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MoD estate management failures “continue to harm the well-being of service personnel” as well as UK military capabilities

12 October 2021

In 2019-20 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) spent £4.6 billion on the UK’s “defence estate” - around twice the annual cost of maintaining the UK’s nuclear deterrent. The defence estate, including the MoD’s training and accommodation buildings and facilities, covers fully 1.5% of UK landmass, and is valued at £36 billion.

30% of defence estate in "unacceptable condition"

In a report today the Public Accounts Committee says the defence estate is “vital in supporting military capabilities and its condition affects the lives and welfare of our service personnel” - but around 40% of it was built more than 50 years old and “30% is in an unacceptable condition”. It has “not tackled the long-known problems with the poor quality of its estate, which continue to harm the well-being of service personnel”.

The estate is “too large, and its scale, nature and location have failed to evolve to meet the Armed Forces’ needs” - but over a decade into a data collection project the MoD is still “several years away” from key decisions on rationalising and improving it. The MoD “does not expect to reach a ‘competent’ level of asset management until 2025”, which along with its “lamentable failure to bring the SLAMIS system into service after eight years of development” is “yet another example of the poor information that underpins how the MoD manages its estate”.

No actual targets to reduce estate size

In 2016, the MoD set up a 25-year Defence Estate Optimisation Portfolio investment strategy with the expectation that it would reduce the size of the built estate by 25%, and that other sales would reduce it by a further 5%. But since then has reduced its built estate by just 2% and even if it achieves all planned disposals, the estate would in fact be reduced by just 16%. The MoD has no actual targets to reduce the size of the whole estate, including its overseas holdings.

Forecast savings from the Optimisation Portfolio have dwindled to £0.65 billion from an original estimate of £2.4 billion and the Committee fears “there is a very real risk of savings melting away completely”, with the Infrastructure and Project Authority recently grading the whole programme as Amber/Red: “successful delivery of the project is in doubt”.

Deputy Chair's comment

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Deputy Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said:

"The MoD is spending about twice as much a year maintaining the defence estate as it does maintaining the UK’s nuclear deterrent but as this inquiry has disappointingly revealed, it doesn’t know exactly what it spent £4.6 billion of taxpayers’ money on last year - or what it should be spending it on.

Over the last decade targets have been set and then missed by miles. The management was at first done in-house, then outsourced to contractors and it has since been brought back in-house again and dissolved to the Brigades. It will take another four years to even establish an asset register on standards of condition of all the property that the MoD occupies. Yet in the May 2021 Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey only 34% of service personnel are satisfied with their accommodation. Add to all of this that the whole estate management strategy now needs to be completely realigned with the recent Strategic Defence Review. Our report indicates that there is a disastrous lack of estate strategy within the MoD which is taking an unnecessarily large amount of resources from the front line, and not even delivering decent housing for defence personnel who are obliged to occupy it."

Further information

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