Douglas Barrie/LONDON

The UK is on the brink of a radical overhaul of its defence procurement process, if proposals in the Government's Strategic Defence Review's (SDR) Smart Procurement study and the Acquisition Organisation Review are approved.

The recommendations of the Smart Procurement final report have yet to be made public as part of the overall SDR review. A copy seen by Flight International, however, reveals far-reaching proposals which have considerable implications for the defence aerospace industry and the Ministry of Defence. The report is also critical of European collaboration.

The report says Smart Procurement is needed because "-the procurement cycle has become long and drawn out-leading to obsolete equipment entering service".

The study also marks a shift away from the previous Government's adherence to competitive procurement, while - in terms of actual project implementation - the emphasis is on "incremental acquisition", rather than a "big bang" approach to purchasing new equipment.

"New procurement processes, such as incremental acquisition, will demand more flexible and interactive commercial relationships with industry, foremost among which will be the increased use of partnering arrangements, " says the report.

One recent programme, which effectively prototyped elements of incremental acquisition, was the Royal Air Force's Sepecat Jaguar upgrade programme which saw three discrete - but complementary - avionics upgrades successfully introduced into the aircraft over the past three years.

The study recommends that, while "-the promotion of such arrangements does not signify a withdrawal from competition, the aim would be to select partners competitively, but this could take place at an earlier stage in the procurement cycle".

The report recommends the adoption of a "through-life systems approach" to procurement, including a formal project initiation phase to replace the pre-feasibility stage.

The report also cautions that collaborative procurement, and in particular European joint projects, have so far "-played to weakness rather than strength, encouraging inefficiency and unnecessary complexity". It warns: "Unless improvements can be realised, the future of European collaboration must be in question".

Source: Flight International