Problem with British Defence Policy Engagement


DefenceSynergia One page Summary of the Problem with British Defence Policy Engagement

Despite UK Defence receiving more cash inputs since SDSR 2010, indeed, despite earlier defence spending achieving much higher input than 2% of GDP, the fact remains that HM Armed Forces have, and continue to reduce in manpower, major weapons platforms, sustainment and logistic enablers. It seems that the net result of increased Defence spending in procurement – now said to be £178bn over 10 years – is that capacity, utility and capability are on an irreducible downward spiral. The net effect is that core doctrine defining Readiness, Responsiveness, Resilience and Regeneration is being side-lined under the cover of a ‘shop window’ PR mantra that more cash input equals greater capability output.

So, for example, the replacement of thirteen Type 23 frigates by only eight Type 26 frigates is delivering reduced frigate capability but at an escalated cost from £350m per unit at pre-2010 costs to above £1bn per unit today without effective operational or cost explanation. Fewer F35Bs have to be purchased, whatever the cost or capability implications, simply because MOD did not fully explore the options available with catapult and arrestor gear for the QE II carriers, totally ignoring the viability of cost effective new technology launch and recovery systems. The Army plough ahead with Strike Brigades, AJAX, Warrior, supporting armoured and artillery forces without acknowledging that when based in the UK these reduced forces must still have the logistic combat enablers to get them rapidly to the fight if they are to have utility beyond training and garrison duties. In the RAF we see a damaging refusal to fund E-3D AWACS open systems computer architecture upgrade to keep commonality of capability and interoperability with USAF, French and NATO E-3 fleets. Finally, but by no means least, the MOD completely ignores the stand-off/ballistic missile threat to UK and deployed forces because it is has been blinded by the lack of air threat over the last two decades. Thus, the UK completely lacks an integrated layered land based air defence/missile defence force structure: relying instead upon 6 x Type 45 destroyers with obvious geographic and capacity limitations, a few fighter aircraft, and a sparse number of very limited range Rapier type units.

Behind all this is a lack of MOD ‘system of systems’ planning cohesion, largely driven as money gets tighter, by single Service professional protectionism that skews British combined/joint Defence priorities. This myopic Service nepotism is amplified by failure to ‘customer drive’ and fashion an ‘intelligent customer’ relationship with the prime British industry supplier, thereby, allowing a cartel-type Defence sector environment, that drives defence procurement cost growth which delivers less capability year on year. Conversely, what is actually required is more Capability and mass generated by more adaptable and re-configurable equipment operated by more military personnel producing more ‘bang per buck’.

This all confirms the long held DS view that there is ‘systemic failure’ within MOD, particularly in its inability to see defence in Strategic ‘systems of systems’ terms designed to meet what should be the overarching operational requirement (OR). This Strategic OR being the ability of an organizational and output adaptable UK Armed Forces to defend the UK and meet their agreed NATO commitments when facing a rapidly emerging threat from a well armed and aggressive peer competitor.