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back to article Arms biz glovepuppets Parliamentary kit probe

A long-awaited Parliamentary investigation into British defence equipment purchasing has just been published. Both the report itself and the media response to it reveal the astonishing degree to which the onshore UK arms industry has managed to dominate this area of debate. The report, from the MPs of the parliamentary Defence …

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Bronze badge

Some good points

However, not everyone working in the arms industry is well paid. I certainly have friends who are paid very little.

The idea of maintaining UK independents, especially from the US is a good one and is certainly feasible. Just because it's currently being done badly, doesn't mean it can't be done. Continuing to buy things from abroad is a bad idea on many levels, not least of which is that we've got to make something here to sell, in order to have money to buy things from abroad!

The points about the arms industry flying the flag and then putting the money abroad are well made.

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Alert

It's not a matter of can't be bothered

It's can't do much about it.

Pretty much any part of the economy that's worth more than a few billion quid or a few tens of thousands of jobs almost always gets something approximating carte blanche from whoever is in charge. The simple threat of the elimination of a few thousand well-paid (because we're flipping paying them) jobs and the associated tax income results in a total spinectomy for most politicians in government, which is why being a multinational is so great - 10,000 workers or so in several countries give you nearly absolute latitude in all of them and all for threatening to drop less than 5% of your total workforce, which you never actually have to do due to the spine removals. Still, you occasionally do so just to remind them who's in charge.

And just to cap it off, most governments encourage overseas acquisitions as a boost to national prestige (which is almost as mercurial a property as sovereignty).

Where's the Charlton Heston icon? - The only way you're going to get away from the incumbents is out of their cold dead hands.

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Anonymous Coward

Defence Procurement..

Can we have this guy: http://www.defenceanalysis.com/ (F. Tusa) ?

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I agree with Lewis

BAE was a great company to work for but it is barely British, the number of American's in the company is growing all the time, even our departments promo videos were changed to have US voice overs. And all the IT is outsourced to CSC who are an American company and all the equipment is shipped from the US no matter where you are...example:

I needed a new laptop for a project (a good Dell XPS one but fairly common you'll agree) in 3 weeks, plenty of time, phone up local CSC contact, no problem will get that sorted. Get a call a week later, problem number one it has to come from the US so it will take 2 weeks, cutting it fine but ok no problem. Next held up at customs, my name on it, you need to pay import duty, out comes card, done. Waiting, getting awful tight on deadlines...it's missing, somewhere in HQ in Aldershot sorry but no chance of finding it for a week as guy is on holiday...I went to PC World and picked one up that afternoon at £300 less than CSC sold it for. Never received the CSC one, but I bet it was paid for anyway.

It admittedly took a long time for me to see that bad in the company as I was on good pay, great conditions and very well looked after, but BAE Systems really has some hollow arguments for gaining work and justifying its existence.

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Insightful point

"...In the end that's our fault as citizens, because we simply can't be bothered to pay attention."

Sadly true of far too many failed / failing government activities; a list far too long to list here.

Ooh, look: X-Factor is on.

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Coat

Most of this comes back to the polititians

Once upon a time the UK had any number of producers of military hardware. In the name of "rationalisation", the government of the day insisted that mass amalgamations took place. The end result was of course that there was no competition. You ended up with one supplier of everything. As this single supplier has an absolute monopoly they can do and say whatever they like.

Add into this governments who did everything in their power to emasculate British industry and you end up with not having the ability to manufacture the simplest items, like say refrigerators. Then it can be seen that the present situation was planned.

I got my coat ages ago (thanks mum and dad)

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Thumb Up

My share of the pork...

As someone who works within the Defense Sector (for a well known US - sorry British conglomerate), I receive a portion of the pork and my job would be at risk if much of the money went abroad, so I guess I should be jumping up and down shouting for an end to Lewis' rants.

Trouble is, I agree with him.

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Gold badge
Coat

Can this be true?

"that we have the second biggest defence budget in the world, but only the sixth, seventh, maybe tenth most powerful armed forces."

The 2nd? F"£k me sidelways. For this kind of of wedge we should be able to regime change on demand. Or rather, in a spirit of free enterprise, on request of anyone who can meet our bill.

Good business is where you find it.

Mines the one with a copy of Robocop in the side pocket.

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british independance for USA?

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

*breath*

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

*wipes eyes*

sorry you where serious?

I bet the resaion jack straw will not disclose the cabinet discussion on the iraq war is it prob when something like this

"I do not care weather or not we have eve dance gorge wants us to go to war and if we do not *insert dire concenqunces here* so we are going end of descusion"

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Jon

choppers

Remember the choppers we could not use beacuse the Yanks would not give us passcodes to change the software to work in Britain. Somtimes it pays to have control over your own tech.

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Silver badge

The sky is falling in

There is also the practice of arms companies either inventing 'threats' or bigging up minor ones. "That man over there has a bigger stick than you, what are you going to do about it? The nation's security is at risk and if it all goes pear-shaped it's all your fault. Buy a bigger stick from us."

Either the 'bloke over there' hasn't got a bigger stick, is going fishing or has just done an

"I'll get you Muttley!" and is merely waving his arms about.

The result is usually panic followed by several hundred million quid disappearing out of the public coffers. (not to mention a proliferation of Powerpoint presentations - dunno which is worse)

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Black Helicopters

BAE

The best politicians money can buy... on both sides of the pond.

Well done, Lewis.

Black choppers and AC 'cos I used to work for them.

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IR

Another anti-BAE rant

"The same old bankrupt arguments get trotted out again and again"

Let's dispel some:

BAE only employs so many Americans because it has spent the last 5 years buying up every small American company it could. Most contracts from the MOD actually specify how much work has to be done in the UK. If I remember correctly, BAE is one of the largest single employers in the country.

Defence companies have notoriously low salaries compared to similar tech skills in entertainment/banking/etc. The only reason they get paid more than military personel is because military pay is awful. I'm surprised that Page used this as an "evil company pays workers too much" rather than "hardworking soldiers on breadline".

I'm rather amused that he says we should source our kit from abroad, then complains about the massive restrictions on the equipment that we do.

Yes, I used to work for BAE, and no they aren't faultless (several reasons I left). I was one of the guys on the frontline who had to redo code for the thousandth time as the MOD changed their minds yet again about the requirements and happily paid the price in project delays and wads of cash from the taxpayer. Government spending is stupid across the board on big projects, not just defence, so blaming BAE for having the gall to run a successful business is just silly.

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Tom
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Not sure about this ...

A good analysis again by Lewis, only let down by the facts ...

Undoubtedly MOD faces a challenge in meeting the requirements of value for money kit for the front-line, whilst also directing strategically important high-tech development work to UK industry, who perhaps aren't as good as US counterparts (however, comparing like-with-like, they are better value for money, since US defence enjoys proportionally far, far greater funding than UK). However, it is virtually only the US (as oppose to France, Germany) that often presents the better alternative offer that Lewis so often recomends. Secondly, buying strategically significant technology from the US requires that the country understands the technology itself, which, given the MOD's run-down R&D capability, requires the involvement of the dreaded 'blood-sucking' UK industry.

As someone who has previously been in MOD, but now works in industry, and is proud to support the UK national interest with advanced technology, I guess I am supposed to be paid a lot more now than I was back then (I am not). I can also recall junior officers in the Army and RAF 'toasting' the relatively large salaries they made in their late-20s or so - they certainly earnt them on deployments and so on, but I don't think their pay could be said to be worse than civvy street. Still I guess I have some big pay days to look forward to!

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Alert

Don't confuse the MOD and politics

The rank and file in the MOD are quite happy to buy foreign if it means the best deal for the taxpayer and for the squaddie on the ground.

It's government that puts the kibosh on these deals (Pirrahna V and intellectual property rights anyone?) and then gives the deal to a company that will manufacture it in a marginal constituency.

It is also the same for PFI deals, St Athan for instance.

It's only through the UOR route that capable equipment such as MASTIFF/RIDGBACK/WARTHOG gets to the frontline in good time.

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Black Helicopters

BAE sock puppets out in force I see...

I have quite a deal of knowledge on the way BAE worked and works and for my money Lewis Page is exactly right, all the way through the article. The MoD do do stupid things like moving goalposts and so on (Gov does this frequently; it's the major cause of wasted public money and project overruns, actually) but that doesn't counter the points he raised.

Those complaining about the poor pay would do well to try and find similar jobs (in terms of skills required and used) in other industries because I can tell you that although BAE pay was notoriously bad at times compared to, say, Westland, BAE is still here and 'engineering' jobs were and remain underpaid compared to 'management', which is why people in BAE are always angling for a job with 'manager' in the title rather than field op work.

Anyway, the pork will no doubt continue because, as he observes, the people who care are mostly already in the Forces or actually working for BAE.

(Anonymous & Black Helo for what ought to be obvious reasons)

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