A budget cut of half a billion; several thousand troops made redundant – what a perfect time for a £1.5bn IT project!
That is the expert logic being deployed by the Ministry of Defence. Signing a 10-year £1.5bn IT deal with HP, Fujitsu, Airbus and CGI, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon boldly proclaimed that “The new [IT] contracts will enhance our fighting capability and make us more efficient in our work.” Of course.
The department claims that the move will save £1bn over the 10-year period. However, we beg to differ – this long-term contract is in fact the height of short-sighted tunnel vision. Mr Fallon has apparently failed to realise that technology nowadays tends to change, and pretty rapidly for that matter. Is a 10-year investment in today’s IT really that wise considering it will be decrepit and redundant long before the 10 years have elapsed? The contract was hailed by Secretary of State as an absolute necessity to ensure the safety of our troops: “We must keep pace with those who pose a threat to UK security, whether overt or cyber-based.” Investing in soon-to-be out-of-date IT is an unusual way of safeguarding our future.
The MoD is not exactly famed for its financial prudence. Recent bright ideas from the Whitehall wizards have included spending £6 million on earplugs, paying £14,000 to a contractor for every new soldier, a £25,000 Christmas trip to Greenland, and spending billions on storing equipment which is redundant and unfit for purpose – sound familiar?
The MoD has also recently started to shift its employees onto the cloud, handing over £41m to Microsoft in a three-year contract with the prestigious honour of being the largest ever Microsoft volume licensing agreement in the public sector. We would suggest that virtualising some of the unnecessary office Wombles would be a better start to making savings.
It’s clear that the MoD thinks that spending billions of public money on short-sighted long-term “innovations” is inconsequential. We will keep an eye on what happens next to the project.