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U.K. defense supply chain threatened
by Staff Writers
London (UPI) Aug 25, 2011

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

The supply chain for British forces in Afghanistan is at risk of failure because information technology equipment that manages it is inadequate, a Parliament committee has warned.

If the system broke down, troops in the field could be plagued by shortages of critical supplies within a month, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said.

The British Forces Broadcasting Service said the report pointed out that the risk of warehouse system failure was "extremely" high, so much so that the Ministry of Defense Logistics Board rated it as being in a critical condition.

"If these systems fail, then the result could be shortages at the front line within as little as 30 days," the report said.

The Ministry of Defense has spent more than $123 million to upgrade part of the IT system but a larger upgrade project won't be completed until 2014.

The committee expressed concern that funding for the program -- about $1.3 billion --could be endangered by defense spending cuts as the government struggles with the country's economic problems.

"We are very concerned that, until the systems are fully rolled out in 2014, the high risk of system failure will remain in systems that are critical to supporting front line troops," the committee was quoted as saying.

"The Ministry of Defense has a duty to make sure that our troops serving on the front line get the supplies they need, when they need them and in the most cost-effective way," said committee Chairwoman Margaret Hodge.

"For 25 years, the department has promised this committee that it would resolve the long-standing problems associated with its supply chain: late deliveries, missed targets and inadequate cost information. Yet these problems persist."

Defense Equipment Minister Peter Luff said the government was investing in the supply chain to ensure it was "as efficient and cost effective as possible" but also noted "The complexity of supplying a conflict zone should not be underestimated."

In its report, the committee said at least $571 million was spent in 2010-11 on transporting supplies overseas but this underestimates the full cost as the cost of military supply flights isn't included.

"Over decades our reports have identified persistent problems with late deliveries, unnecessary costs and missed targets," the report said. "At present, the (Defense Equipment) Department does not have the information to identify where savings could be made. It does not know the full costs of its current activities or the cost of alternative supply options, information it needs if it is to begin improving value for money.

"The failure to collect basic data about where supplies are stored has directly contributed to the Department's accounts being qualified for three consecutive years.

"Successive reports by this Committee have identified significant problems with the Department's logistics information. Since 1986, the Department has repeatedly assured us that it was aware of the gaps in its information and was introducing better systems to close them. Despite these efforts, the same problems persist.

"Supplies are delayed because manufacturers miss their delivery schedules," it added. "In the six months to November 2010, over 40 percent of deliveries were 30 days or more overdue."

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