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Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, reported today on the progress made by the Ministry of Defence in implementing the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in its 2002 report on combat identification.

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Following a number of deaths of UK service personnel during the combat phase of Operation TELIC in Iraq in March 2003, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee asked Sir John to assess the Department’s progress in delivering combat identification capability, including lessons identified from recent operations.

The 2002 PAC recommendations covered four main issues:

  1. The need for the Department to increase the tempo of its efforts.
  2. The need for the Department to provide a clearer account of the steps taken to reduce the risk of civilian casualties.
  3. The need to develop the existing methods of co-operation with allies.
  4. The need for a database on the level of “fratricide” and the robust analysis and appropriate dissemination of the information gathered.

Today’s report reached the following conclusions:

  • Progress in increasing the tempo of the Department’s efforts has been mixed.
  • The Department has maintained its policy of minimising all casualties in conflicts, including civilian casualties.
  • The Department has further developed its international co-operation.
  • The Department has taken steps to improve the collection of data on fratricide.

"The Department has identified a number of areas where it can achieve better combat identification performance. It has made progress by improving data collection, introducing training courses, developing tactics, training and procedures and bringing in new equipment. However, the Department could and is doing more. When it finishes the current review of combat identification policy, it should develop a detailed strategy to implement the revised policy.”

Sir John Bourn


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