The Privatization of Military Training Would Benefit U.S

By Campbell, Donald W. | National Defense, November 2002 | Go to article overview

The Privatization of Military Training Would Benefit U.S


Campbell, Donald W., National Defense


While everyone recognizes the importance of training for military forces, the case could be made, however, that the actual procurement of training systems is not always a smooth and timely process.

Military forces around the world are continuing to face budget constraints, human resource shortages and shifting priorities. These issues sometimes result in less-thanideal training capabilities.

To help address current training shortfalls, the military services should consider a novel approach to training armed forces called "privatized training." This new way of conducting training procurement has evolved in recent years.

The United Kingdom was a pioneer in the use of privatized training. The U.K. Ministry of Defence, over the past five years, has implemented what is known as the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). A case in point is the Medium Support Helicopter Aircrew Training Facility and the Astute Class Submarine Training Service.

The helicopter aircrew training facility represents the first PFI contract awarded by the United Kingdom, involving defense-specific assets. It also represents the first contract of this type for simulator-based training services.

Both the Ministry of Defence and CAE, the contractor, have learned several lessons through the process. Additionally, the military customers should address some valid concerns before considering privatized training services.

Privatization is not necessarily the right approach for all types of military training. But for some services, such as basic flight training, it is definitely a viable option.

Potential advantages and obstacles to privatized training should be assessed, particularly in the United States, where the concept is gaining momentum, even though it still faces legislative and perception barriers.

The first issue to address is funding. Both government program managers and defense industry executives know that funding is always a top issue in all military programs, not just training efforts.

From the perspective of the government, funding for privatized military training is typically faster, since the upfront capital costs are the responsibility of the contractor. The military customer is agreeing to buy a defined training service. Until that service can be delivered, the government incurs little expense.

At the same time, the contractor has a significant incentive to deliver on time and on budget, in order to satisfy financing obligations. The upshot is that military customers are likely to get the training that they require much faster than a conventional procurement could ever deliver.

Under a private-funding initiative, not only can training be delivered faster, but it can cost less than conventional training programs. Conventional wisdom suggests that the private sector can be more efficient in operating a training service, and this wisdom generally is proving true in the U.K. programs.

The Ministry of Defence recently conducted a detailed analysis of the Medium Support Helicopter Aircrew Training Facility contract. Officials determined that the payments due under the PFI approach over the initial 20year contract term would be 15 to 20 percent below the costs of owning and operating the facility themselves.

Some of the other lessons learned include the importance of communication at all levels with the customers. It's not enough to simply address end-user requirements for the training service. As one senior official from the U.K. Defence Procurement Agency suggests, "Significant effort must be invested to ensure that teamwork involves all stakeholders on the public side of a PFI."

Customer subject matter experts can be valuable contributors. And the ability of both customer and contractor to manage expectations is vital-they need to view the entire project as a partnership.

CAE hired an independent research organization to conduct a survey of military customers, prospects and industry partners involved in simulation and training. …

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