The NAO has today issued a supplementary report on the Carrier Strike project, having been given access to briefing papers held by the National Security Secretariat in the Cabinet Office.
As a result of its examination of this documentation, the NAO has revised the relevant part of its original value for money conclusion on the project, concluding now that the strategic policy decision to refocus investment in both the carriers and the linked combat aircraft was well-informed.
Today’s report notes that it will become apparent whether the Ministry of Defence can secure value for money in implementing the strategic policy decision only when the Department fully develops and costs detailed delivery plans to support robust investment decisions, probably in late 2012.
The NAO had been denied access to the briefing papers when preparing its first report on the project (published in July 2011). Following concerns raised by the Committee of Public Accounts and in Parliament more generally, the Secretary to the Cabinet wrote to the NAO in September agreeing that it should have access to four key National Security papers relating to the Strategic Defence and Security Review decisions on Carrier Strike. The papers examined the implications for affordability, military capability and interoperability with allies of each option and were supported by detailed analyses of the industrial implications and the choice between retaining Harrier or Tornado aircraft.