Confirmation last week that Alan Garwood, Group Business Director at BAE Systems since 2008 is to retire at the end of this month from the organisation that he joined 42 years ago cannot, particularly from someone like me who has known, respected and worked alongside him over so many years, be allowed to pass without mention. Concurrently, BAE Systems has also announced that Dave Armstrong, currently Air Sector – Director, Europe and International will assume the position of Group Business Director from January 1st 2019. This to me is a very inspired choice particular given the extent to which Mr. Armstrong’s career has mirrored that of Alan Garwood.
As to thanking Alan Garwood for the superb job he has done over the past ten years and before that, as Head of DESO, it is difficult to know where to start. Universally respected internationally, particularly by colleagues and the many senior international government customers and representatives that he has worked with over the past twenty years, a man who isn’t in the habit of mincing his words, whose emails although short go straight to the point, a larger than life character with abundant energy, enthusiasm and ability to motivate, perhaps the most important point to make in regard of his professional career is that he possesses the rare ability to listen to his potential customers.
The latter point is extremely important particularly when talking with senior members of governments internationally. Rather than tell a customer what he can have, the Garwood view in regard of international defence equipment sales is that the first thing to do is to listen to what the potential customer wants as opposed to telling him what you think he wants or needs and of what might be prepared to supply.
I am pleased that BAE Systems has confirmed that Alan Garwood will continue to support some of the company’s ongoing international growth ambitions on a part time basis over the next year. Given the strength of established relationship, this makes a great deal of sense providing as it will, additional experienced support to the company but also to his successor.
Even so, the formal retirement of Alan Garwood from BAE Systems at the end of December brings to an end a brilliant and hugely successful career with an organisation that he had first joined in 1977. He leaves on a high and also at a point that I would also regard as being the starting point of a new and equally fascinating era for the company.
Working his way up through BAE Systems predecessor companies, Alan Garwood was appointed Chief Executive UK for Matra BAe Dynamics in 1998. In 2002 the missiles activity had become MBDA Missile Systems – the UK/French/Italian owned joint venture partnership, one that continues unchanged to this day, with the shares owned by BAE Systems (37.5%), Airbus (37.5%) and Leonardo (25%). At this point Garwood became Chief Operating Officer of MBDA Missile Systems.
Later in the same year  Alan Garwood was seconded to the UK Ministry of Defence to become ‘Head’ of Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO).
With the DESO ‘Head’ traditionally having been a senior industry man, Alan Garwood was quick to rise to the challenge, strengthening the organisation and raising the mantra of its work and quality of its people. Travelling extensively, Garwood established strong relationships with would-be and existing Government customers. Recognising the importance of diplomacy and respect for those with whom he dealt, the standing of DESO grew not only with existing and potential government customers but also within the UK defence industrial base.
Growing DESO involvement within the wider international defence export support role and with our embassies abroad and having built a strong team of expert people to support him both at home and in the DESO international regions, his demeanour, professionalism, patience, humour and quick wit would hold him in good stead with government customer and peers alike. Never a man to suffer fools gladly, it is to me very regrettable that Garwood’s tremendous record of success at DESO was never properly rewarded with the knighthood that he so richly deserves.
It is worth recording here that DESO had been set up as a result of recommendations made in the Stokes Report of 1966 by then Secretary of State for Defence, Denis Healey. The organisation and its structure was based on finding a new ways in which the UK government could support companies engaged in defence export sales. At its heart the Stokes Report recommended the creation of ‘a small yet very high powered central defence export sales support organisation within the MoD’. Hugely respected internationally and highly successful in terms of achievement and benefit that the organisations work brought to UK jobs, skills and the economy, during the six years that Garwood was Head of DESO until 2008, the organisation went from strength to strength.
Throughout its existence DESO been an extremely vigorous promoter of its operations and of the great many large, small and medium sized enterprises that it supported. Success relied not only on the expertise that carried within the organisation but also on the overall level of support that it provided those that it was designed to assist together with implementing a motivation to succeed mantra. Fair to say that DESO was the envy of competitors such as the Americans and French.
Not surprisingly, UK defence exports grew considerably under the Garwood stewardship of DESO and the UK remained second only to the US in respect of defence exports, a remarkable achievement for a country of our size. The importance and the holistic approach that DESO took to the defence industry at this time was quite remarkable and for me personally, given my long history of involvement in defence export support, it was a pleasure to observe – just as it was one that was feared by our international competitors.
Again, I believe that it is worth recording here also that the introduction of the DESO Charter during the Garwood stewardship of DESO proved to be a remarkable success introducing, as it did, encouragement and support to so many more small and medium sized enterprises into the potential benefits of exporting defence products that they produced.
Sadly, in 2008, in a ham-fisted manner that lacked any form of consultation and for which move by the Government of Gordon Brown has to this day never been satisfactorily explained, the clear attempt to kill off DESO by moving it away from the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence to that of what had been the Department of Trade & Industry, most likely in the hope that it would wither on the vine, was as unforgivable as it was also irresponsible. The move to kill off DESO was seemingly led by Shriti Vadera, then a government minister working jointly for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and Cabinet Office. She was well recognised at the time as being a senior ‘advisor’ to Gordon Brown just as she also was for her contempt of defence exports. While what is left of DESO survives in a much reduced new form today, it is with great regret that such a move ignored what up to that point had been four decades of real success that DESO had achieved. The underhand move was made all the worse by not even the Secretary of State for Defence, his ministerial colleagues, the Head of DESO or senior members of industry having been consulted prior to announcement by No 10 on the day that Parliament broke for the summer recess. Arguably, the successor organisation, UKTI DSO was less well placed to carry on the brilliant work that DESO under Garwood and some of the other worthy individuals that had been its head such as Sir Charles Masefield.
To be fair, having faced enormous cuts to the organisation, Sir Richard Paniguian who succeeded Alan Garwood as the organisations Head in 2008 and who very sadly died in June 2017, did his level best. Arguably, by then the horse had already bolted. UKTI DSO is now DIT DSO (Department for International Trade Defence & Security Organisation).
Back at BAE Systems as Group Business Director from late 2008. Garwood has worked tirelessly over the past ten years in support of BAE’s objectives in international sales. Successful Typhoon and Hawk military aircraft sales to Oman and Qatar, Hawk sales to India plus engagement in many other international campaigns, some of which remain ongoing, plus also M777 Howitzers for India, OPV sales and recent successes such as those in Australia and Canada in respect of the Type 26 Global Combat Ship stand out of the many campaigns that Garwood has led.
Alan Garwood who holds an MBA from Cranfield and where he was also made Honorary Doctor of Science in 2003, is also a Visiting Professor at Cranfield University Shrivenham and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. Awarded a CBE in 2007 and as previously alluded, Garwood leaves the full-time role at BAE Systems at a very interesting time. With so much still going on internationally, the legacy of success that he leaves is one that I am in no doubt that his successor Dave Armstrong will thrive on.
Joining BAE Systems as Air Sector Director at the beginning of 2018 with responsibilities for Europe and International, Dave Armstrong is already very well-known and respected within the international defence community. I believe this to be an inspired choice and one that I very much look forward to observing in the years ahead. Mr. Armstrong will take up his position as Group Business Development Director on 1st January 2019.
In respect of career detail and coming as he does from a similar MBDA background to that of Alan Garwood, having joined that company in 1984 Dave Armstrong was appointed Managing Director of MBDA UK in March 2015 (replacing Steve Wadey who is now CEO of QinetiQ). He successfully led top level relationships between MBDA and the UK customer and industrial community and was also responsible also for technical capability, research and technology investment together with development of advanced systems and products across the MBDA Group. His earlier role within MBDA have included Group Director Meteor (the next generation of Beyond Visual range Air-to-Air Missile systems that will be carrier by Eurofighter Typhoon) which his team he led through the first guided firing, together with wide responsibilities for other short and medium range missile cooperative missile programmes across France, the UK and Italy. These have included periods as the Deputy Project Director on Storm Shadow/Scalp air-launched long range, conventionally armed, deep strike weapon capability.
Good luck to both!
CHW (London – 10th December 2018)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785