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A QUESTION OF TIMING

15 Nov 04. Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that there is continuing friction between the DPA’s procurement supremo Sir Peter Spencer and the UK Government over the Support Vehicle Procurement, which may explain Lord Bach’s strongly worded letter to the Independent (See BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.6 ISSUE 40, 20 October 2004, INDEPENDENT WEIGHS INTO UK TRUCK DEBATE).

Our source suggests that Peter Hardistey’s IPT had made its recommendation that MAN was the preferred solution at least six months ago, hence our piece (BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.6 ISSUE 30, 09th August 2004, HAS HOON LETTER STOPPED UK TRUCK AWARD?). It is believed that Lord Bach’s office sat on the recommendation during the ITAR negotiations possibly still encouraging the US that they had won the bid in an effort to break the ITAR logjam? However two days after the failure to win the ITAR concessions the MAN selection was announced.

This poses a dilemma for the Government, MPs consistently criticise the DPA for overspend and late delivery of projects. Sir Peter is believed to be very angry that blame for the delay in the Support Vehicle contract, some six months has been laid at his door. It also explains why Oshkosh thought that they had won the requirement right up to the line. If the ITATR negotiations had gone the other way what would have been the outcome?

As Geoff Limbert, one–time Counsellor Defence Supply at the US Embassy in Washington rightly said in our AUSA issue, “UK industry has been dealing with ITAR problems for the last twenty years and nothing has really changed if one looks at the historic opportunities provided by both countries for defence exports. The balance of UK/US trade is still around 2 to 1 in the USA’s favour. But, in an election year you are not going to get a US Congressman or Senator heralding the lowering of defence export regulations which could jeopardize US jobs.”

Quite simply, SMART procurement will never work efficiently with continued Government interference and this, given the importance of constituency jobs, will never go away. Having got over the election issues in the US, Mr Blair and his team now have to face the wrath of Labour voters ion the West Midlands were reportedly the papers were full of the condemnation of the announcement as LDV believed that their jobs proposal and Union support had won the day for the Stewart & Stevenson consortium

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