The art of the possible
10 July 2007
Commodore Mark Anderson, Deputy Director Defence Acquisition Change Programme, reflects on how the Programme is progressing.
Stemming from the recommendations of Tom McKane's Enabling Acquisition Change report, the Defence Acquisition Change Programme (DACP) is modifying the way the MOD does business by restructuring people and processes in order to provide decision-makers with the ability to recognise and fulfil the requirements of the front line more accurately. Shortly following the launch of DE&S (Defence Equipment and Support) in April this year, Commodore Mark Anderson, the DACP Military Lead gave DMJ insights into how things have been progressing.
Has the launch of Defence Equipment and Support on 2nd April 2007 provided any noticeable impetus to the DACP?
Well, I think the answer is a clear yes. The need to set up a fit for purpose Defence Equipment and Support organisation by 2nd April, together with the other changes that we needed in place, was essential if we were going to go into the planning round fit to address the challenge. DE&S is the most visible change of four different pillars of activity. It is the most obvious place in which we are removing barriers between the procurement of future equipment and the support of existing equipment. The other three pillars are better decision-making – primarily around through life capability decision-making in the central customer area; much more effective relations with industry – taking most of the strands forward from the Defence Industrial Strategy; and the fourth, a concentration of achieving high performing people and teams so that we have people with the right skills to take on this challenge and people who are willing to work as a collective team, sharing the acquisition problem as a whole as opposed to owning their own particular part.
One of the recommendations of the Enabling Acquisition Change report was to ensure that the necessary skills and resources are in place. In as much as this recommendation relies on industry, how do you see 'partnering' relationships developing?
The major organisational opportunity that comes from the DE&S merger, is the establishment of the eight two star led clusters, which reflect, pretty accurately, the eight industrial sectors that were referred to in the DIS. We have got the IPTs, those people taking forward the delivery of acquisition, brigaded under people who's day and night job will be looking at managing and optimising that delivery from within that industrial sector. So you have people who are focused on, for example, the Rotary Wing Sector, who understand the aspects of it, understand the capacity and supply chain that underpins that, understand the nature of that business and can collate the IPTs requirement together into a sector business strategy.
In as much as this recommendation relies on the MOD, what plans exist to ensure that there are sufficient properly trained people, who have the time to think about 'what to do', and then do it properly?
In terms of training, we are aware that skills in some areas are not as good as they ought to be. We are taking a cold hard look at what skills we need to deliver a high performing acquisition organisation and are putting in new money to deliver and improve the skills that we need. That will be delivered primarily through the Defence College of Management in Shrivenham, and we will be setting up a series of courses we think people need to deliver improved performance.
Under DACP, the MOD is due to act as a 'Unified Customer' with various elements such as DE&S and the user working together to solve problems. In addition, STP budgetary responsibility moves from DE&S to the Front Line Commands. This represents a massive change programme. How long will it be before the change is actually delivered, and what are the most significant challenges 'en route'?
The bulk of the organisational and process changes that are needed are now in place. We can move forward into this current planning round under that structure. What we then need to do is to take the opportunity created by those changes to do business in a different way and deliver in the real business of defence acquisition. That is largely about behaviours. So, we have moved together to this single unified customer. That doesn't mean we want a large committee around a table. It means we want to pull together the expertise that the DE&S has, the expertise that lies in the end-user and how to integrate equipment into that individual service environment. We want to use the expertise in terms of policy, resource and programming from the centre, the research and development expertise, and then to bring them around the table in the capability planning groups that will be the real engine room, finding solutions for Defence. One of Tom McKane's key findings in his EAC report was that people were working very hard to deliver in their individual areas of responsibility, but the collective ownership of the acquisition problem was not evident. The myriad of the different customer descriptions, which we had within the MOD, confused industry as to who was acting as the customer. What we want to achieve from change is collective ownership of the acquisition problem, but still retain clear responsibility for delivery of different aspects of acquisition as the project goes through the cycle.
Change unsettles people and can cause conflict. What plans are in place for winning the 'hearts and minds' of staff in the face of substantial structural, organisational and process changes?
Firstly, we are building on a solid set of foundations, we are not changing everything and I think that is an important difference to perhaps the Smart Acquisition. Smart Acquisition introduced some project level disciplines that we do not want to lose, for example, in delivering to performance cost and time. We want to build on those project disciplines. Then we need to be able to take a longer-term programme approach, and look across a broader range of capability, to consider the other lines of development, in order to find better solutions for Defence. If you take subject matter experts in a particular field, say people who have been involved in underwater battlespace, submarines and mine warfare for their entire life, then putting them into a room and asking them to look intelligently and broadly at their area of interest is very exciting. I don't see any resistance as they find it very liberating being able to look at problems outside the boundaries of their individual financial or business responsibilities. We need them to be able to do that and address some of the real problems they will inevitably find with that broader look and then propose better solutions. Those who are involved in project management and delivery of individual projects will be operating in a different environment, but the business they do is likely to be much the same. So, yes, there is major change and opportunity out there, but it will be introduced in a fairly gradual way, which will mean many people will be doing much the same as they have done before, but in a very different setting.
We are now approaching the 25th Anniversary of the Falklands. What is it within DACP that will ensure shortages in front line capability experienced then will not reappear, as they have done in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Firstly, I would highlight recent comments by one of the next land elements deploying to Afghanistan, as to how well they were individually equipped, in terms of uniform, small arms, right down to the bag they had to pack it all into before they deployed – these stories tend not to get reported, whereas the damning stories do. I don't think that DACP makes any of the big decisions any easier, it allows us to look at the problems more fully and realistically, and therefore allows us to look without boundaries at where those best solutions might be found. In terms of capability shortfalls, Iraq and Afghanistan have both presented operational requirements and challenges you would not have predicted 10 years ago. What we need to do under DACP is move to a point where we have a stable and broadly understood long-term programme that delivers the balanced defence capability that the country needs in that longer term, with the ability to deliver agility in the short term. That means more use of incremental acquisition, the ability to introduce capability change at the component level, in platforms and systems that were designed for some capability change at the outset and pulling technology opportunities through much more quickly. The DACP brings together the decision-making opportunities that will allow us to go down those sorts of paths, but there is further work to do to deliver that sort of agility.
Do you feel the DACP will resolve Defence funding problems or is another comprehensive Defence Review to be expected?
To go back to my previous answer, the DACP changes will allow people to understand the problem in a broader sense; it won't make any of those problems easier. It will present a more realistic picture of what the art of the possible is in terms of both technology and in the programme going forward. What I hope is that the DACP and the DE&S merger will give us a clearer and more robust picture of what acquisition costs and what the options are going forward, so that we are in a position to make better decisions. The hard decisions, that may emerge in the final instance, need to be taken by the Defence Management Board at the top of the shop.