Why are these issues not been raised in Wales at the assembly...are our AMs not been kept informed or do they care so little that they welcome this imposed scheme with out a murmour?
The Metrix miscalculation
Its not just private eye that suspects that privatising defence training could turn out to be one of labours more toxic legacies. So does the ministry of defence.
Documents produced following a recent meeting of the “defence training review executive board” reveal that the project , under which training will be handed to the Metrix consortium through a 30m PFI contract worth around £11bn, poses catastrophic risks on the front line.
A confidential “post meeting readout” of deliberations led by deputy chief of defence staff (personnel) Vice Admiral Peter Wilkinson exposes “major AFFORDABILITY issues” requiring a “realistic contingency plan” for the deal to privatise training on everything from tanks to fighter jets. Hinting at serious difficulties on the deal, the “affordability gap” could not be disclosed even to the project board as it was too “sensitive”.
More alarming still was a list of 15 significant risks with the project, including some that will fill the military on engagements around the world with dread. “trained output fails to meet requirement of operational commands” is one of them, on the grounds that “there is a risk that the Metrix solution will not be able to deliver the numbers of suitably trained personnel that are required and/or that the training output is not to a sufficiently high standard.”
Echoing concerns of MOD staff who suspect that companies like EDS, Serco, Qinetiq and Nord Anglia that make up the Metrix consortium don’t have the defence of the realm as their highest priority, a “lack of military ethos” is also seen as a danger with devastating consequences. “There is also a risk that the measures to instill military ethos…..provided by the Metrix solution fail to deliver the desired level of military discipline, ethos and culture that is required and that trainees will leave the training establishment ill-prepared for service in operational commands”, notes the MOD. This would impair “their ability to perform at full operational effectiveness when they join their unit.”
Among other concerns are a loss of existing defence trainers who appear unwilling to move to a new defence academy at St Athan, south Wales, from their existing bases
(72% have said they won’t) and the inability of Metrix to recruit suitable replacements; “inconsistencies in training standards” between privatised training and the limited training that remains in-house; lack of accommodation due to planning blight, leading to “further damage [to] the reputation of MoD and the morale of “both trainers and trainees”; “a risk that as a result of the 2012 Olympics construction and MoD projects in the region…..construction industry capacity will be exceeded” ; and the prospect of delays in planning permission for the new academy as “the possible need for public consultation…….could lead to programme delays, undermining [sic] possible solutions”.
Certain risks are deemed “intolerable”. In particular, the scheme depends on missing millions from the sale of sites at Arborfield and Bordon. If planning permission for housing is not obtained soon, sites will be much less valuable, “impacting on the affordability of the project as a whole”.
Equally intolerable – unlike the failure to meet the military’s operational needs, which is presumably tolerable – is the prospect of the deal losing its off balance sheet PFI magic. New government accounting rules are due to bring PFI investments, of which this project contains £750 million, on balance sheet. “There is a risk that the [project] will not receive exemption from the accounting rules …” notes the board, adding ominously: “The consequence of this would be to make the project unaffordable .. and therefore prevent the project progressing in its current form”.
Eighteen months ago defence minister Des Browne admitted that PFI was the only option for defence training because it would take investment off balance sheet (Eye 1177), inviting the disastrous consequences his officials are now admitting. But even the accounting “benefit” (to the governments books but to nobody else) is now disappearing, leaving nothing more than a handful of private companies presiding over an expensive shambles. Just what the forces soon packing their bags for Helmand need.
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