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PAC: Ukraine invasion “begs serious questions about the pace, scope and ambition” of UK defence capability plans

11 May 2022

In a report today the Public Accounts Committee argues the Russian invasion of Ukraine raises concerns that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has not “identified the modern battle-winning capabilities our armed forces need” in the face of “a number of potential adversaries rapidly developing new military technology”.

The Committee is concerned by MoD’s “inability to control costs in its large programmes” including the Dreadnought class of nuclear submarines. The current Plan relies on “billions of pounds of future cost reductions” but without plans supporting how £4 billion of these “expected” savings might be delivered. 

Two-thirds of this £4 billion saving needs to be achieved by March 2025 even though contractual commitments limit the flexibility to make savings in the short term, and higher inflation means that any decisions to deliberately delay projects would be costly:  the Committee says “without a realistic plan to achieve savings, the MoD risks remaining caught in a trap of short-term, affordability-driven decisions”.

The Committee is also concerned that MoD “sees the Dreadnought programme ‘contingency’ held by HM Treasury as a “blank cheque, freeing it from the need to control costs” in its largest programme.

Chair's comments

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said:

“The MoD trumpeted a step change in this year’s Equipment Plan after the Integrated Review, with new priorities and a huge cash injection - but the invasion of Ukraine has cast in stark relief the realities of current and future warfare.

Year on year we report on the MoD’s failures to balance its budgets and the immense costs racking up on current projects that are delayed by years. We can find little cause for optimism that the MoD will become a better custodian of the taxpayers’ money that needs to be spent developing next-generation capabilities.

Senior officials appear unable to recognise the poor state of affairs in MoD’s procurement or the deep-rooted issues that undermine our confidence that it will actually get a grip on the situation.  A diminished role in global security, and enhanced risk to our national security and the service personnel defending it, are the unacceptable costs of the Ministry’s ongoing and repeated failures.”

Further information

Image: MoD