Civilianising the Army & Contractors

Discussion in 'Royal Signals' started by Smoking_Sigs, Oct 12, 2005.

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  1. For years now the powers that be have been going on about shrinking the army and cutbacks. Alot of this has been done by civilianising jobs and contractorising out work!

    This we know does not work but why do they still believe that it does??

    Have you tried to get a civi out of bed at 2 in the morning and getting them to stay out until the fault has been cleared!

    Even when I was at Land in the mid 90's and had to call out BT they would only come out when they saw fit, put the kit into a test and leave it for an hour! BUT they would'nt stay for the hour - we had to call them back after an hour and they would come out again (receiving another callout fee).

    Now on Ops I see things have got worst!! The contracts have been written by someone up high who does not have a clue what is really required and therefore the contract gets written badly with really vaige statements! To make matters worst when the contractor does not hold up their end (if you can tell what that is) they don't get punished!!

    The MOD must seem like easy pickings to civi street.

    I have many more examples but was wondering on general opinions.
  2. As always it comes down to money. All to often it is difficult to quantify on paper the benefits you mention (such as rapid response 24hrs a day etc). the people that make these decisions all to often are just looking at bits of paper that outline costs and benefits. In the cold light of day, to some paper pushing guy up high, if you were to say "well we can respond at 2 AM in the morning for no additonal cost", he then weighs that up and thinks, "OK so the contractors wont respond until 8am" (for example) "but hey, I am saving 20 Million here, is 6 hours such an issue?" To him its probably a no brainer, question, 20 Mill wins hands down. As always though to the guys on the ground, when your the ones without said service/equipment for 6 hours, its a bsatard. On the cost side of life, what a lot of people tend to forget is the hidden costs that are saved by contractorising. There have been mentions on here on different threads about how much your pension is worth (usually in threads about divorce sadly). For each serviceman got rid of, not only is it their salary, but their pension benefits you dont have to pay any more. Less servicemen means less need for support services/quarters/food etc, room for even more savings.
    In amongst all that money that can potentially be saved, the quality of the service provided by the green, sadly usually takes a back seat.
    With regard to contracts, it is something that the MOD are waking up to very slowly. Contracts shouldn't and don't deal in vague concepts. Every thing should be tied down. Unfortunately our top brass are used to saying to people below them "just do it" and it gets done, without the need to specify exact requirements. A course I went on last year dealt with requirements from an IT perspective. An example was given of the requirements issued to a contractor for a phone system in theatre. Apparently the requirement document was about 50 pages. Another example was given of a similar project from one civillian company to another, the requirements document was 3 volumes, encompassing over 1500 pages. Thats why we get shafted.
    My thoughts on the matter anyway, ironic really considering I am now a contractor doing the same job I was in when serving, for double the salary :) (oh, and pension of course)

    Edited to try and correct my crap spelling (probably failed again)
  3. Is this due to a lack of experience in the MOD in dealing with industry? The people who negotiate contracts for industry do it on a regular basis and are evaluated by how well they do it. Generally, the very best people are attracted to working in private industry rather than the Government and are rewarded well for their work. I doubt the MOD people can say the same or have a similar motivation. From conversations with my friends in various engineering industries, the MOD is a good client in that it pays well but it does not know how to deal with businesses. My feeling is that the MOD is a small fish playing with sharks and the sharks know it. What we need are people with more savvy and commercial experience working with people who understand the working environment down to the lowest level to get these contracts right.
  4. The major factor here is the total lack of Subject matter experts (the guy who knows the capability, the kit the way it functions and the way it is employed) directly involved in the project or contract process.

    The belief that senior officers who have done a 2 day course on CIS followed by a 2 day visit on site (in which they spent most time in the Mess getting entertained) have the knowledge to make decisions that affect capability and delivery is a recipe for disaster.

    They often forget to apply both Military and civilian standards into the contract too leaving the contractor rubbing his hands as he employs a monkey to do the job. Any complaints and its "well you never specified BSEN 50174 and I have no sight of JSP 440" etc

    On paper the savings are massive but often in reality it is a false economy as units have to work outside the box procuring stores and manpower in a black market fashion just to keep things tickateeboo!

    I have seen operational budgets run into an incredible deficit becuase of the poor implementation of commercialisation, the failure to realise future costs. However the bugger to blame is probably long retired sat on the board looking at the FTSE and rubbing hands!!

    Back to the rubber bands and black nasty.... "whats that FoS you want a gigabyte backbone, hang on let me brasso the don10 again"
  5. My employer took on an ex-Capt to deal with the military and boy did he shaft the system. xMS would ask for something and I'd quote a certain amount of time to do the job but also ask several questions like what do they really want. The ex-Capt would then ring fence us (via a contract) around the points I made and double my quote, a director would double the quote again ... even thou I'd do a 'Scotty' and overestimate in the first place.

    His replacement has no experience of military but I think he is doing very well, although I'm not sure I should tell him about my idea to add an ARRSE link to the software :twisted:
  6. Recently I reported a fault on my civvie phone line. I was told it would take approx. a week to fix.
    So I got on the dog'n'bone to the company, explained my problem and how to solve it. I was told I was "low priority".
    I then had the pleasure of educating the call centre operater (based in India of course) as to who was the customer and payed the bills. But still they were sorry but it was still "low priority".
    After counting to 10 very slowly I asked what compensation I would be getting for the inconvenience.
    Fault sorted in 3hrs.

    Military equip. is made and provided by the lowest bidder, and they are making a large profit.

    If equipment doesn't work we fix/modify it so it does. If it was a T.V. we'd take it back to the shop and ask for the cash back!!!!

    The military is being ripped off because those who sign the cheques don't understand we are the CUSTOMER.
  7. Interesting post Flasher (will we be meeting on Saturday, I wonder...?).

    In the days of cost plus there were obscene profits to be made from the MoD gravy train by our friends in Macaronis and British Wasteofspace.

    I understand that recently several large MoD projects have invoked such severe contractual penalties due to over-runs and things not doing what they were contracted to do, that the companies involved have nearly walked away as so not to take a massive loss and upset their shareholders. Whilst that seems OK from our point of view - it leaves the MoD in the mess of having to pick up the pieces and get the project back on track.

    The ideal would be sensible goal and requirements setting up front with enough wiggle room on the contract that the contractor gets a fair return, the customer gets what they want, on time and on spec and the taxpayer gets a fair deal.
    When you find out how to do that - please drop me a line!
  8. Had a look through a requirements spec for a largish Defence I(C)S project.

    To be honest I was suprised how much they'd put in, but not in a good sense. They'd looked at their organisation and documented everywhere in the organisation where IT could be used. So at one extreme it contained requirements for information gathering on the frontline and at the other asking for a stock management system for a cleaner in 9-5 office (these aren't exactly true as I'm trying to be vague).

    The potential contractors then spent months working out why they wanted this system, probably going over the same information that led to the req spec. It probably would have been wiser to ask an outside agency to have done a Systems Analysis in the first place.
  9. Having spent a large chunk of my life working in the UK defence industry I offer the following as some reasons why we are where we are:

    Look round the table when contracts are being discussed.
    Whose representatives earn more (often a lot more) ? Industry.
    Who fields the biggest team ? Industry.
    Who gets sacked if they mess it up. Industry.
    Who lets military staff with no previous commercial experience represent them ? The MoD.

    Guess who ends up on top contractually. Industry. A causal link possibly ? - I think so. But the MoD will die in a ditch to convince you that using fewer poorly paid staff with some military chaps who get posted as soon as they start to get a handle on things and who have no comeback if they make a poor job of it is working. I mean it must do, one day.

    And requirements, don't get me started. Until the MoD learn that requirements engineering requires more then a copy of MS word and a random selection of acronyms and buzzwords they will continue to get something that doesn't do the job. They will however get exactly what they asked for.

    Finally, if your contractor finds it better to walk away from the job than continue bite the bullet and realise you're a lousy customer. Or grow a pair and call their bluff.
  10. Its not just the lack of commercial experience, its the lack of ICS experience amongst the officers! The organisation(s) we supply/support has zilch ICS people (uses other corps if needed e.g. RLC), at times we've been lucky and found the odd geek. Working with RAF was easier as they were getting help from Comms Officers (at higher organisational levels).