Experience, Who Needs It? (or... will we ever learn?)
CHRIS MACLEAN
© 2010 FrontLine Defence (Vol 7, No 4)

Are we trading soldier safety for lower cost? That’s a delicate question. Our ‘special trucks’ correspondent, Shaun Connors, takes a look at the Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle (TAPV) program and the companies competing to provide this much needed asset. The requirements have been adjusted (downgraded) somewhat as it progresses from stage to stage. How can you expect otherwise as they try to replace two different vehicle types by a single new requirement... blending and softening the requirements so that one vehicle can have a chance of being compliant. When will we learn?

We have just heard that another vehicle program, the Close Combat Vehicle, has failed to find a single compliant bidder. The reason? Forget gold, DND was looking for an unobtanium-plated solution (unobtanium: any extremely rare, costly, or physically impossible option needed to fulfill a given design for a given application). Funny, that sounds suspiciously like the problem with the Joint Support Ship (JSS) program, which also managed to eliminate every possible bidder, sending our government back to the drawing board – at great additional cost to the taxpayer, extreme delay, and frustration to all. When will we learn?
 
Mr Connors also brings up the unobtanium question in his TAPV article. What is it with the people who write requirements? As suggested in an Ottawa Citizen report by David Pugliese, it seems many insiders believe that “poorly written requirements, written by inexperienced procurement officials” are the root of this particular and recurring problem. When will we learn that spending money on experience speeds up the process – and unquestionably saves money in the end? The Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) seems to have learned this, as they begin reaping the benefits of hiring seasoned defence expert Stan Jacobson to head its global defence section.
 
In his commentary on page 44, Andrew Warden of the Navy League of Canada, calls on the government to engage the many years of experience found in industry before it’s too late to find the best possible cost and capability solutions for the JSS.
 
Is it possible to convince decision-makers that we don’t have to learn everything the hard way? Maybe we should all take a page from CCC’s book of tricks and start learning through experience. I hear it’s more efficient that way.

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© FrontLine Defence 2010

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