Hammond: G4S issues force private sector rethink
14 August 2012
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is rethinking his attitude to private sector procurement following a major shortage of private sector security guards at the Olympic Games and the subsequent use of military stand-ins.
Security firm G4S had been contracted to provide 10,400 security guards for the Olympic Games but fell several thousand short, leading to some 4,700 extra military personnel being deployed to make up the shortfall.
The Defence Secretary is currently considering controversial plans to part-privatise the procurement of defence equipment, converting the Defence Equipment and Support body into a government-owned, contractor-operated (GOCO) organisation. It is not clear whether the G4S incident will force a rethink of the GOCO plans , with Hammond thought to currently support privatising procurement.
In an interview with The Independent newspaper, he admitted that his background as a self-made businessman gave him a "starting prejudice" that the private sector knew best but added that the" military rescue" of the Olympics had been "quite informative".
"The G4S model says 'Here is a cost envelope within which I have to deliver an outcome and I have to do it incredibly leanly with very little resilience'," said Hammond.
"G4S were literally hiring people and expecting to deploy them three days later. They were trying to build up a management structure overnight and they placed a lot of dependence on the work force – for example getting them to schedule their own shifts by accessing an internet site.
"The military came at it from the exact opposite extreme: 'What is the job that needs to be done? OK, we'll do it. Whatever it takes we'll provide massive resourcing'. And that's why everything has operated so smoothly. When you go through these search lanes everything hums. That's because for every three people doing the work there is one watching them and there are two others watching him."
The military had told Hammond that it took four aircraft and 60 engineers to deploy one Typhoon anywhere within the UK, he said.
"Why four aircraft, I asked? Well, you say one but we always like to have two and we need a back-up aircraft just in case and we'd need the fourth just in case something went catastrophically wrong with the back-up," he said.
"Now if you asked G4S the question they'd have the aircraft and they'd probably fly it in with two blokes in case anything went wrong with it. It is a completely different ethos and way of operating."
Hammond said he was now "learning" about when it was appropriate to adopt either model.
"The application of the lean commercial approach model does have relevance in areas of the MoD but equally you can't look at a warship and say 'How can I bring a lean management model to this?' because it's doing different things with different levels of resilience that are not generally required in the private sector.
"We don't ask the military to prepare to maybe be able to do something or to have an 80 per cent chance of delivering. We ask the military to be in a position that, if we ask them to do a task, they are absolutely able to do it for us."
Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy welcomed the Defence Secretary's rethink and added that any kind of prejudice, which Hammond earlier admitted to, had "no place" in ministerial business.
"The country will be concerned that the pace of defence cuts could lead to more reliance on private contractors in the army while our forces may be less able to perform vital security tasks as they have done during the Olympics.
"The Defence Secretary should now tell us whether he will reconsider his plans to rely more on outsourcing in defence policy. Mr Hammond plans to increase use of contractors to cover army capability gaps and he has caused concern over the impact of greater outsourcing in defence procurement. His own policies could exacerbate the worries he has raised today."
HAVE YOUR SAY
14 August 2012
He clearly needs to read some military history-God help us
Ian Skinner - Enfield
14 August 2012
Let us pray that the Olympics was one of the best things to happen to the armed forces and that privatisation will not now be so popular.
Some how I doubt it though.
Daniele Mandelli - Guildford
14 August 2012
If you asked G4S the question, they'ld promise you that they'd have the Typhoon on the line, without fail. Then they'd try to hire an aircraft from a third party, at the last minute and at the cheapest possible rate, even if it didn't quite meet the specification that you'ld asked for. If they managed to turn up with their Hawker Hunter, there's a good chance that the pilot and/or ground crew wouldn't show, because G4S hadn't managed to get them cleared or hadn't sorted out the admin.
Yes, Mr Hammond. The commercial model is indeed a completely different ethos and way of operating. It's entirely geared towards lining the pockets of directors and shareholders. Just as long as that all-important aim is achieved, the quality of the output is of no concern to a private contractor. And that just doesn't cut it for defence.
Now, if you're really interested in "lean", why not take a look at how many Air Commodores, Group Captains and Wing Commanders the RAF keeps on its payroll for every deployable aircraft, and contrast it with the corresponding figure for, say, the Israeli Air Force. Then consider which is the more formidable fighting force.
Stan - York
14 August 2012
Nothing will change. It is all just self serving words. Words for the moment. He may have been a smart businessman but he is now also a politician and neither know anything about the military ethos.
dave - Wellington New Zealand
15 August 2012
Perhaps this should've been in your risk assessment before the massive cuts you've implemented and continue to implement. 30% of the MOD has already gone since your party assumed power. Foolish.
AlMiles - Bristol, UK
16 August 2012
'Hammond said he was now "learning" about when it was appropriate to adopt either model.'
Quite, Mr Hammond. Are there more entrepreneurial, commercially astute, prejudiced, militarily moronic folk like you in the party that you could now engage to drive through the cuts and idiotic reforms you are about to implement?
John Roberts - Bromyard
23 August 2012
Yet another politician who thinks "private good, public bad". Civil Servants, together with service personnel have the same ethos - job needs doing, it's "let's get on with it" and it gets done at cost. Whereas when outsourcing has happened, it's "yes it can be done, but it will cost you", as they have to satisfy their shareholders and make a profit. After the hadden-Cave report I'd have thought that the government would be looking at ways to bring work back into public ownership, for fear of any further catastrophes.
Jim McEleny - Scotland