Considering the problems the Government is facing with defence procurement, should it not adopt some of the ideas it has used in the NHS?
Firstly, the Government should become a commissioner of armed services, not a provider. This has many advantages:
• Soldiers know best about life on the front line and what support they need, so why not give them control of their budgets and make the most of the sums available, allowing the Government to set fixed budgets?
• Platoons could group together as brigades or larger more random groups (consortia) to benefit from increased buying power (better value from a fixed budget).
• When dealing with enemies, the Government could set, ‘quash or finalise’ targets (QOF), their values honed with expert advice to each situation.
For difficult problems, lethal extermination services (LESs) could be introduced and, for really serious situations, a destruction ensured service (DES), giving the Government more hands-on battlefield control.
Soldiers would benefit as they could choose in which theatre of action they would like to serve and could prioritise body armour, firepower or training. Any failure of equipment or service would, of course, be a consortium responsibility.
When commissioning armed services, the contracts could also be open to tender by private contractors (mercenaries) who could well under-cut regular troops in certain areas, such as undercover raids – saving more money and increasing competition and efficiency.
In more peaceful areas, the Government could develop Defence Aware and Resistance Zone Initiative (DARZI) centres, ensuring full armed services coverage, and also allowing it to experiment with new ways of providing a service.
The army in the battlefield will know best what support it needs, so a larger proportion of the defence budget could be given to the army, which would then purchase air cover or naval support as required, reducing unnecessary spending. Further savings could be made using private finance initiatives. State-of-the-art tanks, jets and cruisers would be paid for by private finance and leased to the Government. Consortia could hire them by the week or month as needed. Should any of this ordnance be destroyed, the Government would now, of course, be leasing non-existent equipment.
Could this not pave the way to a service which is ‘the envy of the world’?
From Dr Paul Shipman,
Kings Norton, Birmingham