MOD NEEDS TO BE REALISTIC ABOUT THE EQUIPMENT PROGRAMMES IT CAN AFFORD, SAY MPs
27 Mar 08. The MoD “needs to take the difficult decisions which will lead to a realistic and affordable Equipment Programme”, according to a report published today by the House of Commons Defence Committee (Tenth Report of Session 2007-08, Defence Equipment 2008, HC 295). The Committee commends the MoD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation for the speed at which it is getting urgently needed equipment to UK Armed Forces on operations, but highlights a number of concerns about the acquisition of defence equipment:
* Following the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 settlement for defence announced in July 2007, the MoD is examining the implications for the overall defence programme, including the Equipment Programme. The process, known as Planning Round 08, is considered more challenging than last year. The Committee calls on the MoD to take the difficult decisions which will lead to a realistic and affordable Equipment Programme. This may mean cutting whole equipment programmes, rather than just delaying orders or making cuts in the number of platforms ordered across a range of equipment programmes.
* Key equipment programmes continue to experience delays. The A400M transport aircraft is now expected to enter service two years late and the Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol aircraft 7 ½ years late. Delays on the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft programme mean that the aircraft will not be available to operate from the first of the two new aircraft carriers which, on current plans, is expected to enter service in 2014. The Nimrod programme has also experienced further cost growth of £100 million in 2007-08. The Committee calls on the Minister for Defence Equipment and Support to assess whether the programme will ever deliver the capability required within the timescale needed and, if not, to withdraw from it.
* DE&S needs a highly skilled workforce in specialist areas including engineering and project management. However, training and upskilling has not progressed as quickly as hoped because staff have been busy supporting current operations. DE&S is planning to reduce its staff from 27,500 to 20,000, some 27%, by 2012. The Committee considers it “inexplicable” for the MoD to be reducing the number of staff when the current number does not have sufficient time to complete the necessary training and upskilling. It calls on the MoD to set out the urgent actions it plans to take to overcome the constraints on training and upskilling caused by the high operational tempo.
Commenting on the Report, Committee Chairman Rt. Hon James Arbuthnot MP said:
“For too long the MoD has had an unaffordable Equipment Programme and needs to confront the problem rather than giving the usual response of salami-slicing and moving programmes to the right. A realistic Equipment Programme will give confidence to our Armed Forces that the programmes that remain will be delivered in the numbers and to the timescale required, and will also allow industry to make informed investment decisions”.
“It is disappointing that the first of the Navy’s two new aircraft carriers will not have new aircraft to operate from it when it enters service because of delays on the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft programme. The Nimrod MRA4 aircraft programme goes from bad to worse – almost £800 million over budget and forecast to be nearly 8 years late. The MoD must carefully examine whether it should cut its losses and withdraw from this sorry saga”.
Commenting on the Report the Minister for Defence Equipment & Support, Baroness Taylor, said, “I am pleased today’s report praises the speed with which we are delivering substantial amounts of vital equipment to our Armed Forces on the front line through the UOR (Urgent Operational Requirement) process.
The Committee acknowledges the challenge of merging the DLO (Defence
Logistics Organisation) and DPA (Defenc