Friday, January 26, 2007

Weighty calculations

There's been plenty of discussion over the past week about how Boeing's contract to built long-range military transports will be divided up between various regions of Canada. But the Ottawa Citizen reports that Boeing's contract itself was based on political choices, confirming that the Cons managed to eliminate any competitive bidding by making a major, last-minute change to the project's requirements:
Just weeks before the Conservative government announced its controversial plan to buy $3.4 billion worth of Boeing long-range military transports without a competitive bidding process, the military changed a key requirement that eliminated the only competitor - the Airbus Military consortium.

Documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen show on June 13, 2006, Defence Department planners were under the impression two planes could satisfy its requirements for long-range airlift: the Boeing C-17 and the Airbus A400.

But planners changed a key specification: they doubled the payload requirement of their desired fleet, deciding each of their new planes now needed to carry 39 metric tonnes of cargo instead of the original specification of 19.5 tonnes...

In a backgrounder issued on June 29, 2006, touting the new Conservative government's "Canada First" defence strategy, one of the key requirements that justified purchasing the C-17 plane was that it needed a payload capacity of 39,000 kilograms.

In the months leading up to that announcements, the military documents show the military appeared content to make due with a smaller plane with a maximum payload capacity of 19,500 kilograms.

Military planners understood if they upped the payload requirement, they would eliminate all competition.

"If we want to maintain the status quo in terms of contenders, I suggest an amendment," wrote Col. Dave Burt, of the military's procurement branch in a May 1, 2006 e-mail. "Cargo Compartment Volume: Adequate cargo compartment size to transport NATO standard palletised equipment - and all tracked and wheeled equipment up to 19,500."
Of course, now that the regional battles are starting to heat up and pit the Cons' cabinet ministers against each other, the Cons probably have other problems with the deal on their mind. But enough attention to the flaws the Cons have already introduced into the process could hopefully highlight the problem with yet another round of politicized decision-making - at least for the next major purchase if not for this one.

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