Bold New Vision and Cultural Revision is Needed
CHRIS MACLEAN
© 2017 FrontLine Defence (Vol 14, No 3)

“We’ve got to change that culture,” says the Yukon-born Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, Daniel Lang. He is speaking of the multi-layered, dysfunctional system of defence procurement that includes an ever-growing continuum of approvals – and may be the only system whereby non-accountability is the goal. 

After years of listening, in his capacity as Chair of this committee, to a wide array of very dedicated and knowledgeable witnesses who have participated in one or more of the various layers of the procurement process, Senator Lang allows some frustration to creep into his voice as he describes the complex world of military procurement in Canada as “troubling” and  “almost in paralysis.” One of his key concerns is that “nobody makes a decision,” in what has developed into a convoluted process of institutionalized career protection (otherwise known as “watching your six”).

True, FrontLine has been writing about this for almost two decades now, and there have been small improvements made along the way, but there always seem to be caveats thrown down as roadblocks to progress. As one small example, many people worked very hard to get the concept of “banking” offset credits approved and incorporated into the process, however, some bright light (with obviously no business experience) decided it was important to insist that the benefits from such corporate investment be tied to a specific project and “expire” under certain circumstances (such as losing that bid).

Grumblings of “the system is broken” have been heard at every conference and trade show I’ve ever attended. And now members of the Senate Committee have heard irrefutable evidence so often that ignoring it is no longer an option. What is necessary is a bold vision to revise the whole system into a process that will not require endless meetings with more and more people, resulting in the file continually being sent back for additional revisions because everyone is afraid to be “the one” to make a decision.

The Senate has methodically and painstakingly sorted through hours of testimony in order to come up with a set of recommendations. Now that the government’s Defence Policy Review is about to be released, the next big issue will be defence procurement, and the Senate’s recommendations are headed in the right direction – there is no time like the present to get started. 

Will this government take notice, take it seriously, and take action?

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