Fix the system first

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Richard_North, Nov 26, 2007.

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  1. Lewis Page thinks the Armed Forces should not get any more money ... yet. He is interviewed on the Today programme. Transcript is too long to post on a forum but can be found here.

    For the record, I agree with him. He says, "Fix the system first".
     
  2. But no one seems to know how to fix the system. Why? Because no one can see into the future and it acts as a voting prop for politicians in too many key constituencies. It will never be fixed because there is no will to fix it. It is convenient the way it is!
     
  3. Can't you find somewhere else to plug your site? If people like it and are interested they will visit..there's enough links floating around!
     
  4. Britains defence procurement policy is a major waste of money.

    The order for 200+ Typhoons looks questionable, but if we order significantly less than 200, it will drive up the price per individual Typhoon, (some people have speculated to above the cost of an F-22) and our friends in Italy, Germany, and Spain, will be most displeased with that,
    and this is just one of the conundrums in defence procurement.
     
  5. This is a very good example of where our procurement is wrong. WTF do the Eyeties and the Spaniards know about hi tech fighter aircraft? Why not purchase something from the US. ?
     
  6. Not sure we can live with that idea ... if personnel are to get a better deal and it is unrealistic to expect a significant hike in funding, then some way has got to be found of sorting out the procurement system.

    Part of the problem, as I see it, is that decisions are made by the MoD and then announced - and only then does the Parliamentary process come into play.

    I think it would (might?) help if you had a system where any major project had to have prior approval by Parliament, with select committee inquiries and public hearings, before approval.

    It might not make for better decisions overall (it hasn't stopped some pretty awful bluders in the US system), but some of the worst mistakes might have been avoided - and it would at least improve the transparency of the system.

    This might also force the MoD to make a case for any particular project, which means that there could be more awareness of the merits and demerits of any particular kit with, perhaps, the media reporting on the debates and inquiries.

    I could also see a spin off in that if the public (through the democratic system) was more involved in the decision-making process (however marginally), there might be more interest in how it the kit is used.
     
  7. Hello Richard_North,

    the American procurement system has considerable political interference in it and is far worse than our's as a result.
    Defence spending is oriented towards providing jobs in politicians constituencies and returning favours owed for campaign donations.
    Not to mention the corruption of the armed forces and contractors themselves.
    The incestuous relationships between politicians,industry and the military are arguably the reason why every military problem appears to be solved by purchasing a new item of equipment.
    Force size,training and doctrine are just as important to military success but provide little return on investment for those benefitting from the American politico-military-industrial "pork barrel".

    The one positive aspect to American defence procurement is that they do get sufficient funding,though they waste far more of it than we do.

    What British defence procurement needs is less political interference not more.
    Equipping an armed force is a long term business.
    Major equipment projects have a lifespan of around fourty years from concept to disposal.
    Major changes to defence procurement policies occur ever few years and governments can change at least every five years.
    This lies at the heart of the waste of procurement funds.
    Money spent on cancelled projects is money wasted.
    Cutting numbers of items procured pushes up unit development,purchase and operating costs,often to the point where the project would not have been considered viable had those numbers been predicted at the outset.
    Politically motivated joint procurement projects (European or otherwise) often cost far more then unilateral projects.
    Finally,Britain is also not immune to American style "pork barrel" politics,some might suggest that is why aircraft carriers are being built in the Prime Minister's constituency.

    That is not to say that the armed forces are entirely innocent of blame.
    there has been a history of extravagant spending on every latest must have gadget.
    Not to mention thoughtlessly following every latest fashion in military doctrine.
    There are also major issues of organisation.
    How can funds for anti submarine warfare be efficiently allocated when the aerial assets are divided between two services?
    It may well be argued that we require submarine,surface and aerial anti submarine capability,but do we really have a need for three types of anti submarine aircraft?
    Similar problems afflict our land warfare assets with both air transport and close air support assets being split between budget holders.
    Arguably it is the legal division of air assets in the United States which has led to the development of the modern attack helicopter.
    Allocation of funds between air and ground should be driven by rational thought,not organisational infighting.

    Probably the greatest problem of all the services is the piecemeal approach to procurement.
    It has for decades been apparent that the entire medium helicopter force would have to be replaced.
    Substantial sums were invested in developing the new Merlin.
    We could have planned large scale production to replace all of our Wessex,Puma,SeaKing and Lynx helicopters with substantial savings in purchase and operating costs.
    Furthermore what we did spend would mostly have ended up back in the treasury,we would also have had a virtual monopoly of the medium helicopter market to subsidise our own purchases with exports.
    Yet we purchased only sixty six Merlins and then allowed the manufacturer to be sold abroad.
    We have yet to select replacements for most of our medium helicopter fleet.

    Our armoured vehicle fleet is another case worth mentioning.
    First we took the piecemeal aproach when developing the Scorpion series to replace Saladins and Saracens.
    Then we compounded our problems by following the ill thought out fashion for air mobile armoured forces (this thirty years before Future Rapid Effects Systems (F.R.E.S.) and with the same practical problems).
    The result was a vehicle family not only compromised in it's abilities by size and weight constraints but also unable to replace other older vehicles (F.V.432 Trojans) for the same reasons.
    Consequently it became neccessary to spend more money on developing the F.V.512 Warrior series and having funded two vehicle projects we had no money left to replace the now ancient Trojans.
    We appear to be making both mistakes again with the current F.R.E.S. project and I sincerely hope that both vehicles left in the project are rejected for the greater good of the Army.
    Similar issues afflict almost every major procurement project on air,land and sea.

    In conclusion,the defence procurement cycle is incompatible with the political decision making cycle.
    The two should therefore be separated.
    It is the business of politicians to decide how much of the nations wealth is spent on defence.
    It is also the business of politicians to decide with whom it is politically desirable to go to war.
    However,preparation for and conduct of war is the business of the armed forces.
    It is also the business of the armed forces to decide with whom it is militarily desirable to go to war.
    They should have the ability to turn down a government request for military action if it is not considered to be militarily practical.
    Including if the funds provided are not sufficient to do the job.

    The armed forces require autonomy from government to do their job resource effectively.
    They also require financial stability,the peacetime budget should be set at a percentage of government expenditure and funds for any operations conducted at the request of the government provided in addition to that.

    Within the armed forces themselves there needs to be a branch of professionals dedicated to the equiping of the forces,the practicalities of which are beyond the experience of the soldier,sailor or airman.
    This must have sufficient authority to over ride the wishes of a particular branch or service for the greater good of the forces as a whole.

    In defence as in so many things,Parliament is the problem not the solution.

    tangosix.

    P.S.On the subject of the Typhoon,with every third world country fielding every increasing numbers of advanced combat aircraft and new types being developed in Russia and China,we should not be questioning the need for a substantial force of Typhoons.
    Ask any who fought in the Battle of France or the Falklands of the importance of air control (better still,ask the Taliban).
    Rather we should be asking if there was really a need for two types of combat aircraft to be procured.
    How much money could have been saved if the Typhoon had been developed from the start to replace all our fighters and bombers on land and at sea?
    We cannot afford reasonable numbers of hugely expensive F22 Raptors and even the price of the F-35 Lightning II is rocketing ( www.govexec.com/features/1107-15/1107-15s3.htm ).
    Despite providing funding and jointly developing the latter we have struggled to get access to software source codes as our foremost ally sees us as a security threat.
    The real cost of these aircraft will of course vastly exceed the apparent cost as most of the funds would be leaving the country generating jobs elsewhere and export benefits would be nonexistant.
    That in addition to being subject to the whims of a foreign government and at the back of the que when things are needed urgently.

    tangosix.

    Edited to add link.
     
  8. the American procurement system has considerable political interference in it and is far worse than our's as a result.
    That may well be so, but the US still manages to make kit at a much cheaper price than us, with a Merlin costing £30+ million, compared to a Chinook at under £20 million, and Lynx costing £10+ million, compared to a Blackhawk at under £5 million, although an obvious reason for this is that they can order items in much larger numbers.

    P.S.On the subject of the Typhoon,with every third world country fielding every increasing numbers of advanced combat aircraft and new types being developed in Russia and China,we should not be questioning the need for a substantial force of Typhoons.
    Ask any who fought in the Battle of France or the Falklands of the importance of air control (better still,ask the Taliban).
    Rather we should be asking if there was really a need for two types of combat aircraft to be procured.
    How much money could have been saved if the Typhoon had been developed from the start to replace all our fighters and bombers on land and at sea?
    We cannot afford reasonable numbers of hugely expensive F22 Raptors and even the price of the F-35 Lightning II is rocketing.
    Despite providing funding and jointly developing the latter we have struggled to get access to software source codes as our foremost ally sees us as a security threat.
    The real cost of these aircraft will of course vastly exceed the apparent cost as most of the funds would be leaving the country generating jobs elsewhere and export benefits would be nonexistant.
    That in addition to being subject to the whims of a foreign government and at the back of the que when things are needed urgently.

    Yes I would agree, that it would be nice to have lots of Typhoons, given the undoubted importance of air superiority, but not at the expense of other important assets, which looks like what is going to happen.
     
  9. By all means 'fix the system,' although as T6 alludes, be very careful how you go about it; however, denying more cash to MoD at a time when it is desperatly needed is like your Dad telling you to tidy your room or you won't get any more pocket money... Sadly it will take a very long time and no-one will be able to define (or agree) on what state 'fixed' describes. (funny, reminds me of the criteria for 'winning' a certain war..)

    In the meantime guys and gals are being shot at and blown up and our kit is rapidly wearing out. By all means consider re-arranging the deck chairs but under no circumstances let that delay or reduce the assistance that must be rendered soonest to those at the sharp end.

    FG
     
  10. Hello roadster280,

    I agree that the Fighting Vehicle (F.V.) 600 (Saladin etc.) family were wheeled contemporaries of the Ferret and Trojan (F.V.432,now Bulldog).
    However my understanding was that they were largely replaced by the Scorpion series,if that is not the case then I stand corrected.

    My point was that a larger vehicle could have done the roles of both.
    I am aware that there is substantial debate about how reconnaissance should be done,force versus stealth,wheels versus tracks and that is perhaps a debate best left to another time.
    However,I think it is fair to say that combat operations have consistently demonstrated the need for better protection.
    Was it Brigadier Patrick Cordingley who was critical of the Scorpion series' ability to conduct reconnaissance in Kuwait?
    Their light protection being more of a liability than their size was an advantage.
    Small vehicles may be able to take better advantage of close terrain but that advantage diminishes as the terrain opens up and armour protection and firepower become more important.
    Where reconnaisance is conducted on behalf of formations equipped with larger vehicles,and hence in more open terrain,the advantages of smaller vehicles are perhaps less pertinent.
    Historically,small specialised vehicles have not performed well in combat.
    Typically they were replaced with larger,heavier,more useful types.
    During the Second World War the German SdKfz 251 replaced the smaller less useful SdKfz250 for example and by Korea British forces were using Comet cruiser tanks as reconaissance vehicles.
    A reconnaissance vehicle which is competent at both sneeking around and kicking in the door is in my opinion more useful than one which excells at either approach.
    We have but a small army and can ill afford units only suited to one situation,multipurpose reconnaissance forces would be more useful more often.

    Although I won't comment on the Merlin specifically,that is best left to those who know better,the cost of operating an aircraft is not directly proportional to it's size.
    A small helicopter may need as many air and ground crew as a large one depending on it's complexity and maintenance requirements.
    More fuel would be required for a large helicopter but it can carry a greater payload in return.
    The larger helicopter also suffers less from the addition of armour and countermeasures.

    Naval aircraft types have a life at least as long,often longer,than the ships they operate from.
    Largely because replacing aircraft types often costs more than replacing ship types.
    Tailoring our ships to our aircraft is therefore more practical than tailoring our aircraft to fit our ships.
    In any case almost,if not all,current and future ships in the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary can handle Merlins.

    On land,as on sea the jobs we use helicopters to do are based on the capability of the helicopters to do them,once we had no helicopters and did things in different ways.
    If we had Merlins instead of Lynxes we would be less able to do some things we do now but more able to do other things,such as carrying heavier payloads.
    Just as we adjusted when the larger Lynx replaced the smaller Wasp so we could adjust if we replaced the Lynx.

    In all of the above cases it is a question of generalism versus specialism.
    To put it another way,does the advantage a specialised piece of equipment has in a specific circumstance outweigh the disadvantages of being less well suited to other roles and being available in smaller quantities due to the increased costs of specialisation.
    That is what I was alluding to when I referred to putting the greater good of the forces as a whole ahead of the good of a unit or service.
    Larger more flexible forces are usually more effective than smaller more specialised ones.

    Which brings me to your final point which i think we both agree on.
    Ultimately,the more specialised our equipment becomes,the more money will have to spend on "tail" and less will be available to pay for "teeth".
    At present we buy small numbers of many platform types.
    We need to buy larger numbers of fewer platform types.
    But we can only do that if we put generalisation ahead of specialisation.

    tangosix.
     
  11. Hello BADAJOZ,

    comparing prices of military equipment is a complicated business.
    Aside from there being many ways to calculate the cost,there are also exchange rates to consider and that in itself is a complex business.
    Lastly there is the real cost,most money spent domestically will return to the Treasury's coffers,money spent abroad will not.

    Building in quantity produces enourmous cost savings as you say.
    For generations this has given American defence exports a huge advantage.
    When they are not supported by large orders,American defence contracters look rather less competitive,as the prices quoted for F22 Raptors demonstrate.
    By ordering larger numbers of fewer types of platforms,and other equipment,we can also take advantage of the same economies of scale.
    In the case of the Merlin,there is effectively no other modern aircraft in the western world to replace the world's Puma and Seaking fleets which will be retired over coming years.
    The Americans are loathe to purchase foreign equipment yet they recently purchased a large number of Merlins in preference to American designs.
    Which should tell us a lot about that aircraft's quality and price.
    In contrast our recent purchase of Chinooks has been as problematic as it has been expensive.

    When I hear people say that we do not need Typhoon II I cannot agree.
    However,if someone says we need other things more,I agree completely.
    It may be a subtle distinction but it is an important one.
    Two hundred and fifty Mastiffs (just as an example) would be far more use to us than the single Typhoon II the same money could buy.
    What we really need is the money to buy both.
    The legal situation may be such that cutting Typhoons would cost us dearly.

    tangosix.
     
  12. T6
    In contrast our recent purchase of Chinooks has been as problematic as it has been expensive.


    The problems with the recent purchase of Chinooks, are entirely the fault of the MOD, not Boeing, who simply built them to the specifications supplied by the MOD.

    Virtually all comparable US military equipment has been a lot cheaper, than home produced equipment regardless of historical exchange rates.

    With the high cost of some British equipment, when compared to US equivalents, I doubt very much that the treasury is getting much benefit.
    The WAH-64D Apache (another helocopter) is a case in point, they cost British Army about £37 million each,
    this year the US Army has ordered 18 AH-64D's at just over $15 million each. http://boeing.com/rotorcraft/military/ah64d/news/2007/q2/070409a_nr.html
    (although this site quotes the 2005 price of an AH-64D at $35 million http://aerospaceweb.org/aircraft/helicopter-m/ah64/ but even this is a lot less than what the MOD pays for them)
    The main financial beneficiary's in WAH-64D would seem to be AugustaWestland workers, and shareholders, not the Treasury or the tax payer.
     
  13. Hello BADAJOZ,

    the Chinook Mk.3s may not be a good example given the modifications they underwent but they are unfortunately the only recent example of buying American helicopters.
    They are however a good example of the cost of specialisation I referred to earlier.
    Also,they are as much "off the shelf" as our new wheeled armoured vehicles are likely to be.
    There have also been significant problems with earlier less modified Chinooks.
    It is a perfect example of the cheap and easy option not being so cheap or easy after all.

    Regarding exchange rates,it is a lot more complex than how many dollars there are to the pound.
    Defence projects typically run over many years and are unlikely to be paid for in a single lump sum.
    Exchange rate fluctuations can substantially increase costs leading to financial shortages which have to be made good by cuts elsewhere.
    For example the euro is now trading fifty percent higher against the dollar compared to five years ago.
    It is possible to "hedge" against these fluctuations and the effect does depend on the details of the contract but it is another potential pitfall to be considered.

    As your example shows,directly comparing prices of military equipment is not easy.
    What American forces pay for their equipment is rarely the same as what we pay for the same thing.
    For example,the prices quoted for British Tomahawk cruise missiles are more than double the price paid by American forces.
    Those missiles were of course sourced directly from the United states.

    In addition,roughly fourty percent of the cost of any domestically purchased military equipment is likely to find it's way back to the Treasury via various taxes and duties,before considering knock on effects on social security and exports for example.
    Taxes are after all the main reason why everything costs so much in Britain.
    By way of comparison,BAE Systems makes about ten percent profit on it's turnover.
    Taken together these figures suggest buying American equipment is not neccessarily as cheap as it may seem.

    In summary,if our own equipment was so bad and so expensive,I doubt the world's largest defence expoter would be buying so much of it from us.

    tangosix.
     
  14. Hello roadster280,

    I think our philosophy should be "Standardise where practical.Specialise where neccessary.".
    Unfortunately,we do not seem to take a holistic approach (useful though it is,I have never liked that word but can't think of a decent synonym).
    It often appears that we wait until something is in desperately need of replacement and then rush the purchase of something similar but better and more expensive,in smaller quantities of course.
    There seems to be neither a long term plan for replacing equipment nor any discussion as to what we really need for the forces as a whole.
    Given that the need for replacement equipment can be predicted twenty or even thirty years in advance,there really is no excuse for this.

    On the subject of transport aircraft we seem to be going backwards,from operating a single fleet of Hercules we are moving towards a fleet of Hercules',Globemasters and A400Ms.
    I believe the replacement of our Hercules fleet should have been part of the same project as the replacement of our air refueling tankers and strategic transports and possibly the long term replacement of the Sentry and other aircraft.

    The Royal Navy is half way through a re-equiment cycle which is as I said above,simply more,or rather less,of the same.
    It really needs to consider whether it can afford,both tactically and financially,more than one type of surface combatant.
    A major opportunity to combine the replcement of the amphibious fleet with the replacement of the carrier fleet has already been missed.
    The Nimrod being on the strength of the Royal Air force also gets in the way of efficiently managing anti-submarine investment.
    It is very difficult to see the justification for operating three types of maritime aircraft.

    Our aircraft projects should also all be considered in the context of carrier operations.
    It could be argued that investment in larger faster aircraft carrying ships could have saved thousands of millions of pounds invested in aircraft capable of operating from smaller,slower ships.

    tangosix.
     
  15. T6,

    Find myself in broard agreement with some exceptions. Three types of Maritime a/c - are you thinking Nimrod / Merlin / Lynx?? There's also SK7 ASaC and of course SK4 (albeit in SH role)

    Nimrod has consistantly proven its worth, not just in ASW but also in SAR and afghan. Replacing it with Merlin is a non-starter as Merlin does not have the range, endurance or speed of Nimrod. Nimrod replacing Merlin? Clearly not! Lynx - a trickier fish... Merlin won't fit in the T42 hangar so theres no other option for that at present. Future Lynx? in the naval environment I may almost agree although Merlin is bloody expensive and needs a useful ASuW fit (but then Sea Skua on Lynx atm is little more than a suicide weapon) Then again Future Lynx will most probably cost nearly as much as Merlin anyway!

    Moving Nimrod to RN I think is pointless. Nice though it may be to have all ASW assets under the one roof I would think it unlikely that savings would outweigh the cost and stresses of the change.

    To generalise, I feel we spend to much time, and therefore money, perfecting each design. We are too keen to embrace the absolute latest technology. An engineer at heart, I am keen to make the best job of anything I do; yet we must realise that the first 80% is easy and really good enough, especially when compared to the current equipment; the last 20% of performance will cost disproportiantly more to develop and be used infrequently.

    Viking is a good example of an off the shelf vehicle that was then developed an modified in quick time to now be taking rounds with the RM. SK7 ASaC, the 'bagger' is a cracking bit of kit and developed hand in hand with the RN observers who would use it operationaly; it too is a modification of an existing platform; aledgedly the yanks love it.

    By reducing the turnover of mil staff on these projects and reducing the level of pefection we should be able to modify procure and place into service equipment much quicker. It will then be cheaper and as a concequence we can accept a shorter 'return of service' to get our moneys worth. This quicker cycle means 'future proofing' becomes less of an issue.

    A400M should have been canned at birth. PURCHASED, not leased C17 and C130J are the way forward. Dont even get me started on the Tanker debacle. Tankers are a major asset. The idea that we will have any spare capacity for them to be flown charter is bollocks. PFIs in general are acriminal idea and are set to saddle us with major financial problems in the future.

    FG