back to article Poor IT could leave Brit troops hanging in Afghanistan

Poor IT is threatening defence supplies until a new programme is implemented in 2014, a group of MPs has warned in a new report. In "The use of information to manage the defence logistics supply chain", the public accounts committee (PAC) says the IT systems now being used to track supplies are not up to the task, due largely …


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a Financially broke military doesn't factor in

then eh?

What frivilous use of valuable August space El Reg!



The problem at heart is that the people in charge of our armed forces are always from the fighting arms. They are fighter pilots, infantry & cavalry officers and GD naval officers. When faced with a budget restriction logistics is at the bottom of their priorities. Do you buy 20 JSFs or 15 plus enough spares to keep them running for their lifetime? We all know which way the fighter jocks will fall. It's the reason why each defence budget cut has seen yet another "white elephant" logistics IT project fall by the wayside and that there is a several billion pound blackhole into which the kit needed to fight our petty little wars is disappearing into.

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Not invented here

I understand that doing logistics for the military is a bit more complicated than a corner shop, but are they really saying that it's more complicated than Tesco, UPS or Toyota? Are there really no commercial solutions available off the shelf?

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@Chris Miller

"Are there really no commercial solutions available off the shelf?"

But, but,but that would mean buying something "Off the shelf"

As every (defense IT con-tractor) knows the MoD has a *wholly* unique set of problems which simply *cannot* be met by *anything* other than a lovingly hand crafted software solution developed by skilled software artisans in Mumbai/Beijeing/Tijianna/Some-other-s***hole.

Of course buying a wholly unique solution costs a *little* more (3x, 4x, 5x...) but nothing's too good for the boys in the front line.

Would you want them to have barcode scanners that jammed in the sand?

Of course not.


Not what the RLC think

"...From tanks and ammunition to letters and food, we get the right amount of the right kit to the right people in the right place at the right time - enabling the Army to do its job, and boosting morale along the way.

We fight logistics through to keep the army working, moving and communicating..."

Whereas anyone who's had dealing with them knows they're the refuge of the worst jobsworth in the UK. There are reams of stories about supplies being denied by REMF's who've never heard gunfire in their lives.

Going back over 100 years to the Battle of Isandlwana, quartermasters have been responsible for a lot of British deaths.


Isandlwana, not quite

While it is true that a bad quartermaster is something that needs to be seen to be believed, and they have probably cost alot of lives as you said.. Isandlwana was nothing to do with inept supply.

It was more to do with overconfidence, arrogance, bigotry and really really stupid choice in guns.

The Zulu under Cetshwayo knew the lay of the land and used tactics as good as any modern European army. Tactics that Lord Chelmsford should have known about since the one they used, a obstructed pincer attack (in this case starting off behind, and then looping around a bloody big hill), the horns of the buffalo, was practically their signature move.

Then theres the Martini Henry rifle, which overheated and either jammed, fouled or cooked off rounds after a certain number of shots (the few line survivors testified to this). The British were also overextended, over confident - not to mention the fact they initially only identified 1/3rd of the Zulu force and tailored their defensive positions to moderate this advance - no subsequent changes of any importance were made even after the other two arms of the Zulu's hove into view.

Then you have the strange at best choice of Chelmsford & Company to use what appears to have been a formation straight out of Sharpes Regiment (one long line of troopers, superfired by a second), when common sense says given the way the Zulu moved and fought, that they should have been in Square (which in subsequent battles they were). This makes little sense if the majority of the troops were armed with Martini Henry Rifles, since these were breech loading guns, not muzzle loading smoothbore guns. In that case, the superfiring (the one line protecting the others reloading) wasnt necessary, and the thin depth of line meant that a break could be made easily and the line rolled up. Which indeed was what happened and led to what was an effectively as much a massacre as that at Kabul and Gandamack in 1842.

The only reason Chelmsford managed to get out of it all with his reputation somewhat unscathed was he was able to talk directly to the Queen, who appears to have been supportive, and the subsequent events of Rorkes Drift.

Given that the MH rifle was standard issue it seems odd that the problems with it at Isandlwana were not repeated at Rorkes Drift. However the two battles are somewhat different. At Isandlwana the troopers were firing more or less constantly, since they had less need to conserve ammunition as did the Rorkes Drift contingent. Since the rate of fire at Rorkes Drift was lesser, there was a lesser chance of the MH Rifles weaknesses coming to the fore.


Ammunition boxes.

There is a story that part of the problem was than the ammunition supply faltered, because the reserve ammunition boxes couldn't be opened without screwdrivers.

They'd been designed so that they could be smashed open with a rifle butt,

The extended formation didn't help in distributing ammunition.

Big Brother

Government and logistics

Not a good mix

Government thinks logistics is only ever about technical cost efficiency and (that much abused phrase) "economies of scale".

When you start with the wrong answer it's no wonder that you keep asking the wrong questions.

When politicos go to war they only ever start thinking about efficient use of resources after the strategic decisions have been taken. They should do their COBA before they start shooting.

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Sounds like you swallowed a dictionary! It'll pass through ok maybe I guess?



Two problems

Where are the Radars of the British Army who seem to know where all the kit is and who to persuade to get it.

Possibly some of the kit is being "diverted" making tracking less than optimal for IT systems.

As ever the IT/human interface is a chasm rather than a seamless information exchange

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Cost is everything

No mention of Cost Plus? Biggest fiddle going for arms manufacturers.


Ask the Chinese

`TOLL TAIWAN. Single source for complex supply chains with vast logistics capabilities' ..


You sir

Have no idea of how the supply chain works.

We've done it this way for centuries, and will carry on doing it thi9s way.

Caruthers and I were at oxbridge uni together and we made a pact that I'll always buy from him, and he'll always pay for my golf membership.... damn you to hell for suggesting there's a better way than the old boy net.

We're the MOD you know, no budgetary restrictions on us, we just divert some of the frontline money to the darby and joan account to cover the cuccumber sandwiches when needed.

Having worked at three of the big defence outsourcers, I can vouch that 99% of MOD software could use off the shelf packages, but they prefer "it's ours and no one else can have it" approach even to their printer drivers

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