Tucked away in the Coalition Agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrat party was this;
We will require full, online disclosure of all central government spending and contracts over £25,000.
Am I the only person that thinks this is going to have a significant impact on defence acquisition?
When we see headline news like the Springer contract costing £7.5million for 75 souped up $20,000 dune buggies or the Husky contract that looks like each one is costing £600,000 the first reaction is horror. Is it any wonder the MoD has no money.
Then we step back and think about and realise that there is much much more than meets the eye; there are costs associated with electronics integration, initial spares packages, training and all manner of other modifications. Perhaps then the costs aren’t as exorbitant as might first appear.
The problem with this is uncertainty and I get the impression that manufacturers and the MoD enter into a cozy ‘conspiracy’ that allow true costs to be obscured behind the smoke of ‘extras’. Even the National Audit Office rarely see the full breakdown, let alone the Defence Select Committee, specialist press or other interested parties.
Public money is public money and there should be a presumption of openness.
For too long the unholy trinity of politics, industrial concerns and over specification have conspired to create the situation where defence acquisition costs have, and continue to, spiral out of control.
Shining light on the process and holding the numbers up to scrutiny may well produce the holy grail of a sensible and cost effective equipment plan. Quite what full disclosure means is anyone’s guess.
I haven’t seen any open intense lobbying from the defence industry but expect it to be going on behind the scenes, defence is a special case they will say, conflating national interest with commercial interest.
National interest or commercial interest, this will be the real test of this commitment.