Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 156 - 159)




  156. Air Marshal, welcome. You have not long been in the job and I can tell you from long experience that this is what I call an HLA session, high lobbyist attendance. Whenever any big bucks are involved, you can be absolutely certain that our colleagues will come and listen avidly with bated breath to what you may say. It is a pleasure having you here in your new position. You have recently taken over as Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Equipment Capability) and the position was created under the Smart Acquisition Initiative. What I would like to ask you firstly is, in your short time in post, have you seen anything that you feel would need to be altered in the structure and its function? I would presume that the MoD gave you a good run-in to your post; so you went in with a fair idea as to what the issues were. I do not want you to frighten your staff but did you come in with views not completely shaped but with a sufficient shaping of those views that you would be prepared to disclose to us this morning?

  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Thank you, Chairman. It is a great pleasure to be here. I think that, if I may be presumptuous, is a very appropriate question because we have reached a critical stage in the equipment capability area. I was involved to some extent in the discussions surrounding the setting-up of the equipment capability customer in one of my previous incarnations in MoD. So I was well familiar with the arguments and I was well familiar with the failings of the old system which the re-organisation set out to address and it has been very interesting to me, coming back after a brief period away, to see how it has moved. I think the first thing I would do is to pay tribute to my predecessor, Sir Jeremy Blackham, and all of those who have been involved in the endeavour at the fantastic progress that they have made over the last two-and-a-half years or so. Indeed, I think it is reasonable to say that we have had an outsider looking at the organisation recently just to test how well we have done, what we have managed to achieve and where perhaps we need to go from here. It is always good to have a fresh set of eyes to look at it.

  157. Who was that or what organisation was that?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) It is Professor Pascale who is an American business academic. He has yet to deliver his full report to me but I have had a debrief from him and the one thing he said which I think I should pass onto you was that he was astonished at how much we had managed to achieve in such a short time and how quickly and fundamentally we had managed to change successfully and he doubted whether parallel organisations on the other side of the Atlantic could have done as much. So I think that is very encouraging. That is down very largely to Sir Jeremy Blackham and all the excellent people he has had working for him. If I can use a metaphor here, we have reached the position where the first stage is now separated and the second stage has to ignite otherwise, as ever with these sorts of changes, there is a danger that the thing will descend back into institutionalism. People will become comfortable with where they are and things will get into a bit of a rut. That is always a danger in any organisation and we must guard against it. So we have to build on the excellent start that has been made. I would point to one issue in particular which we now have to take forward. Over the last two-and-a-half years, we have set up an organisation that is focused very much on the delivery of projects. We are organised under Directors of Equipment Capability who look very hard towards their corresponding integrated project team leader and ensure the delivery of the capability that we have identified as required. Of course, what we are about is achieving success on the battlefield and that requires us to take a look at our equipment capability much more as a whole rather than as a set of different projects. The Directors of Equipment Capability are not equipped to do that, nor should they be. They need to retain the freedoms that they have to drive through those projects to completion. That has been a great success story. What we have to do now is to continue the process of giving them the appropriate strategic guidance and making sure, as they do their work, that they conform to that strategic guidance so that the projects which come out at the end can be used synergistically as a whole rather than as a set of largely unrelated capabilities, and that is the key area where we now have to move forward.

  158. When Professor Pascale produces his report, you will then evaluate it within the organisation, within the MOD, and then will you propose a series of changes of structure or changes of function or anything else that will need to be done?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) It is not so much a question about structure, it is much more about process. One of the keys to success in any organisation is not so much how you organise it, how you divide it up, but how you manage the interface issues and the discontinuities that inevitably arise from that division, interfaces within the organisation and of course between it and outside agencies. That is an area upon which we are working very hard at the moment; we have made a great deal of progress but we still have more to do. So, it is much more about process than about organisation.

  159. What would you like the organisation to be by the time you move on? Have you been able to think that strategically? At this stage, do you have a series of objectives that you would like to pass on to your successor and how can you achieve them?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Yes. There are a number of things that we do in a tried and trusted fashion: responding to developments in the strategic environment, responding to the directions given to us in the Defence Strategic Plan and transforming that into capabilities. However, there are some areas where we have to be more pro-active and where we have to shape the future. There are some areas where, if you like, we have to take some key strategic decisions about positioning ourselves for the future, and I would seize on two of these just at the moment. The first one is continuing our move towards a proper network centric capability, which is very much related to my theme of looking at equipment capability in the round as a synergistic whole. Network centric capability is fundamental to that and we are doing a great deal of work in that regard. The other area that I would seize on is unmanned aerial vehicles and, when I say unmanned aerial vehicles, I do not just mean the kinds that we see at the moment, but I am talking about the potential of them across the full spectrum of equipment capability. This is an area that is going to transform the way in which we do things. It is not just about buying a piece of equipment off the shelf that does not happen to have anyone on board and operating it. We are going to have to fundamentally change our doctrine, our concepts, our manning, our training, our infrastructure and so on. So, we actually have to develop our processes now to ensure that we are properly shaped for the future because there is no question in my mind that, not just in the air but first of all in the air, uninhabited vehicles are going to be key to our business in the future.

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