Procuring Problems in Britain’s Defenses

Ted Bromund /

A set of slides summing up an internal report from Britain’s Ministry of Defense on defense procurement have found their way to the BBC. The slides make for damning reading, and though the Ministry denies they are authentic, they accord with Britain’s experiences over the past decade. In a nutshell, the slides conclude that the Ministry “does not really know the price of any kit and project management does not exist in the Department.” The result is pervasive over-optimism about procurement, regular and costly reprofiling of major programs, and a procurement budget that will only come into balance in 2028 – assuming nothing else is ordered in the interim.

What the slides do not do is place these serious criticisms in context. In 2008-09, Britain will spend about 46 billion pounds on defense. Of that, about 8.6 billion(pdf) will be capital spending. If the leaked slides are correct that annual waste in the procurement process may reach 2.5 billion pounds per year, this means that up to 30% of procurement spending may be wasted. But as capital spending is only 20% of the total defense budget, this implies that the wastage is no more than about 5% of defense spending. (more…)