Effectively Increasing Canadian Defence Spending Requires Major Procurement Reforms; Will PM Trudeau Bother to Make the Effort to Get it Done?

(Graph at top of the post [March 30, 2020 just before new budget] starts left at 1970–right click on image to see in full.)

Further to this post,

Ukraine: Quite a few Euros Giving Defence Budgets Big Boosts–and PM Trudeau’s Government? Note UPDATE

two people who really are experts in this field make some serious recommendations that should be implemented if this government is serious about defence matters (which is pretty unlikely, see John Ibbitson piece noted at the end of the post)–at the the Canadian Defence Associatons Institute:

Three ways to improve defence procurement in Canada

Richard B. Fadden, O.C. former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister and Deputy Minister of National Defence

LGen (ret) Guy Thibault, former Vice Chief of the Defence Staff

In National Defence, getting the money is the easiest part…

Given the deterioration of the international security situation, the Prime Minister has said he is open to additional defence spending. Assuming Mr. Trudeau meant what he said [getting a knife in early], getting additional defence resources approved though Cabinet and Parliament is fairly straightforward. The first real challenge is determining on what the money is to be spent. Then comes the seemingly impossible task of getting spending decisions effectively implemented as quickly as possible.

Mr. Trudeau is the last in a relatively long line of Prime Ministers who have pauperized Canada’s defence establishment. Whether they regret or are content with their decisions, is not important except that it explains why virtually every part of Canada’s defence establishment needs new resources. In seeking to revitalize the operational capabilities of the Canadian Forces, it is important to appreciate that this will not happen if new resources are exclusively directed to the CAF. The Department of National Defence (the civilian part of the Defence portfolio) and Public Services and Procurement in particular will need additional resources.

New resources for the Canadian Forces can be spent in four ways. The first category is major capital procurement – the fighter aircraft replacement and Canadian Surface Combatant programs are examples. The second category is minor capital procurement- sidearms or armour vests are examples. The third category covers personnel costs – both those relating to current personnel as well costs relating to increasing the head-count of the Forces. The fourth category includes funding for infrastructure – everything from runways, to jetties to personnel housing). The last category might be called operational costs which come in two parts: those relating to training and those relating to actual operations in Canada and abroad. If the Government is serious about increasing the capabilities of the Forces, all five categories will need an injection of money and on-going attention by both Ministers and the public service. The challenge we’d like to focus in on below is the procurement process itself.

Defence procurement is under constant criticism for being overly slow and expensive. There are three main reasons for these shortcomings. The first is the insistence of successive governments that defence procurement support policy objectives other than procuring equipment for the Forces. Objectives such as regional and industrial development, support to innovation and others are all laudable but applying them automatically to major projects means that the procurement of defence equipment takes second place [emphasis added]. The second reason is the extreme risk aversion of both Ministers and public servants to anything going wrong such that an already heavy process is over layered with checks and balances and delays for additional study. Whether these precautions are to help avoid questions in the House, stories in the media or visits to the Federal Court or the International Trade Tribunal they mean delays and cost increases.

The third reason is the view of Governments — admittedly broadly supported by public opinion – that national security and defence are not as important as any number of other policy areas [emphasis added]. This means that defence spending gets a low priority, frequent cutbacks and poor priority setting. In any event, the shortcomings of the procurement process can be shared between politicians, public servants and CF personnel.

A number of possible measures to improve the procurement process are set out below but even the best procurement system on the planet would not change the fact that defence is an expensive business. Currently, for Canada, defence will be especially expensive as we will be — or should be — playing catch-up with most of our allies.

The first aid to an improved defence procurement system is sustained prime ministerial and ministerial attention based on their belief that the national security of Canada and of its allies requires it [emphasis added]. This will happen most easily if Canadians generally share that view but whether this is the case or not, it is the responsibility of governments to lead and to do what it is necessary to provide it. Surely, the current international environment requires nothing less.

If the above is forthcoming, the second aid will develop relatively easily. This would be an acceptance that greater risks are to be taken to advance specific procurement projects, including that public servants be encouraged to recommend — where appropriate — that specific procurement projects be exempt from some or all the rules which govern them. This should specifically include the possibility of subordinating other policy objectives to the delivery of required equipment [emphasis added]. The third aid is the acceptance by all — including the Forces — that while perfection is always desirable when developing capability requirements, sometime getting something promptly is the desirable course.

The final aid is utilizing at least some new defence resources on existing projects. For example, topping up the CSC budget to ensure that the full number of — fully capable — projected ships be delivered. Another example, relates to the need to increase our defence presence in the Arctic and could mean upgrading the Nanisivik Naval Facility to at least what was initially intended — a year-round capability including one or more runways to accommodate both Canadian and NATO aircraft. The same sort of upgrade could be applied to the Canadian Army’s Arctic Training Center. Finally, to improve communications and surveillance in the Arctic , build on existing commitments to support the on-going development of a low earth orbit constellation which could support both military and civilian needs.

There seems to be agreement in Canada and throughout NATO that we are all facing a very dangerous international environment. If this is the case, Canada will need to up its game on national security and defence. This will mean, as a former Deputy Prime Minister once said, our not going to the washroom when the bill is being circulated! But, it’s not only money, it’s ongoing attention by the Prime Minister and appropriate Ministers. And given Canada’s history in this area, the key is “on-going” attention. As Minister Anand has noted, Canada can get things done when its important – vaccine acquisition and distribution being the latest examples [emphasis added].

From that column by Mr Ibbitson:

Canada may increase its defence spending – but that doesn’t mean it’s serious about restoring our military

John Ibbitson

Thursday’s [April 7] budget will almost certainly include increased funding for defence. Do not expect that increase to signal a new and sustained commitment to restoring Canada’s rundown military.

Canadians feel safe. As long as they feel safe, they will not sacrifice. They will vow to stand with Ukraine, condemn alleged Russian war crimes, offer shelter to refugees.

But as Adam Chapnick, a professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College, observes, “we aren’t in the mental headspace to have a serious conversation,” about defence spending, “and our elected representatives aren’t in the headspace to have it either [emphasis added].

…Leah Sarson, a professor of international relations at Dalhousie University, expects to see a commitment to upgrade NORAD aerospace defences [see this post: “What Worries the NORTHCOM/NORAD COMMANDER? What Worries PM Trudeau’s Government about Continental Defence? Note UPDATE“]

But she doesn’t expect any sustained effort to bring Canadian defence spending up to the NATO target of 2 per cent of GDP.

Canadians typically like to see an emphasis on humanitarian aid and diplomacy,” she told me, “rather than an emphasis on defence and military spending [emphasis added].”

Canada is content to shelter beneath the American umbrella. Oceans separate us from conflict in Eurasia, and the Western hemisphere is mostly at peace…

The military in Canada has such a small footprint that its well-being doesn’t register with Canadians. Politicians don’t prioritize it because no one raises the issue at the door…

The question, then, is whether the events in Ukraine will galvanize public opinion in favour of sustained increases. The answer is almost certainly no [emphasis added]

…a credible military – one capable of seriously contributing to the defence of Canada’s interests in the Arctic and of contributing meaningfully to NATO in Europe – is long overdue…

NATO partners are entitled to something better than a Canadian military that is equipped on the fly, with procurement either infinitely delayed or rushed through in response to the latest crisis. Our forces rely far too heavily on the kindness of allies.

But that would entail sacrifice. And a Liberal government that has signed a pact with the NDP to introduce publicly funded dental care and pharmacare is unlikely to ask Canadians to support increased spending on the military as well, along with the higher taxes needed to pay for it.

So don’t be fooled if you see headlines Thursday about increased defence spending in the budget. It likely won’t mean much of anything [emphasis added].

Sigh. We are truly not a serious country. But we are great at pretending:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

7 thoughts on “Effectively Increasing Canadian Defence Spending Requires Major Procurement Reforms; Will PM Trudeau Bother to Make the Effort to Get it Done?”

  1. Meanwhile Finland, which knows something about being invaded by Russians:

    Mark Collins

    Like

  2. Eight billion dollar over how many years? NORAD/North Warning System to get funding–defence up to 1.5% of GDP from 1.4%–new defence policy paper coming–budget doesn’t look all that serious–no mention of procurement reform:

    Mark Collins

    Like

  3. More on the joke defence budget at the Globe and Mail. Aid for Ukraine not really part of our budget. NATO allies and Aussies must be shaking their heads, AUKUS members glad we have nothing to do with it:

    Mark
    Ottawa

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s