MOD procurement in the firing line again*

(*weak pun alert...)

About five years ago I was approached by a head-hunter about 'probably the biggest procurement job in Government, if not the UK".

My goodness, am I pleased nothing came of about poisoned chalices!

The Guardian reports that "the Tories are to intensify the pressure on Labour in the "war of the dossiers" by publishing a document outlining how billions of pounds have been wasted in defence procurement".

Defence procurement is pretty much an impossible task I suspect, as I've commented previously.  But of course it is much easier to criticise than to actually sort things out.  If the Tories win the election, I hope they have some really clear plans for how MOD procurement is going to be transformed....

But unfortunately, there is no magic button, no 3-day "how to buy scary weapons" CIPS training course that is suddenly going to enable MOD to buy 10% more effectively. In reality, the only way to make big savings quickly after the election in this area - and many others - will be to STOP DOING THINGS.  The watchword for public sector procurement professionals I predict in 2010/11 will be 'demand management'.  (OK, that's two words).  And that is particularly true for MOD.  Stop programmes, cancel procurements.  Frankly, all of this is going to happen whoever wins the election when the inevitable cuts hit MOD, and most other areas of spending.

But then of course we will see the vested interests - the industry, MPs in constituencies that rely on defence manufacturing, consultants, newspapers, the military themselves - all start lobbying as to why this is a jolly bad thing.  How it is going to cost lives.  You can picture the crowd applauding on Question Time as some opposition MP castigates the government who 'don't care about our lads in the front line'.

Sometimes you could almost feel sorry for the politicians -  as well as MOD procurement folk....

Peter Smith

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