The Armed Forces are facing combined delays of more than 20 years in the introduction of new technologies and critical equipment, a brutal new report has warned.
According to the National Audit Office (NAO), contracts are being hampered by a combination of underperforming suppliers and the Ministry of Defence (MoD)’s lack of project management skills.
It added that the MoD’s “short-term” financial planning around the management of its overall equipment portfolio was also to blame.
“A focus on short-term cost savings mean suppliers lose skills and are reluctant to take on risk when contracts are let”, the report found.
Of the 20 major equipment programmes that the report examined, 13 are forecasting delays of a total of 254 months.
Across the programmes, which have a combined cost of £120bn, the MoD “also does not rigorously review whether it is continuing to secure value for money from the programmes as costs and schedules change”, it added.
Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said: “Too often, the MoD doesn’t deliver its major equipment contracts as planned due to a combination of supplier underperformance, a failure of the MoD and suppliers to get to grips with the technical complexity of projects, and short-term solutions to affordability problems.
“To ensure defence contracts deliver value to taxpayers, the MoD must follow through on its efforts to embed good practice in its relationship with suppliers.
“Strong leadership and skilled staff are needed to translate good intentions into results that deliver real benefits for the armed forces and value to taxpayers.”
The most delayed projects were the RAF’s A400M transport aircraft and the Warrior armoured vehicle upgrade, which was scrapped in the recent defence review. The fifth Astute class nuclear submarine is also expected to be 25 months late.
An MoD spokesman said: “We are responsible for delivering a huge range of complex equipment programmes. Aided by our £24bn spending settlement, we remain committed to delivering value for money through new streamlined processes and developing our industry contracts with a focus on delivery.”