There has been much fuss this week over the Gray Report with all the online and traditional media outlets frothing at the mouth because of the rumoured content and delayed publication.
The report was due to be published before the House of Parliament summer recess. John Hutton MP, the former Secretary of State for Defence appointed Bernard Gray to review the self evidently poor performing acquisition of defence equipment, supplies and services.
Bernard Gray has good form in the MoD, he directed the widely respected 1998 Strategic Defence Review and has extensive experience in industry. He also worked as a defence correspondent for the Financial Times.
The MoD and PM announced the report will be delayed until after the recess and that the version in circulation is a draft copy only. Of course the final copy will be a far cry from the first draft, multiple revisions and a careful pouring over every word by officials will see that the final report, instead of being damning, will say…
“We have made some mistakes but things are improving, we have delivered billions of pounds of equipment for Afghanistan and we remain committed blah blah blah.”
It is likely that we will never actually see the report, its recommendations will be rolled into a wider review being carried out by Lord Drayson and this will in turn be rolled into the next defence review and the successor to the Defence Industry Strategy, DIS2, the elusive document that has often been promised but never sighted.
John Hutton stated in the last defence debate
Bernard is likely to recommend changes to the basis on which the MoD plans its expenditure at the strategic level, including the conduct of a Strategic Defence Review every Parliament, and putting the Departmental [equipment and support] budget onto a longer-term settlement – as well as changes to the way in which we control and conduct our acquisition internally – the creation of a new, more powerful Executive Committee with the clout to ensure the affordability of the defence budget on a long-term basis, as well as some further possible changes designed to build on recent improvements to the effectiveness of our acquisition staff within Defence Equipment and Support
Never missing an opportunity to score a cheap political point Liam Fox immediately demanded the report be published, saying it represented 12 years of incompetence. As I have noted before on this blog the Conservative party have an equally incompetent record on defence procurement (Nimrod MRA4 and Chinook HC3 anyone) and have yet to actually come up with any sensible solutions for how they would reform the MoD.
Over on Nick Robinsons blog at the BBC a set of slides were posted that were billed as being part of the Gray report.
The MoD responded thus
We can confirm that these slides have not been produced by Bernard Gray or by the Ministry of Defence and that they do not offer an accurate summary of Bernard’s draft report.
So who is bullshitting, the MoD or the BBC
Tough one that!
What is of course most surprising in this whole affair is the shocked horror surprise exhibited by the media and politicians, if they had been paying even the most cursory attention to National Audit Reports, Defence Select Committee Publications, industry publications or the plethora of reporting sources over the last decade they would not be at all surprised.
I suppose if any of these outraged MP’s actually bothered their arses to attend defence debates in the House of Commons then their outrage might be perceived as being more genuine.
The MoD procurement system is criminally incompetent resulting in billions of pounds worth of waste and entirely the wrong bits of kit being purchased.
Really, do bears shit in the woods as well
with apologies for the shocking language and bear defacation references which those readers outside the UK might not get !!!