Backgrounder – North Warning System In-Service Support


About the NWS

The Arctic is a priority for Canada. Encompassing over 40% of total land mass and 75% of national coastlines, it represents an important international crossroad, where issues of climate change, technological advancements, international trade, and global security are coming together in a way that makes the region more strategically important than ever before.

Spread across the Canadian North, the North Warning System (NWS) is a chain of radar stations that provides aerospace surveillance of Canadian and United States northern approaches. Using a series of long and short-range air defence radar sites, the NWS enables Canada’s situational awareness of who and what is entering Canadian airspace from the north. This is a critical capability to providing credible deterrence to new and emerging threats to our sovereignty. 

It is also Canada’s most significant contribution to the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD). NORAD is a bi-national organization charged with the missions of aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning for North America. Canada has been a reliable partner in NORAD for more than 60 years. 

The majority of the NWS radar sites (47 of the 50 sites) are located within three Inuit Settlement Areas across Canada’s north. However, they are remotely monitored and controlled by NORAD from the Canadian Air Defence Sector, located at 22 Wing, North Bay, Ontario. 

As the NWS was constructed between 1986 and 1992, its radar capabilities are becoming increasingly challenged by modern weapons technology, including advanced cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons. After nearly 30 years in operation, it is time to begin investing in a new, more modern system in order to respond effectively to new and emerging threats.

In order to ensure the NWS remains capable of supporting NORAD priorities, Canada will continue to invest in the operation and maintenance of the current NWS until a suitable replacement is put in place.

New maintenance contract

Following an open and competitive process, Public Services and Procurement Canada, on behalf of the Department of National Defence, has awarded a $592 million ($527 million before taxes) maintenance contract to Nasittuq, an Inuit company, on January 31, 2022.

The contract covers an initial period of seven years, and is valued at $592 million ($527 million before taxes). The contract also includes four two-year option periods for a total estimated value of $1.3 billion ($1.1 billion before taxes).

This new contract will ensure that NWS radar data is available in support of NORAD and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) sovereignty operations. 

The contract includes Inuit benefit requirements and covers:

  • program and project management;
  • engineering and life cycle material management;
  •  support to RCAF/NORAD operations;
  •  preventive and corrective maintenance services;
  • full logistics support;
  •  airlift coordination;
  • sealift and fuel lift management;
  • environmental stewardship; and,
  •  infrastructure stewardship.

Under the maintenance contract, the contractor is responsible for preventative and corrective maintenance for the NWS system, in coordination with the North Warning System Office, a bi-national program office tasked with ensuring the NWS is operationally available to the Canadian Air Defence Sector Commander. The North Warning System Office is located in Gatineau, Quebec, and is staffed with personnel from the Department of National Defence as well as the United States Air Force.

The North Warning System Office, in conjunction with Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, Indigenous Services Canada and Public Services and Procurement Canada, has worked diligently to ensure compliance on a wide array of Inuit and Government of Canada obligations, including the specific obligations stemming from three Comprehensive Land Claim Agreements, the Directive on Government contracts including Real Property Leases in the Nunavut Settlement Area, and the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework objective of supporting increased self-determination and representation of Indigenous Peoples in the North and Arctic.

A transition period between the existing contractor, Raytheon Canada Limited, and Nasittuq will begin on April 1, 2022 and is expected to be completed by September 30, 2022.

Competitive Process

An open and competitive procurement strategy was developed for this requirement, which ensures compliance on a wide array of Inuit and Government of Canada obligations. These include those stemming from three Comprehensive Land Claim Agreements, as well as the Directive on Government contracts including Real Property Leases in the Nunavut Settlement Area.

On December 23, 2020, PSPC posted a draft Request for Proposal (RFP) for the operations and maintenance of the NWS. The final RFP was posted on March 31, 2021 and closed on July 19, 2021.

The procurement strategy included mandatory as well as rated requirements. Proposals were given more points for committing to Inuit Benefits that exceeded those identified under mandatory requirements. The successful bidder’s commitments in terms of Inuit benefits thus became contractual commitments.

The overall score for the bids was calculated based on a combination of:

  1. Technical merit (45%)
  2. Inuit Benefits criteria (35%)
  3. Price (20%)

The responsive bid with the highest combined total score was declared the winner. 

The evaluation criteria of 35% for Inuit Benefits is directly aligned with the Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated Directive as follows:

  • Inuit Employment – 10%
  • Inuit Ownership (prime contractor and Inuit firm/Inuit owned subcontractors) – 10%
  • Inuit Training and Skills Development – 10%
  • Location in the Nunavut / Inuvialuit / Nunatsiavut Settlement Areas – 5%

Inuit and industry engagement

The NWS has had a long and successful history, in large part due to the [partnership/collaboration] between Inuit and Inuit industry and the Government of Canada. We share a common goal in the defence and development of the North.

As such, the Government of Canada has been formally engaging with the designated Land Claim Authorities (LCA) representing the three applicable Land Claim Agreements, since April 2018 by working together to develop the socio-economic benefits with the view of continuing building on previous successes for the North Warning System. This includes benefits in the form of earnings, employment, professional development and the fostering of prospects for Inuit firms to bid on or have subcontracting opportunities.

Engagement has also been conducted directly with Inuit firms since June 2020, and with industry since September 2020:

  • On June 2, 2020, PSPC posted on Buy and Sell a request for information (RFI) to seek feedback from Inuit firms with regard to the renewal of the NWS contract.
    • Between June 17 and 29, 2020, PSPC, DND, ISC and CIRNAC engaged directly with Inuit firms to provide additional information and seek more clarification on all topics associated with the RFI.
  • On October 23, 2020, PSPC posted on Buy and Sell an additional RFI to provide information and obtain feedback from Inuit firms and other Industry representatives.
    • Between November 19 and 30, 2020, PSPC, DND, ISC and CIRNAC engaged with Inuit firms and industry to provide additional information and seek additional clarification on all topics associated with the RFI.

This engagement reflects the Government of Canada’s commitment to renewing and strengthening its economic relationship with Indigenous entrepreneurs and communities by providing increased economic opportunities to Indigenous businesses.

Inuit benefits

The solicitation included the highest ever Inuit-Benefits Mandatory Requirements for the operation and maintenance of the North Warning System which required companies to attain ratios for Inuit salary and wages, spending directed towards Inuit-owned companies, and Inuit participation in supervisory and management positions.

As a result of additional commitments made by the contractor in relation to Inuit Benefits in response to the RFP, the contractor will be required to:

  • Meet the 50.37% Inuit Benefits contract commitment, with a 1% increase every two years.
  • Pay a minimum percentage in total salaries and wages to Inuit employees, with a 1% increase every two years.
  • Employ at least 4 Inuit supervisor or manager roles.
  • Develop, implement and manage a $2.5 million training and development program which focuses on all levels of employment across the NWS.

In addition, a high-level co-management Inuit Benefits Requirements Oversight Committee was established. The Committee will be co-chaired by DND and a Land Claim Authorities representative and will include members from DND, PSPC, CIRNAC, ISC as well as Inuit organizations and the Land Claim Area or designated representatives from all three Land Claim Areas.

The Committee will have the mandate to initiate sub-working groups, receive reports, analyze challenges, and work together to maximize Inuit benefits under this new contract.

Award of the NWS operations and maintenance contract to Nasittuq contributes to achieving the Government of Canada’s goal of awarding at least five percent of federal contracts to Indigenous-led businesses.

Sustainability and environmental impacts

Under the new contract, Nasittuq is required to implement a sustainability program using greening initiatives and practices. These will include opportunities for reducing greenhouse gasses (GHGs), potable water consumption and air-polluting emissions, as well as facility improvements to reduce fuel consumption required for heating. They also include waste management improvements, contaminated site remediation and green procurement practices.

In support of the sustainability program, Nasittuq will establish and implement the following green sustainment initiatives and practices:

  • Establish a proven sustainability culture of material reuse, recycling, reclamation and alternative designated “Green” purchases through their ISO 14001: 2015 compliant Enterprise Management System.
  • Recommend sustainability initiatives and opportunities for GHG reduction as part of the Annual Building Plan development process.
  • Reduce operating costs through decreased handling, packaging, transport and disposal costs.
  • Encourage all employees in purchasing and requisitioning to identify and substitute ‘green’ alternatives for requested items wherever operationally and financially acceptable.
  • Retain environmental data and technical specifications using appropriate, industry-recognized tools such as GREEN UP, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDS) and Green Globes tools.

Canada is confident that the implementation of these regulations will continue to ensure effective environmental stewardship of the property the NWS occupies. 

Additional Links

Government of Canada announces federal-wide measures to increase opportunities for Indigenous businesses

Joint Statement on NORAD Modernization

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