The Harper government is considering major reforms in military procurement in the wake of recent, high-profile procurement blunders (Steven Chase, “Ottawa eyes plan to loosen DND’s grip on military procurement“, Globe and Mail, 19 July 2012).
The reforms could see National Defence stripped of its traditional powers of drafting specifications and selecting its suppliers for acquisition purposes.
Such a change would prevent DND from drafting such precise specifications that a supplier is already in effect chosen before any competition begins, one of the problems that Auditor-General Michael Ferguson discovered in the F-35 file.
One option under serious study is the creation of a permanent secretariat, reporting to the Department of Public Works, that would take responsibility for all major military procurements above a certain dollar value, a Department of National Defence source said.
Such a shift would signal the Harper government has lost faith in National Defence’s ability to safeguard the public purse. It would also represent an important reduction in DND’s traditional role in drawing up specifications for big expenditures: in effect, the designing and selecting of the options for purchase.
A big embarrassment for DND last week – when the Harper government shut down a project to buy new army trucks because National Defence was trying to spend as much as 86 per cent more than authorized on the vehicles – is being held up as the last straw by procurement reformers.
“In the end, something has to be done to fix [military purchasing] and the truck is the obvious symptom of that,” said one DND official.