Improving the Acquisition Process in Canada

  • J. Craig Stone Canadian Forces College 


Flaws in Canada’s military procurement processes are a perennial burden on both government and industry. The release of the Defence Procurement Strategy this year signified Ottawa’s inclination toward change.  Among other things, the DPS promises to consult industry and outside experts earlier, create a specialist acquisition branch within Public Works & Government Services Canada and use military equipment projects to generate domestic jobs and growth. The DPS is a good start, but more focused solutions are required. The defence market has too few buyers and sellers to be truly competitive — especially in Canada. Government must share information with industry at every step, clearly and comprehensively, if Canadian firms are to win contracts fairly, keeping the economic benefits at home.  A sweeping, end-to-end review of procurement is also required to identify current practices that work and others in need of improvement. Preliminary cost estimates can’t be too firm because prices shift as projects develop, and all too often, capabilities are downgraded in response. Government has to be transparent about how far into the future lifecycle costs run, or stop trying to establish them altogether, so as to avoid the consequences of embarrassingly unrealistic assessments. A separate procurement organization should also be established outside of the DND and PWGSC to make better use of the people with the skills to run complex military procurement projects. Canada’s military procurement system is not as broken as its most strident critics allege, but it is coming under increasing fiscal and policy pressures. This brief fleshes out the issues that would-be reformers should take into account and surveys procedures among allied nations to offer a roadmap for change.


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