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Defence Department reports new delays in 10 major procurement projects
The Defence Department is reporting fresh delays in 10 major military procurement projects, even as defence officials cast about for better ways to predict and manage when new equipment will get to the troops.
The schedule slippage is detailed in a new report to Parliament and runs the gamut from a minor snag in the final delivery of engineering vehicles for the army to years of delays in the planned delivery of naval vessels.
Many of the projects, such as the naval vessels and new transport trucks for the army, were already several years behind schedule, meaning they are now extra late.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, the Defence Department's head of procurement touted the last year as one of the more successful in terms of getting new equipment to the Forces.
But Patrick Finn, the assistant deputy minister of materiel, also conceded that more must be done to address the scheduling problems, which he described as the factor that "we struggle with the most, much more than scope and cost.
"There's not a day that goes by that we're not delivering stuff and doing stuff," Finn said.
"There's also almost not a day that doesn't go by that we're not dealing with a technical issue or a schedule issue, whether it's a vendor, whether it's us causing delay or whatever it is. We're spending a lot of time trying to get in front of it all."
That is why the department, which changed the way it estimates the cost of new equipment as part of the Trudeau government's new defence policy, is looking to do the same with schedules.
"How do we build in kind of schedule contingency, other best practices that we're looking at so that, again, we don't have unrealistic schedules we're marching to," Finn said.
The focus on schedules comes as the government is preparing to unveil the next leg of its defence policy in the coming weeks, namely a plan detailing the investments it will make on new military equipment over the next five years [emphasis added].
The 10 major projects identified in the Defence Department report as having experienced new delays include:
— The navy's new Arctic offshore patrol ships. Finn attributed the delay to problems with a subcontractor. The first vessel was supposed to arrive this year, but now won't be delivered until 2019 [emphasis added].
— The air force's CP-140 surveillance planes, which are due to be upgraded. The report appeared to pin the blame on the company responsible for the work, saying negotiations had "increased cost and reduced flexibility."
— The navy's new support ships, with delivery of the first pushed to 2023 from 2021. The government has recently approved a plan to start work early on the vessels, which officials are hoping will result in delivery in 2022 [emphasis added].
— The army's new transport trucks, with the delivery scheduled pushed back six months at the company's request, though Finn also indicated that there were some design concerns.
Some of the equipment listed as delayed have already been delivered, such as the army's M777 howitzers, which saw service in Afghanistan, but parts of the contract, in this case a new type of ammunition, remain outstanding.
There are several reasons that delays in the military procurement system are considered a serious problem. In some cases, such as fighter jets, a delay means the Forces is required to keep using old equipment longer than expected...