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The National Audit Office report on Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs), whereby the Ministry of Defence (MoD) uses a streamlined version of its procedures to support operations by buying equipment quickly, finds that UORs are a necessary and increasingly important feature of operations and that the Department has shown impressive ingenuity to deliver urgent requirements to support recent operations. However, more complete information management would allow the MoD to consider further ways to improve the management and speedy and cost-effective delivery of UORs.

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Recently, the Department has procured 312 Urgent Operational Requirements to support the preparation and warfighting stages of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, at a cost of £658 million. Seventy per cent of the amount spent on the early stages of the operation in Iraq was to bring forward planned equipment or to fill previously unidentified capability gaps. Thirty per cent was spent on UORs to fill previously identified capability gaps, where the Department had decided not to fill them in advance. Given that the Department does not have the money to buy all the equipment it may need for all types of operations, it must therefore prioritise and have to work on the basis that it will have to fill some capability gaps by Urgent Operational Requirements. This 30 per cent is equivalent to approximately two to three per cent of the some £6 billion spent each year by the Department on the procurement of equipment. Enhancements to existing capabilities provided through Urgent Operational Requirements ranged from fighting and defensive equipment, such as light machine guns and enhanced armour protection, through to supporting capabilities such as temporary accommodation, communications and medical supplies.

The MoD had centrally held information for about half of these UORs. National Audit Office analysis of this information shows that two thirds of the UORs were delivered on time. Three quarters were finally deployed and used, with 96 per cent of these assessed by end users as effective or better. Examples of successful UORs include ARTHUR, a radar which locates mortar and artillery firing positions, and Storm Shadow, a missile whose deployment was accelerated so it could be used in Iraq.

The NAO report recommends that, without hindering the current process, the MoD should enhance its current systems to make information on UORs more complete, accurate, coherent and accessible to more effectively monitor what is, in total, a significant amount of expenditure. This would allow the MoD to consider further ways to improve the management and speedy and cost-effective delivery of UORs.

"UORs are a necessary and increasingly important feature of operations. The speed, commitment and ingenuity of MoD staff involved in these urgent procurements is impressive. The majority of UORs arrived in Iraq on time, but with better information and better planning, the MoD should be able to improve on current performance for future operations."

Sir John Bourn, head of the NAO


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