Defence Secretary Liam Fox has promised that the Ministry of Defence will end its free-spending ways, following a highly critical report from the Public Accounts Committee. The MoD has written off £5bn this year by cancelling the Nimrod and Sentinel projects. The committee of MPs noted that defence spending exceeds forecast …
I'm an IT Project Manager, plus I have 13 years of Royal Navy time in submarines and Air Traffic Control under my belt - will never get a job on the MoD project team purely because I know what I'm doing.
Sold Upholder class SSK's? No
Upgraded Nimrod? Never
Procured Typhoon over US offers - you're having a giraffe
There, saved billions already. But alas my pockets are not lined with corporate backhanders.
Having worked for a well known company with large contracts with the MoD I can say that the MoD is viewed as a bottomless pit of cash.
I heard this from a PM one day: "The project is late and over budget? We'll just screw the MoD for more money."
And, the company openly admits that they have to retrain project managers and accountants to lose the "on time and under budget "mentality they have because that doesn't get the company the profits it wants to see from the MoD.
If the MoD REALLY wanted to save money, they could write the contracts to be fixed price with no overruns allowed.
Fixed price contracts are great in theory, but are useless in the case of a customer that keeps changing the spec, as any large organisation loves doing for one reason another.
I've known weeks worth of design time get thrown in the bin, because the customer decided that the part you're designing a clamp for has now moved 100mm to the right.
One thing to keep in mind, especially with military projects is that design tolerances have changed drastically as new, more accurate production methods have been developed. This is usually to aid in the replacement of damaged parts by ensuring that parts are 100% interchangeable between different planes. The downside of this is that even small design changes in one area can have a knock on effect throughout the whole project.
The Nimrods suffered from this quite extensively due to being a mashup of different design philosophies. The new wings etc would have been designed to take advantage of the interchangeability offered by precision manufacture, but at the same time had to attach to planes where none of the fuselages were exactly alike.
The people in charge of the budgets
are used to having subordinates jump at their whim. Now these officers (its always the officers - Sorry Lewis) find that they have to deal with civilians and company bosses too. People who have been trained to screw the fuck out of them.
Its like leading lambs to the slaughter. The officers in charge (Sorry, had to put that in - delicious irony and all that,) have no idea how badly they are going to be screwed. And the "civil servants" just sit back and watch the military make fools of themselves. After all, it's not _their_ fault if the brass can't find their arses with both hands is it?
"It also suggested that the MoD refrains from signing contracts which it knows will exceed its budget."
We will make it a criminal offence carrying a 5 year minimum term that the MoD refrains from signing contracts which it knows will exceed its budget.
There. Sorted, budgets and timescales bought back inline.
Not sure that's _quite_ what you meant, sir ( or ma'am, as the case may be). If it's a criminal offence that they refrain, then they will be more than justified in maintaining what many appear to believe to be standard practice...
Stop funding most "cooperative" projects
The really big overspenders are usually "political" projects (A400, Eurofighter) where the programme objective is not biggest bang for buck, but "promoting euro-cooperation" or industrial policy. They usually result in the wrong subcontractors being chosen, and these cannot be "fired"
This isn't a Lewis Page "Buy American" article...?
We just don't get involved with Americias wars and use the money saved to stick up a big fence to keep out the immigrants. 2 birds one stone, billions saved, children thought of, where's my OBE.
Things have changed
So the tories don't have any marginal constituencies with big defence contractors in them.
Discouraging "risk" can remove innovation.
If we want to be at all cutting edge then we will have to accept that some projects will fail and fail expensively. After all, the only way to be "risk free" is to only buy tried-and-tested solutions where someone else has paid the development costs and taken the risk for you, which means being several years behind at least one competitior. Whilst Lewis's "buy American" schpiels are a good way to avoid risk (but not remove it totally, as shown by the HC3 Chinooks), they mean surrendering any chance of having an arms industry that actually makes money. China's and Singapore's (and soon India's) "me-too" copying industries can all make stuff on a license cheaper than the UK, so unless we're making something "cutting edge" that they can't we're going to lose a big chunk of the income the arms biz brings.
Not just at the top where money is wasted...
If the RV documentary I saw about the RN in the carribean last night is anything to go on there is profligate money wasting going on everywhere. Trying to sink an abandoned 'go fast' (speed boat used by smugglers) the RN crew first of all had a few pops with the main 4.5" gun, then sent up a chopper for the door gunners to have a crack, then closed the ship in to let the upper deck gun crews have a go with their 30mm cannon and miniguns. Which, other than probably costing £10,000+ had zero effect on the target, which was eventually dispatched by sending a couple of sailors over in to bang holes in it with axes.
Was also amazed to read a Reg article about the MoD that didn't include Lewis having a pop at the RAF in some way, standards are slipping!!
That £10,000 or whatever it really cost is already paid for. It is not as if the Navy would hand back the ammo, fuel etc if it was not used at the end of the year.
I am more amazed the lawyers actually let the Navy shoot at someone!!
Back to the subject,
The MOD needs to be ripped apart and then start again from scratch. Quite why so many people are needed to waste so much money is a mystery to me. How can there be more people in the MOD than the RAF?
"Liam Fox has promised that the MoD will end its free-spending ways"
Not with 20 000 staff in procurement.
I don't think so.
Not enough guts. Not enough competence. They will continue to be b****slapped by any con-tractor large enough to have the pockets to survive the death march of the "selection" process (designed to ensure HMG gets *value* for money) and civil servants pull the old defer-decisions-to-save-money-now-and-someone-else-picks-up-the-cost-increase-later routine whenever there is a "spending review."
Too many cooks
When it comes to military procurement, Israel spends £9 billion a year and administers its purchases with 400 people. Britain spends £10 billion annually on procurement and has a staff of 23,700 to do it.
£8bn of public money?
£8bn of public money? - Tip of the iceberg.
What about the rest?????
MoD is institutionally incompetent...
....and has been for more decades than I've been alive.
Its beyond fixing without sacking every layer of management in procurement - and most of the plebs involved in it too.
Too many senior ex-forces and old school ties in there that do nothing other than look after their friends in (so-called) private industry. The taxpayer and the squaddie are secondary considerations.
While they're at it they could bar BAE from any future MoD work. Quite apart from the bribes and rampant corruption inherent in BAE the products they develop are usually overpriced crap that meet little to no part of the original design spec. We'd save a bloody fortune by telling BAE to fuck off!
A note on fixed price contracts.
Fixed price is *useless* without fixed *spec*.
This spec -> this cost.
Changed spec -> changed cost. Don't like it. Do without it.
It has also been demonstrated ad nauseum that retro-fitting something late into a design is *orders* of magnitude more expensive if it is not designed in from day 1 (or at least *provision* for it. EG the catapults on UK aircraft carriers so familiar to El Reg wartech readers)
Military projects are even *more* notorious than large software systems for being stupidly late and over budget. This is despite the fact that most of them are *physical* systems and not the *first* of their kinds, so there should be *extensive* data on relevant timescales with which to deliver estimates.
Techniques exist to cut cycle times (set minimal specs, freeze early, build early etc) but *none* of them seem to be used. Given how many military systems have to interface to existing systems I'm amazed that most of their design is not set *by* those interfaces, leaving just the core functionality to be specified.
And WTF does it *always* seem to be that *canceling* the project costs as *much* as running it to completion if not more? Where did that little "law of the universe" come from.
I note that UK Ministries *can* change. It used to be *gospel* at the Home Office that "Good times burglaries go up (more to steal) , bad times burglaries go up (more desperate people). New Labor seem to have managed to break that ideal.
It seems to have taken target policing, an increase in the number of people in prison and the *splitting* of the department into 2 pieces to do it.
I'm not sure what it would take to get that improvement with the MoD.