David Pugleise, a journalist who specializes in defence issues, writing in the National Post, says that “The government has once again changed how it will evaluate bids on its $60-billion warship program, prompting more concerns the new process is designed to help out a company linked to Irving Shipbuilding.“
“The move,” he says, “is the latest twist in the ongoing saga of the Canadian Surface Combatant, believed to be the largest single defence purchase Canada has ever undertaken.“
David Pugleise explains that “Companies have already provided their bids for the surface combatant project to the federal government and Irving, which will construct the vessels. The firms were expecting those to be evaluated using an established process outlined previously, which included one opportunity to fix problems with bids … [but] … on Aug. 13, the government informed the firms a second opportunity would be provided if the companies weren’t fully compliant in meeting Canada’s naval requirements, according to industry sources … [because] … Jean-François Létourneau of Public Services and Procurement Canada … [said] … “this is an example of how the Government of Canada is developing and applying innovative approaches to improve the results for large, complex defence procurements.”“
So, what could be wrong with that? It is a HUGE, for Canada, procurement project with a unique management structure that involves the ship building in the design selection process. Bu, as I explained over a year ago, has caused some companies to suspect that the Government of Canada is in cahoots with Irving, the shipbuilder, to ‘steal’ confidential intellectual property from the bidders in order to make Irving a better competitor downstream.
Mr Pugleise reports that “the new change has sparked more concerns the process is rigged to favour a bid by Lockheed Martin Canada and British firm BAE, industry sources say … [and] … Rival firms claim BAE’s Type 26 warship won’t be able to meet Canada’s needs, so the company, which has been involved in other business ventures with Irving, is being given additional chances to fix up its proposal.“
“Irving,” David Pugleise says, “has worked closely with BAE on other ventures … [and the competitors’] … concerns only increased when the parameters of the project were changed earlier. Federal officials had originally stated Canada wanted mature, proven ship designs to cut down on risk. But the government and Irving accepted the BAE design, which at the time was still only on drawing boards. Construction began on BAE’s Type 26 frigate for Britain’s Royal Navy in the summer of 2017, but the first ship is not yet completed.“
Mr Pugleise says that “New, unproven ships can face challenges as problems are found when the vessel is in the water and operating,” but this is nothing nw to Canada which has been designing its own warships since the 1950s (when the Royal Canadian Navy’s naval architects modified the design of the River class frigates to make them into the new, Prestonian class, anti-submarine warfare ships. The Canadian ‘Naval Drawing Office‘ as it was, somewhat quaintly, called, then designed, and the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Armed Forces successfully used ships of various designs built, in Canadian yards, from the 1950s until the Halifax class were built in the 1980s. The Royal Canadian Navy is used to the challenges that new ships pose.
The new warships are vital for Canada’s sovereignty, security and for our place in the world; we have to get this right. I have no, personal views on which ship is best and even if I did you would be well advised to ignore them because I was not a naval officer, I’m not a naval architect or marine engineer by training, and I do not understand the intricacies of modern naval propulsion, defence and weapon systems. We all have to rely upon the good sense of the project management team and, perhaps, wonder why someone decided that Canada didn’t need to de able to design its own warships.