I instinctively say no. Privatisation ends up costing even more. Also, just what parts of DES are we talking about?
DES has other important assets such as ISS, DSDA,DFG,DMG to name but a few, no way should those assets which directly support the forces be privatised!
This is going down the same road as has happened for the last few decades to many parts of the MoD. Look what happened to many support services for RAF stations? What happens when the assets need to deploy and they are all civilian?
If DES and other departments of MoD are staffed by many incompetent staff then will just making DES GOCO improve things?
Government needs to stop interfering with programmes, thus increasing costs, and buy a mixture of home built and off the shelf to give the forces more affordable kit, to get a balance of quality and quantity.
And staff who happily pay £27 for a light bulb need to be named and shamed in front of the nation. There is where your problem lies.
Daniele Mandelli - Guildford
I suggest that the problem lies equally (at least) with the people who charge £27 for a light bulb, and who are now going to be given power of attorney over the DE&S bank account so they can buy their own overpriced products from themselves. It's not hard to see why no other country in the world (with the possible exception of the odd banana republic) has elected to go down this path.
Stan - York
It's about time we stopped using private companies for every aspect of our lives. The costs have to be higher to keep shareholders happy. We need more In House projects across the board. Defence is just one case.
Ian R - Durham
Quote : And staff who happily pay £27 for a light bulb need to be named and shamed in front of the nation. There is where your problem lies.
Daniele Mandelli - Guildford
Quite right. A reality check needs to be added to the procedure. I've seen some of these acts of stupidity first hand. There's just not enough common sense around these days. It's really hard discussing these issues with people who just don't understand what you're getting at.
Ian R - Durham
Wholesale privatisation is not a sensible solution to the problems that have long troubled the DES.
Having worked in Defence Industry I am well aware of what motivates private sector organisations. The MOD has also wasted millions on £800-£1000 a day consultants who rarely deliver the goods.
However setting up the DES as a agency with a specific business mandate would provide it with a level of independence. This would reduce the likelihood that it would be subject to the baleful influence of politicians from all parties.
Its focus and the way its performance would be solely measured on its ability to acquire and sustain defence equipment within a defined budget.
It would also help bring about the change in culture from its current Sir Humphrey mentality to that of a commercially disciplined customer focused organisation that is needed to reform the DES.
Ian Mitchell - England
The MoD needs to run its own procurement, however closer attention needs to be paid to serving officers who work on the project teams, that end up leaving the armed forces and working for these companies.
Defence companies should be more open with pricing, I now have to show all of my quotes to MoD Commercial (DE&S) and explain why there are price increases to any equipment I purchase for them, its a pain but at least the people I deal with know that I am trying to get them the best deal possible.
Rob - Telford
After decades spent looking at this issue from within the Services, scientific civil service and, now, in industry, I have come to the conclusion of an emphatic but qualified yes. Qualified in that we still need MOD, the civil service and military - but not in the same roles and functions.
Let me add as a precursor, there's little wrong with the people now involved as such: no one comes to work to do a bad job and everyone wants to be part of a success. But it's clear we are not getting enough success.
I'm not convinced the civil service is now equipped to do the job it should be doing in managing procurement. We lost a lot when the old research establishments were disestablished and sold off. DSTL is too small.
As for the Services, it is the very qualities in our people that make them so successful and respected in battle that detracts from their suitability for managing delivery programmes. (I'm not anticipating huge compliments from servicemen on this point). If there isn't an enemy to fight, then they'll fight among themselves: very nicely, articulately and elegantly - but fight they will. That takes time, adds risk and costs money.
Procurement is a commercial operation, not a military exercise and is therefore ill suited to internecine peacetime warfare. That's where it is going wrong, and has gone wrong, for many years. All too often programme requirements and issues turn into a fight between separate turf empires instead of a balanced commercial problem resolution based on dispassionate assessment of risk, time and cost. How many times I have heard sensible proposals from commercial companies only to hear something like 'that's not the way we do things' or 'it isn't in line with present policy' or 'some other such lame excuse.
No commercial programme manager can afford to become emotionally involved: they are commissioned to find a path through uncertainty within a defined budget and cost, and lead everyone to the delivery gate. And they usually will stay for a very long time to see the thing through, too and be accountable for the end product's compliance with requirements. When last did someone in MOD see a programme through to the end, and be accountable for it?
If we are to set the right roles for everyone, it should be along these lines, give or take a bit:
- Servicemen setting requirements and accepting systems to service (no one better - don't for heaven's sake let commercial people do this!).
- Commercial management of delivery (get the servicemen out of the delivery streams and keep them out!).
- Then ensure the MOD's acquisition organisation is a thin layer, slimmed down to something like commercial management, contract management, legal, treasury function and performance monitors.
What will make it work - or not - is whether the Services then get their requirements right; if the programme managers manage their interdependencies and strike good deals for compliant delivery; and if MOD comes up with the money and contracts in time.
Bottom line: if the IT industry can conduct ground-breaking research and turn it into new products and get them to market in an 18 month time-frame under commercial programme management, why can't we procure lumps of metal with IT-driven avionics in a similar time-scale? That's the challenge: OK, I'd accept a military 3 - 5 year time frame but at present we're lucky to get in within a 10 year frame.
Example if proof were needed. The US has procured - with extensive commercial programme management - a 100,000 tonne carrier from requirements, keel laying, build and fit-out to service in 6 years. We haven't got a single 60,000 tonne QE in service in an embarrassingly longer time frame at an even more embarrassingly high projected budgetary cost under present MOD regime.
It can't go on as it is now and can't be worse with truly commercial programme management.
GlosMikeP - Malvern
Privatisation offers the following options
What DES currently has for more money
More for even more money and
Less for the same money
Experience has shown that private companies rarely deliver greater efficiency and are driven by a need to make profits.
N Clarke - Frome, UK