COVID-19 further delaying some overdue military procurements

OTTAWA — While the federal government is pressing ahead with plans to buy billions of dollars worth of much-needed equipment for the Canadian Armed Forces, the Department of National Defence's top procurement official says COVID-19 is further slowing down some already delayed purchases.

The past six months have seen a number of major milestones for Canada's beleaguered military procurement system, including last week's unveiling of the first of 16 new military search-and-rescue planes after 16 years of delays and controversy.

article continues below

Procurement officials are also now reviewing three bids that were received from fighter-jet makers at the end of July as Canada inches closer to selecting a replacement for the aging CF-18s following more than a decade of political mismanagement.

The list of recent successes also includes Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding having delivered the first of six new Arctic offshore patrol vessels in late July, while progress has been made on a number of other files, such as the long-overdue purchase of new engineering vehicles for the Army.

Yet some of those milestones would have been achieved earlier had it not been for COVID-19. And Troy Crosby, the Defence Department's assistant deputy minister of materiel, acknowledges many other projects are being affected as well.

That includes the more than 100 military procurements — roughly half of them dealing with new equipment and the rest focused on building new infrastructure on Canadian Forces bases across the country — that were listed as already delayed before the pandemic hit.

"COVID didn't speed anything up," Crosby said in an interview with The Canadian Press. "I think everybody would understand that that's going to have some impact. And exactly what that impact is difficult to tell right now."

Delays in military procurements can have several impacts. In some cases such the CF-18s, the Canadian Armed Forces is being forced to keep using equipment that was supposed to have been retired years ago. In others, delays drive up the cost of the new purchases due to inflation.

The projects most likely to be delayed due to COVID-19 are those in production, Crosby said. Examples include the construction of new naval ships by Irving and Seaspan ULC in Vancouver, which have had to adopt physical distancing and other COVID-19 measures at their shipyards.

"For the projects that are at a stage where the work is office-based ... once we got over that initial hump as everybody had to as we moved toward a remote-work posture, the work continued," said Crosby.

"If you're in a shipyard and you're trying to advance the production of a ship given all of the physical distancing requirements and the health and safety considerations, that's challenging."

Crosby has previously argued much of the frustration around military procurement is the result of unrealistic expectations born of a lack of understanding and appreciation for how the system — which is dealing with more projects than at any time in recent history — actually works.

COVID-19 has also prompted speculation the Liberal government could start cutting back on its promise, unveiled in 2017, to spend $553 billion on the military over the next 20 years. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told The Canadian Press earlier this month that the funding is "secure."

Asked about the spending plan — which is contained in the Liberals' defence policy and known as Strong, Secure, Engaged — Crosby said: "Strong Secure Engaged continues to be our focus and it laid out a program of work and we're trying to get that program of work delivered.

"It's been that way right through this whole COVID situation. That hasn't changed anything. ... The people in the materiel group, the people we're working with across government, we're all seized with the program forward."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2020.

© Kamloops This Week

 


KAMLOOPS WEATHER

Question of the Week POLL

How has the pandemic impacted your Christmas plans from a financial perspective?

or  view results

Popular Kamloops This Week

Events Calendar

Help Us Help Kamloops. Support Local Media.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Kamloops This Week is now soliciting donations from readers. This program is designed to support our local journalism in a time where our advertisers are unable to due to their own economic constraints. Kamloops This Week has always been a free product and will continue to be free. This is a means for those who can afford to support local media to help ensure those who can’t afford to can get access to trusted local information. You can make a one-time or a monthly donation of any amount and cancel at any time .

NEW: For every donation of $25 or greater, we will offer a digital advertising package to the local non-profit group of your choice.

Click on https://support.kamloopsthisweek.com for more information or to make your donation.

Thank you in advance for your support.