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smart procurement


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- smart procurement
- working together
- preservation order
- arabian connection
- conversion a faded ideal
- breaking the silence


When the National Health Service does it, it’s called ‘shroud waving’ but the Ministry of Defence has to be a little more circumspect.

In advance of the Chancellor’s Budget announcements, government departments, by drawing attention to their shortcomings seek, tharough media trumpeting, to secure extra funds. In the case of the health service such process, while disquieting for those in imminent need of medical attention, can easily be supported. After all we would all like to be looked after in the best possible way and if more resources help so be it.

In the case of the MOD this is (or should be) more complicated. The stories of incompetence that have been publicised, probably surprise even those who don’t think much of the military’s competence. We’ll pass over the £3 billion cost due to delays in production and smile at the Army’s useless communications system. In heritage mode Britain glows with pride at its code breaking accomplishment: Bletchley Park where WW2 code breaking was done and German military communication intercepted is being turned into a visitors centre. But in Kosova the British Army (the best - as it now likes to call itself) used communications equipment that virtually any Serbian could listen to and did. No need for complicated code breaking if you want to know what the British Army is doing.

Clearly not wanting to be accused of learning from experience the RAF’s most frequently used weapon in Kosova was the BL755 cluster bomb. A bomb which the MOD admitted after the Gulf War was not a credible weapon against modern battle tanks. Not being able to destroy tanks the RAF had a go at trucks though it did not manage to get many of those either. Instead because of the bomb’s failure rate British forces have been clearing up several thousand unexploded cluster bomb munitions since the end of the bombing. Unexploded cluster bombs have killed two British soldiers and maimed a number of Kosovan civilians. The RAF would have liked a replacement for the cluster bomb and did expect one ten years ago. Codenamed Brimstone, this ‘hoped for’ air-launched anti-armour weapon is still some way from being available.

The recent National Audit office report notes that delays can result in hardware being ineffective by the time it comes into service. We may quibble with the language - ineffective weapons are surely the best - and wonder at what ‘service’ they perform but this surely is good news. It proves, does it not, that all in all the British armed forces are pretty useless and have been so for a long time. Given that this is a well known fact amongst those that know about such things and the fact that Britain has not been invaded is it not time to scrap them altogether as surplus to requirement.The MOD has been desperately trying to put its house in order and Lady Symonds, the defence procurement minister, took some comfort from the audit report’s support for the ministry’s new ‘smart procurement’ but how smart can it be?

So it’s a little more complicated than that but au fond as the French would say that’s what it amounts to. The French also want a Euro army since it has now become clear to almost everybody that European armed forces can’t fight a war without the Americans and haven’t been able to do so since WW1. To want to disengage from the American militarism would be laudable but wanting to be able to ‘go it alone’ is more disturbing.



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