Select Committee on Defence Third Report


10  PERSONAL EQUIPMENT AND PROTECTION

    Chairman: I presume the question of army boots which has been bedevilling the Army for about 400 years, certainly as long as I have been on the Committee, is resolvable?

    Admiral Sir Michael Boyce: You would be fully justified in being angrily cross if we went into an operation and found we were living with some deficit or something which diminished our operational capability as a result of lessons learned as recently as 2001. (Evidence from the Chief of Defence Staff, 6 November 2002)

247. Throughout this inquiry we have spoken to a wide range of service personnel who served in Operation Telic. Consistently they relayed to us concerns about their personal equipment and protection—such concerns have also been echoed in letters and e-mails we have received from service personnel and their families and friends. Desert clothing and boots, body armour and NBC detection and protection regularly featured as concerns. Therefore, from the outset of our inquiry, we sought to identify the basis for these concerns and the impact they had on both the morale of service personnel and operational capability.

248. In the early stages of our inquiry, MoD's view was that genuine instances of equipment shortages or defects were few and far between and had had little impact—they were considered to be glitches or local difficulties. In May 2003 the Secretary of State told us:

    All the requisite numbers of boots and clothing and equipment were there and, having only had a brief opportunity of inviting editors of newspapers to devote an appropriate amount of space to the success of the equipment, given the hugely disproportionate amount of space they wasted on making facile criticisms of equipment that proved its worth in the conflict, I am still waiting to see any signs of apology from either individual journalists or from their editors.[376]

    I am certainly suggesting that, in a force of around 45,000 people across three Services, there may have been the odd person who, for example, did not get the right sized pair of boots. There may have been the odd soldier who one day did not get his lunchtime ration pack. There may have been the odd soldier who did not like his ready-to-eat meal of the sort issued by the United States to their forces. There is not the slightest suggestion, however, that any of the stories that appeared so routinely in our newspapers stood up to detailed analysis against what was delivered and what was proved ultimately to be a very successful campaign based on logistical success and the quality of our equipment.[377]

However, on 5 February 2004, he admitted:

    In my evidence last May I acknowledged that there were bound to be some problems in a logistics operation of this size, and that some of our personnel may have experienced shortages of equipment. Our subsequent work has shown that these shortages were more widespread and in some respects more serious than we believed to be the case at that time. In general, this was not the result of a failure to obtain and deploy the equipment required… on the whole, as we said in our report Lessons for the Future, these shortages did not adversely affect operational capability… But I do accept that a situation which seems satisfactory to those looking at the bigger picture can nonetheless be very different for the people who are affected personally by the things that go wrong. I also accept that our inability fully to distribute items such as desert clothing and boots, although not considered operationally essential by commanders on the ground, certainly had an adverse impact on morale.[378]

249. We are pleased to note that, following its initial rejection of the concerns about personal equipment and protection, MoD now acknowledges that there was a problem which had a detrimental impact on service personnel. Robust arrangements should now be introduced to gauge the views of more junior ranks and specialists whose widespread concerns do not seem to be properly understood, reflected and acted upon by more senior commanders and officials further up the chain.

250. One reason for the shortfalls in provision of basic personal equipment was that MoD's planning assumptions did not allow for an operation of the scale of Operation Telic being undertaken to such a demanding timetable. We discussed the planning assumptions in paragraphs 58-9 above, but in the context of personal equipment MoD needs to recognise the likelihood that operations in the future will be undertaken under similar timetable pressures to Operation Telic. As Brigadier Cowlam told the Committee:

    we based our organisation stockholders and systems on a certain number of assumptions; on this occasion, we reacted well within those assumptions, in much tighter time-lines than we had assumed, and therefore I do not think any of us were too surprised that a lot of hard work had to go in, to make sure that the necessary equipment, supplies and capabilities were in the right place at the right time. I think the lesson that we are learning is we have got to make sure our assumptions are correct in the first place.[379]

Desert boots and clothing

251. Notwithstanding the Secretary of State's comments in May 2003 about desert boots and clothing, Air Marshal Burridge told the Committee in June 2003 that that he had encountered personnel wearing black boots when he visited Basra on 23 April.[380] This was confirmed during our visits when we were told that some desert boots and combats arrived after the major combat phase. In July 2003 General Reith told us that:

    Turning to the clothing and the boots, I was not concerned about that at all. The temperate equipment we have, the combat clothing is designed up to 39 degrees centigrade and the boots up to 35 degrees centigrade.[381]

252. General Reith's comment that he was not concerned about the desert clothes and boots issue appears to ignore the fact that green combat clothing does not provide the same camouflage effect as desert clothing in an environment such as Iraq. It also begs the question as to why MoD procured desert clothing and boots specifically for the combat operation.

253. Rear Admiral Style accepted that shortages had occurred when he told us in July 2003 that:

    The matter of boots and clothing, yes, there were shortfalls there. There are major lessons to learn and we are examining the holdings… and looking at the whole issue of tracking of assets delivery, and so on, but there was a reason why we had that number, whether or not it was the right judgement. This was reviewed, as you know, in the Strategic Defence Review, and the matter of desert clothing, in particular, it was settled in terms of all the balances of capability that we had to spend our money on, that we provide for only the JRRF and the spearhead battalion, that was the judgement, and we provided for that… we decided that, because we are not constrained by those sorts of judgements, it is always a balance of risk, this whole business is a risk business, we decided to go for a bigger operation and so, yes, there were shortfalls. That lesson must be addressed and of course we must consider our balance of priorities, but there was a reason behind the levels that we had…[382]

254. First Reflections published in July 2003 acknowledged that clothing did contribute to combat effectiveness. It noted that a new type of boot better adapted to desert conditions had been purchased, but recognised that MoD needed to look at 'the quantities of boots, clothing and other personal equipment we routinely hold'.[383] Lessons for the Future published in December 2003 provided details of the temperatures in which standard issue army boots and green combat clothing are designed to be used. It acknowledged that 'nonetheless, given that the temperature was likely to rise to over 50C during the summer months, and the need for appropriate camouflage colours, the Department prepared to issue desert clothing to all deploying forces'.[384] Lessons for the Future acknowledged that 'by the time the operation began a number of deployed service personnel had not received the ideal quantities of desert boots or combat clothing… Tight timelines, inadequate tracking of equipment in theatre, and some instances of incorrect boot and clothing sizes meant that not all Servicemen and women received their allocation'.[385]

255. The NAO reported that:

    The pre-TELIC requirement was based on desert clothing for 9,000 troops with three sets per person. An additional 20,000 pairs of desert boots were ordered on 29 November 2002 and a further 10,000 pairs on 10 January 2003… 89,700 pairs of desert trousers…. and 92,750 desert lightweight jackets… were also ordered. Approximately 40 per cent of the additional clothing requirement was available in-theatre by 13 April 2003. The procurement was regarded as of limited effectiveness because few troops received their full complement, and mismatches in sizing remained in the post-conflict phase of the Operation.[386]

256. The NAO Director responsible for the report on Operation Telic is reported to have said that the lack of proper desert clothing was particularly resented by the troops. He said a typical reaction was—'we're out here fighting and you can't be bothered to buy us a proper uniform'.[387] We also heard similar sorts of reactions from service personnel during our visits. However, on the operational impact of not having desert boots and clothing, the Secretary of State told us that: 'The question is whether this affected their ability to conduct the operations and I have not seen any suggestion that it did.'[388]

257. The issue of the availability of desert clothing and boots during Operation Telic has been both a confusing and worrying story. MoD should clarify its position on the circumstances in which desert clothing and boots are to be used and ensure that all service personnel understand the position. MoD clearly underestimated the impact on morale of failing to provide service personnel with the clothing and boots which they required and expected. We find it unacceptable that some two weeks after the start of the combat phase 60 per cent of the additional clothing requirement that had been ordered was not available in theatre. We understand that MoD has now increased its stockholding of desert and tropical clothing and boots up to a total of 32,000 sets.[389] We expect MoD to keep the level of stockholding under review.

Enhanced body armour

258. Lessons for the Future reported that Enhanced Body Armour provided personnel with significant levels of protection.[390] It also reported difficulties surrounding the supply of body armour—'the decision (a change in policy) to equip all Service personnel whose role required it with Enhanced Combat Body Armour (combat body armour enhanced by the addition of ceramic plates) posed a challenge because there were insufficient stocks to meet the needs of a large-scale force'.[391] It noted that, through additional purchases, 38,000 complete sets of body armour were deployed to theatre, which should have met the requirement, but 'late delivery against an advancing timescale, coupled with difficulties in equipment tracking and control of issue, led to localised shortfalls. Priority was therefore given to those personnel on the ground who commanders judged to have the greatest need, principally dismounted infantry'. [392]

259. The NAO report confirmed the position set out in First Reflections and noted that 'insufficient numbers were distributed in-theatre, largely as a result of difficulties with asset-tracking and distribution'.[393] It also noted that:

    'the Department's Defence Clothing Integrated Project Team estimated that approximately 200,000 sets had been issued since the Kosovo campaign in 1999, greatly exceeding the theoretical requirement, but these seem to have disappeared. The Team questioned whether items should, therefore, be issued as part of an individual's personal entitlement for which they would be held accountable'.[394]

260. In respect of the change in policy concerning enhanced body armour, General Fry told the Committee of Public Accounts in January 2004:

    I need to go back first of all and say what the policy was under which we deployed. Every soldier at the outset of planning was equipped with conventional body armour, not enhanced combat body armour. This reflected a doctrine that the armed forces had had for a long time… We, therefore, took into the beginning of this conflict a doctrine which did not recognise the necessity for enhanced combat body armour and that is a perfectly legitimate position to start from. As we went into it, we saw a growing requirement for ballistic protection and, therefore, we initiated the urgent operational requirement procedure which then resulted in the knock-on procurement processes that derive from that.[395]

261. Some service personnel had told us that there was not enough body armour, but that centrally they were being told there was enough for everybody. We asked why this was the case. Brigadier Cowlam told us that 'a certain number are procured but it does take time to deliver into theatre and then within theatre… with the benefit of hindsight, we did not move it as far forward as quickly as we would have wished'.[396] The Chief of Defence Logistics told us that 'the lesson here is to revisit the assumptions we made so far as the numbers are concerned… to decide whether these should become personal issue and permanent and then change our policy accordingly'.[397]

262. Body armour is another example of where MoD's in-theatre distribution and tracking led to shortages in critical equipment. MoD has recognised the serious nature of these shortcomings—the Secretary of State told us on 5 February 2004 that 'there were also, as we know from the tragic case of Sergeant Roberts, problems in providing important equipment enhancements to all personnel in a timely fashion, even when the requisite quantities had arrived in theatre'.[398] MoD should identify and implement solutions to address these shortcomings and ensure that service personnel receive the equipment they are entitled to.

263. On the 200,000 sets which had disappeared, the Chief of Defence Logistics told the Committee of Public Accounts in January 2004 that 'we are engaged in an exercise at the moment to show exactly who was issued with those 200,000 component parts and that they still have them'.[399] The Secretary of State told the House on 13 January that 'the body armour components are held by individual units and are not, in fact, lost'.

264. MoD told us that the figure of 200,000 was an estimate of the 'equivalent' number of sets of body armour that would have been issued since 1999. MoD explained that the body 'ensemble' is not usually issued as a complete set, instead units request the number of components required to make up the sets they need. 'Fillers' and 'covers' are demanded as items of consumable stock and are disposed of locally when they wear out. The ceramic plates, because of their value, are returned to stock for re-issue when surplus to unit requirement. The body armour components, once issued, are not tracked centrally—responsibility for retaining and managing body armour components passes to the receiving units. MoD told us that it is highly likely that the 200,000 sets are held by units as individual components. It is undertaking an audit to establish the extent of the holdings.[400] We will be interested to see the results of this audit and the action that MoD plans to take in response to the findings.

265. The Secretary of State told us that he would welcome our views on whether enhanced body armour should become a personal issue item.[401] This is not a straightforward issue. With the ceramic plates, body armour vests are heavy and uncomfortable and seriously restrict individual mobility, as we discovered during our visit to Iraq. On the other hand, MoD's description of the current system clearly illustrates its inadequacies. We were told that one reason for the decision to issue enhanced body armour to forces deployed to Iraq related to the shift to the southern option. It was judged that there would be an increased likelihood of soldiers being involved in fighting in urban areas where they would be at relatively greater risk from sniper fire and this is what the ceramic plates provide protection from. Before any firm decision is made, the views of service personnel, as well as the logistic implications of a change in policy, must be considered. If the conclusion is that enhanced body armour is not required for all operations, efforts should nonetheless be made to ensure that where it is required it is issued to personnel before their deployment.

SA80 A2

266. Air Marshal Burridge told us that the SA80 A2 assault rifle[402] worked well and General Fulton told us that 'we were delighted with the performance… of the SA80 A2'.[403] We have heard concerns from some of the service personnel we spoke to and from those who contacted us. These related to problems with the safety catch and with the availability of the oil needed to clean and lubricate the weapon. However, most service personnel told us that the modifications have made it a much better weapon.

267. The NAO reported that despite some isolated difficulties with the weapon, 'units' post-operational reports have indicated that there is now general acceptance that the SA80 A2 is an effective and reliable weapon system.'[404] However, it reported that not all troops were aware of the correct cleaning regime and that there were also problems supplying the additional quantities of cleaning oil needed—concerns which we have been told about. The NAO also reported that soldiers in both Afghanistan and Iraq had noted that the safety plunger tended to stick which resulted in the user not being able to operate the safety catch freely, although this problem was 'infrequent, quick to rectify and did not result in catastrophic failure'.[405] The modifications to the SA80 have provided UK service personnel with a more effective weapon system. MoD must ensure that users of the weapon are kept fully aware of the cleaning requirements for different environments and provide the necessary cleaning material. Concerns about the weapon's safety catch must be monitored and, where necessary, appropriate action taken.

Ammunition

268. During our visits some service personnel had told us of problems with the availability of ammunition, in particular small arms ammunition. This was raised forcefully by some infantry section commanders. General Reith told us that 'we had in theatre 30 days' worth of ammunition, with ten of them at intense rates… From day one, before we kicked off, that was in theatre'.[406] Air Marshal Burridge said that 'the highest priority was to get the ammunition in the right place'.[407] Brigadier Kerr told us that they had heard that the odd soldier had said that there was not enough ammunition, but overall there was enough ammunition in theatre—enough ammunition for every soldier to have up to 750 rounds of ammunition. However, he added 'that does not mean initially when they deploy into theatre; they may have had five rounds. That would have been a decision on the ground if that happened initially for a very short period of time'.[408] Brigadier Cowlam accepted that the amount of ammunition in theatre initially was limited:

    Moving on to the shortage of individual ammunition, on initial deployment when self-defence was the issue, the ammunition that was available in theatre which was limited at the very early stage, was spread across the force so that every unit had some ammunition.[409]

269. The NAO reported that 'the majority of the force's flat-racks (required for the movement of ammunition by specialist vehicles) were on the penultimate deployment ship, arriving in Kuwait on 17 March. This significantly limited the ability of logistic units to move ammunition to the frontline and exacerbated a perception among troops that there were ammunition shortages'.[410]

270. Our examination suggests that there were problems with the supply of ammunition when the fighting echelon began operations. MoD accepts that in the very early stages there were some problems and not all service personnel had the right amount. We expect MoD to establish the scale of the problem, to investigate any specific cases identified, in particular the tragic incident involving the six Royal Military Policemen, and to implement the necessary action to avoid any re-occurrence in the future.

Night vision capability

271. Lessons for the Future[411] reported that the provision of a Head Mounted Night Vision System improved the ability of UK forces to operate at night—the systems, the majority of which were obtained as UORs, were used for surveillance and target acquisition in close combat and were found to be particularly effective in the urban environment. General Fulton told us that the SA80 A2 'was enhanced by the dismounted close combat capability, in particular the night vision capability, which we were able to extend from what we had learned in Afghanistan, and we were able to get some of that brought forward in time for some of the forces, though not for everybody'.[412]

272. During our visits we were shown some of the night vision equipment that was used during the operation. Service personnel told us that the equipment had performed well and had given them an improved capability. However, they also told us that all US troops were issued with the equipment, but this was not the case for UK service personnel. We understand that MoD is currently reviewing the scales of issue of night vision equipment. We consider that the ability to operate confidently and effectively at night greatly enhances force protection and capability. We look to MoD to examine the case for providing night vision capability to all service personnel who are required to operate at night.

NBC equipment

273. During our inquiry a Major in the TA deployed on Operation Telic, and who has a detailed knowledge and experience of NBC issues, told us about concerns he had about the NBC equipment used on the operation. He highlighted concerns about two pieces of equipment—CAM (a portable Chemical Agent Monitor) and NAIAD (a nerve agent detector). He told us that there were inadequate supplies of special batteries for both of these equipments and that vital cassettes for the NAIAD detectors were unavailable. He also raised concerns about respirators for service personnel and inadequate spares to replace any failures, and concerns about NBC suits. During our visits service personnel had also told us about similar concerns.

274. We asked MoD whether there were any shortages of specialist equipment to deal with chemical or biological attacks. The Chief of Defence Logistics told us:

We find it alarming that MoD had to 'move Combopens around in theatre' to fulfil the requirement.

275. Brigadier Cowlam added:

    Not everything was everywhere all of the time, but there was various analysis done by NBC experts and we were confident that the crucial NBC items required to survive and fight in a dirty environment were available to those who faced that potential requirement. [414]

276. First Reflections acknowledged that despite sufficient numbers of NBC suits being acquired there were some difficulties in ensuring that the correct sizes were available.[415] Lessons for the Future reported that there were localised shortages of NBC protection and detection equipment, caused by sizing difficulties or equipment distribution and tracking problems.[416] It noted that other shortages were due to poor stock maintenance. During our visit to the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre at Chilwell we were told that 900 reservists were deployed without respirator canisters and there were no respirator testing systems available for Operation Telic 1.

277. Furthermore a number of respirator canisters were marked as having an effective life to 1998. MoD told the deployed troops that this had been extended in 1998, but even the Brigade commander noted that this seemed rather convenient.

    We were equipped adequately with NBC protection equipment, in terms of suits, albeit…some were not necessarily in desert camouflage. Also we were equipped adequately in terms of respirator canisters, albeit again some appeared, from the dates on them, to be out of date, although I was assured at the time, and have been reassured subsequently… they were not out of date, but they said on them 1988 with a life of ten years. As I said at the time, it is difficult to convince a Marine, or frankly even a Marine Brigadier, that actually that means they are still in date. At the time, we were told, quite correctly, that their life had been extended in 1998. I am not sure necessarily that message got round as fully as it should have done and I am not sure necessarily it was 100 per cent believed, because it seemed extraordinarily convenient. Subsequently, I do know now that instructions were put out in 1998, that indeed the life of these had been extended five years, so, in fact, we were using in-date protective equipment, although it was not apparent to us necessarily at the time that was the case.[417]

278. The NAO's report concluded that 'overall protection against chemical agents was good'.[418] However, it reported a 40 per cent shortfall of NAIADs; a severe shortfall in Residual Vapour Detector Kit availability; problems with NBC protective suits for certain sizes in sufficient numbers; and shortages of consumable items, such as batteries, required for detector kits such as CAM. It also reported that '7 Armoured Brigade armoured vehicles did not have viable Nuclear, Biological and Chemical defence filters throughout the warfighting phase of the operation'.[419]

279. The Secretary of State told the House on 13 January 2004:

    we have acknowledged in our own reports that there were deficiencies in the way stocks of some NBC equipment were managed. The Department is working hard to ensure that that does not occur again. However, as the NAO recognises in its report, mitigating action was taken through a combination of purchasing spare parts and rigorous re-testing of equipment. The operational requirement was consequently fully met.'[420]

280. We asked the Secretary of State how the 'operational requirement' was consequently fully met, given the shortfalls in equipment. He told us that:

    everyone who went over the line had a respirator and at least one correctly sized suit. One of the issues, and I know this has caused some controversy, is whether there were a sufficient number of suits available, whether each man had three suits available, which ideally should be the case. A judgement was made that it was sufficient for the conduct of the operation that initially at any rate as they crossed the line, the availability to each man of one correctly sized suit, was sufficient to allow them to conduct this particular operation.[421]

He later said that ideally MoD would have liked to have had as many as four suits per person available.[422]

281. Given the potential threat posed by Iraqi armed forces, sufficient chemical warfare detection and protection were particularly important for this operation. However, there were serious shortcomings in the supply and distribution system and the required levels of detection and protection were not always available to everyone. Indeed, while MoD ideally would have liked each serviceman and woman to have had four suits available, only one suit per person was available, which MoD judged to be sufficient for this operation. Furthermore it is essential that personnel have confidence in the effectiveness of the equipment with which they are provided. It was fortuitous that service personnel did not suffer as a consequence, but had the Iraqis used chemical weapons systematically, as employed in the Iran-Iraq war, the operational consequences would have been severe. The lack of armoured vehicle filters seems to us to be a matter of the utmost seriousness. The lessons identified need to be implemented as a matter of urgency to ensure that servicemen and women serving on operations have complete and justified confidence that chemical warfare attacks will be detected in time, that their individual protection equipment will save their lives and that operational success will not be imperilled. This is particularly important given that UK service personnel are more likely to be operating in such environments in the future.

Logistics and asset tracking

OPERATIONAL LOGISTIC SUPPORT

282. We acknowledged earlier in this report that the deployment of such a large force to the Gulf in the time taken was a significant achievement, but we also highlighted concerns about the reliance on UORs and problems with the in-theatre distribution of items of personal equipment and protection. MoD recognises that key lessons need to be learned relating to operational logistic support. First Reflections noted that the 'balance of ready stocks and those sourced from industry will need to be kept under review so that the most appropriate balance of risk (business versus operational risk) in stock holdings can be achieved'.[423] It also identified the need for 'a common, robust tracking system to enable equipment and stocks to be tracked throughout the supply chain in fast-moving, complex operations'.[424] Consequently, according to Lessons for the Future:[425]

  • A two star post of Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Logistic Operations) has recently been created to improve the provision of timely and accurate logistics advice to the strategic planning process.
  • The new procedures established by the Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO) for this operation, in particular the establishment of the DLO's Logistics Operation Centre proved particularly valuable.

283. The Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Mr Adam Ingram MP, told the House on 26 January 2004 that a range of reviews are under way to examine how best to deliver operational logistic support in the most effective and efficient manner. These included the work being led by the Chief of Defence Logistics, under the auspices of the end-to-end review. He emphasised that MoD was determined to learn the lessons of recent operations.[426] Given how critical logistics are to operations, we expect MoD to implement the lessons identified in its reports on Operation Telic, and also those lessons identified by the National Audit Office. We intend to monitor closely the progress of MoD's end-to-end review.

ASSET TRACKING

284. The key logistics lesson identified from Operation Telic is the need for a robust system to track equipment and stocks both into and within theatre. This was confirmed by the Secretary of State when he told us on 5 February 2004 that:

285. Air Marshal Burridge told us that one of the areas where he would want to see change:

    is an aspect of logistics where we are not yet fully invested in a logistics tracking system which tells us, in the same way as a global logistic company would know where every bit of their kit is in transit, we have not yet got that system embedded. That is an area on which I place considerable emphasis.[428]

286. MoD reported that during the operation, the flow of logistic information between theatre and the UK was poor, which particularly affected the tracking of UORs into theatre. As a consequence, it was difficult to monitor the rates at which supplies were consumed thereby making it difficult to determine when re-supply would be required. These problems were caused by the continuing lack of firstly a robust tri-Service inventory system, secondly the ability to track equipment into and through theatre, and thirdly an information system capable of supporting this technology. As a result of lessons identified following the 1991 Gulf War, MoD procured two tracking systems—VITAL for the Army and RIDELS for the Royal Navy. These were MoD developed, bespoke systems, optimised for the individual Service. Both systems have been progressively improved and expanded, but MoD recognises that they 'have been limited by their dependence on other information systems which were never designed to be part of a 'joined-up' supply chain'.[429] MoD has identified the need to establish a coherent and effective consignment-tracking system on a number of previous occasions, but has cited affordability constraints and technical difficulties as the main reasons why this identified capability gap has not yet been addressed.[430]

287. The original plan for Operation Telic, in which UK forces would have deployed to southern Turkey, would have required the use of a 500-kilometre supply route over difficult terrain. Logistics support would have been provided by US forces. The United States Department of Defense originally stipulated that the UK forces should have a consignment-tracking system compatible with their own. It was expected that the US would loan the UK this equipment. In the event, this was not the case, the northern option was replaced by the southern option and MoD procured, as a UOR, elements of the United States' Total Asset Visibility (TAV) system to improve stores tracking. The TAV equipment was progressively installed at sites in the UK, Cyprus and the Gulf. MoD reported that the tagging of consignments, that is containers and pallets rather than individual equipment, using radio frequency signals, improved the efficiency of delivery, while reducing the manpower required. Cross-referencing with the existing VITAL system identified the contents of each container or pallet. TAV was not in place until the end of February 2003, part way through the deployment, with only a limited number of systems and trained users. The system also only allowed equipment to be tracked as far forward as the major bases in Kuwait. Once the containers and pallets were broken down, and the contents transported to individual units, this visibility ended. MoD acknowledged that 'as a consequence, large quantities of equipment, stores and supplies were reportedly 'lost' in theatre, including ammunition, body armour and NBC Defence equipment'.[431]

288. Sir Kevin Tebbit told the Committee of Public Accounts in January 2004 about MoD's decision to procure the system, the cost of the procurement, and the future plans for the system:

    We originally intended to lease it but there were problems in setting up the lease in terms of the amount of information we could get from them on that basis because it is linked with their wider IT system so there was a security issue. We decided it was much better to buy it and they decided to sell it to us and we have now spent £7 million on it, phase one about £3.67 million, which was in place and work by February—too late I agree—and it actually helped us track stores which we had lost visibility of, medical stores and other stores. It works, it is good. We like it and therefore we are extending it. That is the system we have now procured and we are linking up to our existing system VITAL and the systems at the other end in the deployed infantry. The plan is to make TAV one of the elements of this better system with better asset visibility that I have been describing.[432]

He added that:

    my logistics colleagues plan to put proposals to us that we should extend and expand this and build over the next five years a system which includes TAV and links up our existing system with so-called smart IT front entry imaging and the totality of that is likely to cost a figure which we are waiting to hear from the DLO and that will go through the normal procedures.[433]

289. We were given a presentation by Savi Technology, the supplier of TAV technology, at which they provided an overview of the work they had done with the commercial sector and with the US Department of Defense (DoD). Their partnership with the DoD dates back to 1990. They told us that in 1996 a US General Accounting Office report said that DoD could have saved $2 billion if Savi's solution had been used in the 1991 Gulf War. The company were awarded a UOR contract with MoD in late January 2003 at which time half of the containers had already been shipped. Savi claimed that the system paid for itself within six weeks. They told us that they were confident that their system could integrate into the existing MoD systems at relatively low cost.

290. We asked the Chief of Defence Logistics where the requirements for 'real-time end-to-end material management and visibility, including deployed solutions', described in the DLO's Strategic Plan, came in his priority list. He told us that it was 'at the highest level of my priorities for all the reasons we are hearing and it stays very much at the level'.[434] This was confirmed by the Secretary of State on 5 February 2004 when he told us of the:

    need for us to make more progress in improving our asset-tracking systems, and this will be a high priority.[435]

291. We are in no doubt that one of the key lessons to emerge from Operation Telic concerns operational logistic support and specifically, the requirement for a robust system to track equipment and stocks both into and within theatre—a requirement which was identified in the 1991 Gulf War. The lack of such a system on Operation Telic resulted in numerous problems with the in-theatre distribution of critical items such as ammunition, body armour and NBC equipment. MoD has told us that having such a system is top of its logistics priorities and we understandthat proposals will be submitted to Ministers in the spring.[436] We urge Ministers to provide the necessary funding. However, we find it deeply unsatisfactory that a full system is unlikely to be in place within the next five years.



376   Q 44 Back

377   Q 53 Back

378   Q 2220 Back

379   Q 658 Back

380   Q 351 Back

381   Q 956 Back

382   Q 954 Back

383   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-First Reflections (July 2003), para 4.17. Back

384   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 5.8. Back

385   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 8.6. Back

386   National Audit Office, Ministry of Defence: Operation TELIC-United Kingdom Operations in Iraq (HC 60 Session 2003-04: 11 December 2003), Figure 6. Back

387   The Times, 12 December 2003. Back

388   Q 2289 Back

389   Q 2220 Back

390   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 5.8. Back

391   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 8.7. Back

392   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 8.7. Back

393   National Audit Office, Ministry of Defence: Operation TELIC-United Kingdom Operations in Iraq (HC 60 Session 2003-04: 11 December 2003), Figure 6. Back

394   National Audit Office, Ministry of Defence: Operation TELIC-United Kingdom Operations in Iraq (HC 60 Session 2003-04: 11 December 2003), Figure 6. Back

395   Committee of Public Accounts, Evidence Session 21 January 2004, Ministry of Defence: Operation Telic-United Kingdom Military Operations in Iraq, Q 11 Back

396   Q 997 Back

397   Q 1058 Back

398   Q 2220 Back

399   Committee of Public Accounts, Evidence Session 21 January 2004, Ministry of Defence: Operation Telic-United Kingdom Military Operations in Iraq, Q 113 Back

400   Ev 428 Back

401   Q 2303 Back

402   Q 345 Back

403   Q 1900 Back

404   National Audit Office, Ministry of Defence: Operation TELIC-United Kingdom Operations in Iraq (HC 60 Session 2003-04: 11 December 2003), para 4.7. Back

405   National Audit Office, Ministry of Defence: Operation TELIC-United Kingdom Operations in Iraq (HC 60 Session 2003-04: 11 December 2003), Figure 6. Back

406   Q 963 and Q 964 Back

407   Q 351 Back

408   Q 1057 Back

409   Q 1063 Back

410   National Audit Office, Ministry of Defence: Operation TELIC-United Kingdom Operations in Iraq (HC 60 Session 2003-04: 11 December 2003), para 3.13. Back

411   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 5.10. Back

412   Q 1900 Back

413   Q 1006 Back

414   Q 1006 Back

415   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-First Reflections (July 2003), para 4.18. Back

416   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 8.8. Back

417   Qq 1522-3 Back

418   National Audit Office, Ministry of Defence: Operation TELIC-United Kingdom Operations in Iraq (HC 60 Session 2003-04: 11 December 2003), Figure 6. Back

419   National Audit Office, Ministry of Defence: Operation TELIC-United Kingdom Operations in Iraq (HC 60 Session 2003-04: 11 December 2003), Figure 6. Back

420   HC Deb, 13 January 2004, c690 Back

421   Q 2305 Back

422   Q 2325 Back

423   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-First Reflections (July 2003), p 27. Back

424   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-First Reflections (July 2003), p 27. Back

425   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), p 38. Back

426   Oral answer 26 January 2004 (C 18) Back

427   Q 2220 Back

428   Q 279 Back

429   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), paras 8.15-8.17. Back

430   National Audit Office, Ministry of Defence: Operation TELIC-United Kingdom Operations in Iraq (HC 60 Session 2003-04: 11 December 2003), para 3.17. Back

431   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq- Lessons for the Future (December 2003), paras 8.18-8.19 and National Audit Office, Ministry of Defence: Operation TELIC-United Kingdom Operations in Iraq (HC 60 Session 2003-04: 11 December 2003), para 3.19. Back

432   Committee of Public Accounts, Evidence Session 21 January 2004, Ministry of Defence: Operation Telic-United kingdom military Operations in Iraq, Q 123 Back

433   Committee of Public Accounts, Evidence Session 21 January 2004, Ministry of Defence: Operation Telic-United Kingdom military Operations in Iraq, Q 139 Back

434   Q 1098 Back

435   Q 2220 Back

436   Committee of Public Accounts, Evidence Session 21 January 2004, Ministry of Defence: Operation Telic-United Kingdom Military Operations in Iraq, Q 108 Back


 
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