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Ministry of Defence: The Defence Information Infrastructure

The Ministry of Defence programme to replace hundreds of different IT systems with a single, secure, high quality computer infrastructure is based on a sound rationale and convincing business case. According to a National Audit Office report issued today, the Defence Information Infrastructure Programme (DII) has delivered important benefits, but has run into implementation difficulties, and key elements are running significantly late.

When planning the system, the MoD did considerable work to understand and mitigate risk, by learning from other large computer projects, and devised robust commercial, governance and decision-making structures. The Programme has delivered a number of improvements to the existing IT systems within the MoD, such as improved user support and reliability.

Where DII has been introduced, it has generally been available when it should be. The Programme has also helped the Department develop and install at short notice two systems supporting frontline troops on operations in Afghanistan. But, throughout 2005 and early 2006, problems emerged with two key elements of the Programme: the rollout of hardware and the creation of software. 62,800 computer terminals were due to be in place at permanent defence sites by the end of July 2007. At the end of April 2008, only 29,000 had been delivered. The completion date for the installation of the first increment of the Programme is 18 months late.

The original method of rolling out the Programme’s infrastructure and terminals proved to be inappropriate and unresponsive to the variable state of defence sites. A new implementation method has been more successful. The MoD’s requirement for core software has remained largely unchanged since the contract was let, but the Programme has experienced difficulties in delivering elements of it, though changes have now been made to address the problems.

The MoD has, to a large extent, protected its financial position; forecast costs for the Programme approved in March 2005 have increased by £182 million (some 3 per cent). Any additional growth in costs may limit the MoD’s ability to meet its remaining requirements.

Tim Burr, head of the National Audit Office, said today:

“It was always going to be a demanding task for the Ministry of Defence to replace its diverse information technology with a single, high quality system. The MoD started with a clear vision of what it wanted to achieve and acted to address known risks. But the Programme has run into difficulties and further concerted action will be needed to increase the rate of roll out of terminals and to deliver the remaining software.”

“It was always going to be a demanding task for the Ministry of Defence to replace its diverse information technology with a single, high quality system. The MoD started with a clear vision of what it wanted to achieve and acted to address known risks. But the Programme has run into difficulties and further concerted action will be needed to increase the rate of roll out of terminals and to deliver the remaining software.”

Tim Burr, head of the National Audit Office

Notes for Editors

  1. The Ministry of Defence requires secure, high quality information technology as an essential element for the success of operations and to conduct its day-to-day business. In 2000, the Department began to develop plans to replace many diverse systems with a single infrastructure to enable better communication, to promote more efficient ways of working and to obtain better value for money. In March 2005, the Department let a contract to the ATLAS consortium for the installation and management over 10 years of a new infrastructure, known as the Defence Information Infrastructure Programme.
  2. The Programme will eventually incorporate 150,000 terminals for 300,000 users at over 2,000 defence sites, including on ships and deployed operations. The parts of the Programme which the Department has on contract, including payments to ATLAS, are estimated to cost £4.9 billion. A further £1.2 billion is estimated as the cost of delivering related IT programmes on which the Defence Information Infrastructure Programme depends, resulting in a cost to the Department of £6.1 billion. The cost of meeting the full vision, including work yet to be contracted, is currently estimated to be £7.1 billion. (For details of the scope of the Defence Information Infrastructure Programme, see Appendix 3 of the NAO report.)
  3. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at www.nao.org.uk. Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
  4. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Tim Burr, is the head of the National Audit Office which employs some 850 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.

PN: 32/08