Ed Savage, procurement expert at PA Consulting, and a former RAF officer who has advised the MoD on some major programmes, believes this closer working relationship has improved the success rate of equipment delivered to the frontline: "Whatever is procured this way has to work first time - and it invariably does because the MoD has developed a robust approach to capability development."
The MoD is now more focused on deciding precisely what equipment it wants. For the past four years it has been running defence acquisition workshops with suppliers. At these meetings everybody is able to say what they feel without fear of repercussions for their career or loss of contract.
"This has spawned a real sense of community and improvements to the acquisition process," says Savage. "There are now many engagements where the top team from the MoD is sharing information with its suppliers in a way it has never felt comfortable to do before. This results in a greater shared understanding and more effective matching of supply and demand."
The practice meant that suppliers were brought into the process and felt part of "Team Defence", he adds. Savage argues the much-lauded Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS), which resulted from the early defence acquisition workshops, made a significant contribution to relationships with industry and spawned alliances between key suppliers and the MoD to protect key capabilities for the UK. Introduced in 2006, the DIS sets out a 10-year buying plan for the UK military.
A review of the MoD's procurement capability by the OGC, published earlier this month, found the MoD has come along way since the DIS. But North is worried defence procurement has become as much about providing local employment as getting the right hardware for soldiers. "Hence you get the Future Lynx, ordered mainly to keep a helicopter manufacturing capability in the UK," he says.