NAO blasts MoD supply chain systems

Troops in combat areas such as Afghanistan are not getting timely supplies due to inadequate data systems, poor business intelligence, and deficient logistics processes, according to the National Audit Office

Outdated and inefficient logistics systems are hampering supplies of equipment to British troops in combat zones such as Afghanistan, the National Audit Office has found.

The [MoD] urgently needs better supply chain information systems with the appropriate skills and processes to match.

– Amyas Morse, NAO

Poor business intelligence, outmoded technology and segmentation of the supply chain all contribute to the problem, said the National Audit Office (NAO) in a report on Thursday. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has a target that high-priority items sent by air, such as weapons, clothing, food, fuel and ammunition, should arrive in theatre within five days; this only happened in around a third of cases, said the report.

"The [MoD] urgently needs better supply chain information systems with the appropriate skills and processes to match," Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said in a statement. "[The MoD] currently keeps the armed forces supplied by either stockpiling more than necessary, sending too many routine items by air, or both. This ties up precious resources that could be better used to support troops."

Ageing systems

Some of the computer systems the Ministry of Defence (MoD) supply uses are over 30 years old, according to the NAO. The Oasis Stores computer system, which deals with warehousing, is 32 years old, while the Comprehensive RNSTS Inventory Systems Project was brought in 29 years ago, said NAO.

"These [systems] have limited capability, and the scope to upgrade their capabilities is often extremely restricted and many are no longer supported," said the report. "Reliance on such systems means that it is very challenging to produce the business information required by stakeholders to run an effective and efficient supply chain."

An MoD spokeswoman said the department had awarded an £800m contract to Boeing in December for a project called Future Logistics Information Services. The project is designed to streamline logistics.

"Operations in Afghanistan are our top priority, and the NAO notes the improvements in the supply chain including to our Armed Forces on the front line," said defence minister Peter Luff in a statement. "We are constantly working to improve our performance, and we are currently implementing an £800m contract with Boeing Defence for a more streamlined, agile and effective logistics support chain."

Further shortcomings identified in the NAO report include that data systems are often incompatible, with incomplete links between systems and questionable data accuracy. It also said the MoD is not tracking supplies efficiently and that basic information such as costs for parts, storage or transport are not available.

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