What Canada could learn from U.S. defence procurement: Issues, best practices and recommendations

  • Anessa L. Kimball Université Laval 


Despite differences in scale, Canada and the U.S. face common challenges in military procurement and there is much Canada can learn as both countries pursue reforms. The U.S. employs a system of systems approach, based on requirements, resource allocation and acquisition. The process begins with the Joint Capabilities and Development System, focused on identifying and prioritizing needs and assessing alternatives. This is followed by the Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution System, which leads to the creation of a budget and provides guidance for the project’s execution. The third and final step is the Defense Acquisition System, which oversees the development and purchase of the new equipment. While deceptively simple in summary, U.S. defence procurement is dogged by problems — particularly cost overruns, a surfeit of key players and delayed schedules which degrade troops’ performance in the field. Additionally, the defence products market is restricted, inevitably limiting competition, encouraging misbehaviour on the part of business and driving up prices. The DoD is in the midst of consultations with contractors and Congress is undertaking an effort to rewrite acquisition laws. But the most pressing questions remain: Does a best procurement practice exist? If so, what criteria define it? In light of Canada’s new Defence Procurement Strategy (DPS), some lessons are clear. Further analysis is needed to figure out whether reforms can succeed in so narrow a marketplace. More attention must be paid to shaping contracts and clarifying expectations about sticking to schedules. And Ottawa must think carefully about the military’s needs, as it pushes ahead with the DPS. In surveying change at the DoD, this brief draws pointed conclusions to which Canada’s defence planners must pay heed, if they’re to leave the military stronger than they found it.
Research Papers