With the 7 November resignation of Lord Drayson, Minister of State for Defence Equipment and Support, the necessary moves towards significant change in defence equipment acquisition – which he has championed and forced forward – may well have received a serious setback. He was the force behind the Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS) in December 2005, and the forceful proponent of greater speed in the acquisition process.
In the Autumn 2006 issue of RUSI Defence Systems, the RUSI Acquisition Focus concluded that: 'The DIS will only be successful if culture is changed. Success of implementation will, therefore, be measured by the change of culture, and this will only be achieved by strong, consistent Ministerial leadership over a lengthy period.' That strong, consistent leadership has been provided since then by Lord Drayson, but change takes a long time to bed in and the required change in acquisition is still a long way from being achieved. It is crucial that Lord Drayson’s initiatives are followed through strongly and consistently by his replacement.
In a statement, Lord Drayson explained that having competed in the British GT championship, racing a unique bio-ethanol fuelled race car to come second overall in the championship, he now has ‘the opportunity to race next year in the American Le Mans series in the US, a key step towards my eventual dream of success in the Le Mans 24-hours endurance race.’
he was ideally placed to bring in to the defence sector ways of increasing the pace of the defence acquisition cycle, which is arguably the most important change that can be made for improving cost effectiveness. So far, he has had greater success in doing so than anyone previously.
Lord Drayson became Under Secretary of State and Minister for Defence Procurement in May 2005 and then Minister of State for Defence Equipment and Support in March 2007. He seemed tailor-made for the job as he holds a BSc in production engineering, a PhD in robotics and has worked in the food and pharmaceuticals industries. With his experience in civil industry together with his love of motor racing, he was ideally placed to bring in to the defence sector ways of increasing the pace of the defence acquisition cycle, which is arguably the most important change that can be made for improving cost effectiveness. So far, he has had greater success in doing so than anyone previously.
There is now a question mark over his second bite at the Defence Industrial Strategy – DIS 2. It is due to be published on 13 December this year, although there has been much speculation over whether its publication was to be postponed. That now seems inevitable. Postponement until April when this winter’s planning round – PR08 – is public would make much sense, but further delay – or worse – would be a huge step back and would be seen as a victory for those who have still to be convinced about Drayson’s changes.
However, the resignation of Drayson should not mean the end of progress. In replying to the RUSI Acquisition Focus’s article mentioned above, Bill Jeffrey, MoD’s Permanent Under Secretary, said: 'I am in no doubt that it is up to the permanent leadership of the Department to make [the changes] stick.’ Now is the time for that to be made clear by action.
Editor, RUSI Defence Systems
The views expressed above are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of RUSI.