The UK’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation is embarking on a process of procurement reform, with increased programme agility and environmental considerations to receive greater focus.
Named DE&S 2025, the activity is a “strategic response” to the UK government’s integrated review, command paper and Defence and Security Industrial Strategy publications of earlier this year, says chief executive Sir Simon Bollom.
“It sets out our ambitions to meet requirements and provide the operational edge for our armed forces,” Bollom said during a keynote address at the DSEI exhibition in London on 16 September.
“Our defence programmes need to modernise and become more threat-focused and financially stable,” he adds.
With an annual budget of over £10 billion ($13.7 billion) and responsibility for more than 600 projects, DE&S delivers roughly 80% of the UK Ministry of Defence’s largest procurements.
Bollom notes that around £8 billion of this sum is spent domestically, helping to support 80,000 jobs, while DE&S itself has more than 11,500 employees.
“Over the next four years we are gearing up to move with pace and agility with our frontline customers’ demand, provide value to the taxpayer and society, and deliver accelerated digital solutions through our partners and people,” he says.
“We can be quick and agile,” Bollom notes. “We delivered [Boeing CH-47] Chinook defensive aids upgrades as an urgent capability requirement last year. Increasingly, this must become second nature, if we are to keep pace with the rapidly changing character of conflict.
“We will also engage with high-tempo experimentation, to prioritise short-term interventions, and to support the delivery of the MoD’s integrated operating concept 2025. We are going to challenge our processes and champion new ways of thinking, such as what we achieved on the ‘buy and try at scale’, or BATS case study,” he says.
“DE&S’s Future Capability Group used BATS and the transformation fund to buy 120 systems and deliver nine different products for the army to test, which included nano unmanned air vehicles.
“Whilst our traditional focus on large platforms remains critical, this is a great example of when moving away from big bang-style procurement to a more spiral approach enables multiple products to be tested, developed and refined for a requirement. It also ensures the customer achieves the optimal capability, which is essential as we embrace software-intensive systems and open architectures.”
Referring to environmental responsibilities, Bollom notes: “We also have a profound responsibility to contribute significantly to the government’s target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
From incorporating solar panels on carports at DE&S’s Abbey Wood headquarters in Bristol to exploring the use of environmentally-friendly smoke dye by the Red Arrows aerobatic display team, he says: “There are many opportunities for us to leverage new green technologies”.