Examination of Witness (Questions 420
WEDNESDAY 4 DECEMBER 2002
KCB OBE AFC
420. I apologise for not being here at the beginning
as I was detained elsewhere in the House. Can you confirm that
what you were saying in answer to James Cran was that your customer,
the Ministry of Defence, has charged you with producing in respect
of certain key assets a level of spares which they know to be
insufficient and which leads to the cannibalisation of that equipment?
Is that a deliberate act of policy by the Ministry of Defence
to allow a situation to persist in which, in respect of these
key front-line assets, cannibalisation is an established part
of the process?
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) Again, I think
you give us greater credit for sophistication than might be the
case. What I am describing here is a relationship between my organisation
and my many customers that is not as sophisticated as you describe.
It is very blunt and again I think McKinsey was particularly accurate
when they said the baseline for this is indistinct and therefore
what transpires from that is what I will call a perspective of
yesterday's practices and indeed current practices from the shop
floor which shows today's arrangements not to be what they necessarily
expect individually, but that does not reflect the arrangements
that have been put in place between the DLO and the customer.
We have agreed as to how to do this. As I say, we can do it better
by looking end-to-end, not just in horizontal slices and we have
then performed against those objectives. So this is not deliberate
at all, it is a lack of sophistication and what I would call sharing
of the objectives that are placed between my customer and my organisation.
421. So if this is not deliberate, how are you
going to make the savings and yet repair what quite clearly is
a deficiency in the system whereby front-line equipment is having
to be cannibalised?
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) Providing
the evidence of what goes on today and this approach does that
to an extent by looking end-to-end and then by using all that
information better to create the CSAs and this contract between
these different parts of the Ministry of Defence to give optimum
support to that military capability.
Chairman: This is not a question, but I would
certainly like assurances to my last question. If you are charged
with providing sufficient spares to sustain the two concurrent
operations, I would like to know if those concurrent operations
are likely to be protracted or a level of intensity that we have
not properly calculated. I want to be absolutely certain, whatever
the MoD says, which I will pour a degree of scepticism on anyway,
(a) whether we fight, or (b) the strategy and tactics of the fighting
are determined by military and political judgment and not by the
supply of ammunition and equipment that we may or may not have
or may be or may not be able to acquire. That might require a
lot of shelves being filled with a lot of equipment at high cost,
but one thing is absolutely certain in this life that you would
know, Air Chief Marshal, and that is whatever you expect to happen
will not happen and the absolute opposite will in effect take
place and you are the one who will be left holding the empty shelves
up, and that cannot be a career enhancing situation to be in.
So whatever the MoD tells you, you have to be certain in your
own mind, if I might be so bold, and certainly you would need
to reassure us that you are not going to be left holding up a
lot of empty shelves. I have another question not to be answered
now. There was a catastrophe in Donnington where vast amounts
of supplies were destroyed in a fire. I would like assurances
from you that we have learned a lesson from that, not just in
fire brigades but in having supplies of the same items and products
sufficiently dispersed so that if there is another fire we do
not all have an Atlantic conveyer-type situation, we are not left
with a depleted line because of a disaster. Please do not answer
that now because it will take a little time.
422. We have had robberies in aircraft for 40
years to my knowledge and Christmas Trees all over the place,
but I am concerned about someone in your position saying to the
Treasury enough is enough on percentage savings when combat effectiveness
is under duress. I worry about Saif Sareea. We had an operation
there which was planned for over two years and we ran out of aircraft
rotor blades, and I just worry that the Treasury-driven efficiencies
are forcing people like yourself to comply and then pressing the
pressure down further onto the other people under you without
someone at your position saying enough is enough, we are undermining
the efficiency, this has got to stop, and that will take a very
brave person. I am not doubting your braveness. There does not
seem to be someone high enough up to say to the Treasury that
they cannot have any more savings because we are undermining the
capacity to fight if we are called on to fight. When will that
position be reached?
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) As I say,
at the moment my perspective on that is that there are huge improvements
available to us in my mission statements in here which is sustaining
that operational capability; that is the raison d'être
for this organisation. I think I would have to say that if I felt
what you describe as an efficiency process but which I describe
as a strategic step change to support my mission and vision were
the case then I believe I should not be sitting here.
423. In the strategic plan your stated aim is
to create a lean and agile supply chain and you promise in the
medium and longer term to provide near "real-time end-to-end
materiel management and visibility", and obviously visibility
of stores is incredibly important. Why did you terminate work
on the Defence Stores Management Solution IT programme? What will
you replace it with, and when? How much did it cost to terminate
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) Thank you
for reading back what the vision and the future is going to be.
That again supports my earlier statements about an effective logistics
solution, which is what this is about as well as efficiency. Of
course, as part and parcel of that, we are going to need the information
to create that real time and that risk management solution effectively.
I do not think it was I necessarily that suspended the DSMS proposed
solution and I would stress at the moment that it is suspended,
but of course what we are now doing
424. But why?
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) I was going
to say what we are now doing, of course, is transforming the way
by which we are going to reach the goal I have described. What
we had in the past was a regime of convergence from three inheritances
in spares inventory managementSECS, SS3 and CRISPand
the idea was to put them together in one solution. I have to say
that the answer to this will almost certainly mean that that is
not necessarily the best way of moving into the future. The staircase
described in here will almost certainly move the provider regime
more into industry and what might be a better solution is to exploit
current industry solutions for in-transit visibility rather than
create our own. So this opens up new means of supporting what
I have described in the vision. There is no doubt, however, that
we are going to need better in-transit visibility both in the
UK and through the coupling bridge and subsequently into whatever
theatre, and the extent and capacity of that again we are currently
reviewing such that we have a solution that is consistent with
this outcome and not simply with a state of convergence.
425. So you will deliver it with another IT
programme, will you?
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) We will have
to have another means of providing that visibility and what I
call the management of some very expensive commodities.
426. Is there no view as to when that will be?
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) What I now
have to do of course is having created this transformation is
to create the IS strategy that will support it, but I think it
is broader than just stores management.
427. And what happened to the Defence Stores
Management Solution, was it a disaster?
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) No, as I understand
it, some of the deliverables, and we were only in what I would
call the assessment and technical demonstration phase
428. Did it cost much?
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) It was constrained
within the approvals that had been made for those particular phases.
There is no doubt there is a great deal of intelligence and intellectual
property we got from those technical demonstrators that will inform
whatever the final solution might be.
429. Can I ask one question on Network-Centric
Warfare which seems to be the buzz word. Does it make a difference
to your thinking in the sense that Network-Centric Warfare will
demand something different than what has been traditional in that
we may be called on to do things very quickly? Is this really
the time, when we are moving into Network-Centric Warfare, to
be cutting back on spares?
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) I do not think
I said we were cutting back on spares per se; I said we
were going to have a better material flow solution. We are trying
to get to the right number of spares in the right place at the
430. Less spares than before.
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) But available
in the right time.
431. Is this the right time to be doing that
as we think about Network-Centric Warfare?
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) I suppose
the answer to that is there is never a right time in today's international
situation. If you had said that 10 years ago, we would have said,
"Life will not be quite as busy for the next 10 years";
is that the right time? If you do not face up to the realities
now, I will not be able to prosecute what is in here and try to
give you the assurance that what we are doing will become effective.
I still stand by my statement that the realities of today are
going to be for a Network Enabled Capability which will require
agile and flexible logistics solutions, not necessary in just
two lines of communication but potentially more, and that therefore
we have to prosecute this route if we are going to be effective
against those operational risks.
432. I will come back to Network Enabled Capability
in a minute. I want to talk about the implications of the New
Chapter but first I just want to ask a very short and basic question
which has just occurred to me as we have been talking this morning.
Why is your position held by a serving military officer, given
that your Strategic Plan is informed by the McKinsey management
consultants' report, and it seems increasingly that you are required
to speak in management consultant speak, and that is something
we get used to, and I just wonder if we are reaching a point where
the talk of the customer and so on means that this will become
a civilianised job and it is no longer needed to be a uniformed
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) I suppose
I am rather disappointed you think that I speak in management
433. You do to me!
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) I have spent
the last couple of weeks, having launched this, deliberately going
round my organisation and others rebutting that suggestion and
making the point that I believe that this has to remain a military
job because of the risks associated to our armed forces' first
choice, both in terms of their own well-being but our succeeding
in employing the capability that they represent. So I am rather
disappointed in your perspective, I have to say.
434. I like to ask basic questions and I do
not know if I have had an answer that I am confident about but
I am happy to move on because we have not got much time. In terms
of the New Chapter the original SDR talked about developing logistics
capability as being able to support two concurrent operations
with separate lines of communication. The New Chapter talks about
the trend towards expeditionary operations becoming even more
pronounced. With that prospect of perhaps several expeditionary
operations under way at once, what lessons for logistics support
have you drawn as part of the SDR New Chapter work?
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) I think there
are several. I want to say we have progressed a long way to creating
those two concurrent lines of communicationstrategic lift,
Ro-Ro ferries and so on and so forthbut I think I would
also say that your observations about the future have also been
proven to be our lessons of the past. This is not just about two
concurrent medium-scale operations, the realities have been something
different. This is called managing within that real world. Many
of the pressures therefore have actually focused on what I will
call the agility and the competence of the logistics chain then
to react to those particular locations, and we have been developing
that deliberately and I think successfully if you look back at
recent operations. Of course, we are not yet perfect but we are
trying to learn those lessons. In terms of lines of communication,
our means of taking up from trade or the hiring of things like
heavy lift, Antonov, and so on and so forth is still shown to
be an effective remedy in those operational circumstances. So,
yes, we have got to be more agile, we have got to have people
with better competencies, better understanding because that actually
is where the pinch points have come to fruition over time, not
just in the equipment availability and strategic lift aspect.
435. David Crausby touched earlier on the question
that Network Enabled Capability will require a sharper response
and less of a build-up in logistics terms. I am interested in
how you are going to achieve the mission which you identify in
your strategy that the role the Defence Logistics Organisation
seeks to deliver is effective and integrated logistics support
and information services. Obviously with Network Enabled Capability
that information services end is increasingly critical. Am I right
to understand those services are mainly looked after by the Defence
Communication Services Agency and is the provision of logistics
and information services increasingly being integrated and how
are you achieving that?
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) I suppose
the immediate answer is it is not just the DCSA, albeit they play
a large and increasing role as we do integrate and take into the
centre more responsibility across the panoply of information services
in the Ministry of Defence. Of course there are other information
services that are directly responsive to the logistics process.
We were talking earlier about in-transit visibility, so there
are those aspects that we also have to develop. Again, one of
my organisation's very new initiatives is to try to develop the
doctrinal and conceptual solutions to the new challenges that
we face. It does not currently exist and we are developing that
as I become the process owner end-to-end for logistics (a situation
that similarly did not exist in the past) such that we can try
then to put in place the right solutions for these challenges
given the agility and the flexibility that you have described.
436. So is any Network Enabled Capability going
to fundamentally and radically change things? Is this potentially
the driver for the culture shifts that we have been talking for
the substantive change that you need to undergo in logistics?
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) I think it
has to be a new driver, not only in my organisation, I have to
say, but as far as the front-line commands are concerned because
if they are going to have that military capability and the means
of translating it into what I call operational capability ready
for a particular conflict, then we are going to have to develop
their sophistication in the way they approach this in the application
then of the new equipment as it comes into being, but more importantly
the modification and support of the legacy systems that will still
represent our capability for some time to come.
437. So you will need to be able to react sharper,
faster and more flexibly despite the constraints of 20% efficiency
gains and despite the constraints of a leaner spares line, potentially
making you more brittle as an organisation and less flexible?
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) Even, may
I say, potentially slower deliberately whilst sending the right
signals about capability.
438. Finally, Saif Sareea did not test your
ability to react quickly to logistics support because you had
a three-year build up to that exercise. When are you going to
be able to exercise that capability?
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) I think all
I can say to that is for the next of those exercises we are going
to have to demonstrate the progress we have made against the challenges
that you have described. I am not actually sure as to when that
next exercise would be.
Jim Knight: It may be
Chairman:A real-time exercise!
439. No exercise!
(Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger) Indeed it
may, but, of course, we are taking the opportunities of time if
that were to be the case.
Jim Knight: Thank you.
Chairman: You are very delicate in your
remarks. Kevan Joneswho is rarely delicate in his remarks!