16 October 2009 | Allie Anderson
Systemic weaknesses in the UK Ministry of Defence's equipment programme have led to years of delays and extra costs running into the millions, according to a report published last week.
The study, commissioned by the MoD and carried out by former defence official Bernard Gray, described the programme as "substantially overheated". Gray said it wasn't clear which systems need to be the most technologically advanced, and which could be used with lower specifications.
Since the MoD seldom cancels orders once they have been placed, over-ordering and under-costing "is not constrained by fear that the programme will be lost", he said.
Consequently, the average programme overruns by around five years and incurs additional costs of about £300 million. Furthermore, Defence Equipment and Support, the MoD's delivery arm, is "significantly" lacking in project management, cost estimating and contracting.
Gray recommended the government hold routine strategic defence reviews to allow for regular "resetting" of MoD plans.
The roles of all bodies involved should be clarified to create a "real customer-supplier relationship". To address skills, Gray said, "would be through a partnership with a private sector programme management organisation".
The MoD said it accepts two of the report's main themes - the need to balance equipment plans with likely available resources and to improve programme planning, management and delivery.
Gray will work with the MoD to develop a Strategy for Acquisition Reform to be published early next year.