British military procurement flawed: Report
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Last Updated: Sunday, August 23, 2009, 11:17
  
London: A report for Britain's Ministry of Defence leaked on Sunday said the MoD's procurement programme was hugely inefficient and harming Britain's ability to fight enemies like the Taliban.

The report emerged as a former army commander warned that a lack of political will in London to provide more troops and equipment for Afghanistan risked seeing British troops lose the fight there.

The draft review of the way the MoD acquires new equipment found the system was riddled with "endemic" failures, The Sunday Times newspaper reported after receiving a leaked copy of the 296-page document.

The report said the MoD's equipment programme was GBP 35 billion (USD 58 billion, EUR 40 billion) over budget, five years behind schedule, and could not be afforded in the long-term.

The report by Bernard Gray, a former adviser to defence ministers, said the scale of MoD's inefficiency was "harming our ability... to conduct difficult current operations".

"How can it be that it takes 20 years to buy a ship, or aircraft, or tank? Why does it always seem to cost at least twice what was thought? Even worse, at the end of the wait, why does it never quite seem to do what it was supposed to?" Gray wrote, according to the newspaper.

"The problems, and the sums of money involved, have almost lost their power to shock, so endemic is the issue."

Flexible enemies like the Taliban "are unlikely to wait for our sclerotic acquisition systems to catch up."

The recent spike in troop deaths in Afghanistan -- the toll stands at 206 -- has renewed debate in Britain about the country's role in the conflict, the equipment available to protect its troops and whether any progress is being achieved.

Many British troops have been killed by roadside bombs, with much public criticism directed at a perceived lack of helicopters to avoid troops travelling by land, and adequately armoured road vehicles.

The MoD said the government would be publishing the report "in due course".

Gray's review was commissioned "to ensure that we are buying equipment as efficiently as possible," an MoD spokesman said.

"This report is currently in draft format and we are working hard with him on the issues he has identified.

"We are constantly improving the procurement process which has seen us deliver 10 billion pounds of equipment to the front line over the last three years."

Meanwhile, Colonel Stuart Tootal, who led the Third Battalion, The Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan's troubled southern Helmand Province in 2006, said a lack of the proper support from London was threatening to undermine the battle against Taliban extremists.

"There is a real risk that we could lose the war in Afghanistan. If it is lost, it will not be in places like Helmand, but in the corridors of power in cities like London and Washington," he wrote in the Sunday Mirror newspaper.

"Counter-insurgency conflicts are rarely lost by the fighting troops, but in the arena of domestic public opinion when there is a lack of the political will to make the right commitment to see them through.”

"There is an opportunity to build towards success. But this will require additional troops and equipment to secure more areas for development and prevent insurgents from returning.”

"It will take statesmanship to put extra troops, helicopters, equipment and proper development programmes in place, but the benefits are huge."

British losses have increased sharply since the start of July when elements of Britain's 9,150-strong force joined with Afghan counterparts to launch an operation against Taliban insurgents in Helmand.

Bureau Report


First Published: Sunday, August 23, 2009, 11:17


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