The Defence Reform Bill

This is a good background paper on the Defence Reform Bill, the possibility of moving DE&S into the private sector

The intention of the Defence Reform Bill is to implement some of the proposals for reform that have been made in two recent White Papers: Better Defence Acquisition, Cm 8626 and Reserves in the Future Force 2020, Cm 8655.

Specifically, the Bill establishes the arrangements for reforming Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and turning it into a Government-Owned, Contractor-Operated (GOCO) organisation. It creates a statutory framework for the governance of MOD single source contracts and makes several amendments to the regulations governing the Reserve Forces.

Second reading of the Defence Reform Bill was held on 16 July 2013. The Public Bill Committee held four general sessions on the principles of Bill at the beginning of September 2013. Line-by-line consideration of the Bill is scheduled to begin on 8 October and the last scheduled date for committee hearings is 24 October 2013.

This note looks at the discussion and amendments to the Bill made during the Public Bill Committee stage, and the wider debate on the Bill’s proposals, in particular the establishment of a Government-Owned, Contractor-Operated (GOCO) model for Defence Equipment and Support.

About The Author

Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

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October 8, 2013 8:54 am

I really don’t get it. GOCO is an abomination – despite the UK Government’s opinion of how clever it is, the US corporations bidding on this will be running rings round them. We will have a system where UK data is shipped to the US without any commercial restriction (really bad for non-US industrial concerns) and minimal UK security restriction (bad for UK sovereign independence). And the Government will find it has no powers under the contract to reign in the flow of information.

From a business viewpoint its hideous – business takes the protection of ideas (Intellectual Property) really seriously because its the ideas that set one producer apart from another, and yet here is a Government initiative from the “Bloody Idiotic Policy” Section of the “We Are In Charge We Can Do As We Please” Department that will remove any business’s control of who gets to see its Intellectual Property. Government doesn’t care so long as its cheaper. They will only get bent out of shape when the system doesn’t perform and then they will find they have no contractual recourse to kill it or fix it.

How can it be cheaper to add in layers of commercial (read ‘profit-making’) administration into an already vastly over complex top-heavy procurement structure? In 1832 the entire Civil Service numbered 21,300. Last year the MOD alone had 68,000 civil servants (not including the seconded military personnel). Over three times more administrators than it took to run an entire Country and Empire. Now we are to add to that more layers of administration, this time largely unaccountable to UK Authorities and very much more aligned to US interests. It is an astonishingly stupid idea. For crying out loud we’ve already given up most indigenous defence industry so we can buy (mostly) American products, now we are giving up UK owned Defence Procurement to the Americans as well? Oh come on – are we such an inept nation that we can’t do anything for ourselves? Which politician needs sacking to stop this stupidity going further??

Sorry. I’m a bit cross about this.

It would serve MOD right if they found no businesses prepared to contract with MOD and its American henchmen.

October 8, 2013 9:46 am


I agree that GOCO is a flawed concept. However, in the short-term, it may prove to be a very effective means of trimming back the size of the MoD. When it fails, as it clearly will, the Government can bring it back in-house with vastly reduced numbers and it hasn’t had to go through the hassle of making 50,000 people redundant.

October 8, 2013 1:44 pm


On anything a government pays to do the R&D on it can and does own all the plans and IP. Not the company. If that is not the case in the UK then you are negotiating pretty crappy deals with the vendors. If the government of the UK elects to hand over the plans to a weapon it paid the R&D cost for from company X to company Y to build a new version then they should be able to. They own the plans after all.

That being said I think this is a silly idea. There are good reasons why no one else looks to be doing it.

October 8, 2013 2:37 pm

Jeremy – there is the same system over here, for example in the Armour world if you pick up a drawing with a drawing number starting with “FV” that means it was a government paid for design and government owns it. Sticking with the Armour environment – there used to be a research & development establishment at Chertsey which was run by MOD & defence scientists. They designed the first off vehicles (prototypes) and industry bid to complete development and then manufacture the vehicles. Clear-cut IPR here – MOD invented it and industry did some further funded development and made the things. Vehicles designed outside the Chertsey boundary were proprietary designs owned by whichever company invested R&D to invent them.

Chertsey closed down.

Now most vehicles are off the shelf, subsequently modified by MOD requirement. If MOD hands over no funding, the designs clearly remain proprietary to the manufacturers. If MOD does fund modifications, such as the £500m being paid to GD for D&M phase of Scout – a modified ASCOD vehicle – then I really have no idea who owns what. There is no clarity; we can only hope appropriately smart people wrote the contract such that UK taxpayer hasn’t just handed the cash to GD to fund GD’s proprietary product development.

In my not very business-like mind it seems to me either industry should offer proprietary Private Venture funded solutions to answer MOD requirements and Industry keeps the IPR, or MOD should dig deep for formal development of a custom solution that owes nothing to previous designs other than the designers’ experience, in which case MOD owns all the IPR. The halfway house process that seems to be the norm at the moment is not at all clean. In my non-business-minded opinion.

Glad you agree its a silly idea. Worth noting so far I haven’t noticed a strong case for GOCO being put forward (apart from Monty, although “Its flawed and it will fail” is not exactly a ringing endorsement). Surely someone thinks its a good idea? Anyone? Else why are we trying to do it?

Not a Boffin
October 8, 2013 2:56 pm

Whether or not GOCO goes ahead and whether or not it works, there are a few misconceptions that need sorting out here.

1. I don’t believe the intention is to add in layers of commercial profit making administrators – far from it. The intention is to actually force real project mgmt and commercial behaviours into the relationship between MB (now the Front Line Commands) and the DE&S organisation. If you have ever dealt with DE&S, you’ll know that there are a lot of very professional technical people, who are commercially utterly naive. Worse, their “commercial” staff are in many (but not all) cases career civil servants who have never had to make a real commercial decision/negotiation in their lives and do not understand the potential implications. What GoCo is intended to do is force a real hard commercial boundary between the capability requesters (FLCs) and the people that buy the kit for them, such that requirement creep or decision delays are recognised early for what they are and costs/prices adjusted accordingly. So you don’t (for example) get the desk officer in Fleet deciding he wants to change the requirement, ringing up his mate the RM in ABW and arbitrarily changing a requirement in an ongoing procurement and nothing changing (usually because no-one has the nouse to realise that it may change the cost or timescale). In the GOCO (or DES+) model, rather than just adding these things to some spreadsheet based risk register (that is often maintained for the sake of doing it rather than actually managing risk), the PM and commercial officers will engage with the contractor(s) and actually get a real answer as to the likely impact on cost, time performance, rather than just making it up as they go along. The grown ups can then decide whether that requirement change is justified or not, rather than sleep-walking into major cost/programme issues because something seemed like a good idea at the time.

2. I doubt that UK data will be shipped wholesale to the US. I should have thought that the two US companies will actually manage within ABW, not least because UK security clearances (and hence UK staff) will be required.

3. As for IPR (as JMH alluded to) you generally have two main contract conditions DEFCON703 or DEFCON705 or their equivalents. The former is effectively Crown ownership of the IP where MoD has paid for all development work, the latter where the Crown has free user rights, usually because existing background IP has been used with MoD funding in a military application. Obviously it is more complex than that, but those two principles tend to hold good.

4. Lastly this idea that the 68000 civil servants are all “administrators” is hoop. Who do you think runs (as in stores, services, issues the weapons) the Defence Munitions Agency (or whatever its rebadged as now) ? Who staffs (undertakes scientific research) Dstl? Who staffs (ie maintains and fixes the armoured vehicles) ABRO? Who runs (arranges air, land, rail and sea transport of MoD assets worldwide) the DTMA? They’re not service personnel and they’re not contractors and they don’t sit at at desk all day filling out forms in triplicate (although I’m sure some of that still exists). One of the very real risks of the Daily Mail/Telegraph/Sun “blame the lazy civil servants who sit on £1000 gold encrusted chairs for “Our Boys” not having body armour” mindset is that the dedicated people who actually provide critical support for the forces are thoroughly p1ssed off and are leaving in droves, exacerbating an already critical skills gap.

That is a real problem, because the “kids” that are left do not always understand what they are doing, irrespective of their dedication, they just do not have enough scars to realise when they’re out on the Pirate’s plank. We’ll see how T26 pans out, but there’s a fair chance that the issues with the design can be squarely traced to insufficiently experienced people making decisions that they’re not necessarily qualified to make. But that’s only money – what happens if you get the safety documentation for a ship or aircraft or weapon and the person responsible for signing it off is either insufficiently experienced to do so and/or worse doesn’t realise it and misses something critical?

GoCo is also supposed to address the “pay gap” (perceived or real) that is also causing folk to leave. Civil service pay structures don’t easily allow you to pay the going rate for high-quality technical, PM and commercial staff, the Go-Co construct might. Lets just hope there are some sufficiently qualified people left to reward.

None of this is intended to suggest that there aren’t major f8ck-ups with civil servants and their programmes. There are (as already alluded to) and there are a bunch of wasters as well (either intentionally, or because they don’t know any better) and they can drive you absolutely mental when trying to deal with them. However tarring all with the “administrator/pen-pusher” brush is a significant distance from the truth.

I’m sure Sir Humph will have a take on this when (if?) he returns. I’m not convinced Go-Co is necessarily teh way forward, but the status quo most certainly is not tenable.

October 8, 2013 3:23 pm


Re current IP; simples, if the deal is big enough MoD will demand and get the IP and that is what has happened with FRES. Note that IP was used as the excuse for killing the UV programme.

GOCO should have little effect on IP though. All the technical issues are solvable; it’s the conceptual ones that are difficult. Will the GOCO be close enough to the end-users to actually reflect their needs, will the contract vehicle be strong enough to ensure the MoD does not get screwed by those running the GOCO, how will the GOCO interact with the mess that is the current defence industrial and exports strategy- etc, etc,

Ultimately however, MoD only has itself to blame for this. The GOCO is a desperate attempt to try and impose some sort of control, professionalism and accountability on a system that has never really had any.

October 8, 2013 3:29 pm

@Bob: yeah, I see the whole thing as an attempt to clean up something Augean. They really have given up on what was the MOD(PE) and want to start again

October 8, 2013 3:52 pm

Could have sworn the government said a long time ago that it would do an investigation to find out whether GOCO was worth while, compared to legacy arrangements or other alternatives. Common sense suggests that you would wait for the finding of this report before changing the law to support a GOCO model. Unless of course you’ve already decided that you’re going GOCO, regardless of what any assessment might say…. as fucking predicted.

Pure gaggle of twats in government. This has absolutely bugger all to do with whether GOCO is better or not, because they have absolutely no clue if it will be and no evidence to even suggest that it might. Nor has that ever been a concern, as they’ve been pushing GOCO for years now. This is nothing more than a party politics/ideology driven decision. Now I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it quite disconcerting that the government believes defence procurement to be the sort of thing that is “on limits” for party politics. Unbelievable.

As for ASCOD/FRES, somebody please tell me that part of the development agreement was that the UK would take a cut of any future sales to other countries of ASCODs derived from the FRES program? Tell me they did that.

October 8, 2013 4:16 pm

Chaps – thank you for your fine words of solace. I will try to turn down my fears. However, in response to the doubt that UK data will be shipped wholesale to the US? I worked for a UK arm of a US corporation and from bitter experience know they are institutionalized ‘Status Junkies’. Many US managers have got really cross with the little UK data protection we tried to maintain; “Give me status! I need status!” would be the angry demand. Whatever status was handed to the local management was rippled up the chain in return for brownie points towards better career steps. As I noted in another thread it was common for senior US personnel far above a given project to arrive in the UK fully aware of the detail of technical or supplier issues. No “need to know” in evidence at all, mostly because every US manager decided they did need to know, whether the UK system thought they did or not. Self certified clearances then.

I can’t see the corporations running GOCO being much different. It was clear that our US colleagues felt they had a right to see all data whether they were read into a project or not and assumed the right to pass it up the chain to the US without restriction, I imagine because they decided they were good guys and the defender of the free world and supplied most of our kit and were our best ally. Funny but when we needed data on American kit, even that from our own corporation, we were viewed with total mistrust and found our access to data impeded by ITAR barriers and US security system barriers and not high enough pay grade barriers and need to know barriers and and and. It seemed all very one way, this special relationship.

October 8, 2013 4:18 pm


You are of course right, UK defence procurement was working just fine prior to 2010. In fact it was seen around the world as a shining example of procurement utopia so wonderful that it was emulated by all who were enchanted by it’s almost holy glow.

Back in reality, a GOCO was recommended by the Gray report and is currently the model used to run AWRE (hardly an insensitive entity) so it has been studied in depth. And of course it is political, MoD spends £40 billion of taxpayers money every year- it is politicians that hold it to account for that, if they stood by and did nothing as it failed over and over again they would rightly be admonished by the electorate through things we call elections.

Not a Boffin
October 8, 2013 4:27 pm

Before you get all party political about this, you should remember that the actual gray report was commissioned by Labour and reported in 2009 when (IIRC) they were still in power. So if by “they” you mean labour then yes, they have been pushing it for years – not thaht I think that was your intention.

AFAIK, the GoCo / DES+ comparison is still ongoing. However, the only way you’re going to get commercial companies to give you a realistic tender is if they believe there is an intention to purusue it, hence the change in the law. If the comparison does report in favour of Go-Co, they don’t want to d1ck the companies who have tendered around while waiting for a law change, do they?

Rumour central has it that Hammond is not entirely convinced by Go-Co and has ordered more evaluation. Gray of course is convinced, but then if you’ve ever met him, you’ll know that he has a special personality. That doesn’t make him party political, nor does it necessarily make him wrong.

The one good thing you can definitively say about GoCo is that at least someone is having a real no-holds-barred look at what might be the options, rather than the usual add (yet) another layer of process and jargon to the existing mess that is Acquisition Mgmt or whatever it’s called today. that hasn’t improved anything in decades and it isn’t going to work now.

October 8, 2013 4:29 pm

Chris.B – Believe it or not (this could be a first), I’m in full agreement with you. I too have no doubt the move to GOCO is a foregone conclusion of whatever dog & pony show study is run looking into its advantages and risks. An opportunity for those supposedly dependent on the study outcome to situate the appreciation. Although it might be the senior civil servants and spin doctors rather than MPs who are steering the process.

October 8, 2013 4:33 pm

@ Bob,

It has not been studied in depth. Not by a long shot. That process is supposed to be happening now. The select committee hasn’t even had the chance to look at this issue in detail yet.

Now naturally the politicians are held to account for how things like procurement run. I’m not suggesting they should sit on their hands and do nothing while a system fails. But this GOCO model is about turning government business over to private hands, regardless of whether or not that is advantagous to the country or not. It’s fairly blatantly ideology driven.

October 8, 2013 4:36 pm


Just to add to what you have said. Supposedly, not only is Hammond not fully sold but neither are many of key uniformed personalities. They are also taking their sweet time about it, if GOCO was a foregone conclusion I would have expected it to be much further along by now.

October 8, 2013 4:50 pm

Bob – I never said MOD PE or its spawn were perfect. I didn’t even suggest they might have been barely adequate. But it was all within Government boundaries and there was a reasonable expectation that data passed to MOD would not get into the hands of industry. I agree reform is needed and efficiency, transparency, accountability and responsibility need to be brought up to industry best practice sorts of levels. There is though a step change in the organization when the data interface to MOD is a commercial organization, one that might be a direct competitor to the supplier elsewhere in its corporation. I would much prefer the reorganization, reform, restructuring (call it what you will) remain wholly within the MOD boundary, that’s all.

October 8, 2013 4:53 pm

This is a bit all over the place as replies are not showing up for a bit, but,

@ NaB,
“Before you get all party political about this, you should remember that the actual gray report was commissioned by Labour and reported in 2009 when (IIRC) they were still in power. So if by “they” you mean labour then yes, they have been pushing it for years – not thaht I think that was your intention”
— It was commissioned as an independent report and the suggestion brought up about GOCO’s was immediately rejected. So no, Labour wasn’t pushing GOCO at all, which I think was your intention.

“However, the only way you’re going to get commercial companies to give you a realistic tender is if they believe there is an intention to purusue it, hence the change in the law. If the comparison does report in favour of Go-Co, they don’t want to d1ck the companies who have tendered around while waiting for a law change, do they?”
— Why? It’s fairly common in the commercial world to put together bids for projects that exist essentially on paper, with no guarantee they’ll ever move forward from there (with the prospect of enticing the project forward). Waiting for a change of the law is nothing for a large enterprise that stands to make a tidy profit on the other side, and gives it time to prepare a more complete bid for the final process.

October 8, 2013 4:56 pm

Sack the lot and get Halfords to do it.

If you study the wartime ‘cooperation’ on weapons development the spams stole everything.

All the uk high speed aircraft research, US Jet development was 5 years behind us, armoured peircing technology esp hollow charge and RCLess guns. Etc etc…

Lots of people think after WW2 the big engineering leaps in US came from the Germans, some did. A lot came from GB. And it was a one way street.

The US looks after number one I am amazed someone thinks this is a good idea.

Oh hang on a minute, this comes from the ninjas of fuckwittery. The UK govt.

Next week how to nail a jelly to the ceiling…

Engineer Tom
October 8, 2013 5:08 pm

I am personally of the opinion that DE&S needs to remain a MOD department but downsize and hand off certain lower level functions to contractor’s, by this I mean the maintenance and support side and leave the DE&S as a management department that oversees projects etc.

This of course is already happening, looking at the RN side, the use of Class Output Management and availability contracts allows the RN/MOD to say we want our vessel available this many days a year, with contingencies built in for rapid deployment, and it is up to the private company to go away and make it happen. The organisation has a small number of seconded RN and MOD staff for liaison purposes and works closely with all the OEM’s and various subcontractors to make this happen,

Currently this is only for the engineering side of supporting the vessel, but what if they were allowed to take over other areas of supporting the vessels, and what if a similar arrangement could be found for building the vessel where the MOD assign the day to day project management role to a contractor, with the RN/MOD approving it at milestones, and this would be a streamlined small team of senior ex and current RN personnel, with a small admin department , the contractor would take on most of the responsibility.

Then we take this outside the RN why can’t the MOD outsource procurement and logistics, retaining a overseeing role.

This may just be dreaming, I don’t want it all outsourced as one lump but then I don’t want a huge MOD if it is cheaper to outsource some aspects without losing efficiency. There will be problems and issues with certain areas doing this of course but there is with ever project.

Not a Boffin
October 8, 2013 5:40 pm

Chris B

I don’t know what your commercial experience is, but mine is that you can spot people “fishing” for prices relatively easily, which is one risk with GoCo vs DES+. What that means is that you tend to inflate price with “risk” left, right and centre, which wouldn’t provide a like-with-like price comparison. Or, alternatively, you get the “bid low and then nail them in the contract changes” approach which is equally unpalatable (see FSTA for details).

I’m ambivalent about GoCo vs DES+ largely because I haven’t seen the comparison. there are aspects of GoCo that I struggle to see working (such as provision of adequate technical depth), but then I watch DES struggle to work (technical, PM, commercial, finance) on a regular basis as well. It simply cannot go on like this, not least because if it does there will be no one of any worth left in ABW and elsewhere to make the system work.

From personal experience, when you walk into a room with BAE they have senior commercial horsepower with them. If you don’t match that (and DES usually can’t) you get the situations that all on here constantly complain about, where MOD is seen off good and proper, or worse is in paralysis while the cost / price continues to climb and the MoD position gets weaker.

Anything that fixes that has got to be a good thing for defence.

October 8, 2013 5:47 pm

@ All

This popped up to day in my YouTube inbox-wotsit………

October 8, 2013 5:59 pm


Give me a break. All the major western powers (US, UK, Germany) had areas of excellence during WWII. The US and UK in particular shared a great many different strengths that overall helped strengthen what was an alliance. I am not sure why so many seem so angry about anything that involves the US. This claim that everything was a one way street is just kind of petty in my view.

October 8, 2013 6:09 pm

This would about cover the high speed aircraft thing

In 1944, design work was considered 90% complete and Miles was told to go ahead with the construction of three prototype M.52s. Later that year, the Air Ministry signed an agreement with the United States to exchange high-speed research and data. Miles Chief Aerodynamicist Dennis Bancroft stated that the Bell Aircraft company was given access to the drawings and research on the M.52,[11] but the U.S. reneged on the agreement and no data was forthcoming in return.[12] Unknown to Miles, Bell had already started construction of a rocket-powered supersonic design of their own, but with a conventional tail were battling the problem of control.[13] A variable-incidence tail appeared to be the most promising solution; the Miles and RAE tests supported this.[14] Later, following conversion of the tail, pilot Chuck Yeager verified it experimentally, and all subsequent supersonic aircraft would either have an all-moving tailplane or a delta wing.[15]

October 8, 2013 6:26 pm


I don’t doubt there were specific projects that had poor outcomes for one side or the other. But in the grand scheme of things those are piddling concerns next to the major issues of the time and the major issues that have bound the UK and US into an alliance for many years since. It all falls into the same category as the US destroying the TSR-2 or any number of other theories people use to justify being pissed off about the subject.

There is never going to be 100% agreement or people on both sides pleased by every single interaction. That is simply not possible. On the balance my judgement would be that the relationship has benefited both sides. Others are free to disagree but it is a silly stance to take that said relationship has been a one way street either during or after WWII.

dave haine
October 8, 2013 6:39 pm

There is a model for all this GOCO thing you know…I’ve been reading NAM Rogers wonderful book the Wooden World…In which he describes how the main naval dockyards were run by the Navy board, but a lot of dockyards were operated by civilian contractors, as indeed were some of the victualling yards, and equipment suppliers, holding and maintaining government supplied articles. Effectively, there was a government specification which the contractors and suppliers had to adhere to in order to get paid.

The Navy board, Sick and Hurt board, Board of Ordnance and Transport Board, were all basically civilian organisations responsible to the Admiralty for running what was, at the time, the largest industrial organisation in the world.

Engineer Tom
October 8, 2013 6:44 pm

@ DH

I agree we can contract out the various areas, but not the controlling element and not to just one company.

October 8, 2013 6:53 pm

For the love of all that is holy; why will this **** not die.

The M.52 was cancelled because to get the programme to completion was going to cost a fortune compared to what had been spent on it thus far and the people of Britain had voted for a government that would spend money on new houses rather than supersonic demonstrators.

As for the US reneging on promises post-war; considering the British fetish in the period for supplying advanced technology to the Soviet Union I can see their point. Also, look at the giant amount of military aid the US provided the UK in the 50s and the technology transfer. Blue Streak was practically American designed.

Now who wants to talk about a GOCO?

October 8, 2013 6:55 pm

@ Mr. Haine,

Not read the book you mention but I trust the author spent some time setting out the enormous corruption that existed under the Navy Board system and, aside from the financial percolation, how that impacted upon the life of the officers and crews of HM ships. I am not totally sure that a system that led to gross corruption and profiteering is one that we should want to return to.

Engineer Tom
October 8, 2013 7:12 pm

@ Bob

We supplied equipment to the Soviets as we were fighting alongside them, much of it came from the US as well, we just provided escorts through the most dangerous section.

After the war we stopped supplying them just like the US did.

October 8, 2013 7:16 pm

Tom – I think Bob is taking a pop at Messers Burgess, Maclean, and Philby. Cambridge has a lot to answer for.

October 8, 2013 7:17 pm

The UK was not fighting alongside the Soviet Union after 1945. Which is when things like jet engines were supplied, and very nearly complete jet fighters.

Gloomy Northern Boy
October 8, 2013 7:26 pm

@Mr HurstLlama – Whatever it’s deficiencies the system described in N.A.M.Rodgers seminal work ultimately delivered a Navy of about a thousand ships and a hundred thousand men (including more than a few women), and that Navy went on to beat Napoleon, largely suppress the Slave Trade, dominate the “Long” Nineteenth Century and (arguably) make the modern world…I’m all for it myself.

@Bob – Jet Engines and whole Jet Fighters? Reference please?


October 8, 2013 7:30 pm


Seriously? You need a reference for that? It is practically common knowledge. But ok, try “Economic Statecraft during the Cold War” by Frank Cain.

All Politicians are the Same
October 8, 2013 7:38 pm

Everyone chill out.

Of course the US were against a few UK projects they wanted to sell us theirs. Attlee allowed RR engines to go to the USSR. It was 60 years ago, get over it.

October 8, 2013 7:39 pm


Come on Gloomy I can’t believe you haven’t read Economic Statecraft during the Cold War by Frank Cain. I have at least two dozen copies including the pop-up version. One in a ready-use locker outside by the back door just in case I get locked out and need to read it. I have the Kindle edition as well even though I don’t even know what a Kindle is…………

October 8, 2013 7:42 pm


Exactly. Almost all of this stuff is minor stuff taken against the larger value of the relationship.

Gloomy Northern Boy
October 8, 2013 7:47 pm

@x – Oddly enough, it passed me by…perhaps I could borrow your pop-up version?

An informed Gloomy

October 8, 2013 7:54 pm

Bob et al.

It will not die because there is more than a grain of truth about it.

As part of the war effort we handed over everything we had. In 1945 the US turned of the tap.

The us was quite happy to share equipment. But much of the pure research was kept secret from the UK.

Post WW2 indeed when the end was near The US shut down information flow to UK. UK govt papers at the time moan about this. For example it was only when Uk Govt bluffed the US we had developed our own H bomb that they relented and shared data with us. In part because they feared a Franco Uk competator.

BTW Bell were working on rocket planes etc but pre 45 US jet engine research was way behind uk.

I do not say the US was not ahead in some areas but in such areas it usually kept its cards to its chest.

Source code on f35 is the latest example of
“You scratch my back and i will just tell you to fuck off’

October 8, 2013 7:57 pm


Except, that is nonsense. Not only were the US not against British projects they actually actively supported them. Take TSR-2, it used a US computer and US gyro technology for the nav-attack system. The Pegasus engine in the Harrier was funded 50% by the US. The US paid for large numbers of V-bombers and other aircraft and provided all the key technology for Blue Streak.

October 8, 2013 7:58 pm

@ Bob

Interesting fact about Economic Statecraft during the Cold War by Frank Cain nobody has rated it on Amazon. Unlike the The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle which has had 374 customer reviews for a 4.5 star rating. The former is ranked 2,736,586 in book sales, the latter 395.

Perhaps then the Amazon blur Discussing a rarely researched aspect of the Cold War on Economic Statecraft during the Cold War by Frank Cain means the knowledge of jet transfers to the Soviets isn’t so common?

October 8, 2013 8:01 pm


Try the wikipedia RR Nene article then, if hungry caterpillar type sources are your preference.

October 8, 2013 8:04 pm

@GNB: I thought it was a matter of common knowledge that we supplied the Mig15’s engine (RR Nene). Not one of our prouder moments, and we weren’t even paid for the unlicensed copies they made. Mr Attlee didn’t exactly cover himself with glory in many ways…

All Politicians are the Same
October 8, 2013 8:08 pm


Selling dual use items to an ally by a private company is hardly the same as being in full support of everything.

To quote Kissinger ” America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests” Look at their initial refusal to back Israel until it became in their interests domestically and internationally. The Uk and US share a history and generally interests but let us not pretend that we have not done things that were not exactly in each others best interests.

I have loads of US friends in the military from several jobs but you seem to be the sort of Fox News watching I am always right character that just loves to piss people off.

October 8, 2013 8:14 pm


Um. I don’t know. I mean not to have read Economic Statecraft during the Cold War by Frank Cain is a strong indication that you may be a bit of ignoramus. Can you assure me that if I sent you a few copies by post you have the ability to read them? Actually do you know the postal system? A good primer would be Masters of the Post: The Authorized History of the Royal Mail by Duncan Campbell-Smith; 4.5 star rating on Amazon and ranked 251,844 in book sales just as a comparison to Economic Statecraft during the Cold War by Frank Cain sales data. Tell you want learn to read, I will send you one of my four gross copies of Masters of the Post: The Authorized History of the Royal Mail by Duncan Campbell-Smith, and if you happy with both reading and the postal system I will send you 7 copies of Economic Statecraft during the Cold War by Frank Cain so you can have a copy for each day of the week. Um you do know what a day is don’t you? No need to send you a copy of The Mastery of Time: A History of Timekeeping, from the Sundial to the Wristwatch: Discoveries, Inventions, and Advances in Master Watchmaking by Dominique Fléchon & Franco Cologni; no Amazon reviews and still ranked higher than Economic Statecraft during the Cold War by Frank Cain at 537,627 in Amazon book sales? No? Good. You might not be as stupid as Bob thinks you are……….. ;)

October 8, 2013 8:18 pm

@ Bob

Thanks Bob will do,

October 8, 2013 8:22 pm

Attlee was a socialist, bless him. We should have preserved some of them, like the Vulcans. Future generations will never believe they once existed, otherwise.

“…Fox News watching…” – Ouch, that’s some put down that is! I was once forced to watch Fox News. I forget which country I was in but it was the only “English” language channel the tv in my hotel room had. Happily I was not there long and the effects soon wore off.

Gloomy Northern Boy
October 8, 2013 8:22 pm

@wf – One lives and learns…also about who to ask questions of…mind you, it’s always good to have something else about the post-War Labour Government to be irritated about…


October 8, 2013 8:25 pm

Kissinger has 37 titles available on Amazon. Just sayin’.

At this moment I cannot confirm whether he has read Economic Statecraft during the Cold War by Frank Cain or not.

October 8, 2013 8:32 pm

“Economic Statecraft during the Cold War: European Responses to the US Trade Embargo (Cold War History)” – Not that I’m pedantic, you understand.

Is it still the case that if you order it via this blog TD gets a slice of the action?

October 8, 2013 8:36 pm

@ Wiseape

Stop using long words like pedantic poor Gloomy won’t know what you are saying!

October 8, 2013 9:02 pm


The engine sale was approved by the board of trade (its head was a renowned socialist- Stafford Cripps) and in 1946 it was hardly dual use. The engines in question were only just off the secret list and were being sold in small numbers to a country with no commercial aerospace industry and a known interest in advanced weaponry. And there was certainly nothing dual use about Vampires and Meteors they ordered. And that is just on the official side, before we get to the activities of various traitors, cambridge or otherwise.

As for my television references, I am not really sure how they are relevant. However, I am always right.

All Politicians are the Same
October 8, 2013 9:19 pm

@ Bob

Off the secret list, what you mean available for export, surely not. (Still would not have exported them though)

As for vampires and Meteors they were WW2 designs and hardly resembled Mig 15/17.

Your lack of appreciation of an international joke ref Fox merely confirms my slightly biased opinion of your exposure outside your own County, was going to say State but decided not to give you the benefit of the doubt.

dave haine
October 8, 2013 9:34 pm


If your last comment was a touch of irony- I raise my glass to you… Bit of humour, nice one.

We indeed cannot claim that every thing our politicians have done has been sensible.
You might not know that strangely, Stafford-Cripps was very critical of Stalin and the Soviet Union. He was also a devout christian. Which I suspect was a prime motivation for much of his life. He is considered to be one of our best post-war chancellors, bringing an age of prosperity by reducing income tax and encouraging industry. All in all a complex bloke.

@HurstLlama- I do suggest you read it- you will be surprised, how efficient it actually was, and in reality was set up to counter corruption and profiteering. Remember the Navy Board, was a very old organisation, much older than all the others which were actually set up to remove the navy board power.

October 8, 2013 9:36 pm


Vampires and Meteor’s may have been WW2 designs, but they were still the backbone of the RAF right through the Korean war half a decade later.

Available for export only with approval- approval which was given and they gave the Soviets considerable assistance, as did the now infamous visits organised for Soviet personnel to RR facilities. It was the reverse engineered Nene which became the RD-45 and then the VK-1 which actually powered the Mig-15.

There is nothing bias in what I say, simply facts. Your lack of knowledge of those facts makes them neither untrue or bias.

All Politicians are the Same
October 8, 2013 9:42 pm

Have already admitted to the RR engine which powered aircraft that did not resemble the Vampire or Meteor in anyway. The only person trying to give them equal significance is you.

Engineer Tom
October 8, 2013 9:54 pm

Just putting it out there, in 1946 was the USSR our enemy? (I personally wouldn’t have sold them the engines, but that is as I know what was to come) We had just finished fighting a long war with them, if you were a politician would you have tried to keep a good relationship with the second biggest superpower? (Interestingly we had been allied to them 6 months longer than we had the US.)

I want to make this clear though, I don’t agree with the sale of the engines, but I can see why they might have sold them.

October 8, 2013 10:00 pm


The only reason the USSR did not build Vampire and Meteor clones was because the US (and to their credit, belatedly the UK Chiefs of Staff) put their foot down and prevented the sale. I was never giving them “equal weight” simply pointing out that Britain nearly provided them.

Engineer Tom,

Yes they were “our” enemy in 1946 with British intelligence (including the remnants of SOE rolled into MI6) running anti-communist operations across Eastern Europe.

October 8, 2013 10:10 pm

Yeah the US treated us well with skybolt as well a lesson in a gd screwing if ever there was one. Be sure to keep the things that you judge really important as a national sovereign capability that prob mean de&s warts and all. Though I would suggest a more efficient way to recruit and keep staff maybe necessary.

All Politicians are the Same
October 8, 2013 10:12 pm


Look at a Mig 15 and then a Meteor and vampire then repeat that statement with a straight face.

October 8, 2013 10:17 pm


I still see that as the most sensible outcome to which Hammond is probably working. GOCO is a possibility. But it is also a stick with which to beat the Civil Service (and their unions) to provide a reformed GOGO.

October 8, 2013 10:22 pm


What statement? The one where clearly stated that the USSR never built a Meteor or Vampire clone because the sale of those aircraft to the USSR was stopped?


What Skybolt screwing? The US cancelled the programme and offered (the superior) Polaris in its place. Hardly a screwing.

All Politicians are the Same
October 8, 2013 10:29 pm

NO the one that pointed out what we all know that the USSR had superior designs to Meteor and Vampire that were made viable by RR engines.

So just for you, RR engines to the USSR v bad, meteor and vampire designs irrelevant.

John Hartley
October 8, 2013 10:29 pm

When McNamara cancelled Skybolt, the Americans offered the whole project to the UK. Yes, early tests failed, but they were going right by then. Had the UK taken it on, we would have had a genuine independent deterrent. Even now, with todays guidance, it would be an impressive weapon.

October 8, 2013 10:57 pm


Not irrelevant, the UK nearly sold both Meteor’s and Vampires to the USSR in 1946/7, and their designs were certainly not “bad”. Thank you for repeating for the nth time what I have been saying over multiple posts though.

All Politicians are the Same
October 8, 2013 11:02 pm


You say not irrelevant than justify why they were. I revoke my state comment. Do you own a passport?

October 8, 2013 11:06 pm


What has my passport status got to do with known facts about proposed but thwarted arms sales to Stalinist Russia?

How is it relevant? My initial point was that the UK leaked key military technologies to the Soviet Union in the mid-40s, that it very nearly sold Meteors and Vampires establishes a pattern of behaviour; the fact that the US had to lobby to prevent the sale may help explain certain US attitudes.

All Politicians are the Same
October 8, 2013 11:18 pm


I note you do not disagree. I have visited every continent on earth including Antarctica. Lived in foreign countries or visited them. spent a lot of time living with them.

So do you have a passport? ever been abroad? Honestly some of them are nice

October 8, 2013 11:41 pm

Recommended reading is the ‘Collaboration with the United Kingdom’ section of the Wiki page on the Manhattan Project: What we read is that exchange of data and technology was not constant or consistent; when the US thought it was ahead it slammed the door on the UK; when the US thought the UK might have something useful they were all best buddies again. Even when best buddies the US kept a lot of their technology secret from the UK while expecting UK to hand over everything it had. And through Britain Belgium too was expected to roll over for Uncle Sam, as Belgium had some of the best Uranium sources in its territories on the Congo. Having used a good deal of British know-how to create the A-bomb, the McMahon act in 1946 denied UK any rights or access to the jointly developed weapons & technology, a position maintained for a dozen years thereafter.

Just pointing out that there was bad behaviour on the US side towards UK well before USSR became the global enemy, which might help explain certain UK attitudes at the time. Its right to correct the erroneous impression that the US is perfect and the UK is wholly useless and untrustworthy.

October 8, 2013 11:59 pm


While I don’t generally agree with the way Bob presents his message he is pretty right on with regards to Skybolt. McNamara was clearly off base and in the end the US government did not support his goal to get everything dual-keyed. The US didn’t even cancel the program until there was an agreement in place to get the UK Polaris.

That air-launched ballistic missiles were a bit of a development dead end seems to be pretty clear. No one else picked up that baton and ran with it either.

October 9, 2013 1:43 am


Did you actually read the section you suggested people look at?

October 9, 2013 6:52 am

Sound Barrier was much the same with the UK and USA tech “sharing”. We sent them everything we knew and got nothing back (they were supposed to give us their findings).

The Bell X1 then used British tech to take Chuck through Mach 1.

IIRC, at least one thing we told ’em was that you needed all moving control surfaces in place of a rudder and elevator.

Not a Boffin
October 9, 2013 7:01 am

This is worth a read to see how real cooperation can be

throughout government, services and industry.

October 9, 2013 7:07 am

I’d google skybolt crisis Jeremy toys were very much out of the pram over that decision.

October 9, 2013 7:53 am

@ NaB

I have that book……………..

Engineer Tom
October 9, 2013 8:39 am

@ Bob

“My initial point was that the UK leaked key military technologies to the Soviet Union in the mid-40s,”

These were British technologies being sold as an act of good faith to try and maintain good relationships with a superpower, also note the only source you provided for this happening, wiki, clearly states that there was an agreement that they wouldn’t be used for military uses. It is Britain’s right to provide technology to ‘Allies’, in 1946 the cold war didn’t exist it was just tension between allies; we also sold the design to the US to power a series of early US Jet fighters.

In my opinions yes Britain and the US have a historical connection but before WW2 we were no more allied with the US than Russia. Did the US join the war when we were threatened and attacked, no they waited until they were attacked, I am not saying Russia was better, just that we weren’t allied with the US before the war.

I will reiterate I don’t agree with selling them the engines, but I have hindsight, they didn’t know we were going to end up in a 50 year cold war with the USSR.

Regards the planes, they weren’t sold, it would have been as much of a mistake as selling the engines, but they already had a plane ready to go and just needed the engine, so selling them wouldn’t have given them any more advantage other than the engines they were supplied with.

Also the US policy of withholding technology from the UK predates 1946, as evidenced by the Manhattan Project, though the UK provided all the advanced technology it had to the US in 1940 including RDF with was far more advanced than the US version of the time.

October 9, 2013 9:07 am

@Engineer Tom: “but before WW2 we were no more allied with the US than Russia”? Eh! We were fighting against the Soviets until 1921! Should I mention the Nazi-Soviet pact?

Gloomy Northern Boy
October 9, 2013 11:08 am

@: WF – I hesitate to re-enter this argument but feel I should point out that although we were probably rather friendlier with the Cousins than the Soviets in the years after the Great War, our relationship with both was objective and rather wary…not least because Liberal opinion in GB had always been uneasy about Czarist Oppression and was inclined to hope for the best in respect of the Soviets…and we knew that one component of US thinking hoped to see the end of our Empire and the dominance of themselves (and had done since the first Roosevelt) and another was irredeemably isolationist.

The shifting alliances of the early war years need not detain us beyond recording that we were always more wary of the Soviets than the Cousins…despite the fact that the latter joined the lists almost two years after the shooting started, expected us to pay (handsomely) for any help that they gave prior to that point, and had as an unspoken war aim the destruction of our Empire…

I like the Cousins and value their Friendship, but rewriting the whole business as a story of open-hearted US munificence as opposed to squalid perfidy from Albion really is a bit much…

@x – the Pop-up Frank Cain hasn’t arrived yet – I promise I’ll look after it…


October 9, 2013 11:15 am

@GNB: agreed, not all sweetness and light. But I still can’t understand the decision to ship 40 RR Nene’s ;-(

Gloomy Northern Boy
October 9, 2013 11:45 am

@wf – Likewise, although as I think we have established I didn’t know about it until yesterday…I studied a different period of History over thirty years ago but I don’t do it as a living, and although I have kept up with some areas of interest that has nor included the scholarly monographs of Mr Cain…excellent and informative though I don’t doubt they are…


October 9, 2013 12:11 pm

Engineer Tom,

The Soviet Union was an enemy in 1946; see MI6 activities and UK Armed Forces planning considerations for the post-war structure of the armed forces even before the end of the war (documents available in the PRO Kew).

The US has provided massive amounts of technology, including highly sensitive ones to the UK.


Again, what does my passport status have to do with known facts about proposed British arms sales to Stalinist Russia?

October 9, 2013 12:59 pm


I had to google what in the world out of the pram means for what it is worth…someday someone will teach those of you on the East side of the Atlantic to speak the language properly…

Anyway, I am pretty familiar with the Skybolt crisis. I agree people were pissed and it came at a bad time for that particular UK government. I am not fan of McNamara in almost any respect. Kennedy did make that one right (and then some) with putting Polaris into UK hands which would eventually lead to Trident for the UK as well. It seems that it was one of those things that went bad for a while but was ultimately good for both sides in the end.

All Politicians are the Same
October 9, 2013 1:56 pm


Two countries separated by a common language.

dave haine
October 9, 2013 4:18 pm


Have you read Bill Bryson’s book ‘The Mother Tongue’? Seems that a lot of what passes for English in the US is actually still based on 17th century English with some very old pronunciation. So while in the UK, the English language has evolved and modernised, with the passing of years, it hasn’t in the US. So come on catch up.
No offense, hehehe.

I’m pretty sure that the special relationship has benefitted both countries, and I’m pretty sure that it will continue to do so. I would also suggest it’s no bad thing to remember when it’s been unfair- because that’s what history is for- teaching us lessons so we don’t make the same mistakes over again.

October 9, 2013 7:44 pm

Directly after WW2, the Soviet Union was less a foe than the actively anti-imperialist US. This changed first in late 1946, when the French were fighting in Indochina, secondly in 1949, when the Soviets dropped their nuke, and almost any ex-colony became a more or less open member of the socialist brotherhood.

For technology transfer, please…

The only point were I agree is the fact, that we should not blame the US for our own short-sightedness. Last week, there was an Telegraph article stating that re-investment of profits (and as such improvements in technology and productivity) is one of the lowest in the whole OECD. Export surge my arse, no wonder we have a jobless recovery.

October 9, 2013 7:47 pm


Wrong. The USSR was regarded as the primary threat to western security in 1946; this is more than confirmed by evidence in the UK National Archives. No wikipedia links required.

October 9, 2013 8:22 pm


I tend to agree. I just find it funny that someone (Chris) suggested reading the section about atomic bomb cooperation where the first two paragraphs suggested that the first people to reject such cooperation because they believed they were ahead was the UK side of things after it was proposed by the US.

Bad things have gone both ways. I agree that knowing about these things is important but dwelling on them less so. Some seem very caught up in anger over things that really in the end are not nearly the big deals some want to make them out to be.

October 9, 2013 8:59 pm

Jeremy – precisely my point – no country is perfect, nor always right. All of our countries sometimes get stroppy with neighbours and allies – not perhaps behaving as we would hope, but life’s just like that. It was just that there have been a few comments suggesting that Uncle Sam never ever acted in an uncooperative or even unreasonable way, and the balance needed restoring.

dave haine
October 9, 2013 9:09 pm

Excellent, with reference to the ‘special’ relationship now we’ve all agreed, that it happened,it was bad, but it was a while back, lets get over it.

Can we now turn our attention to the boat people’s eternal campaign to get everyone to think of the RAF as some sort of evil, money-absorbing spawn of the devil, that’s just getting in the way of the navy getting all the toys it wants.

Gloomy Northern Boy
October 9, 2013 9:50 pm

In the end it’s a matter of perspective…the USSR (probably) represented an existential threat to the European Democracies and one of the pre-conditions for seeing it off was the emergence of US Hegemony…the Cousins naturally saw that as a bonus…others viewed it with more or less ambiguity…us probably the least, the French almost certainly the most…