Procurement: Major Project Warrior

Mar 15, 2010

You have just been posted to NDHQ for the first time and assigned to the Active Precision Engagement project (affectionately called “APE”). Moving was hectic, but you got the family ­settled in to the new house and figured out how to get the right transit bus to your downtown office building.

As you set up the cubicle  with some of your personal memorabilia, you reflect back over your career. You were promoted to Major two years ago because you were the top junior officer in your MOC.

This last tour as a senior leader gave you the chance you needed to prove just what a hot-shot field officer you really are. You weren’t anxious to leave the Unit but the Career Manager promised you would go to Staff College this summer and you knew that was the key to bigger and better things.

Suddenly plans changed and you got posted to Ottawa to a procurement slot. How did that happen? Now you are in a job that you know nothing about and that doesn’t sound like a good way to strut your stuff. You shrug it off and focus on the future. “It won’t take me long till I am a Project Warrior,” you say to yourself. Our guys out there in the field badly need the new APE system as the old one no longer meets the threat and it breaks down continuously. You vow to get the best APE that money can buy. If all goes well you will have APE IOC at the lead field Unit in 3 years and get posted back there as the first CO.

With the cubicle squared away, you start to wonder how to approach this new job. Your predecessor got shipped off to Afghanistan a few weeks ago so you had no chance to double-bank with him. And your LCol is on extended French course so you only saw him during your HHT. You would be very surprised if he ever gets a “B” so you may never see him back on the project. You figure that you will just have to learn a few lessons from the other guys on the project team and then you will be off and running. You will be a project hot-shot in no time.

You had begun some internet research on APE systems after hearing you would be posted here. You noted that three companies advertised that they make APE variants so you decide to check that out in more detail. You are about to start calling some of these companies but suddenly you remember one Friday a long time ago, at the bar in the Unit Mess, when an ex-NDHQ guy was telling stories about how sleazy those defence contractors can be, and how you have to be so careful when you get close to them. In particular, you recall the guffaws when the old guy joked about how you have to protect your watch and your wallet when you are around those marketeers. Now what?

You know that you have a PWGSC rep on the APE project team. Although you are not exactly sure what she really does, you decide to check in with her before proceeding. You walk down the hall and introduce yourself to Ms. Rulebound. You explain what you want to do and Ms. Rulebound goes apoplectic. “Dont even think about talking to any of those company people without me present,” she declares in dismay. “You could kill this whole project. You could be accused of favouritism and we could all be sued in court. The APE project would be dead for a decade, and it would be all your fault.”

Wow! You limp back to your cubicle licking the welts from that flogging. This could be tougher than you thought. You decide to do more internet research and start to prepare a list of questions to run by Ms. Rulebound.

That night your wife drags you off to the supermarket to get what she needs to fill the new fridge and pantry. As you are cruising down the cereal aisle, idly slouched over the cart and replaying the day’s events in your mind, you suddenly spot Fred Darkside, a guy you have not seen since your first posting at that base out west. He recognizes you as well and you are soon in animated conversation while your wife scoops up bargains from the next aisle. “It is so good to see you again Fred”, you say. “What are you doing these days?” “I retired from the service four years ago and now I am a marketing manager for ACME Defence Company,” Fred says. Oh no! You almost upset the cart. ACME is one of those companies that makes the APE. You start hallucinating. You see Ms. Rulebound standing in the aisle pointing accusingly at you for killing the project. Your career goes up in flames before your eyes. You look around furtively to see if anyone else is witnessing your conversation with Fred. Now you wonder whether Fred was actually stalking you. He doesn’t have anything in his cart so maybe he is not really shopping. You start to break out in a sweat. Just then your wife returns and you stumble over your words as you introduce her to Fred. When Fred says that he lives on the next street to you, your wife invites him and his wife Freda to come over some time for coffee. “No! No! No!” your inner voice cries out desperately, but it’s a done deal and you are stuck.

That night, as you toss in bed, you can’t get it out of your mind. You realize that the instincts and leadership skills that got you this far in your career don’t seem to be properly calibrated for a procurement job in NDHQ. Your strong self confidence starts to slip away. You drift uneasily off to sleep knowing that the alarm will soon sound and day two in the APE project office will be about to begin. What will tomorrow bring?


Stay tuned to FrontLine Defence Magazine for the next episode of Major Project Warrior.
© FrontLine Defence 2010