The truck purchase, announced in the summer of 2006 as one of the Conservative government’s key military programs, is already years behind schedule
A program to buy new trucks for the Canadian Forces has been delayed once again, this time because government officials have to translate into French the equipment specifications and paperwork to be provided to bidding firms.
Industry representatives say the Defence Department doesn’t usually translate such requirement documents, so the project is going to be delayed by at least six months.
At one point the 1,500 standard military pattern trucks were supposed to be delivered starting in 2008 but that date was later changed to 2010 and then to 2011. Sources now say a contract won’t be awarded until early 2013 and initial deliveries won’t start until spring 2014.
In the meantime, the army will continue to use 29-year-old trucks that officers say should have been replaced years ago for safety reasons.
They will also use commercial trucks, modified for military use, that were recently delivered by a U.S. firm.
But NDP defence critic Jack Harris said he is amazed it is taking the government this long to purchase the new fleet of military trucks. “It’s been all under Mr. Harper’s watch and here we are, fully five years later, and they haven’t completed a request for proposals for these vehicles,” he said. “This speaks to gross mismanagement.”
Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose have, however, continually pointed out that military procurement has significantly improved under the Conservative government.
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The latest problem with the Medium Support Vehicle System (MSVS) project centres on the document called a request for proposals, the government information package to be provided to bidders on the program.
Industry representatives say the Defence Department does not usually translate such documents into French.
Company officials were told in April that the release of the RFP for the standard military pattern vehicle would be held up at least six months because one of the potential bidders had requested the documents be translated.
“The MSVS Project Office received a request for correspondence in French, in accordance with the provisions of the Official Languages Act, therefore requiring the translation of the RFP from English to French,” an email from the Defence Department confirmed.
According to the DND email the department and military are “committed to complying with the Official Languages Act.”
The RFP, originally to be issued in the summer, is now expected to be out in early 2012.
The acquisition of the new vehicles is important for the Canadian Forces because of ongoing safety concerns with the older trucks they are to replace.
Those, known as the Medium Logistic Vehicle Wheeled, were purchased in the 1980s. In 2004, the Defence Department warned in an internal report that the trucks could be hit by a “catastrophic” failure at any time because of poor brakes and steering systems. Catastrophic failure is used to signify accidents that could involve serious injuries or death.
It also warned that the fleet must be replaced by 2008 or safety would be compromised.
The military, however, is continuing to operate the older vehicles, according to an email received from the army. In a previous interview, army officers said the military was keeping a close watch on those vehicles in regard to safety.
It will also rely on a new fleet of commercial trucks modified for military use, which were also part of the overall MSVS program. Those trucks, were built by Navistar at the firm’s Texas assembly line, and are designed to meet some of the army’s transport needs at home.
The total budget of the truck program is a little more than $1 billion. But that includes both the Navistar trucks as well as other equipment. The bulk of the overall MSVS budget, however, will go to buying the 1,500 standard military pattern trucks.
Military officers have explained that some of the delay in buying the trucks can be attributed to changing requirements over the years. Requirements were altered to include more protection from threats such as improvised explosive devices, they add.
But other sources say infighting at DND over the type of changes some officers wanted in the truck program was the cause of some of the delays.
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