05 Feb 2013

Fighter decision flawed, says report

The Commons Defence Committee has said that there are ‘deep-rooted problems’ with the present acquisition system, and has drawn attention to the example of the decision in 2010 to change to the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter in a report, a decision which later had to be reversed.

The committee said that the government’s decision to change the variant of fighter jet had been “rushed and based upon incomplete and inaccurate policy development”. The decision was reversed in May of last year.

The Committee agreed with the Government that the current arrangements for acquisition, constrained by public sector employment rules, are unsatisfactory. However, the proposal to entrust acquisition to a Government-owned, contractor-operated (GoCo) company is not universally accepted as the best way forward, and there are particular concerns about how the MOD’s overall responsibility for acquisition could be maintained within a GoCo, according to the Committee.

Chairman of the Defence Committee, the Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP, said:

“The 2010 decision to change to the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter was the largest single procurement decision of the Strategic Defence and Security Review. It was taken at great speed, without full consultation, and without the MOD understanding how it could be implemented nor how much it would cost. It is to be hoped that the MOD will learn the appropriate lessons from this flawed decision.”

Jim Murphy MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, responding to the report, said:

“This is another blow to the country’s confidence in the Government’s competence on defence.

“Labour has consistently called for a defence industrial strategy and our procurement review chimes with this report’s analysis. Ministers must respond, listen to these arguments and change course.”

The full report can be read here