Select Committee on Defence Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Answers from the MoD to questions posed by the Committee following its visit to Kosovo, 20-22 March 2001 (30 April 2000)


Q1.   A note on the proposed move of the UK medical units from Pristina to the US-run site at Bondsteel, including details of the rationale for the move, the costs and manpower implications, the expected consequences of transporting and treating patients in the Multi-National Brigade (Centre) area of operations (for both military patients and the local population).

  A1.  UK medical units in Pristina are scheduled to move to US Camp Bondsteel in MNB(E) in May 2001, with a new build Bondsteel hospital scheduled for completion in July. The current UK hospital in Pristina is part tented and part building. It has a low bed occupancy rate (average two per day) as a result of the small population at risk (6,500 of which 3,500 are UK troops). Within the KFOR area there is overprovision of Role 3 (hospital) facilities given the size of the area. There is a general aspiration of European American Allies to achieve national peace time standards of medical care, which has led to suggestions of consolidation and multinational burden sharing.

      (a)  For a variety of reasons the only Lead Nation we were able to form a partnership with was the USA in MNB(E). MNB(C) is a multi-national brigade, and at all points during US/UK negotiations an agreement to include entitled MNB(C) patients (Norwegians, Swedes and Finns) was stressed. Similarly the US were informed that the UK would wish its MNB(C) partners' medical personnel to be eventually included in the multinational team, which the US have no legal or medical ethical objection to.

      (b)  Relocating to Bondsteel will provide significant cost and manpower savings (25 staff compared with the current hospital staff of 49); a better equipped clinical environment and with the combined Multinational Brigades, a greater clinical throughput. The US is meeting all build and equipment costs with the UK contributing to the running costs on a proportional basis. An Investment Appraisal conducted for a UK hospital build in Pristina was costed at £6 million, with average annual maintenance costs of £85K-£180K.

      (c)  The consequences of a move to Camp Bondsteel have been fully scoped by UK. A key factor has been whether casualty evacuation (casevac) timelines can be met. The additional distance to Bondsteel (34 km by road, 14 minutes flying time) will add time to a response, but this extra time falls within planning parameters. An Incident Response Team (IRT) helo, manned by a Battlefield Advanced Resuscitation Techniques and Skills (BARTS) trained medic, will be retained by UK at Pristina on a Notice to Move (NTM) unchanged at 30 minutes (day) and 45 minutes (night). In addition, the US has dedicated medical Blackhawk helicopters sited at the hospital at Bondsteel crewed by trained paramedic teams. These will be available for life, limb or eyesight emergency casevac covering the MNB(C) area, in addition to the UK IRT. The arrangement worked well in responding to the mass casualties generated by the Nis Express coach bomb in February 2001.


Q2.   A note on the performance of the UK Land Rover military ambulances, including comparative figures on mean time between failures (or vehicle off-the-road rates) for: the Land Rover's expected performance when purchased, the Land Rover's actual performance in-theatre, and the performance of the alternative Austrian military amublances examined by the MoD in the original competition for these vehicles.

  A2.  The Land Rover Battlefield Ambulance came into service in 1997. Each medical unit that deploys to theatre does so with its own establishment of ambulances. There are four Land Rover Battlefield Ambulances of this variant currently deployed in Kosovo and these vehicles are rotated approximately every six months as each new unit arrives in theatre.

  The performance of these vehicles is judged to be good and is supported by the low incidence of warranty claims and equipment failure reporting. Once the vehicles are in service the figures for mean time between failures are not collected in the required detail or format requested by HCDC. Returns are submitted on a quarterly basis as to the performance of these vehicles and they are consistently exceeding the required Equipment Support Policy Directive (ESPD) of 90 per cent availability. The Land Rover Battlefield ambulances currently deployed in Kosovo are exceeding the required ESPD. The monthly returns for January-March 2001 have shown 100 per cent availability.

  During the original evaluation trials, the requirement specified a Mean Distance Between Failures (MDBF) of 3,750 km. Land Rover met this requirement in the trials and they claimed they could achieve a MDBF of 10,298 km—this figure was included in the production contract. Land Rover actually achieved a MDBF of 13,782 km in the confirmatory trials, thus exceeding the requirement. The Austrian ambulance referred to is assumed to be the Steyr Daimler Puch. During evaluation trials this achieved a MDBF of 25,381 km.


Q3.   A note on the current level of DfID funding for community schemes in Bosnia and Kosovo.

  A3.  DfID community based projects in Bosnia include the Reconciliation and Return Programme which is implemented by SFOR. They have committed £1.6 million over the last two years to fund minimum infrastructure and small business projects in areas of minority return. This support is due to end in June 2001. DfID are also supporting two disability projects in north-east Bosnia, up to a total value of £656,000. These provide institutional support to local resource centres to enable them to facilitate sustainable development initiatives in relation to disability issues. A project supporting sustainable social policy has recently been agreed. This project will complement the processes and targets of a World Bank Social Protection Adjustment Credit. DfID has made available £620,000 to fund Community Action Projects in the model areas.

  DfID provided £120,000 of funds in support of Operation Trojan in 2000, which was administered by BRITFOR and supported local Serb community based initiatives. They are currently considering funding other community based projects in liaison with BRITFOR in 2001 of around the same value.


Q4.   The Committee requested a note on what plans the MoD has to improve the access to, and cost of, telephone links for personnel serving in remote locations.

  A4.  Personnel deployed on operations and, since 1 April this year, on maritime deployments or exercises of more than two months duration, receive free welfare telephone calls worth up to 20 minutes every week and are able also to make additional calls at their own expense. This service is provided by Project WELCOME (Welfare Communictions Everywhere), which is a contractor operated telephone system that has been introduced specifically to ensure that Service personnel who are deployed away for home on operations have access to a reliable telephone service to enable them to keep in touch with their families. Project WELCOME was deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in December 1999 and is now in use in all operational theatres, including Bosnia and Kosovo and the supporting deployments in Italy, Sierra Leone and (as of 1 April 2001) the Falkland Islands. It was also deployed for the operations in East Timor and Mozambique last year and will be deployed for Exercise SAIF SAREEA, which is planned to take place in Oman later this year.

  The Project WELCOME contractor (Astrium) uses a number of different bearer systems for delivering the welfare telephone service, according to which part of the world Service personnel are deployed and the state of the communications infrastructure in the host country. Whatever system is in use, it will be the most practicable means of providing the service in that particular theatre of operations. In some areas (such as Italy) the service is provided through the existing infrastructure of the local telephone system. In Kosovo there is a mix of systems in use. In the main accommodation sites, where large numbers of troops are based, the service is provided by a VSAT (Very Small Aperture) satellite terminal, which costs in the region of £100,000 to install and has call charges of 30p per minute. In locations where there are only small numbers of personnel, such as the border check points, which are manned by only 30-40 troops, it is not cost effective to install VSAT facilities. Instead, the welfare telephone service is provided by portable INMARSAT terminals, which cost in the region of £6,000 to install and £1.57 per minute for the calls. The call charges represent the real costs of delivering the service over the satellite networks.

  Consideration has been given to levelling call charges across Kosovo (and indeed all other operational theatres) so that all personnel would pay a flat rate. However, such a move would have two significant disadvantages. First, while the flat rate charge would undoubtedly benefit the small number of troops who are using the INMARSAT system, it would penalise the vast majority (more than 80 per cent of personnel) who have access to VSAT facilities. Second, the contractor's marketing strategy—and therefore charging policy—is reliant upon personnel paying for private phone calls in addition to the free 20 minutes provided by MoD. If the cost of these additional phone calls for the majority of users were to rise significantly, the contractor's assessment (which experience confirms) is that usage will fall—to a point which more than offsets the income from increased charges.

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