MoD confirms top-level agency appointments for submarine and aircraft carrier projects

Written by Jim Dunton on 31 August 2017 in News

Heads of Aircraft Carrier Alliance and Submarine Delivery Agency announced

The Ministry of Defence Credit: PA

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed two senior appointments at the organisations tasked with delivering the Royal Navy’s next-generation aircraft carriers and its new Dreadnought Class submarines.

Vice Admiral Sir Simon Lister will become managing director of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, which is a joint venture between the MoD and industry that is building and fitting out HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. 

Lister has served as the Royal Navy’s chief naval engineer officer and will leave Defence Equipment & Support where he led the delivery of the maritime equipment programme and fleet support.


He will replace outgoing ACA managing director Ian Booth who becomes the first chief executive of the new Submarine Delivery Agency, which is delivering the £31bn replacement submarines for the Navy’s current Vanguard Class vessels.

Defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon said Lister would bring knowledge of complex engineering projects and a background of leadership of major programmes.

“Following HMS Queen Elizabeth’s historic entry into Portsmouth, our focus is now on her final preparations for commissioning and the delivery of our second mighty carrier, HMS Prince of Wales,” he said.

“With his substantial experience, Admiral Lister is the logical choice to keep up that momentum.”

The MoD added that Booth had a “proven track record in delivering complex defence programmes” and would bring a wealth of public and private-sector experience to the SDA.

“In addition to his previous leadership of the ACA, Booth also previously ran the Typhoon airframe programme and was managing director of both the Astute Submarine programme at BAE Systems and the joint venture Fleet Support Ltd," it said.

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Submitted on 1 September, 2017 - 11:07
On the basis of past performance, it can be predicted with certainty that the Submarine Delivery Agency will not deliver the Trident successor nuclear submarine programme within contracted time and schedule boundaries. Now that Parliament has given its approval for Trident successor to proceed to the manufacture and build phase, the focus of attention turns to the ability of the Ministry of Defence to deliver this project without incurring the usual delays and cost overruns, which have dogged military equipment programmes for as long as anyone can remember. Whereas the mainstream media is, as always, focused on the mind-numbingly boring human interest story of the person who has been appointed as head of the newly established Submarine Delivery Agency and the organisational construct within which he will operate, the intellectually engaging public interest story of failings in the existing business processes used by MoD to procure this highly complex weapons platform, is certain to escape scrutiny. Not least, the likelihood that financial risks on this uncontested, single-source contract, which involves substantial design, development & systems integration work, will materialise sometime soon – a concern expressed by the then Permanent Secretary at MoD Jon Thompson, who admitted that the possibility of this happening is what keeps him awake at night, when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee in October 2015. Anyone who has worked in the defence engineering industry will know that financial risks start-out as innocuous looking technical risks on the Defence Contractor’s premises, where selected ones are deliberately concealed by the Contractor during the design and development phase, then skilfully transferred to MoD Abbey Wood, Bristol where they suddenly morph into ‘show stopping’ risks and come to the fore immediately after the main investment decision has been taken (as they have done so spectacularly on the Type 45 destroyers with total power blackouts, costing a further £280 million to fix), ultimately ending up as an additional cost burden on the Front Line Commands, who have recently been given day-to-day responsibility for managing the defence equipment budget – resulting in sleepless nights for many other people too! This happens because a key behavioural characteristic of Defence Contractors is that they will always choose to conceal technical risks identified early in the programme, by engaging with procurement officials and getting them to focus on declared risks which ordinarily fall in the trivia category, whilst skilfully diverting their attention away from those really huge ‘show stopping’ risks which they will only reveal later on, when things go wrong, to realise their objective of ‘growing’ the Contract by getting Abbey Wood Team Leader to raise Contract Amendments and/or let Post Design Services Contracts. They achieve this by contriving situations which entice procurement officials into partaking in detailed design decisions relating to the evolving Technical Solution, and then use this involvement to coerce procurement officials into raising Contract Amendments later on. Indeed, it the very existence of Contract Amendments and PDS Contracts that causes Contractors to conceal ‘show stopping’ risks in the first place! These concealed risks then come to the fore immediately after (never before) the main investment decision has been taken, surprising everyone (except the Contractor) and imposing a budget-busting burden on MoD. And because there exists no ‘Code on Ethical Behaviour in Business’ which would offer protection to good people on the Contractor’s payroll (generally in the direct labour category) who are driven by strong professional, ethical and moral values and who would otherwise blow the whistle on this conspiracy of concealment, they are forced to remain silent. The only people who are not in the know about this blatant scam are those in the pay of the State! So the chances of financial risks coming to the fore on Trident soon after the main investment decision has been taken are about as certain as night follows day. @JagPatel3 on twitter

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