Plan to strip MoD of arms buying power

SoldiersSo after all the discussion about that £38 billion black hole in the Ministry of Defence budget the solution is quite a simple one: take any spending power off the MoD bods and contract out procurement decisions.

Imagine the howls of anger in the corridors of Whitehall after the civil servants responsible finished reading about MoD losing its arms buying role in the FT this morning!They've long been accused of wasting money and causing budget overruns, though the civil servants would defend themselves by laying the blame for spending on fancy weaponry at the feet of Government ministers coming over all excited at the latest in military technology without really considering whether it's appropriate or not.

Now Bernard Gray, the civil servant in charge of procurement has advised that an independent, private sector authority be established to look after equipping the troops. It would have the power to sign-off decisions without needing ministerial approval but would ultimately be responsible to parliament.

Is it just me or are other people slightly nervous at this turn of events?

Granted, there have been some major gaffes in defence procurement, like leaving aircraft carriers without any aircraft and sending troops to hostile territories abroad well-trained but poorly-equipped.

And if you listen to complaints from the ranks you quickly understand there is a disconnect between Whitehall and the frontline. So instead of trying to repair that, the decision seems to be to circumvent it altogether and hand put all the decision-making into semi-private hands in the hope that they have a better grasp of what's required.

The thing that should concern everyone is the scrutiny is put in place to monitor this new authority because with the massive sums involved and the world that is defence procurement there is a real danger of conflicting interests.

But Bernard Gray should be congratulated for biting the bullet, so to speak, and giving the MoD a radical re-think on how it equips our military services.

Because that has been a long time coming.
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