The Public Accounts Committee has published a report titled ‘Improving the performance of major defence equipment contracts’.

You can read the report by clicking here, but here’s the summary.

“There have been numerous reviews of defence procurement over the past 35 years, which have provided the Department with opportunities to take stock and learn from experience. We are therefore extremely disappointed and frustrated by the continued poor track record of the Department and its suppliers—including significant net delays of 21 years across the programmes most recently examined by the National Audit Office—and by wastage of taxpayers’ money running into the billions.

The Department is in a disadvantageous position because it relies on a limited specialist supplier base to meet its needs and at times lacks the skilled personnel to effectively manage the performance of these suppliers. Overall, we are very concerned that the Department—and ultimately the taxpayer—bears too much of the financial risks for failure.”

The report itself has a list of issues and recommendations, this one highlights that the Public Accounts Committee believe the Ministry of Defence do not ‘learn from mistakes’.

“The Department continually fails to learn from its mistakes. The Department has been delivering equipment programmes for decades and has overseen many expensive failures. There have been at least 13 formal reviews of defence procurement policy over the last 35 years which have provided the Department with opportunities to take stock and learn from experience.

We were therefore shocked to learn that the Department had only established a central register of learning from experience (LFE) in December 2020. Experience shows that there is a need for reflection and openness earlier in the process to avoid further catastrophes like Ajax.

This does not convince us that the Department aspires to achieve a radical step-change in performance. We are encouraged by the Department’s Strategic Partnering Programme (SPP) initiative launched in 2018 to transform its relationships with industry. We recognise its strategic intent, but are disappointed with its lack of ambition in forecasting only £160 million in savings over the next ten years—less than 0.1% of its forecast Equipment Plan spend.

The Department told us that it expects efficiencies to amount to hundreds of millions of pounds as the programme matures, but until it develops scalable plans and can clearly attribute improvements to its interventions, it is cautious about the scale of potential success.”

They recommend the following:

“The Department should provide the committee with a clear plan on how it will draw on LFE and how its SPP and associated initiatives will generate the level of savings that would be expected from work that is intended to transform the procurement of hundreds of billions of pounds of equipment.”

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
63 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Y Ddraig Goch
Y Ddraig Goch
9 days ago

The continuing political drive to privatise and devolve military capability to the private sector seems only to deprive the military of the talent and experience to specify & manage major procurement programmes. Think of the opportunities to add capability that would have been added by efficient procurement. The recent decision to retire the Hawk T1 without replacement because modern “synthetic” training is available has led this week to MoD seeking another private partner to provide the capability currently provided by 100 squadron, a decision that totally ignores the training opportunities derived by having serving aircrew on both sides of the… Read more »

peter Wait
peter Wait
9 days ago
Reply to  Y Ddraig Goch

The Defence Support Group lost many of its skilled workers and management in the transition to be privatised through voluntary redundancies. Productivity is no lower than under the MOD, records show it only made a profit in one year since the sale !

geoff
geoff
9 days ago
Reply to  Y Ddraig Goch

Well said and all 100%

that guy
that guy
9 days ago

To be fair, it has been getting better in recent years, as apart from Ajax there hasn’t been that many cock-ups since Nimrod/Astute in 2000’s and 2010’s. P-8 on time, budget as is the most recent Astute’s – all so far under-budget. Take a look at the recent missile procurement: Sea Ceptor delivered on time, under budget, a good and reliable, cheap and effective system and has achieved export success. Marlet, Brimstone, Storm Shadow similar – Sea Venom was made with the French so slightly delayed. So I think the RAF/RN have learnt to some degree, just need to work… Read more »

J1M
J1M
8 days ago
Reply to  that guy

And the Italians, a lot of the really cool stuff inside Aster is Italian. MBDA is getting really good at reusable modular technology, such as SPEAR 3/EW reusing a lot from Brimstone. On the Type-45s they’ve replaced Aster-15 with Sea-Ceptor, which is based on ASRAAM, so that they can fill all of the Sylver silos with Aster-30. Our naval radar systems are second to none. A lot of clever reuse is coming into it’s own via the FCAS (Tempest) project, MBDA’s proposed weaponry. This next bit is speculation but it looks to me like there’s a block of ‘swarming’ code… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
7 days ago
Reply to  that guy

A few more army cock-ups/disappointments/capability gaps than Ajax. Warrior upgrade cancelled, and so the fleet will deteriorate and be withdrawn (to be replaced one day with a possibly inferior replacement Boxer)). CR2 upgrade (aka CR3) only to be done to 148 tanks out of the over 400 CR2s that we previously bought and FOC is not till 2030. Still no proper upgrade for AS90 – and its replacement seems very distant. Still no replacement for ancient Light Gun. No light mortar in service. No heavy (over 81mm) vehicle mounted mortar in service. No truck-mounted arty in service. No upgrade for… Read more »

Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
9 days ago

Especially as regards the Army.

Neil o'Neill
Neil o'Neill
9 days ago

I agree. Also it takes so long for them to get started/build projects. There are massive gaps in army capability aswell… artillery and mobile fires come to mind.

Ron
Ron
8 days ago

I agree the Army has a issue with procurement. However, the Army has had this issue since the end of the 1980s. Until then the Army was almost like two Armies. The first with heavy equipment designed to fight on the German plains, the second was as a light rapid reaction force for world wide deployment. The Army numbers meant that we could have the force split in this way, 1 Br Corp for the Russian hordes the rest for world deployment. The first Gulf war was in many ways suited to 1 Br Corp, the German plains or an… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
7 days ago
Reply to  Ron

I was part of that 2-tier army – the ‘heavy metal’ based in Germany to deal with 3 Shock Army if they dared to motor west of Magdeburg – and the light-role army based in UK for everything else. It seemed to make sense to omit the medium-weight equipment at the time. Our initial succeses against the Taliban in open conflict led them to major on the use of IEDs and hence the boom in wheeled PM vehicles bought as UOR projects. Procurement was faster than the cynics and critics suggest. Only a percentage of those PM vehicles was ‘taken… Read more »

Ron
Ron
7 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Thanks GM. I was also in Germany when we had 4 Divisions of heavy metal, when it went down to three there was an almighty stink. I agree that a Division is about 15,000 troops, that is why I said 10,000 fighting troops plus 4,000 support such as R.Sig, REME, Logistics etc. So our numbers are about the same. I also agree on the situation with upgrades etc, I’m ex R.Sigs we were always improving the kit in the field, then send it of to REME for the yearly, three year checks and tests and it would come back factory… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
3 days ago
Reply to  Ron

Good points Ron. Perhaps the army will be forced into role specialisation once they get down to 72,500 – what will the top brass tell the politicos that they cannot do, if they have the guts? I’d like to be a fly on the wall for that conversation. I agree that Chinook and Puma should go to the army but I recall that when Apache was due to come in, the RAF lobbied hard to fly it, saying it was too complex for the AAC – ridiculous. I am surprised they muscled in to flying off the Navy’s carriers back… Read more »

G Fitz Gerald
G Fitz Gerald
3 days ago
Reply to  Ron

Very good way of putting things

John Clark
John Clark
9 days ago

Sounds like more “headlines meant to stir up emotions in the public” to me George, Dern won’t like it, not one little bit….

John Clark
John Clark
9 days ago

We have been reeling from one catastrophic programme to the next since TSR2 was instigated in 1960.

Still as long as someone in Whitehall has ‘finally’ woken up to the shocking fact that our major defence programmes are primarily a Political choice, rather than a military one, then everything is fine….

Not only has the horse long since bolted from the swinging open gate, but the stables have been built over to aid the non existent housing crisis…

J1M
J1M
8 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

That’s a bit undeservedly negative.

You’re forgetting that good news doesn’t sell.

Nobody writes headlines about that time when something came in early and under budget.

The ‘Frigate Factory’ plan had finally got in it’s feet.
MBDA is churning out scary missile after scary missile.
Our radar systems are second to none.
Our new carriers are the best in the world at ⅓ the cost of its nearest rival.

We have a lot to be proud of.

These don’t excuse things like Ajax though, but I think we are getting better.

Ian M
Ian M
9 days ago

IMO The UK MOD is a victim of it’s own size, the organisation is huge and very cumbersome. By and large, it seems to be somewhere where mediocrity can hide away, not be discovered and have no repercussions when the fertiliser starts to be spread. I’m sure that there are real hero’s, trying their best to get the soldier/sailor/airman the repairs/equipment/housing/career that they want and need but they’re thin on the ground.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
9 days ago
Reply to  Ian M

Hi Ian, Actually there are plenty of very good people in the MoD, but the good one’s only get promoted so far. As Dominic Cummings put it Lions led by Donkeys – true for pretty much for the whole of government, sadly. (By the way I don’t agree with much DC says but on that point I think he hit the nail on the head.) Mediocrity rules I’m afraid, helped by the fact that to get prompted you have to have a broad range of exprience across the department. That basically means you do not stay around long enough to… Read more »

Ian M
Ian M
9 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Hi CR, such is my experience too. The fitters at ABRO (as was) and a good few others when I worked at Base Wksps, however, later on, dealing with Project Teams……….😡 enough said.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
7 days ago
Reply to  Ian M

Ian,

It is not just in MoD (uniformed and civil servant and politician) that the incompetent or the tardy workers reside. Defence Industry too.
There is less competition and expertise in the AFV side of Industry now – BAE has not made an AFV in the UK since a small run of Titan and Trojan, some 20 years ago. GDLUK, a new company, never made a vehicle before Ajax.

Also there has been a hollowing out of DGDQA – no longer do we have QA people embedded in or frequently visiting the factories.

peter Wait
peter Wait
7 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

It would make sense to have some REME working on the production lines to stop companies hiding problems.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
3 days ago
Reply to  peter Wait

Not a REME job – REME maintain equipment in service, they don’t have expertise in equipment manufacture. That’s one for DGDQA.

Bringer of Facts
Bringer of Facts
9 days ago

We have to learn, we have to change. we should ask our allies for help. What are they doing differently in their procurement processes and project management?

RobW
RobW
9 days ago

Best not ask the US or we might actually get worse. Zumwalt and LCS were very expensive disasters. Cost overruns and cockups are not a uniquely British problem.

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
9 days ago
Reply to  RobW

Perhaps the Aussies, then?
Long but very interesting article, if not already seen. Minutes 20 to 25 cover these issues, but the whole is worth the viewing.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XEDy4_ozmnw&t=1491s
Regards

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
7 days ago
Reply to  RobW

True. The Ford aircraft carrier was ridiculously expensive and there are problems with elevators, EMALS etc. By all accounts Bradley M2 and M3 were procurement nightmares (The Pentagon Papers). The M109 Paladin was hardly ground-breaking.

Stc
Stc
9 days ago

For me the report misses the fundamental 2 problems. Long drawn out projects like Tempest will be costing billions more mainly drip feed funding. If you want such a thing fund it properly and have at least 3 prototypes flying in Short order. Second is oversight, not reviews every so often. Why was no one saying why spend billions on Ajax, when a new Warrior 2 wouldn’t have been cheaper and apparently the current machine is well respected by those who use it and it’s battle proven. No one in the MOD thought to ask the users their opinion had… Read more »

David Steeper
David Steeper
9 days ago

How about sacking people who are incompetent ? It would have 2 benefits it would encourage the competent to stay on and remove 90% of Colonels and above from the Army payroll.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
7 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

Incompetent MoD personnel is only part of the problem. Slow and cautious people (often civil servants) are a problem. Also lack of MoD QA staff. Also incompetent, greedy and inexperienced Defence Industry.

David Steeper
David Steeper
7 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Agree with all of the above but why does it seem to affect the Army more than the RAF n RN.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
3 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

No idea. Good question.

Marked
Marked
9 days ago

No shit sherlock! Anyone of us could have told them that!

Goldilocks
Goldilocks
9 days ago

Interesting to note that all the most recent articles are the ones that attract about 200 comments!

Chris
Chris
9 days ago

“MoD ‘continually fails to learn from its mistakes’ says report”
This sounds like one of those no sh*t Sherlock reports… It’s obvious to even the most casual of external observer… I wonder how much time and money the PAC spent to work this one out?

In other news the Pope confirms his adherence to Catholicism and exciting new research reveals that bears do indeed defecate in wooded areas.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
7 days ago
Reply to  Chris

It is only through PAC and House of Commons Defence Committee reports (or specialist studies) that procurement problems get considered.

Joe16
Joe16
9 days ago

I’m not very clear on how the MOD procurement process works, but as far as I’m concerned the only members of the team that really need to have a uniform are those supporting the setting of the product requirements, and potentially evaluating the product at certain set points. Everyone else could easily be full time career professional engineers and project managers whose prospects and KPIs are related to successful delivery. That removes the understandable desire for officers to broaden their command experience by hopping around different positions, means you have people who are qualified to deliver projects doing so, and… Read more »

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
9 days ago
Reply to  Joe16

Quite right!

Steve R
Steve R
9 days ago

Shouldn’t this read “Army Procurement continually fails to learn from it’s mistakes”?

The Royal Navy seem to have pretty much got their shit together with procurement now, and the RAF seem to be doing alright – I don’t see any recent major procurement issues with the RAF.

Just the Army that can’t sort itself out.

Frank62
Frank62
9 days ago
Reply to  Steve R

RN? Hardly. Not even interim AShMs decided upon yet way past our 1980s Harpoons obselescence, Perseus a decade away, escort numbers dropping well below minimal, Tiniest submarine fleet since before WW1, engineer retention critical, only 1 solid stores ship left for many years & contracts not even awarded for replacements etc. Our weakness only encourages our enemies to be more bold.

David Steeper
David Steeper
9 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

The RN states there requirements. The MoD awards the contracts. If a contract is delayed or not awarded how is that the RN’s responsibilty.

RobW
RobW
9 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

If you had posted that 5 years ago I’d agree with you. The RN is moving in the right direction. Have a listen to the latest Defence Select Committee meeting with the 1SL and Jeremy Quinn. The 1SL in particular seems to have a very well thought out strategy. As he is about to become overall head of the armed forces it bodes well for the future.

Lusty
Lusty
9 days ago

Hah! they should have just read the comments here. We’ve been passionately saying it for years!

Frank62
Frank62
9 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

Absolutely.

John Hartley
John Hartley
9 days ago

Years ago, on ThinkDefence, I said how I would reform defence procurement. Spend longer at the start. What exactly do you want? How many? What specification? Have a joint Commons/Lords committee look at these questions. Let them ask officers & contractors these questions. Even take brief comments from defence nerds like us. Once you have numbers/spec, then set it in stone. Give it to industry. Huge penalties on industry if the kit does not work or is way late. Similar penalties on MoD/HMG if it changes its mind on numbers/specs/delivery dates. Look at Polaris. That came in on time/budget &… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
7 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Some good points John. But I am not sure that a Commons/Lords committtee as a precursor would help – another bureaucratic hurdle? A long gestation project would always suffer from changes from MoD/HMG – there is a defence review/command paper every 5 years and they generally radically alter the status quo. Polaris. In many ways a much easier project than Ajax. Hear me out. Not in terms of platform complexity of course but easier than other projects to manage in most other regards. Far more ‘knowns’: ministerial support trhoughout, whatever stripe of Party; you know who the shipyard is going… Read more »

John Hartley
John Hartley
7 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

The Commons/Lords committee is to establish need, numbers, specs, price, delivery, before big money & large open ended commitments are made. One of my gripes, is that when a disastrous decision is made that b*ggers up the program, you can never find out who or when that bad decision was made. I think scrutiny at the start can show up any bad choices or weak assumptions, Thus saving time & money later. You mention Ajax. Look at Israel. It needs a new IFV. Needs to be lighter, compact for urban areas. I think its called Carmel/Camel? something like that. Anyway… Read more »

Tim
Tim
9 days ago

Well that’s another learning to put in a report on a shelf.

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
9 days ago

The MOD no doubt gets many things wrong and has a lot to answer for. But to be fair, in my experience, the main culprits have been hopelessly indecisive Chiefs of Staff, particularly in the Army, and a Treasury continuously demanding further cuts crudely disguised as efficiency savings. The MOD, caught in the middle between these incompetent masters, try their best and get the blame when it invariably goes wrong.

Paul42
Paul42
9 days ago

The treasury is one of our biggest enemies combined with incompetent politicians who simply have no concept of what our Military actually needs? Over the years we have also wasted billions on in house projects such as Nimrod AEW and Nimrod MR4, only to buy the E3D and P8 off the shelf……just think what we could have done with those billions? Countries that spend less than us get more bangs for their bucks simply by buying high quality products off the shelf. Buy the time we get around to it we can only afford items in small quantities such as… Read more »

John Hartley
John Hartley
9 days ago
Reply to  Paul42

Both of those Nimrod projects were crippled by stupid choices. The first Nimrod AEW proposal was Hawkrod i.e. fitting the AEW radar from the smaller USN E2 Hawkeye into the larger Nimrod. Would have benefitted from the upgrades the USN made every few years. Instead they went for a new untried GEC radar that really needed a bigger airframe than a Nimrod.
Nimrod MRA4 should have been great, but was crippled by fitting new wings to old twisted fuselages. Had it been all new built, I doubt it would have had such a troubled time.

Paul42
Paul42
9 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Both were projects doomed to failure, with billions we badly need to spend on other things flushed down the toilet.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
7 days ago
Reply to  Paul42

The Treasury is principally to blame for the failure of Nimrod MRA4, as they vetoed anything other than a rework of existing aircraft, which the Prime advised against.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
3 days ago

I am not sure that CGS routinely gets involved in procurement work – first I had heard of it.

Martin
Martin
9 days ago

Fairly battle, cruiser mk1, SA80, Nimrod AEW3, BL 14 inch. The MOD has always had failures in equipment. Criticising them for only having a small list of suppliers in nonsense. Not that many companies can make multi billion pound defence products. I can’t believe it’s the MOD’s fault after selecting a fairly standard design in ASCOD II for a supplier that has a god track record that there is a vibration issue.

peter Wait
peter Wait
7 days ago
Reply to  Martin

Bet the Japanese don’t have the same problem with their defence procurement !

OldSchool
OldSchool
9 days ago

Personally I wish UK would just bin Ajax and like the Aus with their sub deal move on. Probably both will be painful but at least its done, Then buy an OTS solution and upgrade over time.

BB85
BB85
7 days ago
Reply to  OldSchool

it means scrapping over 100 hulls and kissing goodbye to £3.5bn already spent and GDUK could end up suing for the remaining £2bn if the MOD can’t prove that they didnt meet requirements. I’m still not sure how a hull could be so fatally flawed when competitors have had no issues developing 40T plus IFVs.

peter dynamics
peter dynamics
6 days ago
Reply to  BB85

“Quality control” on bowman (GD) they sent some cables wrong length, some with wrong plugs on and some with wrong ident numbers. The lower radio tray (CR2) holes were 1 mm wider on new tray so the DRM recycled clansman mounts were unable to be fully tightened or the unit jammed in. The rf brad at back is possible to damage when fitting and the earths did not have the metal ends so are prone to tearing out. This might be a clue

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
3 days ago
Reply to  BB85

I agree. I would like to read David Marsh’s report (when it comes out) as to how GD’s Spanish factory screwed up making the Ajax hulls.They were formerly Santa Bárbara Sistemas and were bought by GD on 25 Jukly 2001. They made Leo2E and Pizarro, back in the day.

Ian Davidson
Ian Davidson
6 days ago

I was on the army from 1983 to 2005 and it was the same then. By the time these astonishing errors come to light the Generals responsible have their Knighthoods and are enjoying their retirement.

Andrew Thorne
Andrew Thorne
4 days ago

The main issue is the Army now. The Royal Navy and Air force seem to have sorted themselves out by-and-large with new programmes looking relatively good (room for improvement in places). The Army is a shambles and to be honest probably needs a good re-organization in terms of its procurement process and technical advisors. I think the overall issue is the lack of technical foresight and understanding and how this links into battlefield strategy. The next peer-on-peer war will show the army up for its capability gaps. It’s only going to get worse unless they get a grip on technological… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
3 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Thorne

The army of course does not have its own procurement process. The MoD has one procurement organisation and common processes for all domains.

Ron
Ron
23 minutes ago

When it come to the current Ajax shambles why did the UK go with a company that has not built a AFV, then why did the requirements change and why Oh why does Ajax not fulfil the main requirment of being air transportable. I was reading a detailed article on the Ajax program and how GD was hovering up ex Generals involved with the MOD procurement, I am stiking my neck out but it smacks of something that the police should be looking into. I am sorry to say but no matter which way I turn it the CV90 MkIV… Read more »