Aging IT systems are causing problems in the management of the UK's national defense inventories, according to a new report.

UK Ministry of Defence
– Wikimedia Commons/Harland Quarrington

The UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) has a portfolio of more than 740 million items in its inventory including weapons, spare parts, and raw materials valued at £11.8 billion ($14.59bn).

However, the aging IT infrastructure used to manage these items is a major problem, according to the National Audit Office (NAO)'s recent UK Defence Inventory Management report.

The report states that the Army and Navy were both using 40-year-old core inventory systems which require manual intervention to communicate with each other.

The data itself was also a problem - the IT system for the Navy, for example, was able to note that an item was damaged, but could not note what the extent of that damage was.

The MoD has been slowly rationalizing its systems, having between 2010 and 2022 reduced its "logistics support systems" from 250 to 89, but further rationalization and modernization are required.

The MoD is currently rolling out a series of transformation programs, including a £2.5bn pan-defense transformation program which will update the legacy IT systems and implement a standardized process across the MoD.

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: “The Ministry of Defence has taken steps to improve its inventory management, and these have resulted in improvements in logistics and commodity procurement and reductions in over-purchasing. However, longstanding weaknesses with its inventory management remain, primarily from legacy IT systems.

“The MoD must ensure it prioritizes the resources it needs for its transformation programs, otherwise its ability to build resilience and deploy the people and equipment it needs in the right places will be frustrated.”

Over the past few years, several UK governmental departments have committed to migrating to the cloud. In 2021, the Government Digital Service signed a £12 million ($16.6m) hosting contract with AWS and, in August of this year, the Crown Commercial Service announced a £1.305 billion ($1.66bn) cloud computing contract was available for bids.

Similarly, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs signed a £20.8 million (~$25m) with AWS in March 2023.