Fantino to fix military procurement?

To Procure and Promote?

Jane Taber reports on the role of new Associate Minister of National Defence Julian Fantino, who is expected to focus on military procurement issues (Jane Taber, “Peter MacKay gets a wingman on military procurement,” Globe and Mail, 19 May 2011):

Dimitri Soudas, the Prime Minister’s director of communications, explained that Mr. Fantino – the former top cop in Toronto and Ontario – will be responsible for defence procurement. It’s a huge responsibility given the National Defence budget is about $22-billion and between 14 and 16 per cent is for procurement.

Later, however, Mr. MacKay made it very clear he still remains the chief, telling reporters that Mr. Fantino reports to him.

“He’ll be reporting up through me on these procurement files and Julian has tremendous experience within a chain of command, as you know, having worked in law enforcement,” Mr. MacKay said.

Concentrating control of military procurement in a single minister’s portfolio has the potential to be a positive step.

Steven Staples, a defence specialist who is president of the Rideau Institute, says this new appointment could be a “good thing” as it makes someone “responsible for minding the store on all this.”

The left-leaning think tank argues there needs to be greater ministerial accountability on defence procurement. “If this puts it in one person’s hands that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Mr. Staples said.

He notes that defence procurement is currently handled by three different government officials: the defence minister, who deals with the requirements; the public-works minister, who handles the procurement process; and the industry minister, who looks at the offsets or the investment requirement in Canada.

But it seems unlikely that Fantino’s real job will be to reform the procurement system. His more likely task will be to serve as salesman for the F-35 and other controversial procurements planned by the Conservatives.

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