Research decline puts defence at risk

Posted on 5 Feb 2010 by The Manufacturer

A|D|S welcomed the launch of the Government’s Defence Green Paper and Strategy on Acquisition Reform as a crucial step towards delivering a Strategic Defence Review.

As the supplier of equipment and support to the UK’s armed forces, the defence industry can only make the right investments in technology and skills with the right strategic direction on where investment should be targeted, it said. Acquisition Reform is vital to ensuring the UK gets best value from its defence spending, and A|D|S believes industry can aid Government with their drive for efficiency, especially through more outsourcing.

A|D|S is pleased, it said, that the green paper acknowledges that emerging nations are increasing defence research investment. However, this is in a context where the MoD has already cut early stage research investment by 23% over the last three years. Accordingly to the agency, technological development and investment in future capability goes to the heart of future military capability — and therefore both the UK’s international relations and much of the content of the report. A|D|S is disappointed not to see a question posed by the Green paper on whether investment in research and technology is at the right level and, as a result, will be calling for the level of research investment to receive greater priority in the SDR process.

The Strategic Defence Review, it said, must answer the question of what Britain’s future role in the world will be, and a refreshed Defence Industrial Strategy must be an integral part of that process. The SDR should also provide strategic direction for international co-operation including industrial partnerships. The Green Paper is helpful in setting the framework, but the SDR will not be completed until after a general election. Industry is concerned about decisions that are already being taken which are eroding the ability of industry to deliver future capability.

Rees Ward, CEO of A|D|S, said, “We welcome these reports as a first step towards the much needed Strategic Defence Review. The absence of a refreshed strategy since 1998 has been to the nation’s detriment, forcing industry to take short term decisions. Industry is glad to see that strategic decision-making will receive greater priority, with SDRs becoming a regular occurrence in the political calendar.

“A refreshed Defence Industrial Strategy is a priority for the defence and security of the nation, and must be part of the SDR process. Currently, there is a great fear that the UK will end up prepared for current conflicts, and not those of the future — an SDR that is based on the strategic and security needs of the nation, rather than just budgetary constraints will resolve this issue.”