Military Capabilities

British Army think-tank recommends ditching procurement competitions

23 January 2017
These Warrior IFVs and Challenger 2 MBTs are among a dwindling number of UK-designed equipment in the British Army. A report from the army's own think tank has called for a change in UK defence procurement policy to end competitive tenders and to invest more in the UK defence industry. Source: IHS/Patrick Allen

Key Points

  • The British Army's think-tank has suggested the United Kingdom end competitive tenders for defence procurement
  • CHACR's report instead envisages greater investment in the UK defence industry

The UK's default preference for competition in equipment procurement should be reversed to help rebuild the country's land industrial sector, according to an internal British Army report into the rebuilding of its warfighting capability.

The availability of critical army equipment, including armoured vehicles, communications systems and night vision devices, could be blocked by foreign suppliers in time of war or major crisis, according to the British Army's think tank, the Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research (CHACR).

Its latest report, 'Warfighting at scale: Regenerating and reconstituting mass', was posted on the army's website in January and aims to identify the measures needed to get the UK's sole reaction force or warfighting division up to combat readiness by 2025. CHACR was set up by the head of the army, General Sir Nick Carter, and draws on the expertise from serving and retired officers, as well as academic experts. The centre held a two day seminar in 2016 to consider the challenges in getting 3 (UK) Division ready for action.

The UK's default preference for competition in defence procurement, which has held sway for more than two decades in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Treasury is an important issue, the report said. "The need to generate and sustain a credible warfighting division will end the employment of unconstrained competition as the default UK procurement strategy. It is noticeable that, unlike France, the United Kingdom has limited domestic ability to design and manufacture armoured vehicles, communication systems, and night-vision equipment," the report said. "The UK has attempted to have its cake and eat it and has, inevitably, been unsuccessful. Repeated competitions to select the prime contractor for projects in the land sector of UK defence industry have resulted in the collapse of domestic industrial capacity; the UK would do well to emulate the French."

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