14 Oct 2019

NAO releases overview of the MOD and the challenges ahead

The National Audit Office (NAO) has released a departmental overview for the Ministry of Defence focusing on the Department’s responsibilities and how it spends its money, key developments in its areas of work and findings from its recent reports.

This includes a look at the affordability of the Department’s Equipment Plan, which sets out the strategy for the next ten years to deliver and support equipment to the armed forces. The NAO has previously been sceptical on the affordability of the plan and its sustainability.

The report cites the submarine dismantling programme as an example of the affordability pressures the MOD is currently facing. The NAO’s investigation earlier this year found that the MOD has yet to dispose of any of the 20 submarines it has decommissioned since 1980 – potentially creating a safety issue and causing reputational damage.

The overview also contains a government response to the NAO’s 2016 Accountability to Parliament for taxpayers’ money report designed to encourage Account Officers to provide positive assurance about regularity, propriety, feasibility and value for money ahead of key implementation decisions.

There is an examination of the MOD’s commercial relationship with Capita to recruit military personnel and a contract to provide military flying training through a range of providers. The outsourcing of these personnel-related services has not yielded the intended benefits.

The MOD’s attempt to reform its civilian workforce also comes under scrutiny, with the Department yet to undertake modernising of the functions performed by its civilian workforce. The NAO also call for a clear vision of its plans for its future workforce, including the necessary skills, and a plan of implementation.

A lack of planning, joined up working practices and poor management information has led to a failure of identify potential efficiencies across its operation.

The report sates that Britain’s exit from the European Union is unlikely to affect many of the UK’s multinational and bilateral defence arrangements, but has other possible implications including:

  • Membership of the European Defence Agency (a Council of the European Union intergovernmental agency)
  • Participation in EU Common Security and Defence operations and missions.
  • Participation in EU programmes, for example defence research funding.

The treasury has allocated the MOD £12 million in 2019-20 for work on EU Exit. The Department has 13 active workstreams relating to leaving the EU covering defence cooperation, defence sector issues including procurement, overseas bases and people overseas.

The report highlights a number of upcoming MOD strategy updates to chart the progress being made on delivering on its visions within budget. These include the Spending Review and Equipment Plan, Defence People Strategy; Equipment entering service dates; and the Defence Estate.

To read the report in full click here.

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