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Canadian Procurement System

FSTO

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I guess ours is not the only one that has issues;
https://blog.usni.org/2016/03/30/quartermaster-bloomfield-rules-us-all

My question is to our departments of the federal government reponsible for purchasing stuff; are the rules set forth in our procurement and approval system rules set in such unyielding granite that there is no conceivable way for the government to throw out the current system and replace it with a system that actually works? Or are we so saddled with the mantra "Well this is how it has always been done and we cannot change it" that another way is not possible at all?
 
The overriding factor is the zero tolerance for risk that is held by PSPC (the former PWGSC) and Treasury Board. TB is quite open to changes in the procurement system, and indeed there is ongoing EX-level work to change how we buy stuff. However DND, ISEDC and PSPC must continue to check off the hundreds of ticks required to ensure that there is no risk at all that the taxpayer's dollars are wasted, that the GOC is sued due to mistakes in the procurement, that jobs are created for Canadians, and that the equipment or service procured provides value for money. To answer all the requirements, a byzantine system has been set up, and if any tweaks to that system cause risk to not be addressed, new layers of fun have to be added back into the process. There is no trust.
 
Log Offr said:
The overriding factor is the zero tolerance for risk that is held by PSPC (the former PWGSC) and Treasury Board. TB is quite open to changes in the procurement system, and indeed there is ongoing EX-level work to change how we buy stuff. However DND, ISEDC and PSPC must continue to check off the hundreds of ticks required to ensure that there is no risk at all that the taxpayer's dollars are wasted, that the GOC is sued due to mistakes in the procurement, that jobs are created for Canadians, and that the equipment or service procured provides value for money. To answer all the requirements, a byzantine system has been set up, and if any tweaks to that system cause risk to not be addressed, new layers of fun have to be added back into the process. There is no trust.

Re the highlighted bit:

That is why there are lawyers.  I haven't noticed it as much in European countries but in the States it seems to be coming de rigeur for losing contractors to challenge the loss in courts. 
 
Any challenge of a procurement/contract should come with a automatic fine if found to have no basis. Challenging clear abuse is fine, having a hissy fit is not.
 
Colin:

I get you, but in many of these cases the companies would likely just consider the fines as a cost of doing business.  Unless you were to go with a massive fine (say 10% of the contract value), in which case that might put a dampening effect on getting any offers in the first place. And it doesn't sound like we have a stellar record as a preferred customer in any event.
 
Chris Pook said:
Colin:

I get you, but in many of these cases the companies would likely just consider the fines as a cost of doing business.  Unless you were to go with a massive fine (say 10% of the contract value), in which case that might put a dampening effect on getting any offers in the first place. And it doesn't sound like we have a stellar record as a preferred customer in any event.

Exactly. The MilCOTS MSVS saw only one company offer to sell Canada off-the-shelf trucks, painted green.

The "procurement" system also includes the rules for project management, cost estimating, and government approvals; all factor in to the long, long timelines to get approval.
 
There is a reasonably articulate and thoughtful article in the Globe on comments made by VAdm Bruce Donaldson concerning procurement but also, more importantly, public perception of defence spending. There is no end of bollocks spoken on defence matters in the media (particularly by those who should know better) so this makes a somewhat pleasant contrast.  An interesting quote:

“Canadians lack any context for understanding the management of public funds at the federal level, and have been encouraged to view the expenditure of hundreds of millions – or billions – of dollars on military capability as inherently wasteful and unreasonable and has been encouraged to see spending on the military as wasteful.”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/somnia/article29789728/
 
Bump....

Two articles. One about lasers. One about UAVs. Two opposing views on procurement from two high profile Americans.

The Air Force has also been touting its efforts to make use of novel contracting and other processes to help accelerate the CCA program. Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard Moore, Jr, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs, spoke about this just yesterday at a public event hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) think tank in Washington, D.C.

"The thing about this that's innovative with CCAs, in particular, is the Secretary [of the Air Force Frank Kendall] asked us: 'Please don't go to industry and give them a requirement. The last thing in the world we want to do is tell them what to build. We want to go to them with questions and we want to find out what they can do. What is the art of the possible and what is it that they could provide? And let's allow the envelope to expand by not constraining it with a requirement," Moore said.

"I think what we're starting to see now is that there are a lot of thoughts out there, some of them ... not necessarily from the large defense primes [traditional prime contractors], that really will will be beyond what we would have conceived had we decided to write a requirement," Moore added. "So it is exciting to see what's coming. And I think the the way that this is innovative is something that will transition to other programs. I don't think that this is one and done, because I think that we're going to find it to be wildly successful."



WASHINGTON — Low-cost drones and cheap cruise missiles keep slipping under the radar of air defense systems worldwide, from the Red Sea to Ukraine, or overwhelm defenders by just being too numerous to stop with limited supplies of expensive anti-aircraft missiles. So, argue advocates of directed energy weapons, shouldn’t the US rush to field large numbers of high-energy lasers and high-powered microwaves, that can keep firing shots at the literal speed of light as long as they have electrical power?

The potential is huge and the technology’s maturing impressively, agreed officials from both the R&D and acquisition & sustainment sides of the Pentagon, speaking Tuesday at the rollout of a National Defense Industrial Association report on the still-nascent supply chain for the weapons. But, Frank Peterkin, principal director for directed energy research, and Chris Behre, principal engineer for directed energy (DE) acquisition, warned the NDIA audience, the devil is still in the details of how to use directed energy in combat.

Those unanswered questions range from how to integrate lasers alongside traditional missile- and gun-based air defense, to how to restructure command-and-control networks, supply lines, weapons testing infrastructure and, above all, training. Until the military has a better grasp on all those issues, Peterkin and Behre told NDIA, it needs to keep experimenting and field-testing with small numbers of different systems. That means the ramp-up industry has asked for is still some years away.



Plodders and Leapers.

The Plodders, IMO, are still living in a world of infinite time where threats are potential. The Leapers are seeing the current conflicts where the combatants are tackling real problems daily, countering counters and doing whatever they can with the resources to hand and discovering unique solutions out of necessity and often by chance.

The CCA article highlights that the inclination of the establishment was to go to the establishment suppliers (Boeing, Lockmart, Raytheon et al) and get them to tackle the problem using established procedures. The result appears to have been a tendency to build unmanned F35s with F35 price tags and totally losing the revolutionary cost advantage that was the promise of the UAV in the first place. Enter the Andurils and Kratoses of the world, trying to catch up to the Iranians, the Turks and the Ukrainians.

The Laser article reiterates the establishment position that these things take time. It seems that the Ops side of the house, facing real world incoming missiles and drones, is saying that time has run out.

The Laser researchers seem to be saying that they accept that Lasers work. They now seem to be arguing that they need more operational research to decide where, when and how to use them before deciding where to place their bets and make the typical big buy of the unitary solution, hoping that they got the answer right.


....

If I look to WW1 and WW2 for the origins of the technologies that are now the mainstays of modern Western defence what I see is the same procurement strategy as I observe in Ukraine. Reaching for everything. Trying anything available. Buying from whoever will sell. Discarding the things that don't work and can't be improved. Improving those things that show promise and can be improved. Buying more of those things that work.

And bolting capabilities on to ancient, rickety platforms until better options come along because ancient, rickety platforms are all that are available.

....

1706460798127.png

The admiral asked why there was a ship in the Gulf with a laser 10 years ago but he can't field one now.


Meanwhile

BAE Leonardo


Rheinmetall Oerlikon


GDLS MShorad DEL


....

Somebody, somewhere, somewhen is going to have to accept uncertainty in procurement and recognize that contingency funding for the unknown unknowns is a large and necessary component of any planning going forwards.

Stuff will need to be tried with no guarantees of success.
 
we’re not as different from industry as we initially thought.


This is about a USN IT system, about cables and hard drives and Commercial Off The Shelf hardware. It is also about adopting civilian plug n play standards on top end US warships because the civilian world is moving faster than the military world.


First things first for the military: Blow it up real good.

DAHLGREN, Va. — A crew of engineers load a rack packed with computing hardware onto a barge floating just off shore. Shortly after they return to shore, an underwater explosion goes off, blasting water into the air, pitching the barge and violently shaking the rack full of technology vital to the future of the US Navy.

The Navy and industry staff who requested the shock trial are part of the Foundry, a team headquartered within the Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems and led by Capt. Brian Phillips. The captain, his staff and more than a dozen industry vendors are collectively tasked with assembling and integrating the hardware that will make up the Navy’s future Integrated Combat System, a common computing environment on every warship that will standardize both how sailors operate their equipment and how engineers ashore push software updates to ships at sea.

The theory, staffers told Breaking Defense during an exclusive Feb. 1 tour, is that by refitting warships with computing hardware largely sourced from the commercial sector — think hard drives, servers, and cables — the Navy can reap the benefits of an already well-established supply chain while allowing the fleet to receive over-the-air software updates using the same practices as America’s tech giants.

The Navy plans to eventually install ICS on every ship in the surface fleet — destroyers, frigates, carriers, unmanned vessels. But the team’s success may ride on its ability to convince the rest of the Navy to abandon some of the outdated practices that have long dominated how the Pentagon buys its tech.

Historically, the Navy’s view is that its mission has been unique and that it would be impossible for commercial industry to apply its standard technologies and methods to warfighting, said Lt. Cdr. Brandi Gilbert, one of Phillips’ deputies. “What we’ve observed going through and working with different industry partners is yes, we’re a little special. We’re a little [unique], but we’re not as different from industry as we initially thought.

Lots of good stuff worth considering in the article, most noticeably this bit.

The Navy is accustomed to a declaration of full operational capability “and there’s going to be a big bang delivery,” Phillips said. “We’re rolling [this] out. The hardware is starting to be installed and proliferated across the fleet. There will be small, incremental improvements to software that are beginning later this year … which ultimately for all the reasons we talked about, we think leads to a better outcome.”

Communicating that to Navy leadership, the Pentagon and Congress is not always easy, Phillips said. But “this is one of the cultural challenges that that we deal with… We have to think differently and act differently if we expect a different or better outcome.”

Montreal moves house on July 1st. The rest of the world moves when it is convenient.
Militaries tend to work on the Montreal model. The civilian world does the other thing.

When a new technology arrives it infiltrates systems on an continuous improvement basis.

The bottom line is that if the Navy orders a unique device and it breaks, the service must either rely on spare parts or wait months before the OEM produces a new one. If an otherwise commercially available device from Dell or Cisco breaks, those companies already have thousands of spares being made and shipped daily.
 
In keeping with the above, with the DoD "Replicator" programme and comments about UAVs in the FARA cancellation releases (moving away from long term contracts with the major contractors to short term contracts with multiple innovators)


Facilitating constant change.
 
Modify - not replace - again


This is in keeping with the advice to upgrade the Apache, Blackhawk and Chinook rather than replace them and the USN's Foundry programme to rewire the existing fleet to get more out of them.
 
Modify - not replace - again


This is in keeping with the advice to upgrade the Apache, Blackhawk and Chinook rather than replace them and the USN's Foundry programme to rewire the existing fleet to get more out of them.
The key to understanding upgrades (or new versions of older models) versus new systems, is that new systems should be revolutionary not evolutionary, or a significant evolutionary step beyond the current.

The ABC’s offer a reliable supply chain, and service model, while new systems where not shown to be significantly better in performance with a ton of costs to implement. Kind of why I expect the OMFV to die off in favor of a M2A5 Bradley, but also why the M1A3 Abram’s (AbramsX or beyond) concept was favored over the M1A2 SepV4 extension.

Bottom line:

Is the juice worth the squeeze ?
 
@KevinB I'm a big fan of that approach; government procurement is complicated, and buying military equipment and effectively rolling it out with training and maintenance is hard and expensive.

Something that is familiar and does the job generally provides a real operational capability right away. Evolutionary changes can be a big step up, but they can also fall hard and leave a real capability gap if it doesn't actually work.

That's why it drives me crazy that 'innovation' gets so much internal airplay; tomorrows splashy toy at Cansec or whatever tends to be next years unfunded and unresourced project that eventually turns into a 10 year old anchor that is commercial standard if it worked. We'd be better off actually giving people a bit of resources and focus on doing the basics easier, then burn resources we can't afford to waste on google glasses.

I don't need AR or VR to see pipes wrapped in multiple layers of fibreglass patch wrap, cracked steel, and otherwise broken stuff so our priorities are pretty skewed. Although the janky VR firefigting ship simulator was pretty funny, and the level of crashes, freezing and other glitches and bugs set expectations at the appropriate level.
 
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