Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 3 MARCH 1999
and MR PAUL
40. This is rather unnerving. Somebody knows
where they are and it will be known in a proper fashion in due
course where all these trucks are, so at the moment, given the
situation as of today, how can the cost of operating them be managed?
Or is it being managed?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) The trucks are issued to
units or they are held in store at Ashchurch, as we have discussed
in this room before. Most of them will be in issue. The units
do not just get given these things, they record the fact they
have received them so they are held accountable for looking after
them, and they are expected to make sure they are kept in a fit
condition. If they cannot be used because they are beyond the
ability of the unit to repair, then they make appropriate arrangements
through headquarters with Army Equipment Support, and the truck
is returned for full refurbishment or written off depending on
the severity of the damage.
41. So an individual unit knows what has
happened to the trucks which it has been issued with?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Absolutely, they rely on
42. But there is not anyone who knows what
has happened to them all?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) I did say that somebody
knows what is happening to each one.
43. Who is it?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Different people. Every
unit will know where their trucks are.
44. I was visualising a person sat somewhere
who is the person who has that knowledge and you could ring them
up and ask.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) When they have got DRUMM
they will be able to answer the question satisfactorily.
45. Moving on to the Air Force, paragraph
3.7, the Logistics Information Technology System has been referred
to. That is to be introduced, is it?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Yes.
46. How long will it take? The system is
partly manual now, is that right?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Very much so.
47. So for how much longer will it continue
to be manual with all the potential for human error that there
(Sir Robert Walmsley) LITS is already being introduced
in some areas now. I hope it does not sound a nit-pick if I say
that it still requires people to put into it the equipment serial
numbers and to describe the event that has occurred, and if they
put the wrong number in then there will still be errors although
it is a computer. This is the point I was trying to make earlier
about how the computer provides the technical means but it still
requires operators at the point of inserting the data to tap in
the right number which, even on quite a simple article, can be
ten digits long. So it is not just a question of providing computers
and instructions to people, I am absolutely clear that there has
to be a change in the working methods across actually the whole
of the MoD as we move to these much more advanced computer information
systems or we will not get the benefits from them, and we are
making very substantial investments in them. We are pleased with
the way LITS is going now, after a slightly hesitant start, but
it is now focused absolutely on delivering benefits to the efficiency
of the Air Force rather than just some theoretical computer system
which whirrs away doing its best without any real connection to
48. How much involvement should there be
by the industry who manufacture these items in all this?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) There certainly should be
involvement by industry. I did try to explain that industry are
generally the Design Authority, that is nearly always true for
aircraft, much less frequently for ships for reasons we can go
into. The Design Authority are the people who know what the configuration
of the equipment should be so when it comes to seeking to modify
it, to upgrade its capability, it is quite natural that one turns
to the Design Authority and asks them for a price estimate. It
is quite unsatisfactory in a way that nearly always for modifications
this has to be non-competitive because the only person who understands
the design well enough is the person who is the Design Authority.
Equally, they can be given a task, if we so contract, to manage
obsolescence which in electronic component terms is becoming more
and more of a serious issue. So industry is greatly involved both
in upgrades in capability, because they have the competence to
do that and also in keeping an overview of the equipment to cater
for the obsolescence of electronic components, et cetera.
49. Looking at Figure 12 on page 35, it
seems from that representation it is not easy to have an overview
of what the workload is for the process of modification. What
is going to happen to make sure that it becomes easier to understand
what the workload is and what is in process?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) It is partly organisational,
and that is the Integrated Project Team, which contains representatives
from industry, as you have suggested; from the Support Authority,
the people who have responsibility for managing the equipment
in service; very importantly from the operational requirements
community, the people who are wanting the equipment to be modified
to do something newer and more difficult; and from any other stakeholders
who have a part to play in the modification process. So the organisation
of an Integrated Project Team which brings all the people together
with the budgetary and the management responsibility should do
a great deal to improve it because they are incentivised to do
so, but without the computer systems which we were speaking of
a moment ago, it will not be a practical possibility, which is
why the two go hand in hand.
50. That leads me on to my last question
which is looking at paragraph 3.12. The organisations which embody
the modifications do not seem to be included in planning that
workload and timetable, is that the reason why? Because the systems
are not in place to allow them to do that, or is there another
(Sir Robert Walmsley) It is this organisational
issue, that sometimes the modifications are planned in one part
of the Ministry of Defence and responsibility for undertaking
them is in another part. It is that cross-organisational process
which has provided us with these inefficiencies, which is why
these integrated teams will be established. I would say that although
I acknowledge every word in the Report, the position has hugely
improved as people over the last ten or more years have come to
understand that the embodiment work is often more costly and more
difficult to manage than the actual design, development work and
production work of the modification kits, so I think it is improving
51. So the integrated project teams, when
they exist and when they are functioning properly, will address
all this, but they are not there yet?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) They are there now in ten
equipment cases. Three of those are for equipments which are in
service and, therefore, they are dealing with these issues now.
They are called the "pilot integrated teams" and they
have only been in existence a few months, but they are tackling
the issues now and we will have the rest in place within about
14 months from now.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Comprehensively.
53. Sir Robert, good afternoon. Can I start
by going back to an answer you gave to Mr Steinberg which surprised
me. He was asking you about fuselage fires on the Tornado and
I think I heard you say that the RAF are not storing fuel in the
fin now, that the RAF has done that and perhaps the Germans did
it all along. To what extent is there an exchange of knowledge
on this sort of technical development? The layman, sitting here,
thought to himself with the answer you gave to Mr Steinberg that
the Germans would have compared notes.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) I simply was reflecting
my own state of knowledge. I am absolutely clear in my own mind
that there is a colossal interchange, including pilot interchange,
between all the air forces. I have no doubt about that. Similarly,
there is the international office in Munich and it is just me
that does not know.
54. Thank you. That makes absolute sense.
Just reading this fascinating Report and listening to your answers
so far, it seems to me that it is easy to be dazzled by the equipment
that we are all talking about, and Tornados and tanks and Trident
submarines are pretty impressive stuff, but I imagine more or
less, perhaps more complexity here, the management systems which
should be used to approach this problem are the same if you are
talking about a supermarket or a sophisticated healthcare system
or anything else. Is that the case?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) I think that is a fair point.
55. Well, if that is the case, how did this
complex matrix of responsibilities at each stage of the modification
or the upgrade process to enhance or sustain, how did that develop?
Has it been a process of evolution as the equipment has got more
complex? How has it grown in the MoD?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Well, we start with the
fact that we have traditionally, and still have, three armed services
who have each up until now been entirely responsible for the budget
for the support costs of their equipment. That effectively comes
to an end very soon now with the formation of the Defence Logistics
Organisation with a single budget, but it is still dedicated to
56. Fine, and I was looking earlier at figure
3 and trying to understand how that had evolved. What you have
just said slightly worries me. It is perfectly understandable
it should have been developed that way, but does that not mean
that there are some counter-productive competitive tensions in
all of this, not simply between the armed services, but confusion
and delay between the different people bidding entirely conscientiously
to have their voice heard?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Again I think that is a
fair point. This is a huge process, as the Report makes clear,
£1 billion in expenditure. As you absolutely rightly point
out, this is spread not just across the glamour equipments, but
57. Can I just stick on the £1 billion
which is the first or second sentence of the Report, 12 per cent
of the defence equipment spend. Is that typical annually? Is that
figure average, do you suppose, year in, year out?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) The Report acknowledges
that the figure goes up and down.
58. But that is about right, is it?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) I have no better information
than the Report.
59. Are you able, sitting behind your very
important desk, to say whether it should be higher or lower? In
other words, can you get more leverage by spending more money
on upgrade and enhancement and all the rest of it or is it about
(Sir Robert Walmsley) It is a question I have
asked myself and I have looked to commercial analogues, as you
have just implied I might do. I looked at a civil airliner which
has been in service since 1967 and they have things called "service
bulletins" which is their equivalent of a modification and
they have raised 3,534, which is 110 per annum. The Tornado raises
130 per annum across the two very different versions of Tornado,
so I draw some comfort from that. I then looked at the other end
of the market, the perhaps simpler end of the market, and looked
at Army Land Rovers, the TUL/TUM, of which we have spoken here
before. In our 1998 production run of TUL/TUMs, we had 30 modifications
to the production standard as compared with 1997. The civilian
vehicle from which it derives had 177. Just picking those two,
they may not be representative, but they seem to me to span quite
an area of technology and I deduce that we are not over-enthusiastic