Poor IT could leave Brit troops hanging in Afghanistan
Just not enough, just not in time
Poor IT is threatening defence supplies until a new programme is implemented in 2014, a group of MPs has warned in a new report.
In "The use of information to manage the defence logistics supply chain", the public accounts committee (PAC) says the IT systems now being used to track supplies are not up to the task, due largely to insufficient spending on upgrades. This is contributing to the late delivery of supplies and spare parts for equipment, which is leading frontline troops to cannibalise vehicles and planes.
It is part of a long running problem: similar shortcomings have been identified by the PAC in reports going back to 1986, and the National Audit Office published a similar report – albeit in less alarmist language – in March.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is now aiming to solve the problems through the Future Logistics Information Services (Flis) project, which includes upgrades to the warehouse inventory management IT system. But this will not be complete until 2014 – in part because of the need to clean existing data – and until then there is a high risk of failure in systems that are critical in supporting frontline troops.
The report says there is also a risk that the budget for the project may be reduced or cut completely as the MoD needs to reduce its spending, although the contract has already been signed and is being implemented.
Margaret Hodge, chair of the PAC, said: "A more efficient supply chain could release resources for the frontline. But the department does not have the information to develop more cost-effective ways of running its supply operations.
"The department is now seeking to resolve its information problems through a major initiative, the Future Logistics Information Services project, due to be implemented by 2014. However, there is a risk that funding for this project could be reduced as the department seeks to lower spending and balance its overall budget.
"In the meantime, IT systems being used to track supplies will remain at critical risk of failure. If they fail, there could be shortages at the frontline within a month."
Peter Luff, the minister for defence equipment, support and technology, said in response that supplies to the frontline are a top priority and that the department has reduced the time it takes to deliver most urgent items by more than half.
"We are also committed to achieving value for money and improvements have been made," Luff said. "Far from reducing the budget in this area, we are investing £800m in the Flis project to ensure the supply chain is as efficient and cost-effective as possible.
"We are placing greater demands on industry to hit their delivery schedules, and more broadly we are pushing through radical reform across the MoD to instigate a new emphasis on financial rigour and cost control," he said.
This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.
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Not invented here
I understand that doing logistics for the military is a bit more complicated than a corner shop, but are they really saying that it's more complicated than Tesco, UPS or Toyota? Are there really no commercial solutions available off the shelf?
Isandlwana, not quite
While it is true that a bad quartermaster is something that needs to be seen to be believed, and they have probably cost alot of lives as you said.. Isandlwana was nothing to do with inept supply.
It was more to do with overconfidence, arrogance, bigotry and really really stupid choice in guns.
The Zulu under Cetshwayo knew the lay of the land and used tactics as good as any modern European army. Tactics that Lord Chelmsford should have known about since the one they used, a obstructed pincer attack (in this case starting off behind, and then looping around a bloody big hill), the horns of the buffalo, was practically their signature move.
Then theres the Martini Henry rifle, which overheated and either jammed, fouled or cooked off rounds after a certain number of shots (the few line survivors testified to this). The British were also overextended, over confident - not to mention the fact they initially only identified 1/3rd of the Zulu force and tailored their defensive positions to moderate this advance - no subsequent changes of any importance were made even after the other two arms of the Zulu's hove into view.
Then you have the strange at best choice of Chelmsford & Company to use what appears to have been a formation straight out of Sharpes Regiment (one long line of troopers, superfired by a second), when common sense says given the way the Zulu moved and fought, that they should have been in Square (which in subsequent battles they were). This makes little sense if the majority of the troops were armed with Martini Henry Rifles, since these were breech loading guns, not muzzle loading smoothbore guns. In that case, the superfiring (the one line protecting the others reloading) wasnt necessary, and the thin depth of line meant that a break could be made easily and the line rolled up. Which indeed was what happened and led to what was an effectively as much a massacre as that at Kabul and Gandamack in 1842.
The only reason Chelmsford managed to get out of it all with his reputation somewhat unscathed was he was able to talk directly to the Queen, who appears to have been supportive, and the subsequent events of Rorkes Drift.
Given that the MH rifle was standard issue it seems odd that the problems with it at Isandlwana were not repeated at Rorkes Drift. However the two battles are somewhat different. At Isandlwana the troopers were firing more or less constantly, since they had less need to conserve ammunition as did the Rorkes Drift contingent. Since the rate of fire at Rorkes Drift was lesser, there was a lesser chance of the MH Rifles weaknesses coming to the fore.
"Are there really no commercial solutions available off the shelf?"
But, but,but that would mean buying something "Off the shelf"
As every (defense IT con-tractor) knows the MoD has a *wholly* unique set of problems which simply *cannot* be met by *anything* other than a lovingly hand crafted software solution developed by skilled software artisans in Mumbai/Beijeing/Tijianna/Some-other-s***hole.
Of course buying a wholly unique solution costs a *little* more (3x, 4x, 5x...) but nothing's too good for the boys in the front line.
Would you want them to have barcode scanners that jammed in the sand?
Of course not.