Feeds

MPs: UK defence project was crap

Bowman skewered

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Another UK defence procurement project has been excoriated in yet another damning Parliamentary report.

The project under fire this time is the Bowman military communications infrastructure, a perennial favourite among connoisseurs of arms-procurement cockups.

The finger-pointing group of MPs today is the Commons Public Accounts Committee, which put up its full report at midnight, here (pdf).

The CPA Committee often has harsh words for defence projects, once famously describing a helicopter purchase by saying the forces might as well have bought turkeys instead.

The Bowman project actually began in the late eighties but, as so often happens with Ministry of Defence programmes, more than a decade was spent trying to assemble a contracting consortium which could both do the job and was politically acceptable. For those interested, a short history is provided by the MoD here.

The project's first big disaster came with the 1996 collapse of competition between the Siemens Plessey Systems (SPS)/Racal "Yeoman" team and the ITT "Crossbow".

A mere 10 years after work began at the MoD, in 1998, it appeared that forward movement had been achieved with award of a firm contract to the ITT/SPS/Racal "Archer" alliance to produce Bowman. But this too duly collapsed, and in 2001 a new contract was inked with General Dynamics UK.

Today's CPAC report concerns itself mainly with the progress of the Bowman programme since then, and it makes depressing reading for UK taxpayers – or indeed anyone with the British forces' interests at heart.

To give a flavour of the report's tone, it has four main sections, titled "programme governance arrangements were not fit for purpose", "initial decisions were not well informed" "through life costs were not rigorously assessed", and "operational benefits are limited".

Bowman also had a lighter shoeing last year, from the National Audit Office. Being accountants rather than politicians, the NAO was less brutal, but still critical here and there.

The army has been harsher yet, according to some accounts.

The fact the Bowman project has not gone like a dream is scarcely news, but today's report is probably another coffin-nail for the idea that UK defence procurement has been radically reformed in recent years. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
UK.gov's Open Source switch WON'T get rid of Microsoft, y'know
What do you mean, we've ditched Redmond in favour of IBM?!
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
US Social Security 'wasted $300 million on an IT BOONDOGGLE'
Scrutiny committee bods probe derailed database project
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Australia floats website blocks and ISP liability to stop copyright thieves
Big Content could get the right to order ISPs to stop traffic
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.