Released on 22 March, the Defence Command Paper laid an important part of the groundwork for the Defence & Security Industrial Strategy (DSIS) published the following day. The Defence Command Paper gives further detail on the equipment and force structure priorities of the UK following the financial settlement released in November of 2020. Taken as a pair the Command Paper and the DSIS can be treated as setting the direction for the UK’s equipment, capability and technology priorities and how they will be procured in the coming years.
The Command Paper sets the tone for much of the detail of the DSIS:
The UK will adopt “a more strategic approach to industrial capability critical to strategic and operational needs” and “provide greater flexibility in designing capability and acquisition strategies to deliver and grow the onshore skills, technologies and capabilities”
In addition, the UK “will ensure a more consistent consideration of the longer-term implications of Defence’s procurement decisions for military capability and industry”. ADS believes this signals a very positive step towards greater harnessing of the Defence Prosperity agenda and a recognition that the defence and security sectors have an important role to play in contributing to national economic recovery.
The DSIS itself presents a picture of greater freedoms for the UK to take procurement decisions that could include more UK content, prioritise the UK supply chain and contribute to the Government’s Social Value agenda.
This has come through particularly strongly in the maritime and naval domain where the Government has stated its intention to broaden the definition of ‘warship’, indicating that the intention is to build the majority of the UK’s future fleet in UK shipyards (or with substantial UK industrial input). Indeed, the vision of a “renaissance in UK shipbuilding” is a strong theme throughout the three documents published in recent weeks, including the Integrated Review.
The raft of policy changes, new initiatives and promised strategies will take a number of years to be implemented and begin to impact the UK’s defence procurement regime. However, it is vitally important that opportunities are seized, in the short term, to begin applying this new approach. Increasing the requirement for UK content, applying Social Value criteria in a strategic way across programmes, and sharing “technology road-maps” with industry are all steps that can be taken in the coming months.
Implementation of the DSIS across Government and our industries will be a top priority for ADS in 2021 on beyond.