The United Kingdom's Future Nuclear Deterrent Capability - Public Accounts Committee Contents

3  Managing the programme effectively

15. The Strategic Deterrent Programme Board, which is responsible for coordinating delivery of the future deterrent within the Department, is chaired by the Senior Responsible Owner. The Senior Responsible Owner's responsibilities include establishing the requirements for the future deterrent capability, leading policy advice and allocating the budget for most elements of the future submarine, Trident D5 missile life-extension and Atomic Weapons Establishment facilities and skills investment programme.[23]

16. The Board is composed of senior Royal Navy officers and civil servants, who are responsible for the principal projects within the future deterrent programme.[24] The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Cabinet Office and the Treasury also attend the board, ensuring that those government departments are also involved in decision-making. There is widespread agreement that the Board includes the right people. Figure 2 shows the position of the Board in the context of the Ministry of Defence's overall programme governance arrangements.[25]

17. To date, the Strategic Deterrent Programme Board has not been required to make difficult decisions or trade-offs, primarily because the programme has not reached the stage at which key decisions would be needed.[26] Given that the Senior Responsible Owner does not have direct line management authority over the other members of the Board, it is not clear how the Department can incentivise Board members to deal with these key decisions in a cohesive manner when they have conflicting priorities.

18. Although the Senior Responsible Owner is supported by a full-time Director and supporting staff, his remains a part-time appointment. The incumbent is also the third person to hold the position since the start of the programme.[27] The Senior Responsible Owner role still does not conform to the Office of Government Commerce guidance, the importance of which was emphasised in the Committee's Report on the Bowman programme,[28] although the Department accepts that governance arrangements may evolve and simplify as the programme progresses from concept to delivery phases.[29]

19. The Programme Board does not have a mature performance information system. At the beginning of the project the Board received too much information with little data consistency. In response, the Department created a performance measurement prototype that the board are currently reviewing. The Department is confident that a fully functional process will be in place by September 2009.[30]

Figure 2: The future deterrent programme governance arrangements

Source: Ministry of Defence


Posts in the central box are members of the Strategic Deterrent Programme Board. This figure is not intended to and does not necessarily reflect normal line management relationships

20. The Department has not yet refined its White Paper cost estimates. These estimates are therefore still not robust enough to provide an accurate baseline against which to measure progress and exercise budgetary control. The Department is committed to delivering refined cost estimates by September 2009.[31] At this stage the Department should have more information about each of the designs, making it easier to allocate cost to the different estimates.[32]

21. The Department's Defence Industrial Strategy emphasises the importance of maintaining submarine and nuclear reactor building capability in the United Kingdom.[33] Given that this sector is highly specialised and characterised by monopoly suppliers, the Department faces a challenge in obtaining value for money over the whole life of the programme. The Astute and future deterrent programmes should however provide some continuity of work and the Department is keen to use the leverage gained through these programmes to encourage the submarine industry to restructure, drive costs down and to be open and transparent about cost.[34]

23   C&AG's Report, para 3.6 Back

24   C&AG's Report, para 3.8 Back

25   Qq 8, 51 Back

26   Qq 49-50 Back

27   Qq 8, 77-78 Back

28   Committee of Public Accounts, Fourteenth Report of Session 2006-07, Ministry of Defence: Delivering digital tactical communications through the Bowman CIP Programme, HC 346, para 1 Back

29   Q 9 Back

30   Q 56 Back

31   Q 10 Back

32   Q 69 Back

33   Defence Industrial Strategy, Cm 6697, December 2005 Back

34   Q 84 Back

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