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Defence, Industries and Society

This major study aims to facilitate an evidence-based understanding of the place of industries in Western defence and wider society. The programme will deploy RUSI's authoritative research base to produce independent studies in this area.

Rationale     Key research areas Recent Initiatives  Personnel

With trend analyses showing that almost 50 per cent of an advanced nation-state's defence budget is being allocated directly or indirectly by manufacturing and service businesses, it is critical for the policy maker, industrialist, military commander and informed citizen alike to properly understand the effect industry has on both policy and operations as a constituent component of the military instrument.

With industry seemingly significant to the projection of national interest and military power, what does this mean in terms of accountability, governance, oversight and ethics - critical democratic themes that Western governments, perhaps through military effort, are traditionally seen as advancing?


The programme itself is intended to inform mainstream academic, industrial and political debates relating to future military capabilities, foreign policy ambitions, investment choices, and policies impacting on businesses supporting defence.

The need for such a programme is both urgent and long-term: urgent because the effects of the global financial crisis and subsequent squeeze on public expenditure may provoke short-term and reactive policy responses to complex defence, industrial and social problems. And long-term, because there is an evident requirement to build independent research expertise in the grey area between industry/technology, governmental policy-making and social development.

In terms of MoD expenditure, in 2009, £13,387 million was spent on the equipment and support programme. This represented just over 40 percent of the total defence budget. When adding other non-equipment lines, the MoD spend within the industrial base gets close to 55 percent of its total annual expenditure. In all, this means that MoD's spend with the private sector amounts to about 1.4 percent of UK GDP.

A capable defence industrial sector must be recognised as a multi-faceted asset contributing to that elusive concept of political power.

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Activities and key research areas

Our work is to systematically, independently and rigorously accesses the 'defence industrial ecosystem' and analyse the forces in operation, to glean a deep understanding that frames and informs the national, regional and international policy debates. This has been outlined in the programme's founding Whitehall Report 2-11.

We aim to build up a 'defence, industries and society narrative' that will help policy-makers, industrialists and other stakeholders within wider society to make sense of their professional world.

The programme is bringing together senior academics, practitioners and thinkers to undertake and inform its work. The intention, through a mixture of workshops, round tables and conferences and regular publications (Whitehall Reports, RUSI Defence Systems, RUSI Journal, Newsbrief), is to disseminate the emerging body of knowledge as widely as possible.


  • Exploring the complex interdependencies between defence strategy and operational intent, the industrial base and society, and the tensions between global, regional, national and local perspectives - what we conceive as the defence industrial ecosystem
  • Globalisation, partnering and the challenges posed by modernity for notions of a 'national' defence industrial base
  • The roles, purposes, values and beliefs of the 'defence worker'
  • The concept of a defence industrial base and its purposes in a Western state
  • The role of the defence industrial base in the projection and sustainment of modern military capabilities
  • Lessons for the future from military operations since 1990
  • The reconciliation of the government roles as customer, sponsor and regulator of defence businesses in an era of the multi-national corporation
  • The impact of national and European regulatory frameworks on industrial conduct and policy-making
  • The ethical and legal considerations relevant to the defence industrial effort
  • The place of research and technology expenditures within and without government on the health of industries serving defence
  • The risks and benefits associated with defence exports from a defence, national governmental and society perspective
  • The risks and benefits associated with the offshore ownership of defence companies
  • The constituent elements of defence industrial capabilities
  • The impact of public and political attitudes to defence expenditures on the health and structure of the defence industry.

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Recent Initiatives

Acquisition Focus Group
Convening an expert panel of industry and policy experts to provide objective views on aspects of defence equipment acquisition.

Thought Leadership Project on Returning Sovereign Wealth
This research project assesses the opportunities, challenges and outlook for tracing, repatriating and reinvesting stolen national sovereign wealth and assets. 

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Henrik Heidenkamp 2Dr Henrik Heidenkamp is a Senior Research Fellow for the Defence, Industries and Society Programme.


Professor Trevor TaylorProfessor Trevor Taylor  Professorial Research Fellow in Defence Management. 


John Louth 2Dr John Louth is Director, Defence, Industries and Society Programme. 


Joanne Mackowski

 Joanne Mackowski is Researcher, Defence, Industries and Societies


Lauren Twort

Lauren Twort is Researcher, Defence, Industries and Societies Programme


Gabriela ThompsonGabriela Thompson, Researcher, Defence Industries and Society


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