course on the largest shipbuilding program in Canadian history and will now examine combining bids for new warships into one package in the hopes that will allow vessels to be constructed more quickly.

The $26-billion Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) project [now lots more than $26 billion–see this March post: “RCN Canadian Surface Combatant Woes: Not Enough Dough“] will see a new fleet built to replace the navy’s destroyers and frigates. The plan established by the Conservative government was to have companies submit bids for the design of the ships, and to consider separate bids for the integration of the various systems on board those vessels.

But the federal government will now look at combining those two processes, with a designer and integrator submitting a combined bid…

“One competitive process versus two is much faster,” Lisa Campbell, assistant deputy minister for acquisitions at Public Services and Procurement Canada, said in an interview Tuesday. “It takes out a whole bunch of the design technical risk of trying to fit together a combat systems integrator with a warship design that possibly was more customized.”

The warship designs will be off-the-shelf vessels, she added. “We’re talking about existing designs,” Campbell explained. “That eliminates a lot of technical risk and will get us to building ships sooner.”

[That was not news–see from Nov. 2015: “RCN’s Canadian Surface Combatant Will be Foreign Design“; the firms are listed that were qualified to compete for the design and for the weapons systems.]

The first of the Canadian Surface Combatants were supposed to be delivered around 2026. But Campbell said this new process would allow for the first ship to be delivered in the early 2020s [but in this official government March report first delivery was still put at “Late 2020s–if you believe in a speed-up of several years, good on you mate].

She said Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding will still be prime contractor [emphasis added] for the surface combatants, but the government will ensure there is maximum use of other Canadian firms on the program [Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!]…

The government’s June 13 announcement–see here–only made the combining of the two procurement processes official (this claim in now made: “Ship construction is scheduled to commence after the completion of the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships in the early 2020s…”). Whether this new arrangement will actually be more efficient, reduce costs, or get ships sooner knows only God.

And don’t buy the government’s spin that it has just now decided on that foreign design (and much of our media should not be buying it either: “Liberal government scraps plans to design new naval warships from scratch”). The February quote above makes that clear. And we still have no idea how many major surface warships the RCN will end up getting:

Liberals non-committal on number of replacement navy frigates
Minister maps out way forward in frigate replacement program, but won’t commit to 15 warships

Serious background from last year:

RCN: Detailed Examination of National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy

To conclude: a delightfully depressing summing-up of Canadian defence procurement from Andrew Coyne of Postmedia News, one of our best-thinking columnists:

…Even where a competition is held, the criteria are as often political as military: that is, the “industrial and regional benefits” that are attached to every contract, in the form of local content, maintenance contracts and the like. The much-vaunted National Shipbuilding Strategy, now billions of dollars over budget and the subject of vicious inter-regional infighting, is a case in point.

Supposedly this was to be an example of a cleaned-up process, after the controversy surrounding the F-35 purchase, itself following on the EH-101 helicopter calamity, the submarine disaster and countless others. But the very decision to build the ships in Canada, at a time when there was no industry to speak of, rather than buy them off the shelf at half the cost from some other country, was a sign of what was really at work.

This remains the case, notwithstanding the government’s decision to use existing blueprints rather than build the ships from all-new designs [NOT A RECENT DECISION, see above–even Mr Coyne misunderstands things]. Defending the decision, Minister of Public Services and Procurement Judy Foote tweeted that the National Shipbuilding Strategy was about bringing “jobs and prosperity to many communities” and “leverag(ing) economic opportunities for (the) Canadian marine sector and economy.” Oh? I thought it was about getting ships for the navy.

Please, let us not delude ourselves. Eh? The result:

The Extravagant Lunacy of Building RCN and Canadian Coast Guard Vessels in Canada

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


5 thoughts on “Mark Collin – Canadian Surface Combatant Procurement Process Re-Float: So What?”

  1. Oh oh :look what’s happening to one of the designs likely in the mix–poor Royal Navy:

    ‘ Crucial fleet of global-combat frigates is indefinitely delayed
    Type 26 navy frigates do not have go-ahead, MoD says amid budget pressures, technical problems and jobs fears

    A new fleet of frigates, described as “global combat ships” designed to play crucial roles, has been delayed indefinitely, the Ministry of Defence has said in testy exchanges with MPs over huge financial and technical problems facing the navy’s surface vessels.

    Delays in building the Type 26 frigates – a project promised by David Cameron before the 2014 Scottish independence referendum – is threatening shipbuilding jobs on the Clyde in Scotland.

    The project’s problems come on top of serious mechanical failures in the navy’s new fleet of Type 45 destroyers. Key tasks of the navy’s frigates and destroyers include protecting two new large aircraft carriers now being assembled in Rosyth as well as Trident nuclear weapons submarines approaching and leaving their base on the Clyde.
    Destroyers will break down if sent to Middle East, admits Royal Navy
    Read more

    “I can’t give you a time or a date,” Tony Douglas, the MoD’s top official responsible for military equipment, said on Wednesday after he was asked by MPs on the Commons defence committee when the frigate design would be approved. “It could be next year.” Harriet Baldwin, a new junior defence minister, told the MPs: “We do not know yet.”..

    The number of planned new frigates has already been cut from 13 to eight, though the MoD has the option to build five smaller and cheaper general-purpose vessels. One of the problems is how to make the frigates as quiet as possible to make it harder for them to be detected by Russian submarines…”

    Those Russian subs should be a major worry for the RCN’s Canadian Surface Combatants too:

    ‘USN “Admiral Warns: Russian Subs Waging Cold War-Style ‘Battle of the Atlantic’”–and RCN?’

    Mark Collins

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