Independent Review Panel for Defence Acquisition challenge process

From Independent Review Panel for Defence Acquisition

The Independent Review Panel for Defence Acquisition has a standard process for reviewing major military projects and challenging their requirements. This process is based on the Panel’s Terms of Reference.

On this page


To support the overall objective of delivering the right equipment to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in a timely manner, the Panel’s review process is guided by the following principles:

  • The Panel should identify potential issues early to enable the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) to make adjustments or corrections if necessary
  • The process should be streamlined and use existing, approved documents whenever possible
  • The approach to each review should be tailored to reflect the level of project complexity and risk

When the Panel reviews projects

Military equipment and infrastructure projects are managed by the Department of National Defence (DND) using a standard process with several distinct stages. Projects that require review must be presented to the Panel at two points.

The first presentation takes place after DND/CAF have formally identified a gap in CAF capabilities and approved the High Level Mandatory Requirements needed to fill this gap. This occurs at the end of the Identification phase and the beginning of the Options Analysis phase.

The next presentation takes place after the preferred option to meet the High Level Mandatory Requirements has been approved by DND/CAF, and the CAF has drafted preliminary operational requirements for the capability. This occurs at the end of the Options Analysis phase.

The Panel may request that projects return for additional meetings during the course of the Options Analysis phase if this is necessary for the Panel to fully carry out its review. For example, the Panel may wish to examine a specific military requirement in further detail.

In addition, the Minister or Deputy Minister of National Defence may direct the Panel to review a project at later stages in the acquisition process to support Government decisions as needed.

Areas of interest for the Panel

To form clear, independent conclusions about the military requirements for a particular project, the Panel considers three main areas during its review of a project:

  • Project context
  • High Level Mandatory Requirements
  • Procurement context

Project context

The Panel begins its review of all projects with an examination of the reasons why DND/CAF is proposing to purchase particular equipment or construct infrastructure. Questions asked by the Panel in this area include, for example:

  • What is the current or future gap in CAF capabilities that this project is attempting to address?
  • What is the risk of not filling this gap?
  • How does this project align with the policies of the Government of Canada?
  • How does this project fit with other CAF capabilities and those of Canada’s Allies?
  • What is the rationale for the options considered?

High Level Mandatory Requirements

Following an examination of the project context, the Panel then considers the credibility and clarity of a project’s military requirements. Specifically, the Panel challenges each project’s High Level Mandatory Requirements. These are statements that describe, without relying on technical terminology, specific capabilities that the CAF requires to carry out the missions that the Government of Canada has assigned to them.

For example, High Level Mandatory Requirements for a project that is proposing to acquire new vehicles for the Canadian Army may describe capabilities such as:

  • ability to operate in specific terrain at a certain speed
  • minimum amount of armoured protection or other self-defence equipment
  • ability to send and receive certain types of information
  • ability to be transported by specific aircraft

The purpose of High Level Mandatory Requirements is to provide senior government officials with information about the type and level of military capabilities in support of the decision-making process.

Accordingly, the Panel assesses each High Level Mandatory Requirement to determine whether it:

  • Is clear and free of overly technical or specialist language
  • Represents a general military effect or capability, rather than a specific piece of equipment
  • Includes sufficient detail to identify the degree of capability required
  • Is necessary for addressing a credible gap in CAF capability
  • Can be used effectively to assess the proposed options to address the capability gap

In addition to the High Level Mandatory Requirements, the Panel will also review the preliminary operational requirements prepared by the CAF at the conclusion of the Options Analysis phase. This enables the Panel to assess whether the more detailed and technical requirements appropriately convey the same overall level of capability as the High Level Mandatory Requirements.

Procurement context

Finally, to ensure the Panel’s perspective on the military requirements is fully informed by all relevant factors, the Panel will also examine the broader procurement context of each project. Questions asked by the Panel in this area include, for example:

  • To what extent could the High Level Mandatory Requirements limit competition?
  • What assumptions have been used to estimate costs?
  • What risks are associated with delays to the proposed schedule for the project?
Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: