Like NASA, the Defence Procurement Agency instituted a process of 'smart acquisition' that was, to use the spin: "faster, better, cheaper". The Defence Committee of the House of Commons have produced their annual report on procurement and have concluded that none of the long-term problems identified have been resolved. The purchase of weapons systems remains prone to slippage in the target deployment dates, with at greater cost than first budgeted. Unsurprisingly, the DPA comes in for criticism.
There appear to be a number of problems and these examples will suffice:
- The system of "smart acquisition" has never been implemented, despite the promise that such an approach would acheive when first set out in 1998;
- The Agency has proved unable to simplify the process of procurement, leading to complex assessments, leading to uncertainty and expense in bidding;
- The Agency did not fully assess the risks of particular projects and approval was often undertaken without understanding their potential downside. Examples can be found under "Smart Acquisition".
The picture that emerges concerns an Agency that has settled practices of procurement and manages to foil 'forces of reform' that wish to expedite these processes more effectively. The prerogative of civil servants everywhere has proved disastrous for the Armed Forces. The losses incurred by inefficient procurement are meted out on soldiers, sailors and airmen.
The Defence Committee is loath to assign blame to the politicians in charge of the Ministry of Defence. Nevertheless, New Labour has been in power for six years and announced the reform of "smart acquisition" yet never implemented more than one point. This is a hallmark of New Labour and a standard feature of their administration.
We can point to the politicians in charge of this dreadfuyl misappropriation of resources. Geoff Hoon was appointed the Minister of Defence in 1999 and this fiasco is his direct responsibility. It is another example of overpromoted incompetence. If he goes, he should take Lord Bach of Lutterworth with him, appointed Minister for Defence Procurement in 2001 and also responsible for "three years of waste".
(23.03, 29th July 2004)
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