Examination of witnesses (Questions 560
WEDNESDAY 12 APRIL 2000
560. So you have not run out of anything?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Indeed in some
cases we made very small dents in the stockpiles, so small that
it makes one wonder.
561. How many "Urgent Operational Requirements"
were needed to acquire more stores and munitions and what sort
of stores and munitions were involved?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Let me just say
a word about Urgent Operational Requirements. They are usually
procured either because there is something which is quite specific
to the particular operation, but has not been necessary before
or, alternatively, because a new technology has become available
at short notice and we want to short-circuit, at any rate temporarily,
the normal trials and procurements and get it into service so
that we can use it. Sometimes when we do that, by the way, we
then have to come back subsequently and make quite sure that we
have done proper trials and tests in order to ensure the safety
of our own people and proper value for money. The third reason
for doing these is sometimes, as has already been indicated, to
increase stocks of particular things which we think we are now
about to expend, so in any operation that we have done, we have
always had Urgent Operational Requirements and I would anticipate
that we always will. It is a very well-oiled system and can move
very fast, literally in a matter of hours. Having said all that,
I think there were 25 unclassified UORs which were lodged, some
of which in fact lapsed because of the nature of the operation
in that the operation terminated in a different way from the way
we thought or terminated quicker than we thought. There was also
a range of classified ones. The unclassified ones we can give
you a list of now, and the classified ones I think we could supply
by a note if you wanted.
562. It is probably easier in terms of time
if we had a note. It would be also interesting to know how many
classified ones there were in terms of the comparison perhaps
because clearly if there are large numbers, that would also be
of interest to us.
(Air Vice Marshall Nicholl) Can I just make clear
on the 25 that only a small proportion of those were directly
munitions which I think was where you started.
563. Well, if you can send us a list, that would
(Mr Mantell) We have already put the list in the library
of the House.
564. Was it necessary to regenerate any defence
equipment from storage?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I do not think
it was, no. I am not aware of any case where it was. Is anybody
aware of any case where it was?
565. Perhaps you would send us a note on that
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Yes, I will send
a note if there was. I would be quite surprised if there was.
566. Can I move on to the main Urgent Operational
Requirements. Do not give me the whole list but what were the
main ones that were approved?
(Mr Mantell) We have already discussed, Chairman,
Polygon and Polygon Plus, both of those were obtained as UORs.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) To give examples,
temporary field accommodation, which we have touched on already.
There was tactical navigation target location system for the air
reconnaissance combat vehicle; some additional GPS handsets; snow
and ice clearance equipment; the improved tented camp, to which
we have referred already; some quarrying equipment which was necessary
for the particular operation; a range of tactical radios which
we have talked about already; mobility water vehicles because
we envisaged having to have a large number of people in place
for quite a long period of time and we had to supply that.
567. Were any of these approved in anticipation
of an opposed ground intervention?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) There were a range
of UORs being developed against a number of contingencies but
none of them was approved until they were necessarylet
me expand that a bituntil the lead time for them made it
necessary to do them.
568. In other words, nothing was approved specifically
on the assumption that we were potentially about to go into ground
intervention which was opposed?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I would have to
check on that. We would not normally approve a UOR until the length
of time required to obtain whatever it was came up against the
stops so that if we did not get approval at that point we would
not get it by when we needed it.
569. Perhaps you will write to us on that as
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) In the case of
any ground involvement it was sufficiently far ahead to be quite
570. Were any of the UORs approved but not met
by the end of the air campaign?
(Brigadier Figgures) Some clearly, we mentioned Polygon,
were initiated partly in a campaign once they were on the ground.
571. I am talking about the end of the air campaign.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Related to the
air campaign itself.
572. There may have been other things which
were approved and the air campaign ended and as a result they
were not contingent.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) There were such
573. Could you tell us on that as well please?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Indeed.
574. What capabilities had shortfalls without
UORS being issued? Did you find yourselves with capabilities where
you were running low or you had a shortfall?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) There was no case
where we were running low of stores and supplies of munitions
we needed. There was nothing that would have inhibited either
continuing the air operation or moving on to a ground phase but
there were things which would have made it easier and better which
we would have wanted to acquire had we moved on.
575. Will you be in a position to tell us what
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I will look at
576. You will write to us?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) In some cases we
would not have defined them in detail because we were still quite
a long distance away in time from any such ground activity.
577. Is it not difficult though. We have had
the Gulf War, and clearly there were lessons from equipment then,
why were we in this position -this was a relatively short campaign,
it did not go on for a long timeof having to have Urgent
Operational Requirements at that stage? Is it because our stocks
were inadequate or our preparations were inadequate?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) No, I do not think
it was either of those things. As I said, I think we will always
be in that position. For one thing, there are some things which
are specifically needed in the operation. We only have to consider
the climatic differences in the Gulf and in a new military Kosovo
to see that you might want completely different kinds of equipment.
Moreover technology goes on, it is ten years since the Gulf, I
am told that is about seven or eight Mr Gates' generations in
terms of technology.
578. Not with bombs, you ended up dropping second
world war bombs.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) We are not talking
about bombs, we are talking about a range of other things.
579. Can I just say, when you write to us, can
you send us a note on the lessons you learned from the equipment
programme from this UOR?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Certainly, but
I would not want to leave you under any impression that we would
ever be able to dispense with Urgent Operational Requirements,
not least because it would not necessarily represent good value
for public money to buy things that we might never use.
Mr Hood: Admiral, we are going to complete
this evidence session with a question on accommodation. Dr Lewis?
580. I was a Member of the Committee when it
visited Kosovo last autumn, but you will have gathered from the
questions from my colleague Mr Cann how concerned the Committee
was about the sub-standard accommodation available for the troops.
I must say that in 1998, as part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary
Scheme, I visited Croatia and I was alarmed that the personnel
there were very poorly accommodated with a great lack of privacy
in some cases. Our understanding is that the MoD already had the
expeditionary support infrastructure that you referred to earlier
under way as a project when the Kosovo campaign began, but that
that could not be accelerated and that, therefore, you had to
fall back on two other types of accommodation. The first was called
"Temporary Field Accommodation" and the subsequent one
was called an "Improved Tented Camp", so if the later
one was an improved tented arrangement, one dreads to think what
the first one might have been. We understand that one of the reasons
for this deficiency was that the Treasury felt unable to act in
terms of funding accommodation until it became clearer what the
UK's post-conflict role would be in Kosovo and that in fact funding
approval only took place in July 1999, whereas of course the crisis
had been upon us for several months by that stage. How did we
get into such a mess over camp accommodation for our troops and
what is the system now deployed? Is it still, some of it, temporary
field accommodation or is it all improved tented camp?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) It is actually
the other way around. The temporary field accommodation is the
better one; those are the solid buildings. You are quite right,
we did let a contract in July for it. Of course the difficulty
at that point was that we did not know where we were actually
going to be. We had not finally settled on which areas were going
to be controlled by whom and where these camps should actually
be placed, which is always going to be a difficulty, so whether
there was or was not any delay over funding would not have made
the slightest difference because we did not know where we wanted
to put them, and we did not know that until the commanders had
been in the areas which they were allocated and understood the
local geography and topography. The contract for the temporary
field accommodation provided for, I think, some 20 odd units in
fact of varying sizes ranging from small accommodation for about
25 people up to accommodation for several hundreds to be delivered
by the end of December. That was the contract that was signed.
In the meantime, to tide us over the early part of the winter,
we went for the improved tented accommodation on the assumption
that we would take delivery of the temporary field accommodation
on time, although, as I said, it did turn out to be quite difficult
to pin down very quickly exactly where we ought to be. In practice,
we are still waiting for delivery of some of it, but there have
been difficulties over the building of it, there have been difficulties
over the provision of safety documentation to do with electricity,
water and other services, and it has been a difficult experience
for both us and the contractor. We have had a number of revised
dates. The final accommodation will now be handed over in May,
I think I am right in saying, and obviously it is a salutary experience
from which we will need to draw out a large number of lessons.
581. Time is pressing, so I will not pursue
this further, other than just to ask are you saying, therefore,
that there is a considerable rigidity in supplying accommodation
in expeditionary cases of this sort and that really one cannot
have a little more flexibility than we appear to have had this
time and that one really cannot have more in the way of stocks
or other accommodation in the pipeline until one really knows
exactly where one is going to be locating this?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Clearly you can
have them by having in your stock cupboards anything you want
to have. There is always going to be a difficulty in deciding
exactly what you want, the numbers of people you are going to
accommodate in which places and what services you need to deliver
and what to lay on. That is actually the detail which has caused
582. Do you feel in that case that we foresaw
everything we could have foreseen or would you consider that,
in fact, to some extent, our planning was deficient in that we
could have tried to foresee a little more than we did?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I think it is always
possible to say that from this position and clearly we will have
to do better next time. It will always be difficult to know exactly
what you want and to know exactly who you are trying to accommodate
and where and in what circumstances.
Mr Hood: I have to say that for once,
who am I to defend the MoD, the MoD put the money up front, it
was not the MoD's fault, it was a breakdown in the contract arrangements
and hopefully lessons will be learnt. Admiral, can I thank you
on behalf of my colleagues for coming to the Defence Committee
today. It has been over two and a half hours. I have a reputation
in this House for my meetings being brief, I have now completely
lost that. It has been very good of you. It has been very interesting,
I am sure it will help us in our deliberations on lessons to be
learned from Kosovo. Thank you.