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UK defence procurement system cannot keep pace with technological change, outgoing CDS says

Technological change is moving at such a rapid pace that the UK's defence procurement system cannot keep up, outgoing Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Nick Carter told the House of Commons Defence Committee on 9 November. “It is not likely to be able to deal with the rapid pace of technological change and the way we set requirements at the moment,” he said.

Asked about last month's report by the parliament's Public Account Committee, which concluded that the Ministry of Defence's equipment procurement system was “broken”, Gen Carter replied, “Roger, out,” but stressed that he does not have direct responsibility for the ministry's procurement bureaucracy, which is run by civilians.

“The plain fact is we can do a better job of [procurement] to maximise the potential of the money we already get,” he said.

“Given the extraordinary pace of technological change, questions have to be asked, regardless about how clever you are with open systems architecture, whether the system of defining a requirement, then specifying it up the ying-yang and then throwing it over the fence for a competition where the answer comes back best value for money – [which] takes out any incentive for your supplier to innovate – is a model that can work given the technological innovation we are under at the moment,” said Gen Carter. “We are going to have to think very profoundly about how we deal with stuff we are acquiring that is going to have technology at the heart of it.”

This was Gen Carter's final appearance before the committee ahead of his retirement at the end of November.

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