The Ministry of Defence's ability to manage technology procurement is getting worse, the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed.
The Government's expenditure watchdog said major schemes are running further and further behind schedule and singled-out the £3bn Bowman battlefield digital communications system as a prime example of the problem.
Originally planned to come into service in 1995, the Bowman system is now at least eight years behind schedule and is not expected to come on stream until late 2003/early 2004.
The watchdog reported that Bowman has so far cost the MoD £9bn. The cost of the delay is still rising.
Commenting on the report, the Commons Defence Committee said that progress on the Bowman project has been "woefully slow" and added that the project "remains a very good example of the antithesis of smart procurement with over ambitious requirements, inadequate competition and a lack of clear leadership".
"The MoD's performance in procuring equipment to approved timescales is getting worse," said the auditor's report.
Of 25 defence projects examined, 23 were found to be running late, and 15 of them were more than three years late. The average delay in 1999 was 47 months, compared with 43 months in 1998.