UK defence group pushes for procurement transformation

UK Defence Equipment and Support organisation pushes for a revamp of the procurement process, calling for better sustainability and programme coordination

Looking to shake up its procurement processes is the UK’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation. In an effort to improve its focus on sustainability and hone its programme coordination, it’s tackling the streamlining of its procurement methods. The reform, titled DE&S25, follows the review, command paper, and Defence and Security Industrial Strategy papers published in 2021 by the UK government. 

“It sets out our ambitions to meet requirements and provide the operational edge for our armed forces,” says Chief Executive Sir Simon Bollom, addressing the DSEI exhibition earlier this month. “Our defence programmes need to modernise and become more threat-focused and financially stable.”

DE&S push for procurement reform

And it’s no small move. As an organisation that oversees a surplus of 600 projects, boasts around 11,500 employees, is responsible for delivering around 80% of the large-scale procurements to the UK Ministry of Defence, and possesses a comfortable budget of approximately £10 billion, the rejig of its procurement processes could very well transform the entire workings of the organisation. 

“Over the next four years, we are gearing up to move with pace and agility with our frontline customers’ demand, provide value to the taxpayer and society, and deliver accelerated digital solutions through our partners and people,” Bollom continues.

“We can be quick and agile. We delivered [Boeing CH-47] Chinook defensive aids upgrades as an urgent capability requirement last year. Increasingly, this must become second nature, if we are to keep pace with the rapidly changing character of conflict.

“We will also engage with high-tempo experimentation, to prioritise short-term interventions, and to support the delivery of the MoD’s integrated operating concept 2025. We are going to challenge our processes and champion new ways of thinking, such as what we achieved on the ‘buy and try at scale’, or BATS case study.

“DE&S’s Future Capability Group used BATS and the transformation fund to buy 120 systems and deliver nine different products for the army to test, which included nano unmanned air vehicles.

“Whilst our traditional focus on large platforms remains critical, this is a great example of when moving away from big bang-style procurement to a more spiral approach enables multiple products to be tested, developed and refined for a requirement. It also ensures the customer achieves the optimal capability, which is essential as we embrace software-intensive systems and open architectures.”

Sustainability factors into procurement review

And the organisation’s sustainability concerns also play a major part in its desire to revamp its procurement handlings. Introducing solar panels as a form of generating their own renewable energy, the Defence Equipment and Support organisation is ready to kickstart its environmental ambitions, aware of the procurement industry’s effect on emissions. 

“We also have a profound responsibility to contribute significantly to the government’s target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050,” Bollom insists.


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