This Weeks Dispatches, Channel 4

In the run in to the publication of the SDSR the Channel 4 Dispatches team and respected author/journalist Sam Kiley will be airing a hard hitting documentary this week on the MoD and Defence Industry. Titled ‘How the MoD Wastes Our Billions‘ it accuses the MoD of wasting billions of pounds, favouring a small number of defence companies, operating a protectionist acquisition regime and killing baby seals with the bones of orphan children!

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/episode-guide/series-58/episode-2″]

It’s hard not to want to like this but the trails so far seem a tad one sided and this paragraph from the introduction

A three-month investigation by the Dispatches team uncovered a ministry which has wasted staggering amounts of public money in buying inappropriate equipment that arrives years lat

seems like accusing bears of shitting in wooded areas or accusing the Pope of being a Catholic.

It doesn’t take much investigative zeal to read National Audit Office or Defence Select Committee reports which basically say the same thing.

Like Mystic Meg, I am going to make a prediction, the £8million Blackhawk and £27million Lynx Wildcat will get star billing with a supporting cast of BAe and gin swilling top brass. The introduction below, from Sam Kiley, mentions the Blackhawk.

The United Kingdom has one of the biggest defence budgets in the world. But for the last decade soldiers on the front line in Iraq and Afghanistan have struggled to get the right equipment. How the MoD Wastes Our Billions asks how this can be.

With a budget of around £42 billion a year, how is it possible that the Ministry of Defence is set to go over budget by some £36 billion over the next 10 years? Is there a way that the British taxpayer can make sure that men and women at war literally get bigger and better bangs, for the taxpayer’s buck?

The MoD will face savage cuts in the October spending review. It may lose up to 20% of its budget. But the current threats to national security have not evaporated just because the United Kingdom finds itself short of cash.

A three-month investigation by the Dispatches team uncovered a ministry which has wasted staggering amounts of public money in buying inappropriate equipment that arrives years late.

The excuse for this has been that Britain needed to preserve its defence industry to ensure ‘sovereignty of supply’. But the reality has been that much of the £17 billion spent by the MoD each year on equipment and supplies goes to BAE Systems and a handful of smaller firms.

The arms industry is effectively one of the last state-subsidised industry industries left in the UK.

Costs have also soared because of a ‘conspiracy of optimism’ in which MoD officials, and their defence contractors, are so keen to get new projects off the ground that they underestimate the real cost of production in order to get the projects going. Once the project is well advanced, and after tens of millions have been spent on it, the costs are allowed to creep up to reflect reality.

Dispatches investigated the cosy relationship which exists between the British arms industry and the top echelons of the military and civil service. More than a third of all jobs taken in the private sector by former government employees with relevant contractors involve MoD officials taking positions in the defence industry. Despite industry appointments having to be approved by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA), critics suggest that such appointments should be more strictly controlled to avoid allegations of a conflict of interest.

On top of this, Dispatches found that turf wars over funding pit the army, navy and air force against one another.

The consequences of such inefficiency are sometimes fatal. Fourteen RAF personnel were killed when their Nimrod spy plane crashed in Afghanistan in 2006. The ageing aircraft was only flying because its replacement, the Nimrod MRA4, had been delayed by years which meant the older version had to be kept in the air long after it should have been retired.

Since the beginning of operations in Helmand, southern Afghanistan, in 2006 front line soldiers have been desperately short of helicopters. Paul Hartley and half a dozen other soldiers spent hours trapped in a minefield in Kajaki before an American Blackhawk helicopter could be found to winch them to safety. One of the men bled to death.

The workhorse of the US Armed Forces, the Blackhawk, has been the favoured choice of helicopter for soldiers in the field for years.

But Britain has recently opted to buy the smaller Lynx Wildcat, which is built in the West Country. It can carry only four infantrymen in fighting kit, compared to at least eight in a Blackhawk.

Senior army officers were wary of Blackhawk because it would have been defined, by its weight, as an RAF aircraft. The army wanted army pilots to be flying army personnel around the battlefield and so opted for the new Lynx as ‘better than nothing’.

Whether the MoD is buying rifles or radio equipment for the infantry, fighters and bombers for the RAF or Destroyers for the Royal Navy, successive defence ministers, former senior officers and top civil servants agreed that the ministry needs a drastic overhaul.

Dispatches found that the MoD has been desperately trying to balance the books in one year by shoving costs from expensive procurement projects into the next year, or delaying them even further. This has resulted in lengthy delays and huge cost overruns – not only of the original equipment but further costs from having to maintain ageing kit which, like the Nimrod MRA4, should no longer have been in service.

Strong vested interests exist inside the arms industry, which has hired former top level MoD officials who are able to lobby their former ministry. These top level officials, together with unions, will be keen to protect the tens of thousands of jobs generated by the defence industry, and will argue against heavy cuts.

Ministers know that if the British armed forces are to remain anything to be reckoned with then they will have to finally abandon a historic ‘buy British’ policy in arms, end the protection of the local defence industry, and drastically streamline the current procurement system by instead buying ready-made equipment ‘off the peg’.

Reform of the MoD would save the tax payer money and give British troops a fighting chance in Afghanistan and future wars.

I think we can expect the conclusions to be the over simplistic ‘buy off the shelf to protect our brave boys’ but I am looking forward to this, Sam Kiley and the Dispatches team are well regarded and I hope that it stirs things up a bit

As for much of the budget going to BAe and a handful of smaller companies, have a look at the MoD DASA site for a list of those ‘handful of smaller companies’

http://www.dasa.mod.uk/modintranet/UKDS/UKDS2009/c1/table117a.html

Didn’t take me 3 months!

19 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jed
Jed
September 20, 2010 1:57 am

Well as we have discussed here a million times, Wildcat and Blackhawk is an apples to oranges comparison (worse actually) so if this is anything to go on”

“Senior army officers were wary of Blackhawk because it would have been defined, by its weight, as an RAF aircraft. The army wanted army pilots to be flying army personnel around the battlefield and so opted for the new Lynx as ‘better than nothing’.”

then the whole show will be a load of cack ! :-(

DominicJ
September 20, 2010 7:49 am

I must admit, I wasnt expecting much, but still its a disapointment.

Government Cuts Funding
MoD delays procurement to compensate
Airmen die in out of date aircraft
BAE at fault.

What now?

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
September 20, 2010 10:02 am

I saw Douglas Carswell on the trailer, are we going to see a balanced piece of journalism by getting a response from David Laws MP as well?

Those who don’t know of David Laws, he has the AgustaWestland plant in his constituency and has gone head to head with Douglas Carswell oveer the ‘Blackhawk’ situation on a number of occasions. I’ll definitely be tuning in, if anything just to guage the quality of the journalism.

paul g
September 20, 2010 10:34 am

doesn’t the arguement for keeping the contracts british take a slight twist when you realise that westlands had the licence to build blackhawks for years and i think, built 3!!
The army flying army saga strikes a chord as the RAF have always looked to take all of rotary away from the green. During the cock ups getting apache in The RAF were quite open in their opinion that the problem was with the army and tried to pinch apache for themselves, don’t help themselves really!

x
x
September 20, 2010 2:44 pm

For a while now the phrase “army cooperation squadron” has puzzled my simple brain. I see that the Army gets a real outcome from the arrangement; troops and cargo moved. But all the RAF gets is a reason to fly helicopters. Perhaps there Army needs to fields a “RAF cooperation regiment” that spends it time mowing the grass on airfields or something…

DominicJ
September 20, 2010 5:34 pm

X
The RAF Regiment?

x
x
September 20, 2010 6:55 pm

admin said “But the services aren’t competing like Tesco and Sainsbury, they are part of an integrated armed forces that work together to achieve a common objective.”

You’ve obviously never been to Twickenham for an Army Navy game……… :)

Good systems annalists will tell you that an organisation has many faces. There is the official by-the-book version to which you allude. Then there is the informal which has both good and bad elements. And the latter elements are the ones that are the drag on organisations. The armed forces of the the UK would be a truly exceptional organisation if everything was done by-the-book in a magnanimous way for the collective good.

x
x
September 20, 2010 6:57 pm

@ DominicJ

I was joking. :)

paul g
September 20, 2010 7:41 pm

joint nbc regt?

Phil Darley
September 20, 2010 8:58 pm

Complete waste of time. It took 3 months to investigate that!!!! No analysis or detailed examination, just superficial sound bites.

Very very poor

Alan
Alan
September 20, 2010 9:55 pm

Welcome to modern journalism!

(Faceless) like the MOD People
(Faceless) like the MOD People
September 20, 2010 11:05 pm

Great programe m8. Shows why the army are so under equiped and lacking support on ops.
TYPHOON 20 billion £ project that has produced about 86 operational aircraft.
F16E FALCON FULL KIT AND AMMO 48 MILLION
F15E STRIKE EAGLE FULL KIT AND AMMO 52 MILLION
As an example 120 F16s = 5.8 BILLION
120 F15s = 6.2 BILLION
Cost of running could of been made from scrapping JAG and any non nuclear designated Tornados.
Total cost 12 BILLION
Saving 8 BILLION POUNDS

Example of what 8 BILLION POUNDS COULD OF PAID FOR

5 YEARS of annual pay rise 1 BILLION
COST of Ztype accomadation for all 1.5 BILLION
500 Husky- to replace snatch/landrover 1 BILLION
500 Panthers- to replace above 500 MILLION
M4 AR rifle 200,000- to replace SA80 500 MILLION
50 x20man CIED TEAMS Equiped, Trained 500 MILLION
80 BLACKHAWKS FULLY ARMORED WITH TWIN MINNI GUNS FITTED 2.2 BILION
800 MILLION LEFT COULD HAVE PAID FOR THE NEW HELTMET BODY ARMOUR VALLON METAL DETECTORS ECM AND PERSONAL KIT ISSUE so people like me section comds in infantry battalions wouldnt of had to spend up to 400 pounds on kit before deploying to iraq/afhgan.

ALL THIS KIT could have been bought 7 years ago if the euro joke fighter had of been scraped.
I am an un educated soldier and i worked the above out from my room in camp in 20 minutes, so why cant 20,000 mod staff procurement department do this? During Operation Telic/Herrick
41 soldiers have died due to poor CBA, old MK 5 Helmets 88 soldiers have died in landrovers and snatches 3 soldiers have died due to lack of medical supplies and we all know there have nt been enough helicoters in afhgan
WHATS THE POINT IN WRITING THIS NOTHING WILL CHANGE, I JUST HOPE AT LEAST 1 MEMBER OF THE MOD SEES THIS SO THEY NO THEY HELPED ARE ENEMIES KILL ARE PERSONEL ON OPS WHILE THEY WASTED HARD EANRED TAX PAYERS MONEY ON RIPOFF PROJECTS PROBEBLY WHILE THEY ENJOYED TEA PARTIES WITH ARE MASSIVE COMD CHAIN OF GENERALS THAT COMMAND NOTHING BUT AIR. ENTERTAINING DIGNITRIES TAKING MONEY AWAY FROM FRONT LINE FORCES WHICH STRUGGLE TO MAINTAIN 10,000 MEN IN AFHGANISTAN THIS THE SAME CHAIN OF COMD THAT COMDEMS THE GOVERNMENT FOR NOT PUTTING THE MONEY IN. THEY SHOULD BE CUT ITS ABOUT PROTECTING ARE COUNTRY NOT THROUGHING PARTIES, THE MOD NEED CUT I COULD REPLACE THE ENTIRE PROCUREMENT DEPARTMENT OF 20,000 AN DO A BETTER JOB.
AS FOR BAE IF THERES A BETTER DEAL SOMEWHERE ELSE TAKE IT.
ITS NOT THE BRITISH MILITARIES JOB TO KEEP UK CIVILIANS IN WORK.

x
x
September 21, 2010 9:52 am

Hello Faceless!

Feel free to spend Britain’s £9.1bn overseas aid budget too.

You are right. It isn’t that can’t we afford decent well equipped with well paid personnel. It is more that “we” choose not to do it.

It is shameful.

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
September 21, 2010 10:14 am

Faceless, welcome to the Blog.

You said: ‘WHATS THE POINT IN WRITING THIS NOTHING WILL CHANGE’

There’s a big point in writing, because this blog is read by a lot of people in the military and industry, although not all of them comment. You should understand that even politicians and ministers with all their power and influence can have only a little effect in the scheme of things. It’s only when SDSR’s come around that huge changes can be made, especially when all the money’s gone into the banks and in interest payments.

What you do get to do is vent your frustration, also politicians on the whole know little about military matters that’s why they tend to follow the party lead or listen to lobbyists. Some of them need to be educated or at least asked to justify their actions. That is why I regularly fire off letters to my MP with regard to defence matters, especially helicopters. I personally may not be able to do much but if through my MP or through this website, I can let those at the top know my opinion, and influence them only a little then the way I see it every little helps. As the advert says.

Keep shouting, if enough of us do it, one day someone may listen.

Phil Darley
September 21, 2010 11:11 am

Richard well said Sir. I do the same. I have written to my MP. My mothers MP (Gerald Howarth) and to the MoD.

You often feel like your pissing in the wind. However, people do read these blogs and as you say if enough of us keep writing about defence and can only do good albeit very very slowly.

Alan
Alan
September 21, 2010 6:03 pm

Thanks Admin, I’ve been lurking for a while and decided to chime in.