Prospect offers cautious welcome to Gray report

Prospect offers cautious welcome to Gray report

The union for 8,000 civilian specialists in the Ministry of Defence has given a cautious welcome to the publication of the Gray report into reform of the acquisition of defence equipment.

Prospect says the report puts to rest the picture of MOD incompetence as portrayed by opposition political parties and the media. The report praises the department for its project management, the dedication of its staff and its improved performance as recognised by the National Audit Office.

Prospect national secretary Steve Jary said the recommendations drawn up by Gray concurred with the union’s analysis on how to improve the defence acquisition process.

“Prospect has called for a strategic defence review for some time, so the proposal to undertake a review in every parliament and to extend the planning horizon for equipment acquisition makes sense.”

Jary said plans to establish a new committee to oversee procurement, chaired by the departmental permanent secretary, would help to defuse potential inter-service rivalry that had in the past contributed to spiralling costs in the design, specification and manufacture of defence equipment and lengthy delays to parts of it.

However, the union believes the new committee’s work should be open and transparent in order to prevent rivalry between the three branches of the armed forces re-emerging.

The union has also welcomed the statement by Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth not to part-privatise Defence Equipment and Support as recommended in the report. “The minister has made the right decision here,” said Jary. ”The department has at last recognised that it needs to act quickly to reverse the loss of specialist skills from the department without which all equipment acquisitions become much more problematic.”

In 2008, the union had criticised the department for cuts to its pricing and forecasting group (now the in-cost forecasting programme management unit) – a crucial mechanism for monitoring the progress of the equipment programme.