back to article UK Ministry of Defence splurges £280,000 on online 'good ideas' form

A webpage form on the UK Ministry of Defence’s GEMS employee suggestion website cost taxpayers nearly £280,000. GEMS is the MoD’s internal bright ideas scheme. The concept is that serving personnel who see a better way of doing things than the laid-down method can submit ideas to GEMS. GEMS reviews them and, if they’re useful …

  1. localzuk

    Is that just site cost, or staff cost?

    As you list GEMS as having 7 staff, £280k wouldn't be an unreasonable cost for 7 staff and the site itself.

    Just the site though? Seems a bit high...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is that just site cost, or staff cost?

      well if it is staff, then it must be yearly, which is 38.5k each per year (assuming a ridiculous 10k pa site costs)

      so in summary

      7 people is to many for what it is ,

      38.5k is too much to pay the 7 unnecessary people ,

      and 10k is too much per annum to run a suggestion box.

      I'm pretty sure i could more-than-double my salary to 50k , employ a pfy to help out for 20k , give a generous 5k per year on server rental , domain names , bandwidth etc and do the whole thing for 75k , thereby saving the taxpayer 205K.

      ...but nobody asked me

      1. Roj Blake Silver badge

        Re: Is that just site cost, or staff cost?

        "...but nobody asked me"

        If only there was an online form you could use to send them your idea...

      2. Dave 15

        Re: Is that just site cost, or staff cost?

        I expect in fact that the 7 were all in Bangalore on 15k PA and there was a massive profit ripped off somewhere along the line and the British tax payer is once again on the receiving end of the Bishops of Bath and Wells red hot poker

  2. Known Hero

    Money well spent IMO

    They literally could not of invested money any better imo, A hearty congrats for the idiot manager who allowed that one to slip through.

    1. David Pollard

      Re: Money well spent IMO

      If they had developed the idea as open source they could have given away the software lo local councils, the NHS and other public bodies.

    2. DrRobert

      Re: Money well spent IMO

      could not of they?

  3. 's water music Silver badge

    Look!

    Some numbers. These ones are bigger than those ones but not as big as these other ones. Here are a few more numbers. Emotive language. Something must be done.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Look!

      Won't somebody think of the children?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Look!

        Thinking of children will get you on a thought crime register.

  4. @JagPatel3

    Government strongly favours buying off-the-shelf equipment

    The GEMS employee suggestion webpage form is not the only off-the-shelf purchase MoD has made – it extends to much bigger defence equipment acquisitions too.

    The Government has recently revised its defence procurement policy to consider buying, as its first and foremost priority, new military equipment for the Armed Forces which automatically falls in the off-the-shelf category – specifically because an off-the-shelf equipment is a fully engineered and supported technical solution which satisfies the key user requirements at no additional cost or risk to the Exchequer, that is to say, it does not require any development work laden with risk, to be performed upon it.

    The reason why the Government has moved away from its long-standing procurement policy of buying equipment designed to a tailored technical specification requirement set by the military customer (which it will not admit to in public) is because, it is no longer confident in the ability of its own people to identify, manage and control technical risks inherent in a starting-point for the technical solution that requires development work to be performed upon it – which has been the cause of persistent delays and cost overruns on equipment acquisition programmes, over the last several decades.

    This is because it does not possess the capability in the form of intelligent and experienced procurement officials who have an adequate understanding of what it takes (in terms of skill types, funding, tools, processes, materials, scheduled work plan, inter-business contractual agreements etc.) to advance an immature technical solution from its existing condition, to a point where it will satisfy the technical specification requirement, within a Private Sector setting driven by the profit motive. The harsh reality is that they have no business acumen – on account of not having spent a single day of their lives in the Private Sector.

    Nor is the existing defence procurement process (which has evolved over the years) conducive towards delivering equipment for the Armed Forces which is fit for purpose, adequately sustained in-service and constitutes value for money through-life, because it has been interfered with by Defence Contractors (most notably the Select Few) who have skewed it decisively in their favour, at every turn.

    The Government’s considered assessment is that it is unlikely to accumulate an in-house capability of the desired quality and numbers anytime soon, certainly not in the foreseeable future. It has also been realistic and concluded that it is nigh on impossible to reconstitute the existing, flawed procurement process alongside the tough 2015 Spending Review commitments to be fulfilled in this Parliament, further complicated by the Brexit vote – hence its preference for the off-the-shelf option.

    Ironically, one of the most spectacular benefits to be derived from buying off-the-shelf equipment is that the leadership at MoD will be freed from its burdensome responsibility of having to upskill its existing procurement staff to a level comparable with that exhibited by counterparts in industry, because this type of acquisition is relatively straightforward and can even be undertaken by mediocre post holders – not least, because it is devoid of hidden financial, technical or schedule risks.

    If anyone has any doubt about the determination of this Government to press ahead with considering the off-the-shelf solution as its first option, then they should look no further than its decision to buy the standard Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to plug the capability gap left behind by the cancellation of Nimrod MRA4. Settling on the choice of the P-8A Poseidon means that these aircraft cannot be refuelled in-flight by the RAF’s Voyager tanker planes to extend their range and endurance on-station, because the former are fitted with the flying-boom receptacle whereas the latter are equipped with the probe-and-drogue system – making them entirely incompatible. The Government has taken a lot of flak from informed commentators and endured negative publicity in the press and media for this serious operational deficiency – nevertheless, it has decided to go ahead with the purchase.

    So what impact does this policy shift have on Defence Contractors’ business prospects?

    UK-based military equipment manufacturers who do not possess off-the-shelf equipment and are in the business of developing & building weapons platforms are most likely to be adversely affected by this adjustment in defence procurement policy. To counter haemorrhaging their domestic market share to similarly positioned players from the US and elsewhere, UK-based Defence Contractors have little choice but to increase their competitiveness significantly, by first selling their products in the international marketplace – on price, superior technical performance & timely delivery – and then re-entering the domestic market with fully developed products rebranded as off-the-shelf offerings, to satisfy UK Government needs, just as the Americans have done.

    It is believed that some 20 percent of the equipment procurement budget is currently being spent on buying off-the-shelf equipment. This slice is only set to increase, as more and more projects which involve significant development work are side-lined in favour of off-the-shelf purchases.

    @JagPatel3 on twitter

    1. Strahd Ivarius

      Re: Government strongly favours buying off-the-shelf equipment

      20 percent spent on off-the-shelf equipment?

      Including the F-35?

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Government strongly favours buying off-the-shelf equipment

        This is an ingenious way of excluding BAE from most (new) defence acquisitions until they buck their ideas up and do some development of their own.

        This should be good for both them, and UK PLC. It's inexcusable that BAE's product lineup has had basically no private development since BAE came into being. Their aircraft offerings are basically the late Hawker Harrier, and is still building the Hawker Hawk and bits of the Eurofighter. (which is not their own design)

        It's outright embarrassing when BAE licenses the Hawker Hawk design to India, who's aviation company then figures that they could sell it as a light attack aircraft and then does the development knowing that the Indian Air Force would buy them, and also thinking it'd have export potential. If so, you'd have thought BAE should have jumped at the chance? But of course no government had paid them to develop that variant, and they don't do private development anymore. :/

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Government strongly favours buying off-the-shelf equipment

      "Settling on the choice of the P-8A Poseidon means that these aircraft cannot be refuelled in-flight by the RAF’s Voyager tanker planes to extend their range and endurance on-station"

      Don't worry. It'll be cancelled and replaced by something else. Which will be cancelled and replaced by something else.

      Cancelling aircraft has been a core competence of the UK governments for the last half century.

  5. Mike Shepherd
    Meh

    £280,000

    Jeez, I would have done it for only £270,000.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: £280,000

      Sure.

      I worked for about 20 years on defence and aerospace projects. Software and COTS are cheap. Guaranteed 10+ years of service, full documentation, training for superusers including videos and computer based training are things that move the decimal point.

      Even training equipment and software that are never expected or meant to see the front lines in a war, are projects run to mil spec requirements, simply because defence has a culture that all projects are to be held to a very high standard. The first 90 percent of a project takes 10 percent of the time and will never satisfy MOD. The last 10 percent takes 90 percent of the time and most of the cost.

      I will be impressed if you can do it for the price you suggest.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But.....

    I seem to remember they had been quoted over £1m by one of the big SIs to create the site before they opted for a GCloud provider. And about six months to implement.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    Yeah, right!

    Get real everyone, it was booked against some forgotten IT cost centre but the money went on restocking Main Building's wine cellar.

  8. MT Field

    So the erm .. Eurofighter Typhoon has an auxilliary gearbox? WTF.

    No doubt it was someone's idea and nobody could stop it from happening.

    This is why we never made it into low earth orbit, chaps.

  9. Milton Silver badge

    Cancelling aircraft ... a core competence of UK govts

    "Cancelling aircraft has been a core competence of the UK governments for the last half century."

    Sadly true. Look at the monumental incompetence around projects like the Trident airliner, VC-10, TSR-2; or more recently the absolutely mind-boggling stupidity of decisions to sell Harrier¹ (leaving us with no fixed wing carrier air power at all), the insanity of building two half-baked carriers which *could* deploy CATOBAR aircraft but will instead be lumbered with the ridiculous F-35B, and then—to add cream to the cake—cutting the frigate/destroyer escort forces by 50%.

    So we now have the suicidally stupid situation that, in any war against a competent foe (i.e. not just a bunch of goat-shaggers in %stan, but Russia, or even China) two eye-wateringly expensive carriers with a pitiful few and exceptionally lousy aircraft, will be sunk in less than 24 hours because they have nothing like enough escorts to float a survivable carrier battle group.

    During the eighties era of Cold War contingency planning, when we were subjected to biannual rehearsals like Reforger, the projected survival-in-theatre periods of RN ships were often numbered by days at best. It seems like recent governments have decided to reduce that to hours.

    What's amazing is that successive governments have made these successive imbecilic decisions even when they were *not* completely infiltrated by the KGB.

    It makes you realsie that when discussing British governments, there's no point trying to figure out whether a specific particle of stupidity is 'Conspiracy' or 'Cockup' ... because there's no difference.

    ¹ To the very grateful US Marines

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reality...

    This project likely comprised the following:

    1. 1 x CTO who is the ex-CTO of <insert large multinational>. This chap is in charge of arbitrary decisions and google searches. He found the technology roughly 3 or 4 results down the page and advocated its use based on viewing a load of YouTube videos. This is the highest paid person on the project. Accounting for at least 50 percent of the budget. Writes a very thin specification based on discussions had over 2 possibly 3 lunches with the folks below. Paid approx 50% up front. In his late 40s / Early 50s, makes jokes about "technology before you were born" despite you being in your mid to late 30s and having experience stretching back to the early/mid 90s. Sweats when he realises that age is not always related to experience. Sees you as his enemy but needs you because he hasnt worked on the coalface since "mainframes". Probably a VB dev in the 90s.

    2. 2 x MoD internal higher ups. These chaps are responsible for finding a CTO type chap in order to shift responsibility for arbitrary decisions such as which tech to use, where to host it and how much they think they need to budget. These guys also hold the purse strings. These guys account for 5% of the budget each as bonuses / performance related pay rises. Daft bastards but they dont know any better. They've been civil servants since they came back from their gap year. Probably academics.

    3. 2 x Project Managers. One for the backend one for the frontend. These are contractors. These folks have to invoke arbitrary decisions and pass them down the chain. They also act as an upward anger diffusal shield to ensure people below cannot overule arbitrary decisions made higher up. These chaps effectively act as hostage situation negotiators. 10% each. These folks push the CTOs agenda because the CTO is thin skinned and self aware.

    4. A frontend expert. Probably hired through Fiverr. Takes rubbish wireframes drawn up by the chaps in step 2. then signed off as a cocksucking manoevre by the chap in step 1. The front end looks average and has not been designed with the chosen backend technology in mind. 99% chance of off the shelf bottlegged bootstrap theme. Lives in Bangaladesh and scams white western CTOs like a boss. Probably owns a scrapebox license for other gigs. Deserves a high five. Is untouchable, even if his work stinks the CTO wont ask for a refund, it'll just be written off due to "oh well its just £3".

    5. One of us right here. The only person involved capable of building this bitch. "The Talent". Told to deliver based on a thin spec a crap bootstrap template and a technology that is likely to be unfit for purpose. Attempts to express your own opinions and expertise blocked by layers above. Attempts at suggesting cost saving (trimming pointless layers) thwarted by anger diffusal layer. We account for approx 1% of the budget. Product built according to specification as processed through CTOs mind as no direct contact with the relevant people is possible. Likely to take at least 90% of the heat if the project fails and 0% of the credit if it succeeds.

    6. Remaining budget is spent on travel expenses further up the chain (usually black cabs from Waterloo to Whitehall, a distance that can be walked in 15-20 minutes), a new laptop for the CTO and lawyers to draft suffocating contracts for those further down the chain.

  11. Lotaresco

    This project likely comprised the following:

    I doubt it. I doubt that it went beyond "Who do we have a framework agreement with? Ask them to do it." Oh look, about £300k, same as always.

  12. ScottishYorkshireMan
    Alert

    Wonder which politician is a director/shareholder of K2 then?

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