27 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: ‘Multiple issues’ in Defence strategy

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Delivery of the United Kingdom Government’s Digital Strategy for Defence is threatened by multiple issues, the National Audit Office (NAO) has found.

The Strategy is the Ministry of Defence’s plan to improve cyber-security and modernise digitisation.

It has three goals, to create a digital ‘backbone’ to allow for data to be shared seamlessly and securely across all military and civilian domains; develop a digital ‘foundry’ for centralised software and data analytics development; and improve and empower its digital function.

The NAO examined the Ministry’s progress on implementing the Strategy from May 2021, when it was announced, up to June this year.

The main issues it identified were the lack of a complete plan or a clear way of measuring progress.

“The Department also lacks adequate personnel to complete the task,” the NAO said.

The Ministry currently aims to hire 151 people with high-priority technical skills for the large undertaking, but by June only 42 people had been hired, with 39 more in the pipeline.

It is understood the intention is that new recruits will fill critical roles and ideally be a mix of employees and contractors.

“The Ministry’s historically poor reputation for project and program delivery is largely due to a substantial amount of legacy technology that needs to be replaced or updated, as it is currently a barrier to integrating digital activity across Defence,” the NAO said.

It said the Ministry would need to spend £11.7 billion ($A21 billion) to update or replace ageing legacy technology over the following decade.

The NAO recommended the Ministry immediately create a clear plan for the Digital Strategy.

This would include wider efforts to transform the Department; prioritise all activities needed to achieve set goals; create clear indicators to demonstrate future progress; and develop a consistent set of performance information for both digital and wider Departmental functions

A Ministry spokesperson agreed with the NAO recommendation.

“We are putting this plan in place immediately,” the spokesperson said.

London 30 October, 2022

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