Tuesday, 9 February 2010

MoD puts a contract out with QinetiQ

The MoD and the British Armed Forces have grown used to the concept of outsourcing.

Since 1983, when the MoD introduced its competitive procurement policy, competitive tendering for equipment and the contracting-out of support services to the private sector have not only become accepted practice but have become the de facto rule. Contracted-out services provided by private companies soon came to include such areas as catering, security guarding, training, IT, property maintenance, engineering, laundry and cleaning.

Things moved up a notch in 1990s when the MoD embaced the Thatcherite Private Finance Initiative (PFI) doctrine which was then being promulgated across Whitehall. When Tony came to power in 1997, PFI was re-launched, in Alastair Campbell Newspeak, as Public Private Partnerships - which had a nice, nulabour sound to it. The idea behind this was that private capital and private sector companies would finance and operate infrastructure that previously had been publicly funded and managed. Private companies would claw back their investment over time on a kind of lease basis. For example, the Matrix consortium were to build, manage and run the new £12billion tri-Service Training Academy at St Athan and would then charge the MoD fees for each student sent there on a course.... simples.

Moving on quickly to 2010 and we find that things have taken a quantum leap forward in the privatization stakes. Qinetiq, one of the MoD's favourite private sector companies - sorry, partners - is now sending its employees out to Afghanistan to operate the British military's UAVs. As Qinetiq puts it: "Unmanned air systems (UAS) including unmanned air vehicles (UAVS) are becoming increasingly important enablers in the fields of surveillance, security and defence. QinetiQ provides a total service for both civil and military UAS operations.... QinetiQ delivers a true end-to-end UAS service".

While the use of mercenaries was not uncommon in the barbaric past, for a civilised country in the 21st century to be employing civilians to fight its wars for it, and to kill its enemies (directly or indirectedly), is unacceptable and must be challenged on ethical grounds.

In its panic to cut costs, the MoD has started to contract-out the waging of its wars to the cheapest bidder with the decision to pull a trigger becoming part of a commercial contract.

The use of contract killers belongs in the murky world of the Mafia and should stay there.

The Times: Outsourced QinetiQ staff operate drones in Afghanistan