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UK MoD bungs Boeing £500m to plug gap left by a system it should have provided under £800m contract from 2010

'Fragile and ageing legacy systems' need to be replaced – now

The UK's Ministry of Defence has awarded Boeing Defence UK a £500m contract without external competition to replace "fragile and ageing legacy systems" it had already been charged with swapping out as part of a 2010 contract.

Any lack of availability would "fundamentally impact the UK Armed Forces ability to operate effectively around the globe," according to a tender notice published today.

The extension with Boeing relates to the Future Logistics Information Services (FLIS) project, an £800m contract set out by the government in 2010 to deliver an operationally essential logistics information system.

That contract comes to an end in 2022 and the MoD plans to extend it to include an inventory management system for the Army, Navy, and Airforce based on its existing Air Domain base inventory management system. This will replace "fragile and ageing legacy systems" including the Navy's Comprehensive RNSTS Inventory Systems Project (CRISP) and the Army's Stores System 3 (SS3).

Under its original contract, Boeing was due to replace the Air Domain base inventory systems with the Base Inventory and Warehouse Management Service project (BIMS-A), which would also replace CRISP and SS3.

According to a 2011 Public Accounts Committee hearing, BIMS-A was supposed to replace these as part of the original Boeing contract. The MoD was expecting "full operating capability of the first increment of the BIMS project replacing the air base inventory systems by March 2013".

In the oral evidence to that hearing, Major General Ian Copeland explained the MoD had "added £75m to the Future Logistics Information Services programme to address the specific risk of catastrophic failure in our base inventory and warehousing systems."

He added that he expected the full system to be delivered across Defence in 2014.

The name of BIMS-A was subsequently changed to BIWMS. The Airforce system was replaced by Boeing in Dec 2016 (three years late). Navy and Army systems were never replaced, even tohugh all three were due to be replaced under the original contract.

The new Boeing contract has been awarded using the negotiated procedure without prior publication. Dubbed Bridges the Gap (BtG), it is designed to create a stopgap for the FLIS contract and the future long-term strategic solution, known as the Business Modernisation for Support (BMfS) project.

According to the tender notice, the "proposed amendments to the FLIS contract were offered by Boeing to transform the authority's base inventory management systems as part of the original FLIS contract proposal which was not taken up at the time of contract award. It has now become necessary to address the increasing fragility of the existing CRISP and SS3 platforms which requires the authority to take immediate action to replace them before they fail and the Authority loses the critical capability they provide."

The new contract is "intended to be a transitional arrangement, during which time the scope of the [logistic information systems] service will be re-shaped and rationalised prior to the BMfS capability becoming fully operational in 2027."

The MoD said the risk created by transitioning from Boeing to a new supplier during that interim period represented "an unacceptable threat to UK operational capability due to the risk of non-availability, service disruption and interoperability failures."

The tender pointed out that to maintain and migrate from legacy defence systems required specialist skills Boeing had built up over time and were difficult to find elsewhere in the market.

In short, Boeing is getting a new contract to plug the gap left by a system it should have provided in the first place. At £500m, that's a pretty expensive stopgap. ®

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