Defence Acquisition: A New Beast or a Dinosaur?

Defence Acquisition: A New Beast or a Dinosaur?

Derrick J. Neal (Cranfield University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0599-0.ch009


Through the lenses of Strategy and Change management academic theory this chapter presents a view of the evolution of defence acquisition using the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) as the vehicle and assesses the impact of disruptive technologies. The chapter proposes a number of changes that need to be embraced by the defence acquisition community if it is to be able to meet the needs of the nation now and in the future. The chapter concludes that the UK MOD must accept that the old model is now flawed and that in order to bring about the necessary changes a shift in mind-set is a sine qua non and that this change will take time. The envisaged way forward with a fundamental change in the way defence capability is acquired will result in a smaller, more agile and more professional organisation if, and only if, the required transformational change can be implemented effectively.
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As long as man has needed to deal with conflict situations he has sought solutions that adversaries could not match to ensure victory and/or survival. In more recent times this has been reflected in guns with greater range such that they could be fired without the threat of incoming shells. Aircraft that could fly higher and faster than the enemy, submarines that could not be detected. In most cases a nation was looking for victory within the context of state-on-state war and to that end in pursuit of survival very large sums (or % of GDP) were spent on defence. This can also be viewed from the perspective of providing an insurance policy aimed at deterring a potential adversary from attacking. In very recent times the likes of the USA and UK (amongst others) have found themselves deploying military capability in support of one cause or another and in the most recent cases it has been to maintain security in the home nation from fundamentalist terrorist groups or in support of ‘democracy’ in other countries such as in the case of the Arab Spring uprisings.

It can be argued that during the period of the Cold War, the US applied an imposition strategy on the USSR by virtue of significant R&D investment in military and space technology. The resultant arms race was one that the USSR was never going to win for the simple reason that it did not have a strong enough economy to continue to bank roll the military and space investments in a sustainable way. However, the long term downside of this is that it established business models and mind-sets in the US (and to a certain extent in Western economies such as the UK) which was thought to provide the ‘silver bullet’.

One might argue, based on some of the findings reported by FitzGerald & Sayler (2014), that in the future the USA could find itself on the receiving end of such a strategy being applied by China – only time will tell.

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