25 August 2009 | Jake Kanter
Procurement problems at the UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) are "endemic" and have put frontline troops in danger, according to a document leaked to The Sunday Times.
The newspaper claims to have seen a leaked report carried out by former defence official Bernard Gray. The study apparently says delays and cost overruns have "almost lost their power to shock" because they are so common.
It adds that current projects for frontline equipment and technology are £35 billion over budget and five years behind schedule. Complex equipment specifications are thought to be a major factor in the problems.
According to The Sunday Times, Gray writes: "How can it be that it takes 20 years to buy a ship, or aircraft, or tank? Why does it always seem to cost at least twice what was thought? Even worse, at the end of the wait, why does it never quite seem to do what it was supposed to?"
The Times says Gray's conclusion is that MoD purchasing should be privatised because of the level of "incompetence".
The MoD-commissioned report was initially expected to be published in July, but British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said it would be delayed to form part of a wider defence review (Web news, 6 August).
Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox called for the study to be released in full: "Labour has created a defence black hole which is not only impacting on current operations in Afghanistan but threatens to provide an ongoing defence crisis for years to come. On top of this, this government of fear and smear refuses to publish an important and distinguished piece of work."
The MoD refused to comment on the content of The Sunday Times article. An MoD spokesman said only that the report would released in "due course" and would "feed into" its recently announced defence green paper.