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By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.

I have great deal of respect for Lord Levene of Portsoken and to the extent that his work during 2010/11 together with a small part-time committee that included the now Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton GCB CBE ADC Gen created the Defence Reform report that in turn would lead to the largest shake up that the Ministry of Defence has seen since its creation fifty years ago. To my mind the Defence Reform Report that was published by Levene in 2011 perfectly complimented the independent ‘Gray Report’ that had looked into potential reform of defence procurement and that was itself published in 2009.

Of the 53 recommendations that had been made within Lord Levene’s Defence Reform Report and that were subsequently auctioned I would highlight recommendations that led to the creation of a new Defence Board chaired by the Secretary of State for Defence, recommendations aimed at strengthening the process of decision making and that helped clarify various responsibilities of the senior leaders involved creating better accountability along with making Main Building smaller in people terms, holding those with responsibility to better account, letting the service chiefs get on with running their services within a strengthened financial framework for which they themselves would now be accountable, the creation of a four-star-led Joint Forces Command to concentrate efforts on strengthening joint warfare development and last but by no means least, the plan to create a single coherent Defence Infrastructure and Defence Business Services model designed ensure that enabling services are delivered efficiently, effectively and professionally.

But while the recommendations of the Defence Reform Report proved to be a vital part of much needed change in how defence would be conducted the Levene Report did not have a brief to engage in the method that procurement was conducted. The responsibility for that was to remain in the hands of Bernard Gray and through the recommendations made in his 2009 report would, in one way or another, lead to the biggest transformation in how defence procurement would in future be conducted.

For the past two years and as the appointed Head of Defence Materiel Bernard Gray had been battling to change the process of defence procurement. To many this is a boring subject and I apologise for writing twice in one week on this. But, as you will see further down it is remarks made by Lord Levene in the House of Lords in the debate on Defence Reform and that create doubt over the wisdom of the Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond deciding to appoint Gray to lead the now chosen DE&S+ option for future defence procurement that have made my blood somewhat boil.

Following his appointment as Head of Defence Materiel in early 2011 the concept models and choices for future Materiel Strategy’ were launched by Bernard Gray in May of that year. The aim was simple – consider how the then DE&S procurement organisation that had been established in 2007 through the merger of the Defence Procurement Organisation and Defence Logistics could provide better value for the taxpayer, a balanced equipment and support programme, better accountability, skills and processes. Clearly this would involve more private sector involvement in one way or another but the final decision would be based on two possible option – one based on partial private sector control of a Government Owned Contractor Operated (GOCO) basis of future procurement operation and the other, remaining fully public sector controlled but with greater private sector involvement – what later when GOCO was being seriously questioned would evolve as the DE&S+ option and which the Government for good reason or bad has now decided upon.

I will try not to repeat what I said in my earlier piece on the subject and have enclosed this above. W

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