Defence transformation: new relationships between defence industry and the front-line commands

New opportunities for industry to get to the heart of equipment and support requirements could emerge from changes triggered by Lord Levene’s independent report on Defence Reform¹ and the Defence Reform Blueprint for the Future Department.²

Under the Levene proposals, defence companies have the chance to cut costs and improve competitiveness by forging deeper relationships with the real customers from the earliest concept stage of requirement development.

In line with Lord Levene's report, and as part of the reorganisation of the top tiers of the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Chiefs of Staff have been given many of the levers they need to generate and develop their service to deliver military capability. The Front Line Commands (FLCs) have been made accountable, through the Service Chiefs, for planned and in-service equipment and support across all years and will now set the detailed equipment and support requirements for their own Service’s equipment. As such, they act as the customer for Chief of Defence Materiel (CDM).

This change provides the opportunity to speak to and build a relationship with an easily identifiable customer who is very close to the operational front-line and understands exactly what is required. The proposal is not without its challenges. Prior to the change, the FLCs had no existing structure or expertise in setting requirements which will still take time to develop. Moreover, the MOD’s DE&S organisation will worry that undue industrial influence on the FLCs could undermine their role as chief advisor on acquisition.

So what should industry do? In a cash-constrained future where the number of new equipment purchases may decrease, providing support for existing equipment is the major opportunity and a key area for potential growth.

To compete and succeed in providing equipment support, companies will need to demonstrate a deep understanding of real user requirements and strong relationships with the new buyers in the FLCs.

A better understanding between the FLCs and industry could be a business winner. Although initial implementation has taken place, there is much still to be defined in terms of how the FLCs will make the new relationships work and it is important for industry to start taking positive steps now to engage in new ways. These include:

  • Building relationships and trust with the FLCs (who will control most of the equipment support spend) to demonstrate industry's commitment and desire to meet their needs effectively.
  • Working as true partners to the FLCs, seeking to get involved at the earliest concept stage of requirement definition when the exploration of innovative solutions will be key. Providing advice on the 'art of the possible' can help the FLCs to produce well-honed requirements, reducing risk and cost and increasing industry's chances of winning business, that both meet the MOD's needs and are profitable to deliver.
  • Working with the FLCs to look across all of the Defence Lines of Development (DLoDs), particularly personnel. Future skill requirements will be critical over the coming years given the reductions in the size of the Armed Forces.

¹ Defence Reform: An independent report into the structure and management of the Ministry of Defence, June 2011.

² Transforming Defence - Future Defence operating model and Head Office senior structure proposal as referenced in the January 2012 Defence Monthly Digest.

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