27 May 2004 | Andrew Golder
The Ministry of Defence has announced a dramatic departure from its normal procurement processes by putting technology consultants in charge of a £6 billion programme to build the army's next generation of armoured vehicles.
The Defence Procurement Agency announced that consultants, rather than a manufacturer or consortium, will be chosen by late this year to provide an objective view of the choices for the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) programme.
The new air-portable, medium-weight vehicles are expected to be in place by the end of the decade. The FRES consultancy contract will run for two years.
Lord Bach, minister for defence procurement, said: "I am confident this approach is the best way forward for this phase of the FRES programme.
"It will enable us to access the widest possible supply chain and retain flexibility of procurement options for future phases."
He also promised that UK companies would be involved at every stage.
"As laid down in our defence industrial policy, we are firmly committed to promoting a strong and competitive UK defence manufacturing industry.
"Defence industrial issues will, of course, be taken fully into account before we take the main investment decision."
The move marks a departure from traditional procurement processes for the UK armed forces, as defence equipment has historically been ordered directly from manufacturers.
James Shelley, an MoD spokesman, denied that the new method had been chosen after the National Audit Office last month exposed the botched procurement of Chinook helicopters.
"This solution is designed to fit the programme in question," he said. "A considerable amount of background work was done to ensure our future programme decision-making is sound."