Streamline the Process
Jan 15, 2008

Let’s be honest, the entire procurement process needs to be redesigned. It is fraught with far too many interlopers who have inserted themselves into the process. The delays in the decision-making protocols need either to be streamlined or done away with.

Usually military requirements are based on very real facts and are not “toys for boys.” Casting about the Canadian countryside looking for opportunities for regional suppliers may work for other government departments but not for military forces. Any acquisition that is deemed important for current or potential military operation should not be interfered with. Agencies that are not involved with the Canadian Forces should be sent off to manage their own affairs rather being allowed to fish for opportunities.

• Remember Attrition and Expansion
The current project allotment funding system is based on what is needed now versus the future requirement for equipment. During the usually long life of a major weapon system, there will be losses due to equipment failures, accidents or operator’s mistake. These unfortunate incidents should not be permitted to lower the number of weapon systems that are required to meet Canada’s domestic and international requirements. In the same fashion, should hostilities be foisted upon Canada, there needs to be a number of these systems available for rapid augmentation.

• Use Military Resources More Effectively
There is a large untapped pool of expertise in the Canadian Forces – everything from cooks to extremely skilled machinists. Why we persist in going abroad to acquire every small item or even a simple weapon system such as a mortar defies logic on all levels. There is no need to buy many of these items when they can be manufactured by Canadian Forces personnel. I am not proposing the theft of intellectual property but the development of a robust Canadian military manufacturing capability to meet our needs. If we don’t prepare for the inevitable day when our Allies change weapon systems, and we do not, then we need to have something tangible to keep our equipment serviceable. The same logic can be applied to the refurbishing and reissue of critical spare parts or even larger items such as engines and the modification of weapons systems to meet new challenges from the field.

• Develop a Functional Command to Oversee All Projects
After some 50 years of having decentralized project establishment and prosecution, it is abundantly clear that “too many chefs spoil the broth” and that this situation will not improve soon unless something drastic is done. The answer would be to establish a joint environmental systems command that would see financial, administrative, human resources and logistical support in one central area. Instead of attempting to run a matrix system that attempts to obtain work out of over-tasked directorates, this organization would see subject matter experts posted into the formation and employed in various projects where their expertise is much in demand. It would serve the Canadian Forces well to reinstitute the Project Management Source List to control the assignment of human resources to projects that have been given an establishment and an entitlement.

• Restrict Involvement to Trained Staff
Over a number of years, while deeply involved with projects at all levels, I was always amazed at the lack of project-specific knowledge that many of the government’s regulatory staff had, including our own. Many had negligible or no subject matter experience. The standing joke among many project staff was “ what do you call a 25-yr-old MBA graduate who wears a very short mini skirt?” The answer was always “Our Analyst.” To be sure, these analysts attempted to a good job. But the intent of the of the humour was neither derogatory nor sexist – this was the military officers’ way of pointing out that there was a new impediment to progress in that they would have to teach the analyst not only about the equipment but also why it was important and how it fit into Canadian Forces Operations. To be fair, a number of junior officers were also in the same boat.

Implementing these few changes will go a long way towards developing a Project Management Process that is adaptable, responsive and realistic. Furthermore, a combined project central agency will provide for the husbanding of precious resources while encouraging the staff officers to concentrate on the various directorates’ primary tasks. Let’s hope that a way can be found to make it happen.
Retired from the Armed Forces, Rob Day is currently writing and conducting research.
© Frontline Defence 2008