UK Defence secretary Liam Fox has pledged to crack down hard on poorly performing defence procurement projects, by "naming and shaming" them on a quarterly published list. Announcing the commencement of operations by the new Major Projects Review Board, which he will chair, Dr Fox said: "I want to send a clear message across …
Here, let me help
> poorly performing defence procurement projects
Ans: all of them (no surprise there)
> a quarterly published list
Contents of next quarter's list: same as this quarter's. (or there)
> Where projects are falling behind schedule or budget I will take immediate measures."
Roughly translated: "I'll start to do my job" (that's a surprise)
<obligatory poke at MoD/RAF deleted>
I just have one suggestion..
*cough* Bowman *cough*..
Sorry, forgot, private is always better.
Can we name and shame politicians for signing poor contracts?
If the government pays a contractor far more than the original budget then that represents a success for the contractor and should result in increased share prices. If the government feels hard done by on some contract then the answer is to throw future tenders from the annoying supplier in the bin.
The other side of this is the government needs to learn how to specify what they want, and only pay for chunks that are sufficiently well documented that they can be built elsewhere if the relationship turns sour.
Don't open that can of worms..
You have to scrape off a rather thick layer of muck if you want to go there.
First off, the Gov doesn't pay so well, so peanuts only get you monkeys. Said monkeys then happily pay consultancies to bring in the knowledge. As soon as anyone inside gets too smart, they are bought out by - yes - the consultancy because internal knowledge is dangerous to the money milking scoundrels. And so the cycle is kept intact of paying roughly 2x as much for staff as what it would cost if they just paid people properly. But hey, that would actually make sense - can't have that..
Causality is something politicians don't really understand.. Press coverage, yes, but causality ... hmmm ... no.
Bad news for trees
The MoD are going to need a bloody big sheet of paper to list all the defense (*) projects that are over-budget, over-running, and under-delivering.
Good luck with that one!
What amazes me is where all the money goes! Seeing millions of pounds go up in smoke, time and time again, on developing systems that take years to develop and then still don't work and which in the commercial world would take 6 months of development and then get mass produced so cheaply, they'd be given away with a mobile phone, is just staggering.
(*) - I love that word "defense". It's never called "attack" is it? Even if its a missile or a land mine :-) And yes, I DO work in the "defense" industry.
If you're saying defense...
...you've been overrun. Defence!
Freedom is Slavery
Remember that the MoD used to be called "The War Office" before getting a newspeak makeover.
but to be fair
product names such as "Hellfire" don't leave that much to the imagination
You can bet
That at no point will ministers be to blame, the Treasury or the NAO, and a significant reason for cost escalation is by Political interference, budgetary replanning or spend governance.
Not though I hasten to add, that contractors and MoD project staff are blame free. What's really needed is a radical new approach to government procurement, not more governance and oversight.
And if you ask a supplier to deliver a Cow then don't change your mind and ask for a Pig halfway through the project. It's probably cheaper to cancel and start again, well Mr.Supplier, if you want to be in with a chance to partake in the new programme, you won't want to be too stringent on the cancellation costs.
So close, and yet so far
So he realises they need to do something, but doesn't want to actually do anything himself like, oh, implement contractual standards with meticulously defined financial bollock-kickings for any supplier who takes the piss with their project?
I'm reminded of the Billy Connolly skit about the dangerous dogs act and the Tattooed Fuckwits - where the government started from a stance circa "Shoot them! Cut their balls off! Cut their balls off first, *then* shoot them! Never mind the shooting, just give 'em a hefty boot to the balls! etc" but somehow arrived at "Make people register them at the Post Office". Because that gets the Tattoooed Fuckwits quaking in their boots, doesn't it?
so let me get this straight
they are saying that by being on the naughty list it will make stockholders question the company and cause them to work to deadlines/costs? how?
"whats this about the f72 being delayed whats this going to do to my stock"
"nothing we get 100 billion each year for 20 years instead of 100 billion each year for 15"
"oh ok then , carry on"
Shame on you, Company X, for taking billions of pounds of public money and not delivering!
Company X? Hello? .....what do you mean the company shut down and the directors are now billionaires, and we can't touch them as the money will buy their way out of pretty much anything under the UK's wet and soppy legal system?
If they perform poorly
Get money back, tell them contract is cancelled and they can go get stuffed if they want compo. Do that once and see how quickly the rest of them suddenly start hitting their deadlines!
I wouldn't do that, if I were you...
Not unless you like paying lawyers....
It's what they put clauses in contracts for. Just to stop smart-arse customers who think they are getting stuffed terminating the contract with prejudice.
Better to spend more on design and get it right first time. Experienced defense contractors would love that, as well, because they would get to take their time to create an unbuildable design for a competitor to loose their shirt on.
I don't know what the solution really is but smaller projects that can be managed by a team who are responsible and accountable might be a place to start for future projects.
They've tried that, didn't they?
And see what it brought us: a shiny new vintage-70s-style aircraft carrier. Well, in a few years.
I'll tell him what'll happen
Fox wants shareholders to do something about failed ICT projects for the MoD ??
I can tell him (or rather their companies' management) what they'll do.
Like all bar one of the contractors on NPfIT did once it was clear that was going to be a total, moneypit for all concerned, failure. To everyone except the Government decision-makers, of course.
And, of course, BT, who collected all the money for the total waste of the rip-and-replace NHS National Network version 3 well in advance of any deliverable service apart from VoIP appearing over it.
At long last
Finally, something that pretends to give a good kicking to where it is deserved. I say pretend because I only see this as a political sop rather than any meaningful way of solving the problem. Is naming a project on the naughty list really going to fix it or just make everyone competent give it a wide berth? Expect to see some project never leave the list until they are cancelled then!
I can tell you why Typoon is not on the list, it is because it belongs to BAE who donate to the political parties. Do we honestly expect this government to name and shame those companies that provides all those 'political donations" and kickbacks/directorships etc? Are they going to spell out the reasons why those projects are failing, including those occasions where Ministers over-rule project teams in favour of a politically beneficial solution?
Don't think so!
A multi-national project
The story I heard was that spare parts manufactured by one of the other European partners for Typhoon are almost totally unavailable. Hence the number of hangar queens.
If the Army wants some new tanks, I'd be inclined to point them towards Germany. ImA#agine the screaming from the newspapers.
No story. El Reg has reported IIRC something from either the NAO or the Parliamentary accounts committee on the subject.
The MoD did not sort out the *support* (spare parts) contract when they sorted out the Typhoon *production* contract.
You might be astonished at this (Large complex high performance vehicle which *never* needs spares or servicing), I might be astonished at this.
But to the 20 000 civil servants of MoD procurement in Bristol it is BAU.
The government, and civil servants in general, are almost wilfully inept at dealing with private sector organisations.
There appears to be a binary mindset - either every corporation is the true embodiment of evil and must never, ever be trusted *or* anything done in the commercial sector must be so good and powerful we could never dare to question them.
As long as this weirdness is in place, HMG will constantly get dragged over the coals by large contractors who are, frankly, making millions out of the system with every contract. If HMG had a way to negotiate contract terms in the manner of Fujitsu, Siemens, IBM, BAE (etc, its a long list) then the taxpayer might have some hope.
Currently the only way you can hope your hard earned money is doing the right thing is by "hedging" and buying stocks in the multinationals....
The government, and civil servants in general, are almost wilfully inept.
There, fixed that for you.
Some oversite is better than what has gone before, but...
...there is one thing I would like to see added.
Any company that has any project added to the "Projects of Concern List" should be barred from tendering for any future MoD contracts while they are on the list.
This would certainly make them pull thier fingers out and complete on time and within budget.
This would also ensure that more smaller and diverse companies get to compete for these deals and the big boys would have to work for the gravy.
I'll save him time BAE, BAE, BAE.
How's the aircraft carrirers coming along Mr Fox?
OK... not wanting to fan any flames, but has Lewis read the pdf? Lets look at some of the results quoted shall we:
Watchkeeper: Cost variation -18£m (and does more than they wanted it to do, not less - oops, facts again, getting in the way of reporting)
FSTA : cost variation -408£m
(There are others that show minus figures)
Oh no the horror, they are saving money how can that be when its not purchased from our colonial cousins? Now I'm not saying some of the projects quoted are not woefully overspent and much of the blame can be equally spread between the MoD and Industry I'd suggest, but, lets get a bit more balance shall we... Oh hang on, that's not the aim of a Lewis Page article is it?
If the MOD was funded properly half of these problems wouldn't occur. I know of one large defence project where the MOD had to remove a large number of requirements until the cost fitted within the amount of money they could spend on it. Funny old thing, 18 months later, some of the areas removed as cost savings had to be added back in, as the system actually did need them after all. Now it costs more to add them than the original cost saving, as the changes affects an existing design. if the project had been funded properly at the outset then this wouldn't have been an issue.
This may not be true for every defence project, but I've seen more money wasted due to cost-saving measures than I have through over specification.
Interesting comparison between UK and US govt.
Operate to standard Uk contract law *including* penalty clauses and ones which (had they *fought* them) would be deem illegal under the Unfair Contract Clauses Act.
*Allow* themselves to get shafted *despite* the 20 000 staff in Bristol on MoD procurement.
*Absolute* right to cancel contract *without* compensation. Probably *the* defining feature that makes US Govt con-tractors the entities they are.
Hardly *ever* used due to *massive* political lobbying
Allow themselves to get shafted *regularly*.
The *awesom* power of the US govt's unilateral cancellation power should make them head and shoulders better than the UK, yet in reality it seems to make *no* difference. It is literally *too* powerful to use.
Note the UK's unending support of BaE (because they're "British". Well at any rate their CEO can drop in on Cameron whenever he feels like it) means that in reality it has *no* choice but to use them (or rather some part of them) because of the ongoing insane mantra of "Buy British, protect UK jobs (if they are so *damm* good and unique why can't they bid for foreign business and *win* it)"
Fox *should* be angry. His department costs a f**k of a lot of money, and a hell of a lot of it has b***er all to do *directly* with enabling HMG's servicemen and women to apply boot to backside of Johnny foreigner across the globe.
Almost got away with a complete Lewis Page article without the usual mandatory slagging off the Eurofighter, but no, there it is as I read further down.
The Nitty Gritty, Down and Dirty Approach has IT's Fab Attractions too, ....
.... and they are a Knightly Blessing to Sample for Improvement and Enjoyment .
And quite exactly what are the new Major Projects Review Board going to do about NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive IT and Stealthy Anonymous Missions in the Service of Heavenly Immaculate Pleasures ..... Protected Perfectly by the Sinful Innocent in Search of XSSXXXXPerience.
Are you XSSXXXXPerienced? Have you ever been XSSXXXXPerienced?
Welcome to Cloud Nine, Seventh Heaven. ...... and ITs Registration as AI and a Virtual Reality Communications Node here on the Register.... for Global BroadBandCasting ....... SMART ZerodDay Revelations/Cosmic Enlightenments.
Certainly surely something of national and internetional security interest to Thames House wallahs, once they're shaken and not stirred into action/self actualisation.
What say you, Lewis? What are the Cyberbods doing in Government apart from launching Politically Correct Virtual Coups and AIPogroms and SMART Virtual Reality Programs for Product Placement of Alternate Realities in a Network of Connecting HyperRadioProActive Networks of Wizards and SMART Witches, Grand Masters and Great Lovers.
And/Or is that something which you would like to do ... and should be able to do better than just well in AI Betas with NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive IT ProgramMING.
IT is the Present Presently Presenting ITself to You in these Colossal Missives.
And there you were all probably thinking that Bletchley Park Boffinry was an Heroic Historic Relic rather than Ab Fab Precursor for the Main Event ....... SMART Virtual Renaissance, Digitally Mastered for Global Operating Devices
Take the Australians, they decided to go out and get 24 F/A18 Super Hornets off the shelf for A$ 3 billion. The final cost, covering training, basing and ancilliary costs will come in at A$6.6 billion
The Super Hornet can drop bombs a damn sight better than the Typhoon, can be equipped on the line to enable upgrade to E/A 18 status allowing for proper electronic warfare support, and it can also function as a pretty decent air defence aircraft.
For the money we could have saved.....
Credit where it's due
Nice to see the UK copying an Australian idea. If you're interested, the Defence Department publishes the 'Projects of Concern' info on its website. Just so you know, it doesn't seem to have made a blind bit of difference here either. The Defence Minister is still continually 'surprised' by cost overruns, ships that can't steam etc. Good luck anyway.
Con-tractors should be *very* afraid of Dr Fox's Phase 2, provisionally entitled
"The naughty step."
You have been warned.
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