Delays in installing a new £7 billion computer system has left the Ministry of Defence reliant on a series of ageing systems increasing the risk that one or more could fail, MPs warned.
The Defence Information Infrastructure (DII) is supposed to replace hundreds of existing systems with a single system providing 150,000 terminals across 2,000 military sites, as well as on Royal Navy warships and with troops deployed on operations.
However the Commons Public Accounts Committee said that the 10-year project, which began in 2005, was already 18 months behind schedule and only had funding for 140,000 terminals.
The main reason for the delays, it said, was "totally inadequate research" which failed to take into account the poor state of many military buildings, where problems such as asbestos had to be dealt with before the equipment could be installed.
Of the 62,800 terminals which should have been installed by the end of July 2007, only 45,600 were in place by the end of September 2008.
Although the rate of installation had since been increased, the committee said it was still behind schedule.
The committee also questioned the choice of the Atlas consortium - headed by the Texan technology giant, EDS, which was responsible for other troubled Government IT projects including the notorious Child Support Agency system - to deliver the programme.
Committee chairman Edward Leigh described EDS as "a company whose track record of delivering Government IT projects has not been exemplary" and said that the consortium had "underestimated" the complexity of the software it was creating.
He said that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) must now take steps to protect against failure of the old legacy systems while DII is completed, paid for out of Atlas's management fees.
"Given the scale of delay, the department must head off the risk that existing IT systems, upon which MoD staff and military personnel rely, will fail," he said. "Detailed plans on the cost and timing of work to keep existing systems going must be developed, this planning to be funded from the management fee paid to Atlas."Reuse content