By Charlie Pinkerton. Published on Jul 8, 2020 10:32am
Half of all late requests for military materials and equipment arrived in Canadian soldiers' hands more than two weeks behind schedule because of a problem-ridden supply chain that often forced the military to incur extra shipment costs, a new report from the Auditor General has found.
“We concluded that National Defence often did not deliver on time the materiel the Canadian Armed Forces requested, and that it did not have the right controls in place to determine whether it avoided needless transportation costs,” said the report authored by Auditor General of Canada Karen Hogan, which was released on Wednesday.
During the period of the audit, there were approximately 1 million requests for materiel — military materials and equipment — submitted and fulfilled by National Defence. The audit oversaw all materiel covered by the National Defence Act, with the exclusion of ammunition, bombs, missiles and large equipment like aircraft, vessels and vehicles.
The Auditor General found that 50 per cent of all late materiel requests were delayed by at least 15 days and 25 per cent were at least 40 days late.
Of the highest priority requests — of which there were about 86,000 observed — 60 per cent were late. Fifty per cent of all were at least six days late, and 25 per cent were at least 20 days late.
The Auditor General found that 162,000 requests, about 16 per cent of all it tracked during its audit, were more than one year late, having been stalled at some point in the supply chain.
The goal of National Defence's supply chain is to “fulfill materiel requirements in the most economical and timely manner possible,” the Auditor General's report says. It attempts to achieve this by keeping equipment nearby where it thinks it will eventually be used.
However, most equipment bought by the military is initial delivered to Canadian Armed Forces supply depots in Edmonton and Montreal. They then supply regional warehouses, which supply smaller localized military units. Materiel is transferred at units' requests, which are made in a number of ways, but are defined as being of one of three levels of priority — high priority, essential and routine.
“We found that National Defence's systems and processes often did not ensure the timely and efficient delivery of military supplies to the Canadians Armed Forces,” Hogan's report says.
Stock shortages caused delays, National Defence poorly managed priorities and costs for transportation were bungled.
Per it's report, the Auditor General made three recommendations.
It suggested that National Defence review its materiel forecasting to ensure it sufficiently stocks items at the correct locations, that it improve its oversight of high-priority requests so that the categorization is only used when necessary, and that it provide clear guidance on how to select the proper mode of transportation for items to ensure that decisions about shipments are based on fully understanding how much it'll cost.
In a statement released shortly after the Auditor General's report, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said he “welcome(s)” its findings and accepts all recommendations.
Similar concerns were raised a few years ago by the Auditor General's office about National Defence's equipment supply. In the fall of 2016, it raised issues with the military's ability to properly account for its inventory. The same fiscal year, National Defence announced a 10-year inventory management plan to address the Auditor General's concerns. The Trudeau government also released its multi-decade defence policy in the spring of 2017.
One of the focal points of Strong, Secure, Engaged was to ensure the military was properly equipped.
“Providing (the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces) the training, equipment and care they deserve is the most important objective of this policy,” reads a line from the opening paragraph of Sajjan's opening message in more than 100-page policy.
Upon being re-elected, Sajjan was again reminded of his responsibility to “ensure the Canadian Armed Forces have the capabilities and equipment required to uphold their responsibilities,” in the mandate letter assigned to him by Trudeau.
In an emailed statement to iPolitics, Conservative Defence Critic James Bezan said “effective and efficient supply chains are crucial to the operating capability of the Canadian Armed Forces.”
“Our military heroes rely on these supply chains to defend Canadians at home and abroad. It is clear that more work needs to be done in order to make these supply chains better for our men and women and uniform,” Bezan said.
“The delivery of supplies must be timely so that materiel reaches military members when they need it,” Hogan's recently released report said.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a statement Wednesday that the Canadian Armed Forces will enhance its data analytics capabilities and “rely on real data to ensure” the military has the right supply chain approach for its ever-evolving requirements and to help better anticipate future needs.
“These steps will make sure that we have the right equipment, in the right quantities, at the right places to meet the challenges we ask our members to face now and in the future,” he said.