Processes are "too slow" to take advantage of new technologies, says PAC © Leon Neal/Getty Images
Processes are "too slow" to take advantage of new technologies, says PAC © Leon Neal/Getty Images

MPs 'deeply concerned' at defence procurement

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
16 March 2021

MPs have said they are “deeply concerned” at procurement practices in the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).

In a report the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said it had seen examples of “over-specifying capabilities”, a “salami slicing” approach to projects, and a “failure to achieve value for money”.

The comments come as prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce plans to modernise the armed forces today (Tuesday 16 March) when the Integrated Review of defence and foreign relations is published.

The PAC said the MoD’s 10-year equipment plan from 2020-30 “remains unaffordable” for the fourth consecutive year. Equipment and support costs are estimated at £197.4bn against a budget of £190bn. However in a worst-case scenario the overspend could reach £17.4bn.

“We are deeply concerned at the department’s procurement practices,” said the report

“There is a growing risk that the financial pressures and the department’s procurement approach are restricting its ability to exploit new opportunities, such as technological advances, and to develop capabilities to respond to new threats.”

The PAC cast doubt on a savings target in the plan.

“The department’s assessment of the plan’s affordability also assumes it will make significant levels of efficiency savings in the future,” said the report

“However, it has continued to include unrealistic savings in the plan, including £3.7 billion of savings for which it has not yet implemented plans to deliver. The failure to achieve all of these savings – and find additional savings – will increase the financial pressures and make the plan even more unaffordable.”

The report said procurement processes were too slow to take advantage of new technologies.

“It [the MoD] also acknowledged that in newer domains, such as cyber and space, its procurement procedures are too slow and have not allowed it to respond to the rapid pace of change on new technologies,” said the report.

Meanwhile, a report by the House of Commons Defence Committee released on Sunday (14 March) described “shaky procurement” around the MoD’s armoured vehicle programme.

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