20 Oct 2010

A revolving door that knows few bounds

I ran into a seasoned Defence Analyst last night. He told me two completely shocking things. Firstly that when it comes to military procurement, Israel spends £9 billion a year and administers its purchases with 400 people. Britain spends £10 billion annually on procurement and has a staff of 23,700 to do it.

The Secretary of State for Defence is getting rid of 25,000 jobs at the MOD. But when I pressed him last night on Channel 4 News, there was no clear sense that the vast majority of those redundancies will be in procurement. Indeed my analyst told me that the main MOD headquarters will bear the brunt.

There are only three seriously big UK defence contractors and they have had successive governments by the short and curlies. The notorious revolving door from the MOD and the services into the Defence industries continues to revolve despite efforts to tighten it up.

The second thing my analyst told me was that for all significant procurement contracts no fewer that 66 different civil servants, generals, and the rest have to apply their signatures. Recently, he added, that number has gone up to 83.

Finally I continued to press the Government to reveal precisely who was responsible for the contract to buy two ‘inappropriate’ aircraft carriers. Carriers that could not facilitate planes belonging to our closest allies and whose own planes would arrive more than five years after the boats were commissioned. There’s a curious reluctance to find out, let alone tell us whose fingerprints are on the documents.

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