MoD should update procurement guidance, says NAO

19 March 2020

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) should update guidance around procurement to ensure the function becomes more flexible, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

In a report the NAO said the MoD set out a transformation plan in 2018, which included “creating a more agile, adaptable and streamlined acquisition system to increase the pace of procurement”.

The report said a more flexible approach to procurement could have mitigated failures to keep up with technological change.

Slow moving procurement, which failed to keep up with new developments in the marketplace, led to shortcomings in defence systems, such as the Falcon Early Entry Capability battlefield communications package.

Some of the technology in the system was already obsolete when it was delivered, meaning that the more modern parts of the system were unable to reach their full potential, the report said.

It cautioned that guidance, particularly when it came to milestones, should be updated to take into account new capabilities.

“We found examples of milestones being declared where there were potentially significant shortcomings against the agreed criteria and which had nothing to do with changes in capability requirements during delivery,” the report said.

The report recommended establishing firm time parameters against which the department could measure capability delivery and monitor whether procurement was keeping pace with guidelines.

The transformation process began after the MoD found “technological change will continue to increase at a pace that outstrips the agility of its current capability planning and acquisition system”.

Seeking a new more flexible approach to procurement, the department hoped to be able to respond to the speed of technological change by subjecting core capabilities to a process of continual upgrades.

But the report said: “We consider that changes could potentially have mitigated examples in our case studies where individual capabilities were obstructed by a failure to keep pace with technological change.”

And it warned that a new approach could generate confusion among stakeholders across the defence environment without clear guidance.

In February the MoD launched an examination of military spending as part of the “largest review of the UK’s foreign, defence, security and development policy since the end of the Cold War”.

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