30 January 2003 | David Arminas
A senior defence logistics official has hit back at reports that one of the largest overseas deployments of British troops could be fighting on the front line in Iraq without proper kit.
Colonel Silas Suchanek, defence clothing integration project leader at the Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO), denied there are shortages of clothing even though the troops are leaving Britain without sufficient kit.
He told SM: “They have been ordered in enough time for when the troops will go into battle.
“I wouldn’t describe reports of troops sailing without the required kit as shortages. For things like operating in desert conditions, we hold sufficient stocks for operations under way at the time.
“For the deployment to Iraq, we don’t hold stocks because that would tie up lots of money, and if we didn’t go to Iraq, we would be left holding these items.”
Defence purchasing has come under fire, especially since it was announced earlier this month that 35,000 British military personnel were to embark and the first contingents had sailed.
Press reports have focused on shortages of many items, including boots and nuclear and biological fallout protection suits.
Suchanek said the DLO, in effect, works on “just-in-time” and can only purchase when the military raises an order.
“We are always looking at forward projections about where the army will likely be deployed. It is also a delicate position politically because if we buy well in advance of something happening, newspapers may say politicians have committed troops to a particular course of action.”
Orders have been placed with suppliers for thousands more of all the items under the DLO’s new prime contractor arrangement, called supplier base optimisation, designed to reduce the risk of shortages.
“For waterproof garments, we are working to bundle contracts with 15 suppliers into one contract under a single vendor in a five-year deal. It guarantees delivery by making sure subcontracts are in place, especially if we have a surge in requirements.”
A survey in the November issue of the Ministry of Defence publication Soldier found many troops were unhappy with their kit and had bought their own, including boots and vests.
Suchanek said the DLO is examining the survey results to improve equipment.
Defence analyst Paul Moorcraft said soldiers often buy extra kit because they like to personalise equipment.
“It makes life slightly more comfortable and can also build up a macho image.”