Terms of Reference for the Independent Review Panel for Defence Acquisition

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  1. The Defence Procurement Strategy (DPS) aims to deliver the right equipment to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in a timely manner, leverage these purchases to create jobs and growth, and streamline procurement processes.
  2. One of the core elements of the DPS is the implementation within the Department of National Defence (DND) of an independent, third-party challenge function related to the requirements for major procurements. This new challenge function will be carried out by the Independent Review Panel for Defence Acquisition (IRPDA).


  1. The IRPDA’s mandate under the DPS is to help validate the requirements for major military procurement projects by providing independent, third-party advice to the Minister of National Defence (MND) and Deputy Minister (DM) before MND or Treasury Board (TB) approval for these projects is sought.
  2. The IRPDA will challenge projects that meet any of the following criteria:
    1. Projects with a total estimated cost of $100M or more calculated in budget year dollars (exclusive of taxes);
    2. Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) that could lead to a project where the total value of the expenditure under the MOU plus the potential procurement cost is estimated at $100M or more;
    3. Projects with a Project Complexity and Risk Assessment (PCRA) that exceeds the authority delegated by TB to the MND under the Organization Project Management Capacity Assessment;
    4. Projects identified for TB approval by the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) or referred for TB approval by the MND; or
    5. Projects identified for challenge by the MND or DM.

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Engagement methodology

  1. The desired outcome for all projects will be to ensure that the requirements in the documentation going to the MND or TB for approval are clearly and appropriately stated. To facilitate this outcome without creating unnecessary delays in the process, the IRPDA’s approach will be based on early and, as required, ongoing engagement with DND/CAF.
  2. More specifically, the IRPDA will engage as follows:
    1. Following the project identification stage, the IRPDA will examine the Strategic Context Document (SCD) which includes the High Level Mandatory Requirements (HLMRs) and identifies the options to be examined. This initial engagement will take place as soon as possible after the SCD has been endorsed by the Defence Capabilities Board (DCB). This engagement will help the IRPDA identify issues and provide feedback before the detailed work on options begins;
    2. Following the options analysis stage, the IRPDA will examine the Business Case Analysis (BCA), which includes the results of the options analysis and the selection of the preferred option, and the preliminary Statement of Operational Requirements (SOR). This final engagement will take place as soon as possible after the BCA has been endorsed by the DCB and the preliminary SOR has been approved; and
    3. Between these initial and final engagements, the IRPDA will, as necessary, engage with DND/CAF regarding issues identified by the IRPDA during the initial engagement or subsequently during the options analysis phase. These additional engagements will normally take place at the IRPDA’s regular meetings, either at the discretion of the IRPDA or at the request of the DND/CAF. The objective of these additional engagements will be to ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, issues identified by the IRPDA are addressed before the final engagement point.
  3. The issues examined during any particular engagement will depend on the stage of project development. However, the overall engagement approach for all projects will be designed to ensure the IRPDA is able to draw clear, independent conclusions about the proposed project and the stated requirements. The core areas of interest to the IRPDA are as follows:
    1. Proposed Project: the nature of the capability gap and how the project will address it; the extent to which the project is aligned with government policies and decisions; the fit with other current and planned DND/CAF capabilities; the fit with the capabilities of key allies; the risks associated with not moving forward with the project; and the rationale for the options examined; and
    2. Requirements: methodology for development of HLMRs and key judgments made; quality of HLMRs; level of operational effectiveness reflected in HLMRs; level of project complexity associated with HLMRs; and alignment between HLMRs and preliminary Statement of Operational Requirement (SOR).
  4. In addition, the IRPDA will consider the procurement context to ensure that its perspective is broad and deep enough to make the challenge process credible and useful for decision making within the broader context of the DPS. This may include, depending on the stage of project development, consideration of other core areas related to the broader procurement context and relevant to requirements: potential suppliers; potential role of Canadian industry; risks associated with the project schedule; anticipated in-service support concept; key cost drivers in HLMRs and preliminary SOR; and assumptions used to estimate costs.
  5. To assist those developing project proposals to prepare for the challenge process, the IRPDA will maintain and make available to DND/CAF personnel a list of key questions in each of these core areas of interest. The principles that will help guide the IRPDA’s expectations with respect to HLMRs are attached at Appendix A.

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Access to documentation and personnel

  1. The IRPDA will have full access to all available written information used in the development of projects, including:
    1. Relevant documentation on the project prepared by the staffs of the Project Sponsors;
    2. Relevant documentation on current and future DND/CAF capabilities, and current and future capability gaps, prepared by the Chief of Force Development (CFD) organization;
    3. Relevant documentation on the project prepared by other groups within DND including Materiel, Science and Technology (S&T), Information Management (IM), Policy, Finance and Corporate Services (FIN CS), and Infrastructure and Environment (IE);
    4. Relevant background information including investment planning documentation, strategic context material and threat assessments; and
    5. Documentation prepared for DCB meetings including briefing books and material prepared for the DCB Chair.
  2. The IRPDA will also have full access, through appropriate channels, to both senior managers and specialized expertise within the DND/CAF including:
    1. The DCB Chair and VCDS senior staff;
    2. CFD and staff;
    3. Project Sponsors and their requirements staff;
    4. The Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) Materiel and staff; and
    5. ADMs and their staff from S&T, IM, Policy, FIN CS, and IE and other parts of DND/CAF as required.
  3. In addition, the IRPDA will also engage, as appropriate, other government departments and external stakeholders to provide additional context and support. For the largest and most complex projects, the Chair of the IRPDA may request that the DM engage specialized expertise under contract to assist the IRPDA with its analysis and recommendations.

Communication of results

  1. Following its final engagement, the IRPDA will provide formal written advice to the MND and DM. This IRPDA statement will also include any additional perspective the IRPDA believes might be useful to the MND and DM to help them understand the stated requirements for the project and how these might relate to their decisions or strategies going forward.
  2. Following earlier engagements, including the initial engagement, the IRPDA may also choose to put its advice in writing. In this case, the IRPDA will provide this written statement to the DM who will make it available to appropriate senior officials within DND/CAF and, as appropriate, keep the MND informed.


  1. A Chair and four other members will be appointed to the IRPDA by Governor in Council. Term lengths will be determined during the appointment process.

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  1. The following principles will be applied with respect to IRPDA meetings:
    1. At least three IRPDA members are required for a quorum;
    2. If the Chair is not able to attend, an Acting Chair will be appointed by the Chair in consultation with the DM;
    3. Attendance by the CAF/DND personnel at IRPDA meetings will be at the invitation of the Chair;
    4. The Executive Director of the IRPDA Office will attend all meetings as Executive Secretary;
    5. IRPDA meetings shall be conducted monthly, or as required, at the call of the Chair; and
    6. Follow-on discussions about projects after the initial engagement will normally take place during scheduled monthly meetings.


  1. The primary responsibilities of the IRPDA are as follows:
    1. In support of the objectives of the DPS, execute the independent, third-party challenge function within DND to help validate requirements for major military procurement projects;
    2. Engage DND/CAF personnel to examine the foundational logic for these projects and make an independent assessment about whether:
      1. The capability gap is defined in a way that is relevant and appropriate;
      2. The HLMRs are consistent with the principles in Appendix A;
      3. The SCD and BCA are coherent in relation to the defined capability gap and the HLMRs; and
      4. The preliminary SOR is aligned with the HLMRs;
    3. Provide appropriate feedback about project proposals to DND/CAF personnel attending IRPDA meetings;
    4. Ensure that all information received, and created, in the course of carrying out the work of the IRPDA is handled in accordance with government and departmental security policy and practices; and
    5. Provide written advice, as well as any additional perspective that might be useful, to the MND and DM before MND or TB approvals for the project are sought.
  1. The primary responsibilities of the Chair are as follows:
    1. Ensure that the IRPDA fulfills its mandate as outlined in the DPS and these TOR;
    2. Ensure that the IRPDA’s feedback and advice takes account of the views of all members; and
    3. Provide direction to the IRPDA Office to ensure the IRPDA receives the analysis, advice and support required to deliver on its mandate.
  1. The primary responsibility of members is to prepare for and engage in IRPDA discussions in a way that helps the IRPDA provide timely feedback to DND/CAF stakeholders and sound advice to the MND and DM.

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Support office

  1. A support office with full-time staff from within DND/CAF will facilitate and support the work of the IRPDA. This office will administratively report to the DM and be accountable to the Chair of the IRPDA for providing the IRPDA with the analysis, advice and support required to fulfill its mandate. The tasks of this office will include:
    1. Providing a day-to-day presence for the IRPDA;
    2. Providing administrative and logistical support to the IRPDA;
    3. Monitoring the evolution of projects in order to provide advice on and help establish the IRPDA’s agenda;
    4. Ensuring the IRPDA has full access to DND/CAF documentation and personnel;
    5. Conducting analysis of projects to identify issues and assist the IRPDA in determining the extent of engagement required;
    6. Providing the IRPDA with advice and strategic context related to projects;
    7. Monitoring follow-up actions and provide advice on the need for, and timing of, follow-on engagements; and
    8. Maintaining strong, effective relationships within DND/CAF and with other government departments and stakeholders.

Appendix A - HLMR principles

As the Independent Review Panel for Defence Acquisition considers the HLMRs for individual projects, its expectations about the quality of HLMRs will be informed by the following principles:

  1. Clarity – Each HLMR must articulate, in non-specialist language and without ambiguity, a high-level requirement directly related to addressing the capability gap that is the basis for the project.
  2. Results Orientation – Each HLMR must be results-oriented (i.e. focused on the impact or effects that must be delivered) and must not limit the possible range of options by being oriented towards a specific solution or product.
  3. Essentiality – Each HLMR must define a high-level requirement that is essential for project success (i.e. represents a mandatory requirement that must be met if the project is to succeed in addressing the capability gap).
  4. Sufficiency – Each HLMR must provide sufficient detail (including, where possible, measures of capability) to enable decision makers to fully understand the level of operational capability required.
  5. Comprehensiveness – HLMRs for the project must collectively define all of the high-level requirements (i.e. these HLMRs must be comprehensive enough to ensure that, if they are met, the capability gap will be fully addressed).

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