Monday, April 18, 2005

Big week

Babble on.

It's going to be a big week for foreign affairs and defence here in Canada. The Commons Defence Committee is releasing a report today on military procurement. The government is also supposed to release its long-awaited International Policy Statement (IPS) today, and the related Defence Policy Statement (DPS) tomorrow.

I don't know if I'll have the opportunity to review any of these documents in the detail they deserve. In the meantime, I'll direct your attention to an article by Stephen Thorne that covers the Conference of Defence Associations' presentation to the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs (NDDN) - not that you would know a thing about it by visiting the NDDN website (ht:Debbye):

"At present, the department has inadequate numbers and expertise . . . to execute the existing capital acquisition plan," the association said in a report to the Commons defence committee.

"Existing approaches to military acquisitions and a dearth of project expertise lead to the troubling conclusion that transformation of the Canadian Forces . . . would not be possible before the year 2020."

The conclusions come as the all-party committee prepares to release a report on military procurement Monday. The panel is expected to say defence purchasing is weighed down in politics and inefficiency. [Babbler: politics? ya think?]
"In the last six months, those responsible for advancing capital acquisition projects have missed 90 per cent of their milestones," says the report.

"When that staff was twice its current size, it took 15 years to process major acquisitions."

The Commons panel is expected to conclude that four years of political delays imposed by ex-prime minister Jean Chretien contributed to deterioration of the used submarine fleet Canada acquired from Britain in the 1990s. [Babbler: I almost got sued for suggesting much less than this - simply that it was unseemly for Liberals connected with the Chretien government to grieve publicly over Lt (N) Chris Saunders' death]
During the tender process for the 1980s purchase of CF-18 fighter jets, only 25 per cent of the specifications focused on the military's technical and operational requirements for the aircraft.

Three-quarters of the data the government released to bidders related to industrial benefits, offsets, job creation and technology transfer.

The conference warns that if existing public administration practices at DND don't change, "a long period of dormancy awaits many military capabilities.

"As a consequence, some of these capabilities may be lost."

In a recent speech, Defence Minister Bill Graham agreed on the need to streamline military purchasing, saying it must be made a priority.

As I've mentioned before, if the biggest problem with military procurement is political interference, the Liberals are the last party in the House of Commons - and, yes, I mean I'd put the BQ ahead of them here - I'd trust to fix the process.

Babble off.


At 12:17 p.m., Blogger Not the PHB said...

I find it somewhat less than coincidental that the NDP defence critic has indicated that his party needs to revisit their defence policy. A great line from CBC this morning... "Here's something you don't hear too often together... NDP and defence policy."

Don't quote me on this (because I was dodging traffic on the 401 during the story), but I thought I heard them talking in terms of $3 billion extra to defence... from the NDP!?!? You know the state of military affairs is abominable when the NDP are talking about spending more.

At 1:29 p.m., Blogger John the Mad said...

I heard the same thing while on the Don Valley. They are prepared to spend more on defence if, and only if, we we disentangle our defence policy from that of the US.

For them ideology still trumps reason, but the point is well taken, .... if the NDP sees the need for more military spending ...

At 2:20 p.m., Blogger Prolix said...

Perhaps I'm showing my cynicism here but... just because they are promising it doesn't mean that they'd ever do it. The point is well taken though that things have to have become pretty bad if they are even talking about it.

At 2:57 p.m., Blogger Greg said...

Hi, I heard the same thing, but.... It was less than meets the eye. The NDP caucus was debating a position paper written by a UBC prof. Nothing to get excited about yet. I am glad they want to spend more on defence. I think rather than disengaging from the U.S. (the CBC spin) the paper (from what I have heard anyway) proposes more money for sovereignty defence (especially in the North). Anyway, the mere fact that the NDP is taking defence spending seriously , is a plus in my books. It does go to show how bad things are, no question.


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