General Sir Chris Deverell, the Commander of the UK’s Joint Forces Command (JFC), has accepted that the length of time it takes to get programmes into operation in the military is a ‘real issue’. 

General Deverell was hosting a ‘Twitter Q&A’.

In June, I spent two days at the RUSI Land Warfare Conference in London. While there, the time scale for equipment and technology acquisition was frequently covered. Indeed, several noted that in the time it takes for the military to get a new piece of technology operational, private companies have already progressed forward several generations.

By the time a new piece of technology comes into operation, it is already out of date. Causes cited included bureaucracy, procurement politics, and training time.

I asked General Deverell whether ‘compared to the civilian world’,  if the length of time it takes to get a project from concept to reality undermines the ability to innovate.

Deverell responded, stating JFC ‘must have procedures that allow us to move faster in part of our acquisition portfolio’. I will be following up with him as to what these procedures might look like.


It should be noted that General Deverell handled the various questions very impressively; I will cover more of his answers in due course. I would hope to see more serving officers engaging on Twitter and following his example soon.

Having said that, it looks like the current lack of communication (with Deverell being a notable exception) has been recognised as a problem:

15 COMMENTS

  1. I couldn’t agree more…

    We aim too high, spend too much and fail too often [in terms of procurement].

    I truly believe that a lot of this is due to the notion that “multi-role” saves money.

  2. Defence is a tricky area to always be ahead of the gang. To all sense and purpose that’s the never-ending game, desperately trying to be one step ahead of your foe. Britain has a history of howlers, such as the new Nimrod, TSR2, and Fox to name a few. I don’t always accept the argument that all equipment is out of date, as such development is ostensively, a wet bar of soap. Ajax is a sound programme and its platform has been designed to have a high level of ‘Future Proofing.’ The current CH2 will also prove to be capable of being upgraded, but in many such cases, the programmes take far too long to manifest themselves? Type 31 is proving to be a typical British project that gets plenty of newsprint, but very little progress in actually getting the bloody ships built. I understand the MOD has called a timeout for further discussions? Let’s hope above hope we are not looking at a repeat of the upgraded Nimrod?

      • The one reason there is a lack of clarity in regards to the RN programmes, is due in part to Global Britain. Today, we can only guess how successful it may prove to be, and there lies the rub. On one hand, we have the MOD budget and on the other a cautious Treasury, that wants to see how matters develop post-March 2019.

        As you know, I still believe the current fleet is not large enough to achieve true global reach, and plans should be in place to tackle that issue sooner rather than later.

  3. The problem is with the people mostly in uniform taking these decisions. It’s a corporate structure now. If you want to keep climbing the ladder you have to learn how to cover-up your mistakes and blame others. Also so many people are involved in procurement decisions that when they go arse over tit (as is usual) it’s ferociously hard to work out who’s fault it is. That’s how they like it. Everybody involved blames everyone else. This means that the nearer the top of the food chain the more incompetent and devious the people are. It isn’t universally true sometimes competent people get there. By blind luck more than design.

  4. Couldn’t agree more. We are still waiting for Ajax to be declared operational with the British army 8 years after it won the contest. The latest offerings from Reinmetal with the Lynx and BAE’s CV90 Mk4 are now more advanced, it’s embarrassing. Let’s not forget the warrior mid life improvement that is quickly turning into Nimrod 2.0 because the contractor can’t modify the existing turrets despite the UK and France developing a brand new one before the UK decides to scrap using it. Complete incompetence.

  5. For the money weved pissed away on botch procurement with fres, boxer, warrior upgrades etc we should have the most advanced land forces in Europe by a country mile instead we have spent billions and still don’t have a single new IFC, APC or upgraded tank in operation to show for it.

  6. from what I can tell 99% of the problem is political. What should happen is the policiticans give tbe MOD a fixed budget for a 5-10 year period and they work from it. Instead we get constant unfunded announcements to make some positive news but then cut or delayed due to no actual funds being available. The US partially gets around this by having a huge budget which it can play with and have delays but ultimately no major capability gaps but with a smaller budget and so no wriggle room we need longer term thinking and budgeting.

    • I would have to disagree. That would open the door to lack of oversight and corruption. Such as more instances of officials and company representatives being a revolving door. While you would have officers in the Military being given defense sector jobs even more on retirement in return for favors.
      In short their is no perfect system. I would say the thing that needs to be done is end the never ending series of Reviews and White Papers that go on and on thus preventing long term planning. They should instead be replaced by Security Assessments and Audits done annually and presented before the relevant committees in Parliament. Along with the MOD and the separate services budget requests.

      • The 2 are not mutually exclusive. There could be governmental oversight of the spending with the MOD needing to justify it’s procurements and strategy. However having a fixed budget to work within would help longer term planning. We already have the SDSR which is 10 yearly, set the budget based on the outcome from that. Thinking effectively a year ahead, based on the nexy governemtn budget is not a way to plan

        • A big problem with sdsr is they provide funding based on completely unrealistic projections for new kit and we therefore always end up short. It is crazy that 10 years after the fres selections should have been completed we still have no wheeled or tracked ifv and apacs in service. It total disregard for soldiers lives.

          • What we don’t know is the reason behind the FRES problem. Was it lack of a decision or was it lack of funds to actually place the order, who knows.

            One big improvement would be if the MOD actually was honest, rather than being political, and when money is the problem just say it, it might actually stop the constant putting off today to pay more tomorrow of the various slow builds etc.

          • certainly the warrior capability program, appears to be trying to do much with too little.

  7. The above comments are all very much to the point, however there is also the DE&S problem. This is where they employ contracted project managers who are solely focused on their singular task. They don’t see the larger picture and how their decisions affect other programs. There seems to be no joined up thinking or oversight, a prime example would be the Army’s route of going the CTA40 gun whilst the Navy is going with the DS30M. Both guns are doing a similar role and I can understand the Army going the case telescopic route due to the smaller footprint when fitted in a turret. But why has it not been investigated to see if the CTA40 would be suitable for use on a ship or fast attack boat.
    I do believe the Defence Oversight Committee require more teeth with more authority than just a nasty report.

    • DaveyB, I think that as you say there is Little to NO read-across between projects. Sadly they all live in their own little worlds. It would be interesting to know if the “Land-Ceptor” missiles programme was driven by MBDA wanting a lot of commonality etc with the Navy Sea-Ceptor, or did some “bright-spark” in DE&S say “Wouldn’t it be a good idea if …..”
      I suspect if we got a copy of “Desider”, it would be all down to those hard working boys and girls in ABW

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