Friday, 15 May 2009

NAO: Operations being compromised

The National Audit Office yesterday published its report "Support to High Intensity Operations". This report looks at how effective the MoD has been at supporting large-scale operations in Iraq and Afghanistan especially in terms of:
- the equipment provided and how it gets to the frontline, and
- the level of training the guys receive before they're deployed and the support they get once they have been.
The NAO recognises that "the provision of support for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is made more difficult because they operate in remote locations and harsh conditions."


  • Upto March 2009 the MoD has secured £4.2billion of extra funding from the Treasury for Urgent Operational Requirements - helicopter upgrades, improved vehicle protection, early attack warning systems for bases and electronic counter-measures.
  • Apart from Vectors, the vehicles purchased or upgraded have generally met the MoD's targets although there have been shortages of spares for some vehicles particularly when used in a role different to that originally intended (e.g. Mastiffs in Afghanistan).
  • Armed Forces personnel throughout the chain of command in both Iraq and Afghanistan say that UOR equipment had performed well overall, including that procured to enhance protected mobility.
  • The availability and serviceability of the helicopter fleets on operations have exceeded MoD targets though sometimes at the expense of fleets back in the UK.

  • Despite the challenging operational environments, the MoD successfully delivered around 300,000 personnel and 90,000 tonnes of freight to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two years. The Department has not consistently met its supply chain targets for the timeliness of delivery (Afghanistan 57% on target, Iraq 71%) but there are signs that the supply chain is becoming more resilient.

Pre-deployment training

  • For Iraq and Afghanistan, pre-deployment training is responsive to lessons identified in theatre and commanders are confident of its quality. But it is constrained by a number of factors: insufficient time for training, difficulties in replicating operational environments and shortages in training equipment.

Support and welfare on operations

  • There is widespread confidence in the medical services provided on the frontline. Survival rates from severe injuries have improved especially since the introduction of Medical Emergency Response Teams.
  • Accommodation at bases meets most needs and personnel are generally satisfied with it, although conditions at forward operating and patrol bases are more austere. More permanent structures are replacing tents.
  • The Deployable Welfare Package, which aims to provide welfare support to personnel on operations to maintain their emotional and physical wellbeing, is generally being successfully delivered in operational theatres although there are some problems at peak times.
  • Both the Army and the RAF are struggling to meet "harmony guidelines" which should be determining the frequency between deployments.

Major problems

  • There have been shortages of spares for some vehicles and insufficient equipment on which to conduct pre-deployment training.
  • Equipment provided for operational training is not always at the same level as that deployed in theatre, making training less realistic.
  • The MoD’s performance against supply chain targets has been variable and lower for the highest priority demands.
  • There is a significant difference in the provision of welfare packages at main operating bases and at forward operating and patrol bases.

National Audit Office: Support to High Intensity Operations