Review : Changing the Dinosaur's Spots

Changing the Dinosaur's Spots: The Battle to Reform UK Defence Acquisition by Bill Kincaid.

Reviewed by John Muxworthy 

Dinosaur Book cover smallThis, the latest in a series of ‘Dinosaur’ books by Brigadier Bill Kincaid, addresses the challenges facing the Nation, the Government and in particular the Ministry of Defence, in acquiring sufficient and appropriate equipment (Defence acquisition) cost effectively.

This is a large and comprehensive book that people who are not accountants or military experts can understand, although ‘experts’ can, and will, relish it too. Bill tells it ‘like it is’ based on his long and distinguished military career and now from his position as Editor of RUSI’s highly regarded magazine Defence Systems.

The book is detailed but is, for such a ‘specialised subject’, a relatively ‘easy read’. I found it instructive, revealing, fascinating and enjoyable. The many cartoons are excellent, entertaining and – as any good picture should be – are each worth a thousand words.

Then there are the ‘pithy sayings’ on almost every page – a few examples being:

'The inescapable conclusion is that acquisition performance is poor' – and that, from my reading of the book, is an understatement.

'The delivery of UORs (Urgent Operational Requirements) is one truly bright spot in acquisition performance' - Hear hear! Credit where credit is due – but having to use so many UORs as ‘sticking plaster solutions’ highlights the effects and consequences of chronic underfunding that continues to worsen year on year. (That last comment is 'aside' by your reviewer.)

'The implementation of the Smart Procurement Initiative ran out of steam in 2000' – and here we are in 2009! Has much changed? Read the book and judge for yourself.

Achievement, not aims, will be the only way to meet the laid down sub-objectives

The final words in this 399 page book leave the reader with the book’s core theme:

That’s not good enough – ACTION THIS DAY

For anyone interested in the effective Defence of this Country and the provision of good kit at a sensible price for our hard pressed Armed Forces – and that should be all of us – I heartily commend this book to you.

Commander John Muxworthy of the Royal Navy is CEO of the UK National Defence Association.

The views expressed above are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of RUSI.

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