By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

It appears another attempt to change defence procurement in Canada has fallen into the black hole of the federal bureaucracy.

Last year the Conservative government asked the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) to carry-out country-wide consultations with industry executives and other interested parties to establish more efficient procurement practices.

At the time Public Works Minister Christian Paradis, whose department is responsible for developing procurement contracts, said the consultations would provide for better planning and would build on ongoing initiatives for improving defence acquisitions.

But Paradis is gone with the recent Cabinet shuffle. Rona Ambrose is in and still has to get up to speed on her portfolio, with lots of issues on the go.

CADSI delivered its report in mid-December and it promptly disappeared into bureaucratic oblivion.

Defence Watch contacted CADSI president Tim Page in December shortly after he delivered the report but more than a month later he has yet to return that phone call.

Defence sources, however, say they expect the CADSI report to languish on a shelf collecting dust for quite a while. There are questions whether it will result in any changes.

The report join the government’s much ballyhooed Shipbuilding Policy, which may or may not be unveiled in the spring.

“The Department of National Defence is working with other stakeholder Departments on a recommended shipbuilding approach that will be brought forward to the Government in due course,” DND spokeswoman Lynne Rattray told Defence Watch last month.

She never defined what “soon” meant but industry representatives think that the strategy could be ready by the end of the first quarter of this year – maybe.

Meanwhile the Arctic Patrol Ship program and the Joint Support Ship program remain in limbo until the Shipbuilding Strategy is unveiled.

The consultations led by CADSI to improve procurement were equally ambitious. “The purpose of the events is to ensure the Government of Canada gets broad input from key Defence and Security stakeholders in the development of comprehensive and viable options that could establish more efficient procurement practices and help align domestic industrial objectives with procurement priorities,” noted the invitation to industry last year to take part in the process.

At the time, CADSI president Page said the meetings would allow his organization to determine where Canadian industry believed its top capabilities are centered and in what areas it can meet national security needs. “It’s a good opportunity to quantify and qualify what Canadian industry is good at,” he added.

CADSI represents more than 800 defense and aerospace firms.

At the time Page said the Conservatives appeared serious about improving and changing the defense procurement process.

“I don’t see this, and I don’t believe they see this, as an academic exercise,” he said. “I think they are genuinely interested in understanding how the country can benefit through a strengthened domestic economy in areas of strategic national interest to Canada.”

Some industry observers wonder, however, if CADSI put itself in a precarious position. By accepting a contract from the government it limits the ability of the organization to raise concerns or criticize government action or inaction on defence procurement, according to some observers.

Canada’s domestic defence industry is not happy that the Conservative government has spent billions of dollars over the last several years purchasing new military equipment, with little of that going to Canadian-based firms.

The anger has grown with news of layoffs in the domestic aerospace sector and the fact, revealed in September, that Germany has now replaced Canada as having the fourth largest aerospace industry in the world. Canada is in fifth place with the U.S., France and Britain maintaining their positions as first, second and third, according to the study done by AeroStrategy Management Consulting in the U.S.

The study was done for the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) and the federal government’s Industry Canada.

AIAC president Claude Lajeunesse has praised some the changes brought in last year by Industry Minister Tony Clement to improve how the government approaches Industrial Regional Benefits or IRBs.

But Lajeunesse has also said that industry must continue to be vigilant about the issue of defence procurement and the role domestic firms can play. “While we have achieved success on IRBs and the door is open on engaging industry in revising the approach to defense procurement, we must continue to advocate for a strong Defence Industrial Base in Canada to optimize the impact of defense procurement,” he said.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:


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