Defence Acquisition for the Twenty-first Century

This is a paper from Civitas, edited Bernard Jenkin MP, well worth a read

The recent campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq came at a heavy cost to Britain’s military capabilities. However, rather than replenish the forces with the equipment they needed, spending reviews in the last parliament saw defence expenditure so drastically reduced that the equipment used up in the campaigns cannot be replaced. These cuts have left all three services with large deficiencies in key areas.

There is now considerable doubt among military experts that Britain will be able to maintain its NATO commitment of spending two per cent of GDP on defence, and this is at a time when new challenges and mounting uncertainty in the world are likely to require our armed forces to be used at short notice, and in circumstances which demand a more agile and adaptable military.

These issues have not received the attention they deserve. There is even less acknowledgement of what is at stake in downscaling Britain’s defence production capabilities and capacity. Key defence industrial programmes can take decades to mature and R&D requires a much greater investment if it is to produce benefits. Without immediate action to reverse this situation, the UK will lose even more of its important technological capacity and know-how that cannot easily be recovered.

Defence Acquisition for the Twenty-first Century lays out a completely new case for the UK to adopt a radically different acquisition strategy; one which is much more cost effective and would allow for the adaptability, agility and flexibility essential to modern militaries.

This book sets out the challenges ahead for defence acquisition and proposes novel changes to the structure and culture of MoD and Whitehall generally to help the UK to meet those challenges. Among other suggestions, it makes the case for maintaining Britain’s industrial capacity to manufacture equipment when it is needed, rather than focusing on maintaining the standing capacity of the forces; it proposes establishing a system of long-term investment for defence with financial arrangements that extend beyond the life-cycle of a parliament; it recommends exploiting the huge pool of talent available in smaller enterprises rather than relying solely on increasingly inflexible and unsustainable prime contractors.

The prescription proposed is;

Firstly, on developing defence know-how, and a research and industrial base from within and beyond government, which can develop new technologies and techniques, as and when the demand arises to serve the foreign and security campaigns of the day.

Secondly, to evolve away from the idea of big defence equipment programmes, dependent upon the very few defence prime contractors. This means thinking about much cheaper and more numerous weapons platforms, but capable of being adapted to carry weapons systems suitable for the task.

Thirdly, to use money to invest in smaller and medium-sized enterprises and their research and development programmes, working in collaboration with government, so that they can generate the weapons systems required for specific campaigns, rather than for standing capability

Click the image to read

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The MoD’s response…

https://modmedia.blog.gov.uk/2015/06/24/breaking-news-mod-statement-on-civitas-procurement-report/

Let me save you the trouble of clicking the link

 

 

 

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From Luddite Lodge
From Luddite Lodge
July 6, 2015 8:16 am

“Much cheaper and more numerous weapons platforms” – I do wonder if this desire to buy the very best isn’t at the expense of volume. A classic example will be when the new MPA is announced (if it is announced) will the MoD decide we need four Poseidon or six smaller MPA such as the 295?

monkey
monkey
July 6, 2015 9:24 am

From the MoD response
“the 4,000 brave and capable men and women of our three Armed Forces currently deployed on 21 different joint operations in 19 countries, demonstrates Britain’s powerful presence on the world stage.”
Does spread to thin strike anyone else? And just how much administration costs are there in maintaining those 4000 in 19 countries on 21 operations? Factor that in and what’s the cost of each body when the Whitehall desk jockeys are added on.
It also comments that we respond quickly to operational needs ( now maybe after ‘ lessons learnt’ ala snatch landrovers) but how much over the odds do we pay for those UOR purchases? 20% , 33% , double? Roll on Project LaLa .

ForcesReviewUK
ForcesReviewUK
July 6, 2015 10:05 am
Reply to  monkey

the 4000 most likely occurs for short periods of time and is a factor of the many company-sized units deployed.

Chris
Editor
Chris
July 6, 2015 10:30 am

m’Ludd – ref quantity vs. quality – UK has over many years followed the ‘quality’ path to nirvana, insisting that anything of less than the absolute best gold plate means useless equipment of zero capability which are a danger to all who fight with them. The comments are regularly seen here where less exotic platforms or weapon systems (good enough for NATO allies) are dismissed as completely inadequate because they may not be 100% protected against the new Zogg missile (if used in a swarm, launched at minimum range on a foggy night in November above 14,000ft in a steep sided valley high in the Urals etc etc).

There is no appetite for ‘good enough’, far less for ‘barely adequate’*, even if three times the number of systems could then be afforded – or two times the number of systems and an increase in personnel numbers to fully man the extra stuff.

Personally I believe numbers have a greater impact on overall military effect than does extreme technology. While I accept a counter mortar staring radar sensor has real value (or to be more precise a distributed set of them for triangulation accuracy), the idea of fitting a sensor to every combat & logistics vehicle, every UAV and helicopter, every infantry squad, HQ and foxhole does not make sense, where a more rational level of deployment of Gucci systems would free funds to get more of the basic materiel and personnel.

And yet every platform the MOD chooses to specify seems to need every conceivable sensor, comms net, battlefield application on its IT etc, must be fitted for every possible weapon, must have superior manoeuvrability, stealth, economy, protection, self-diagnosis system, must be exceptional in combat but warm and fluffy for Hearts & Minds ops. That of course is the required minimum capability. Then there must be several years of competitive bidding and re-specifying before engaging with the most expensive bidder (you get what you pay for, y’know) and redesigning their offer into something even better. When the PAC or NAO start to question the wisdom of the approach there is equal rebuttal that the committees don’t understand such complex procurement, and blame on industry for not acting responsibly to their customer.

So I am in favour of a move towards greater numbers of adequate (not gold-plated) equipment, and manning levels to fully utilise the increased inventory. Enough numbers to deploy a credibly effective force over a broad area, or indeed more than one credibly effective force in more than one area. I doubt HM Treasury will hand out greater budgets, so the answer would appear to be to buy what we know we will need and use on a regular basis with well thought through interfaces for the FFBNW add-on capabilities, rather than buying stuff with every capability possible installed and tested just in case its ever needed.

(*”Barely Adequate” was the standard one of the MOD desk officers on our project insisted we deliver. “If its any better than Barely Adequate then I’m paying for capability I do not require.” In other words meet the spec well at minimum cost.)

I want to be able to hear the news. I could buy a basic radio for £10 that would be entirely adequate. If it broke next year or if the broadcast standards changed, I would buy another minimally adequate solution and the old radio would have cost me £10. Affordable. Agile. Or I could have bought a £6000 top of the range high fidelity system with data streamer and hard disc storage and CD/DVD/BlueRay read/write capability and a DAB tuner and cinema surround sound. This would be a really good option because I might want to listen to more than just the news, and I might want extra functionality in future, and I might want the additional input ports for future data sources, and besides it looks really cool and would totally impress the neighbours. It would have far more output power than the room could comfortably suffer, but that’s good because its future-proof with inbuilt growth capacity (in case I move house). It might break next year but I would pay a lot to repair it. Standards might change but they would have to be accommodated in expensive upgrades. And through this vast expensive superb quality multi-role extremely powerful audio system I could listen to exactly the same news the £10 radio could deliver.

MSR
MSR
July 6, 2015 11:30 am

Firstly, on developing defence know-how, and a research and industrial base from within and beyond government,

They used to do that, anyway, when the MoD designed much of its own kit and then worked with suppliers to refine the designs. Sometimes suppliers pitched their own ideas and the MoD, because it had its own experts and its own design offices, was equipped to assess their merit in-house.

Now they have to spend even more money on external contractors to come in and assess such ideas for them (with the obvious problem that the external contractor is often a direct competitor of the company being assessed! So no prizes for guessing how that usually turns out).

So, basically, this document is suggesting a return to the “old way” of doing things.

Secondly, to evolve away from the idea of big defence equipment programmes, dependent upon the very few defence prime contractors.

Ahem… BAE… cough cough… directorships for retired brass… ahem.

Why did Vosper become a ‘services’ company instead of remaining a manufacturer of actual things? There’s your answer to this one right there. Nothings changed since, so this won’t happen either.

Thirdly, to use money to invest in smaller and medium-sized enterprises … generate the weapons systems required for specific campaigns, rather than for standing capability

So, you want to put modular stuff on OPVs, light wheeled vehicles and A400Ms to replace frigates, tanks and fast jets? Right…

Although, interestingly, this might actually happen if A400M gets some bolt-on stuff to convert it into an Ikea Maritime Patrol Aircraft. Still don’t like that idea, but what do I know? I’m only a bleeding taxpayer…

Beno
Beno
July 6, 2015 12:55 pm

Have you any idea how many military targets have been trashed by Challenger tanks vs losses.

Just a maths tip, but anything divided by zero comes out as infinity,

That equation will give you a feel for how many of the theoretical “grade 2” tanks we will have to buy to match 1 challenger tank, then times that up.

Britain hasn’t JUST followed a policy of quality over quantity, its lived it.

Countless engagements have ended in victory for us with the best kit and fewer number.
War isn’t something I would want to send human soldiers in to with the “second best kit”

“Gold plating” ( brilliant media spin phrase btw) is like the rifle that shoot just 6ft further than its competitor, with the right operator you will win EVERY engagement !

Beno

Chris
Editor
Chris
July 6, 2015 1:23 pm

Beno – yes I know the argument. The counter-argument is “Have you analysed the Battle for Kursk” where the technologically superior PzKw III & IV, Panthers and Tigers were stopped and eventually turned by T-34. True losses were high, but the fact remains the clever technology in the panzers did not wipe away the Soviet tanks despite their having tractor-like rough-edged simplicity.

Challenger did suffer the occasional mobility kill but best not ask who fired. Its not invincible, just very good.

As for the better rifle example, if it costs ten times more than its marginally inferior cousin, how would your skilled operator fare against ten determined opponents?

There is no right or wrong answer. There is an argument that numbers are influential, just as there is that technology is influential, or (as RT would clearly champion) that reconnaissance can have a greater influence than numbers or technology – its a complex multi-dimensional problem of no guaranteed outcome.

Barborossa
Barborossa
July 6, 2015 2:44 pm

Or indeed have you looked at the pre-WW2 RAF- There was a distinct policy of placing contracts with a wide number of firms- in the twenties it was Sopwith, Bristol and Fairy (admittedly they did produce the Flycatcher, but they also produced the Fantome-one of the most elegant biplanes ever produced) for fighters, Handley-Page, Bristol and Vickers for bombers and transports, Shorts and Fairy for seaplanes, the Thirties added Hawker(was Sopwith), De Havilland and Gloster, Avro, Supermarine (part of the Vickers group) Saro and Boulton-Paul. All of these companies recieved contracts, even the companies that had no previous experience… All of this meant that the UK had a wealth of aircraft design & production experience, which paid dividends in WW2. …Although we still maintained the ability to produce some TiAE (Tragedies in Aeronautical Engineering).

IXION
IXION
July 6, 2015 3:04 pm
Reply to  Barborossa

RE TiAE

Yes as evidenced by the great Eric winkle brown’s comments on the seeming inability of British aircraft designers to get lateral stability right….

monkey
monkey
July 6, 2015 3:14 pm

I might be mistaken but isn’t this in a way how the MoD procurement works?
The Army,RN or RAF decide they might need something at some point because they read about it, someone else has bought them or had a dream after some fine cheese and port. Moving on the write up some requirement , get the nod to send it for RFI and get behind a desk for the foreseeable future. By skillfully changing the requirements in small or large details they project evolves one way , then another based on ‘ credible ‘ information based on existing ops,tech improvements or more cheese consumption at night. Eventually when retirement or a secure directorship looms the project is either firmed up and put into production ( all be it 10,20 years late ) or scrapped as a plan. This how we ended up with the Scout SV right? So by continuously moving the goalpost the engineers are constantly challenged and thus kept up to speed and innovating. Unfortunately we rarely buy anything for our taxes and other nations benefit from our efforts as the consultants hired sell their ideas abroad.

Barborossa
Barborossa
July 6, 2015 5:44 pm

@ Ixion

Indeed… Although to be fair, Roland Beaumont always felt that Eric Winkle Brown exaggerated slightly, and Alex Henshaw was scathing about his comments (A little unfairly, I think, But then Alex Henshaw was nothing if not forthright), Roly Falk managed quite well too… Mind you he had his issues too.

Barborossa
Barborossa
July 6, 2015 5:46 pm

Of course almost every nation have had their share of WTF….

Hannay
Hannay
July 6, 2015 6:49 pm

Our costs are dominated by personnel. Buying twice as many naff tanks is likely to cost almost twice as much as half the number of really good tanks, and be far less effective.

Hordes of equipment makes sense for China. But we can’t afford to man it, or build it cheap enough. Autonomy might be the key for us to enabld this – but obviously needs serious money for R&D.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
July 6, 2015 7:46 pm

Well I need to put on my avoid rand hat for this one. Having read the paper I must admit I am very impressed, but have serious reservations if it changes anything, especially regarding the Treasury. I am also feeling pretty smug as a lot of the points I have been trying to make, often badly make an appearance in the paper. Will capacity finally carry as much weight as capability in the future, it certainly needs to. This links in nicely with the need to look at platforms that simply do the job now and in the near future but have the architecture to be incrementally improved as threat change. This would be a fine area to discuss FRES(UV) and FRES (SV) but I shall not. The paper also make much of the management style of the MoD and other departments where balancing the books is the major target not delivery what the customer wants. Gordon Brown has to take the major blame here for introducing management tools like RAB, and other micro-management practices.

I am intrigued by the emphasis on SMEs as the way forward for the defence industry. This innovation could see companies such as BAe fragment into smaller organisations, though their land systems division could already be classed as an SME.

One of the over arching themes in the paper seems to be to take politics out of defence acquisition and management. The idea of putting in place a sort of defence funding bank would see the ability of the treasury to raid the piggy back greatly curtailed, which is why I cannot see it happening. The same goes for politics in general. If defence spending could not be stabilised or increased during over twelve years of being at war what will?

If one thing is affected by this paper it is that the upcoming SDSR is actually that and not a repeat of 2010 where cuts are blamed on a weak economy and promises of jam tomorrow are made again for when the economy grows.

Chris
Editor
Chris
July 6, 2015 7:58 pm

Hannay – by your logic we should have changed the T45 requirement from 12/8/6 (at different stages) air defence destroyers and built one really really super high tech air domination cruiser. Then we could have had a massively superior capability and fewer crew. After all if there’s no value in increasing the number of platforms with slightly less capable systems the obvious conclusion is that producing just one with vast capability has to be the ultimate solution. One supreme ASW escort. One Nimitz sized carrier. One multi-role stealth stand-off fighter bomber with conformal weapon bays you could fit buses into. But then you’d only need one massively capable artificially intelligent missile with a megaton warhead anyway. Might we afford a whole squadron of uber-tanks with UAV sensor pods and Terminator dismounts? The point comes where technology, no matter how good it might be, can’t make up for too few platforms. And that point – ‘too few’ – is not an absolute but arguable depending upon environment threat tactics and situation.

Rocket Banana
July 6, 2015 8:12 pm

Those that think a single (or few) high end systems is a good idea should look at SPECTRE. Now, if they’d distributed their plans for world domination, had two satellite stealing space ships, or built a couple of underwater cities, things could have been very different.

Our weapon was a single man.

I’m a bit computery but I can’t help but feel that you need to split you assets using a power rule. Doubles appeal to me. 1 x big one, 2 x half-sized ones, 4 x quarter-sized ones, etc. You can always field exactly the capability you need and can always split it however you want. Obviously I don’t mean size or weight, but cost and capability.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
July 6, 2015 9:43 pm

Cheap, simple and numerous? Like land rovers, which worked wonders in Afghanistan compared to their more expensive but better protected brothers didn’t they?

Mark
Mark
July 6, 2015 10:02 pm

The problem with cheap and numerous is UK personnel, cost a lot of money and it’s preferable that we have zero casualties in adventures that are not seen as vital to the nation by the masses. You could say desert storm showed that quality beats quantity but insurgency shows quantity wears out quality. Not such an easy circle to square.

mr.fred
mr.fred
July 6, 2015 10:02 pm
Reply to  Chris

Chris,
The scale is hardly linear and there are break points for capability and manning costs.
Is it better to operate fifty Chieftains or twenty-five Challengers? Bearing in mind that the Challengers will be more reliable, have lower logistics requirements simply due to lower numbers and also likely suffer lower casualties as there are fewer to become targets of opportunity.
It is easy to take either argument to absurd extremes. For instance, you could have one (barely) mobile super fortress at one end of the spectrum, or ten thousand of Calvin’s red cart at the other.
Weight of numbers is important, but can hinder as well as help. Technology can make up for lack of numbers, but cannot compensate for not having an asset in the right place at all.

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 6, 2015 10:04 pm

The response to the paper is the typical MoD copypasta. Heard it all before, every time.

It seems to me that the only way to make our defence dollars go further is to be less diverse, more specialised in what we do.

I think that governments failing to recognise any loss of power and capability in any area over time is a problem. The ministry just keeps banging on about global status and the size of our budget. The government should be identifying core priorities, focusing resources on those, while accepting that our forces will not be in a position to lead every kind of operation, and that extra-ordinary contingencies will just have to be met with whatever we have to hand. They should not be glorying in the number of penny-packets of forces that may be scattered about at any given time, nor our position on the spending league table.

The armed forces themselves aren’t much better. They spend their time lobbying for every capability under the sun. The result is a reciprocating relationship between the military and the ministry, seeming to convince each other of a world power status, but with no one ever defining a clear long-term defence strategy. We end up going from one multi-billion pound headline project to the next multi-billion pound headline project, but then always have to cut the previous project to find money for the next. Never getting maximum efficiency; never getting the full return on our investment.

Chris
Editor
Chris
July 6, 2015 10:34 pm

mr.fred – agreed. I think I’ve put in each comment I’ve written here that there is no ‘right’ answer, but that I am pretty sure the UK has gone beyond the ‘too few’ line. I don’t really care if MOD buys T45 or Scout or F-35 if it wants some high end high tech Gucciware; there may be times these work just as well as the marketeers/consultants/advisors say they will. I do think though that there should be consideration for larger quantities of less expensive kit which might be cheaper because the equipment fit is less multi-role, or because the platforms are a bit smaller, or because the performance is slightly reduced. As Simon noted the idea of multi-level kit operating together (as in Gucci cool and useful) might work well.

Barbarossa
Barbarossa
July 7, 2015 9:57 am

The problem with having a few, expensive, highly-capable platforms is that you then have to be very risk-averse…losing that one super-duper, high-tech, domination, battlestar thingy, would be a game-changer- and therefore ceases to have a deterrent effect-
You also then get the “how long would it take to replace said super-duper thingy and it’s crew?” “18months?” “Oh sh*t- the enemy will be here in 12hrs” effect.
Whereas, if you have say 20 good-enoughs, but can churn out more in short order, and can upgrade, and churn out more…the operator training requirement is less, so crew training is less of an issue (think conscription, or reservists)… That’s a pause for thought…
Putting all your eggs in one basket, compared to having a coop full of good egg-layers….bit homely, but quite a good analogy I think

Chris
Editor
Chris
July 7, 2015 10:19 am

Brbrssa (so many letters!) – quite agree. I’m off to TD’s question of the day about trade-offs to make much the same point.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 7, 2015 11:07 am

The Right Honourable Julian Lewis MP is in print in the Torygraph, suggesting that if 2% is the NATO minimum, we should be aspiring to 3%… :-)

Not a prayer of it happening of course…thus still Gloomy

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
July 7, 2015 12:24 pm

Barbarossa reminded me that Airey Neave wrote that when captured by the Gestapo after parachuting from his aircraft he held out as long as possible then told them that he flew a Huntley and Palmer bomber with twin Swann and Edgar engines.

(For the young ones Huntley and Palmer were buiscuit manufacturers and Swann and Edgar was a department store in London) That’s if I member correctly, may have been Bourne and Hollingsworth but you get the idea.

Allan
Allan
July 7, 2015 2:31 pm
Reply to  MSR

Or bolt the pallets in and you’ve got a huge gunship – handy for display purposes at air shows.

Allan
Allan
July 7, 2015 2:41 pm
Reply to  Lord Jim

“This innovation could see companies such as BAe fragment into smaller organisations”

Most respectfully what would be the point – look at BAE Marine Systems – HMG wants a nuclear submarine of gold plate with diamond highlights – there is no choice but BAE Marine as the public won’t tolerate billions going abroad if UK workers are being sacked.

So HMG buys the gold boat from the one company in the UK that can make said gold boat and then forbids the company from selling even anything like the gold boat to anyone else. Unless that changes radically in the near future BAE Marine Systems and HMG aren’t divorcing anytime soon.

Allan
Allan
July 7, 2015 2:44 pm

You give the MOD / Senior Brass 3% tomorrow and I’ll guarantee by the time of the full SDSR, they’ll be claims nothing less than 8% will do or the world will stop turning and the UK will flung into outer space.

Fedaykin
July 8, 2015 8:39 am

@Allan

I don’t think there is particular evidence that BAE Systems are prevented selling an Astute variant abroad. The main barrier is a) Cost B) A very small list of countries that we could sell to in a security sense.

If they built Diesel/AIP subs at Barrow there would be a wider market but the UK has been out of that game for a long time and there are already several established manufacturers out there.

Dangerous Dave
July 8, 2015 9:32 pm
Reply to  Barborossa

, actually Sopwith folded in 1919 after the government cancelled all it’s War contracts. I think you mean “Hawker, Bristol & Fairey”.

Dangerous Dave
July 8, 2015 9:52 pm

@Allen (and all currently talking about nuclear subs).
The problem with “Sovereign Capabilities” such as PWR’s for submarines, is that contracting to a company runs against the benefit of the customer. If there is only one company making PWRs then they can charge what they like (up to a “well we’ll gap that capability, then” ceiling).

Having multiple competing companies helps getting VFM for the customer and stimulates innovation, but if you aren’t buying enough PWRs, and refuse to let the companies sell them abroad for “national security” reasons, then all but one will go bust, or be taken over.

In this case, nationalising the capability to produce “Sovereign Capability” items (in the mould of a state arsenal) would be more efficient?

Chris
Editor
Chris
July 8, 2015 10:54 pm

D Dave – ref UK defence businesses and MOD – there was once a huge number of defence companies all competing and making pretty good best-in-the-world products. Right up to the 50s. At the same time the Establishments were doing their stuff (design or research or testing or audit depending on the site) so there were loads of ideas and a lot of enthusiasm. Then the Gov’t demanded a mass merger of UK military aviation companies or else the singletons wouldn’t get any further defence work, and we got BAe and Hawker Siddeley which set the tone for the MOD preference for dealing only with big companies (arguably leading to other merger strategies giving us the likes of GEC-Marconi and Racal). Having deliberately trashed inter-company competition, the Gov’t then binned Cost-Plus and insisted on competition for everything – except there were no longer enough UK businesses to make for sharp-edged competition. Well done, Gov’t, for completely hosing up the business environment. Arrogant amateurs tinkering with things they didn’t understand.

Eventually H-S & BAe merged, GEC & greater BAe merged, Racal and Pilkington Optronics were bought by the French Gov’t and merged with Thomson-CSF, Alvis bought GKN Defence then Vickers and Alvis merged and then BAE bought Alvis-Vickers and handed them to United Defense which it had also bought, and so on.

Small companies couldn’t – can’t – compete in the defence domain not because they are inadequate or inefficient but because MOD won’t work with small businesses on large contracts, but now as the MOD’s only UK producer they deem large enough is BAE the procurement net is thrown worldwide; not because it delivers the best solution but because the process states they must run competitions. Its really hard to run a UK focused competition when there’s only one possible bidder. Obviously if you run competitions with international bidders, many contracts will go abroad – there really would be a stink if BAE won every one.

UK’s withered defence industry is a monster all of MOD’s (and Gov’ts various) creation. Without doubt there was far better value for money before all the Gov’t manipulation happened. It would be a breath of fresh air if MOD were to change its approach from lofty auditor to engaged partner, but as far as I can see the current attitudes are well and truly engrained and short of WW3 nothing will kick better sense into the system.

El Sid
El Sid
July 8, 2015 11:32 pm

We do actually make SSKs – or rather, large bits of them that then go into other nations’ SSKs. The S-80 in particular would have some rather large holes in it without help from Barrow.