|Sorry trucks saga yet another procurement blight|
(Photo courtesy of Francis Vachon - Canadian Press)
Written by Scott Taylor
When the word came out last week that yet another major defence procurement project has gone off the rails, there was the predictable round of political finger pointing.
Sparking the latest bout in the blame game was the last minute cancellation of an estimated $800 million acquisition of Standard Military Pattern trucks. This saga dates back to the news reports in 1998 that the Army’s aging fleet of Medium Logistic Vehicles Wheeled were no longer considered safe to operate.
As one would expect, the Liberal government of the day pledged to fast-track the replacement of the MLVWs. These are, after all, just trucks, not sophisticated weapon systems or fighter jets, and therefore should not have been a difficult sell to even the most peace-loving among the Canadian citizenry.
Whether it’s sandbags and shovels or food and water, the army needs trucks to assist them in bringing disaster relief to victims at home and abroad. Nevertheless, the MLVW replacement project was still parked in neutral when the Conservatives were elected to power in 2006. That summer, then-defence minister Gordon O’Connor, himself a former Army Brigadier, understood the urgent requirement to replace the old trucks and vowed to make it his top priority.
The torch was subsequently passed to Peter MacKay when he replaced O’Connor as defence minister in August 2007.
With the combat requirements in
Companies interested in bidding on the contract to produce 1500 Standard Military Pattern trucks had until 2:00 p.m. ET July 11 to submit their proposals along with delivering a vehicle sample to
Just three minutes prior to that deadline expiring, Public Works officials emailed all the bidders to advise them that the entire purchase had been cancelled.
According to that brief missive, “Economic, marketplace, and budgetary circumstances have changed since this solicitation process began. Therefore, the government of
Given that the bidders would have each spent more than $1 million on their preparation of proposals, one can easily understand that they would be more than a little miffed when an $800-million carrot that had been dangled before them for the past six years disappears at the deadline.
To mollify the outraged bidders, Public Works did acknowledge that they will arrange to return all classified material which was submitted, as well as returning the sample trucks from the test site in
When this story first hit the press, the opposition critics immediately hammered the Conservative government for bungling yet another major military procurement.
Ever the consummate politician, Defence Minister Peter MacKay abandoned an indefensible position on trucks and instead went on the attack about helicopters.
At the announcement of a completely unrelated shipbuilding contract in
In MacKay’s humble opinion, the Cyclone debacle is the biggest blight in the history of Canadian military procurement and originated with the Chrétien Liberals’ decision to cancel the original Sea King helicopter replacement project back in 1993.
While it is true that the cancellation cost taxpayers over $500 million in penalties and delayed the Sea King fleet’s replacement, it is also true that cyclone acquisition is now entering the ninth year of what was to have been a four-year delivery cycle—and six of those nine years were under the Conservative government’s direction.
While politicians hastily distance themselves from the boondoggles and blame their predecessors, the bureaucrats within the DND procurement world simply refuse to admit there are any problems.
At a defence conference in
Jacobson, the Chief of Staff (Materiel) at DND. His seminar was entitled “Defence Procurement Works,” and the gist of his message was what the media just don’t get it.
To emphasize just how swimmingly things were going, Jacobson referred to the fact that in a little over 24 hours, the bids were closing on the Standard Military Pattern truck competition, and it was yet another good news story that would not get any media coverage.
Enjoy your retirement, Jake.