Defence Committee publish equipment report

26 February 2009

The failure of the MoD to update the UK’s Defence Industrial Strategy has been condemned by the House of Commons Defence Select Committee in its report, released today, into Defence Equipment

The report argues that without an updated strategy there is a risk that industry will not be able to provide for the future requirements of UK Forces.

Past evidence taken from the MoD indicated that an updated version of the Defence Industrial Strategy was expected in December 2007, but the MoD met neither this deadline, nor the next deadline of spring 2008.

The Chairman of the Committee, Rt Hon James Arbuthnot, said:

"We find it astonishing that, when giving evidence to the Committee, the new Minister for Defence Equipment and Support was ‘open-minded’ as to whether it made sense to have an updated version of the DIS. We condemn the failure to publish an updated version of the DIS and consider that its continuing absence increases the risk that the UK Defence Industrial Base will not be able to meet the future requirements of our Armed Forces."

The Committee has continued its close interest in the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) programme and has labelled it a "fiasco". The Committee has found it "extraordinary" that, some seven months after announcing General Dynamics UK as the provisional preferred bidder for the FRES Utility Vehicle, the MoD has announced that priority is now to be given to the FRES Scout Vehicle.

Commenting on the FRES programme, Mr Arbuthnot said:

"Whilst we recognise that the MoD’s equipment requirements need to reflect changing threats, that is no excuse for the MoD’s behaviour in the FRES programme; they have wasted their and industry’s time and money. The FRES Utility Vehicle programme was, from the outset, poorly conceived and managed."

The UK’s future military capability depends on the investment made today in Research and Development. The report says the reduction in the amount spent on defence research has been short-sighted.

The Committee argues in favour of protecting investment into R&D: "If the UK is to play a meaningful role in the world in the future, sufficient funding for defence research needs to be ring-fenced. The MoD must recognise the very high priority of research and reverse the cut in research spending; if not, the role which our Armed Forces can play in the future risks being substantially diminished."

The report also considers what appears to be a worsening situation in the airbridge carrying troops and materiel between UK and the operational theatres. The Committee was concerned to learn last year that the A400M transport aircraft programme had been delayed by 15 months, requiring an extension of the ageing Hercules C-130K aircraft fleet.

Mr Arbuthnot commented:

"It is extremely serious that the A400M transport aircraft programme is now running two years late and further delays cannot be ruled out. The Government must set out its most up-to-date thinking on the options available and say whether it considers that there is a real risk that the entire A400M project might be so delayed that abandonment would be preferable."

The Committee is concerned that the MoD appears to have made little progress with regard to its examination of the impact of current operations on equipment. The MoD does not have information on the cost of recuperating equipment returning from current operations nor on the impact of those costs on other areas of its budget.

Image: PA Photos

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