07 September 2009 | Allie Anderson
The UK Ministry of Defence's "broken" procurement process needs "radical root-and-branch reform" to improve delivery of front-line equipment, according to the Conservatives.
Liam Fox (pictured), shadow defence secretary, is to announce the overhaul in a speech at a defence conference in London today.
He is expected to reveal the opposition party's plans to slash the number of buyers in the department to tighten up procedures. At present, there are 28,000 purchasers at the MoD, while a total of just 34,000 people work in the entire Royal Navy, according to the Tories.
"Under a Conservative government, procurement will be the servant, not the master, of the strategic defence review," Fox will say. "Reforming the procurement process will be no easy task. In fact, it will probably prove to be the greatest challenge in terms of increasing the efficiency of the MoD. It is time for the MoD to get its house in order."
The Conservatives will also order an independent, in-depth capability review into the structure of the armed forces and its staff.
The proposals follow strong criticism of the government's failure to publish a MoD-commissioned spending review, carried out by former defence official Bernard Gray.
Gray allegedly found the MoD is wasting up to £2.5 billion a year on "incompetent" procurement decisions. The current defence equipment programme is reportedly underfunded by £35 billion and is running an average five years behind schedule (Web news, 25 August 2009).