13 October 2009 | Jake Kanter
Procurement at the UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) is "creaking" and has become overly dependent on accelerated procedures, according to a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
A large amount of equipment and vehicles are now purchased through Urgent Operational Requirements (UOR) procedures to minimise the phases of a standard procurement and get kit to the frontline faster.
The report found that although this equipment had "mostly performed well", test and evaluation phases are limited so problems only emerge once it has been deployed.
PAC chairman Edward Leigh argued that the MoD's "high degree of reliance" on the UOR procurement process "must be questioned".
The department hit back, arguing the UOR approach has been "extremely effective".
The PAC report said the government must assess if the MoD's equipment procurement programme is delivering capability for current and future requirements. It added that despite efforts to improve, the MoD has "failed to consistently meet supply chain targets" for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Inadequate logistics information prevents the department from identifying stocks that could be routinely delivered to theatre, it said.
The PAC also argued that spare parts for Merlin and Apache helicopters are in short supply. This results in training aircraft in the UK being "cannibalised" to ensure equipment reaches the frontline.
Armed forces minister Bill Rammell said British troops are well supported for the long-term and the UOR process has been effective in responding to specific and urgent requirements.
"We have made huge improvements in meeting supply chain targets to get supplies to the frontline, overcoming challenges posed by enemy action, climate and terrain," he added. "Over the past 12 months vital supplies delivered to theatre have included 500 vehicles, 2,000 tonnes of ammunition and 1,100 tonnes of fresh rations."
Last week, the Conservatives reiterated their commitment to reviewing defence procurement if they become the governing party (Web news, 9 October