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"Broken" MoD Procurement "wasting billions"

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"Broken" MoD Procurement "wasting billions"

Old 3rd Nov 2021, 07:56
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"Broken" MoD Procurement "wasting billions"

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/...ystem-mps-warn

https://www.ft.com/content/98b5e193-...8-cc98c20542ac
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 08:21
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this isn't news - it's a constant issue that we kick around on here year after year
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 09:08
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The paper referenced.

https://publications.parliament.uk/p...5/summary.html

Improving the performance of major defence equipment contracts

…..In 13 of the 20 programmes examined by the NAO, our armed forces must tolerate cumulative forecast net delays of 254 months—or 21 years—for equipment entering service against initial expectations.

The Department talked about the systemic challenges and complexities in defence equipment acquisition. It told us that the majority of the delays resulted from the A400M, Warrior and Marshall programmes, while the position on other programmes is mixed. However, three programmes reported forecast delays of over two years, including Crowsnest which is a key enabler for the Department’s Carrier Strike capability.

The NAO report also details a number of examples where the Department or its suppliers failed to adequately appreciate the degree of technical complexity involved in delivering the capabilities. These examples include the Warrior armoured vehicle upgrade, the Ajax armoured vehicle (outlined below), A400M transport aircraft, Marshall air traffic management system, Spearfish torpedo upgrade, Morpheus and the Crowsnest radar system….

Senior Responsible Owners

23. Senior responsible owners (SROs) have responsibility for ensuring a programme meets its objectives. SROs oversee governance of programmes and steer them through key decision points, assisted by a delivery team. The NAO’s analysis showed that the median time in post for an SRO was 22 months, against median programme length of 77 months, reflecting the career path requirements of the senior officers who fill most SRO roles.

A recent departmental survey found that many SROs did not feel empowered to carry out their roles, while some felt least competent in areas important to the effective management of suppliers.54 We asked the Department what it is doing to ensure that the role of SRO becomes an important part of the CV for military officers. The Department claims it has a good record of putting SROs through Major Projects Leadership Academy training, but some of its own survey respondents reported difficulty in accessing it.

The Department was non-committal on the actions it plans to take, but said that it is looking at personnel policy to ensure project and programme delivery are recognised as military trades in their own right. It also aspires to ensure that SROs spend at least 50% of their time on programmes and said it has experience of some personnel staying on programmes for longer than a traditional military appointment (‘double touring’).

We also asked whether, for military SROs, the Department had thought about moving towards a model whereby the SRO stays in post throughout the term of a particular contract, and promotion is dependent on the successful delivery of that contract. The Department said it had experience of “double-touring” people to get longer terms in office, and that there were examples where it would be happy to see military SROs promoted ‘in-role’ as a programme progressed.

It said that it was having a “range of conversations about unified career management and what that might mean” but would need to come back to us on linking performance to promotion….
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 09:20
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Well RW MFTS lasted 3 years before they started throwing millions more at it as the initial contract wasn't hitting the spot.

Is this a problem of VSOs selected on their ability to get their syndicate across the shark infested custard using planks and barrels at 19 years of age, making multi billion pound contract agreements with little business acumen or training? Or maybe the problem is with their advisory panels, a culture of afraid to say no perhaps? Maybe even the 2 years and gone posting cycles leaving an A4 page or two of handover notes for the next incumbent who has come from a completely different AOR?
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 11:34
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'trim it out'. I'd suggest your last point is very relevant. A two year duty cycle is far too short in the modern world and needs addressing., especially at these senior levels. Actually, given the small size and structure of the RAF today, I suspect the two year tour idea should be altered in favour of a significantly longer cycle.

I suspect that your first point is also relevant' are VSOs given enough training in project management? Really, this is where the senior engineers should be. Just because someone was good at flying and leading a unit, he/she will not necessarily have developed the skills or interests to direct an expensive long term project well. Not without lots of extra training & experience. The senior operational folk can proved worthwhile advice from their backgrounds.

Unfortunately the Civil Service has a poor record in project management too; they really don't understand money or scope definition and contract specification well. .
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 11:48
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Wasn't like this in the 80s. Oh, wait...

CG
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 12:44
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My company bid for various sections a multi-disciplinary framework contract with MoD a few years ago - we'd been providing most lots we bid for for years. We didn't expect to get everything we targeted but were staggered not to be one of the successful suppliers for a particular aspect - so were the people who supervised the contracts for that aspect and who had no part in the bid selection process. I can't recall the specifics but there had been some serious errors in marking the bids so the entire process was re-run. Second time lucky for us on the aspect we had expected. I know it cost us umpteen man hours lost to re-bid even though most of the donkey work had been done already; what did it cost the tax payer? Not a lot in the grand scheme of things but how often does this stuff happen?
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 12:46
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Biscuit

I’m genuinely interested in your statement that it should be senior engineers making the decisions and running projects.

If pilots and civil servants (by your own admission) are no good at it, what would make an engineer so much better?

This might sound like I’m being precious but I’m curious.

The projects the report is talking about are things such as F35, Typhoon, T45, QNLZ, Ajax etc.

How would a military engineer be any better?

I know it’s currently fashionable to bad mouth the aircrew fraternity and attempt to challenge their hegemony at any opportunity, but to state that engineers could do a better job is going to take a bit of explaining!

I’m all ears.

BV
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 12:54
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I think you'll find that the civil servants involved in procurement projects are generally paid up members of the Association of Project Management (APM) and as such are required to evidence continuous professional development. The problem occurs with the VSO revolving door churning out new incumbents every 24 months. The new kid on the block barely gets up to speed before the door revolves again. Those same VSO's are generally not members of the APM but rather make decisions behind closed doors based on service loyalty and dare I say it.... under the table agendas and wish lists.
It's easy to hit the civil service with all the procurement problems, particularly where the public image is that of bowler hatted Sir Humphreys. The problem rests with the constantly changing VSO's, each with their own agenda and no commercial nous, but each capable of overruling decisions made by professional project managers employed within the Civil Service.


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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 13:44
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Own worst enemy

So - Leonardo have been pushing an O&G machine painted black and calling it a mil-spec helicopter - that has yet to start out on the military specification journey and only meets 50% of KURs required by Army. The price will be eye-watering for a basic airframe and long-term costs will no doubt be significantly higher and designed to extract the pi55.
Political blackmail raises its ugly head and we end up ordering brand new helicopters for a ‘stop-gap’ measure that will be over before they are up-to-speed - with the promise of an overseas company pumping billions into SW of England which, if previous history repeats itself, will never arrive.
all the while there is the option of purchasing updated ‘pre-loved’ alternative that is battle proven, out performs the new guys, half the price and can be produced in UK - and we still wonder why procurement is in a state??
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 13:56
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The report is barely worth the paper it is written on.

Take Crowsnest. Why did they not ask why its predecessor was delivered ahead of time, under cost, and to an infinitely better spec than the RN asked for - so why was that procurement model not used again on this lesser programme?

Was the committee told that the benchmark set by the predecessor was deemed an 'embarrassment to the department' (because it set the bar too high), and the above suggestion dismissed at 2/3/4 Star, PUS, and ministerial levels?
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 14:07
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Originally Posted by EESDL View Post
So - Leonardo have been pushing an O&G machine painted black and calling it a mil-spec helicopter - that has yet to start out on the military specification journey and only meets 50% of KURs required by Army. The price will be eye-watering for a basic airframe and long-term costs will no doubt be significantly higher and designed to extract the pi55.
Political blackmail raises its ugly head and we end up ordering brand new helicopters for a ‘stop-gap’ measure that will be over before they are up-to-speed - with the promise of an overseas company pumping billions into SW of England which, if previous history repeats itself, will never arrive.
all the while there is the option of purchasing updated ‘pre-loved’ alternative that is battle proven, out performs the new guys, half the price and can be produced in UK - and we still wonder why procurement is in a state??
The Australian Black Hawks (assuming those are the "pre loved" helicopters you're referring to) won't make it through to the arrival of whatever NGRC/FVL happens to be in the 2040 timeframe anymore than the current Pumas will.

The whole point of NMH is to bridge that gap , and so a 'new' type is needed. Better to adapt an already existing design (be it the AW149 or H175) with UK kit (and so preserve/create UK jobs) than to reinvent the wheel by designing from scratch an entirely new type.

Either that or we gap the medium lift helicopter capability.
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 14:20
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Originally Posted by tucumseh View Post
Take Crowsnest. Why did they not ask why its predecessor was delivered ahead of time, under cost, and to an infinitely better spec than the RN asked for - so why was that procurement model not used again on this lesser programme?
Everyone on the previous project team was probably posted by then and lessons identified lost into the wider Fleet/civilian sector

On the subject of project management, not sure what the CTW is pushing these days but LinkedIn provides some amusement when I see former colleagues calling themselves "PM"s after completing APMP online and listing previous "projects" like organising a function or force development event in their portfolio.
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 14:44
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Originally Posted by Bob Viking View Post
I’m genuinely interested in your statement that it should be senior engineers making the decisions and running projects.

If pilots and civil servants (by your own admission) are no good at it, what would make an engineer so much better?

This might sound like I’m being precious but I’m curious.

The projects the report is talking about are things such as F35, Typhoon, T45, QNLZ, Ajax etc.

How would a military engineer be any better?

I know it’s currently fashionable to bad mouth the aircrew fraternity and attempt to challenge their hegemony at any opportunity, but to state that engineers could do a better job is going to take a bit of explaining!

I’m all ears.

BV
It's primarily because in an engineering project that involves design and build of engineering artefacts, engineers tend to have a better idea of what, when and where technical risks may arise in a programme - and what may be required to mitigate them. It's not a slur on the operators - quite possible that many "military engineers" will have little or no experience in design and build (as opposed to maintain and support, which are different things) and would be equally unsuitable. Programme and commercial risks are also sometimes best left away from engineers as well! Which is why good Engineering Project Management is one of the most difficult skills to accrue and involves gaining enough scars to know when you're about to get into difficulty, in time to avoid it.

You wouldn't ask an engineer how to employ/operate a system in combat. Why would you ask an operator how to engineer a system in a design/production environment?

It's primarily this.

Originally Posted by ORAC View Post

Senior Responsible Owners

23. Senior responsible owners (SROs) have responsibility for ensuring a programme meets its objectives. SROs oversee governance of programmes and steer them through key decision points, assisted by a delivery team. The NAO’s analysis showed that the median time in post for an SRO was 22 months, against median programme length of 77 months, reflecting the career path requirements of the senior officers who fill most SRO roles.

A recent departmental survey found that many SROs did not feel empowered to carry out their roles, while some felt least competent in areas important to the effective management of suppliers.54 We asked the Department what it is doing to ensure that the role of SRO becomes an important part of the CV for military officers. The Department claims it has a good record of putting SROs through Major Projects Leadership Academy training, but some of its own survey respondents reported difficulty in accessing it.
The bit in bold refers to the inability to vary finances year by year - which we all know leads to completely nugatory reprogramming of funds in year to hit control totals, while slipping projects to meet the annual spend profile. None of which SRO are able to affect (as far as I'm aware).

Last edited by Not_a_boffin; 3rd Nov 2021 at 14:56.
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 14:52
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APMP/project management/time/cost/spec as a deliverable, should be overseen by a competent and capable, trained individual who has ACCOUNTABILITY throughout the cycle. Some aspects of RESPONSIBILITY can, and must be delegated to Team Leaders, to manage. The difference I was always taught, was that Responsibility may be delegated, Accountability cannot.
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 16:06
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Originally Posted by trim it out View Post
Everyone on the previous project team was probably posted by then and lessons identified lost into the wider Fleet/civilian sector

On the subject of project management, not sure what the CTW is pushing these days but LinkedIn provides some amusement when I see former colleagues calling themselves "PM"s after completing APMP online and listing previous "projects" like organising a function or force development event in their portfolio.
TIO

Worse. They were told, at interview, that their experience on AEW Mk7 was completely irrelevant to (at the time) FOAEW and then MASC.

Related to your second excellent point, they were also told that having managed 125 projects or programmes, in every phase, across Air, Land and Sea, and all to at least time, cost and performance, was 'inexperienced'. It is unclear how many in MoD today (or even then), at any grade or rank, meet that criteria.
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 17:18
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NaB is on the money. Literally: the fundamental problem is the mismatch between aspiration and resource. When the effects of international and industrial strategies (or political interference, if you prefer) are added, the SROs are effectively reduced to managing failure in either cost, time or performance amidst undeliverable constraints handed them by the ministry. Programmes hardly ever get cut entirely thanks to the power of industrial lobbying. And if it ever looks like a programme is doing well, its resource gets taken away, either to bail out failing programmes or to increase the overall Departmental aspiration yet further. Who could blame SROs for wanting out of such a toxic mess? Frankly I'm surprised the average is as long as 22 months.
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 17:29
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Thank you 'Not_a_Boffin', that answer to 'Bob Viking' nicely encapsulates my thoughts - arguably, better than I'd have expressed them.

That later part of your answer is, I think, a major issue. To be fair to (some) civil servants, that lack of real control of variation of finances also concerns many of them; the impression I have is that the Treasury has a very limited and restricted view of finance, which inhibits a lot of things.

'Bob Viking'; I was not intending to cast aspersions at aircrew, junior or senior. I know, like and admire the flying skills of quite a few of those, both currently serving and retired. It was simply that running a major project is not, typically, the same as running an operational unit. Quite different challenges, which may not necessarily be readily realised, nor the necessary skills assimilated. (It may also not be a cost effective way of using the experience and skills of those officers! )

Both 'reds and greens' and 'Easy Street' make darn good points. Ideally a capable competent individual should oversee the whole thing, from start to finish. The ultimate 'leadership' role may be held elsewhere, but unless sufficient authority is delegated to permit continuous adequate resources to be maintained, it's a poisoned chalice. Needs clear authorisation backed up at the highest (political?) level and a very strong character!
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 17:56
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There are some excellent "subject matter experts" present and correct on this thread, and I would not dream of wading in with my miniscule subject knowledge in their area of expertise....however!

I know what I saw and I know what I heard and my memory is crystal. So you can take this to the bank.

I flew my entire RAF career in in an aircraft at the heart of not one, but two monumental procurement SNAFUs. The first one I was mere bystander...I'll not pointificate on it, but I'm fairly sure the resulting NAO report was blunt and led to a review of MOD procurement...other's will know more and can illuminate.

Humour inject...I recall at the time (in my native "knocker" wit) asking a VSO if Nimrod AEW stood for, "Nimrod, Airborne Elephant, White!)

On the second Nimrod SNAFU I was no bystander. And I am well aware that programme has it loyal supporters here (to this day). But nobody should ever be under any illusion that there were not plenty of serving aircrew of all categories, and heaps of engineers too, that called it out at the time (back then it was Nimrod 2000...lol). The airframe was glaringly deficient in any number of ways (internal capacity was way too small for starters) and there is absolutley **** all hindisght here...plenty of us predicted it would be a SNAFU from the get go and some of us...yep yours truly...had to do the soft shoe shuffle on the Staish's rug for expressing our views too forcibly.

When you make a dumb as **** decision on day one, the rest of it don't matter too much, the tax payers gonna pay.

I could give you more, but then I'd be ranting. What is written above is not a rant.

It's history.
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Old 3rd Nov 2021, 17:58
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Biscuit

I am almost certainly not au fait enough with the process but I’m still not getting it.

If we take the A400 programme for instance where does either a senior RAF engineering officer or pilot get involved anyway? And how would one be deemed to be better than the other?

The RAF guys don’t build or design it. They just state the requirements and oversee the entry to service surely?

When we are talking about this, how is the engineer better suited?

I’m sure I’m missing some fundamental details but I’m happy to be educated.

BV
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