Canadian unions warn of security risks from outsourced warship contracts

By on 29/06/2017 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Fears Canada's national security could be compromised if warship contracts are outsourced to the private sector have been raised by unions in Canada (Image courtesy: MC2 Kristopher Wilson, USN).

Unions in Canada have warned the country’s prime minister Justin Trudeau that a “worrisome” trend of private sector outsourcing at the Department of National Defence (DND) could compromise national security.

In a strongly worded letter yesterday, the Union of National Defence Employees and Public Service Alliance of Canada called on Trudeau to reconsider recently announced defence investment plans that they claim would give private contractors “sweeping responsibility” and access to “significant” military intelligence.

The unions’ claims relate to a multi-billion dollar naval shipbuilding plan and an associated maintenance contract worth $5bn Canadian dollars (€3.4bn or US$3.8bn), which the French firm Thales has been selected to deliver. They said DND documents reveal the contracts will include “unprecedented access” to DND facilities and support equipment, and supervision of DND employees.

“This $5 billion contract raises significant concerns both for personnel retention at DND, including investment in an effective and adequate workforce, as well as the extent to which it puts significant military intelligence and operations in the hand of a private company,” the joint letter said.

The UNDE said it was not consulted on the new arrangement, which it claimed would see work currently being done in-house on Canada’s existing fleet outsourced.

The unions said the contract is part of a “worrisome trend” of private procurement at the DND and expressed concerns that it could be repeated with other tendered projects in the future, citing the troubled Phoenix computerised payment system for government workers.

“As we have learned with expensive public contracts like Phoenix, mismanaged contracts can have significant adverse effects both on the department as well as the broader public service. Within DND, this is compounded by the potential compromising of our national security apparatus by private industry and clear security risks in under-investing in our own core capabilities,” the letter says.

“This shipbuilding plan puts significant military intelligence and operations in the hands of a private company,” added John McLennan, UNDE president. “It’s a security risk and a warning sign that more and more of our security apparatus could be sold to the highest bidder. That’s a trend we’re seeing throughout the Defence Policy Review.”

The unions called for a review of the tenders, addressing the precedent they set for future procurement at DND.

The prime minister’s office had not responded as Global Government Forum published this article.

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About Ben Willis

Ben Willis is a journalist and editor with a varied background reporting on topics including public policy, the environment, renewable energy and international development. His work has appeared in a variety of national newspapers including the Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Times, as well as numerous specialist business, policy and consumer publications.

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