'I say bah, humbug when I hear people say we can’t change for the better': DE&S chief Andy Start on driving transformation

The Defence Equipment & Support chief exec reflects on how 2023 has brought about a "different approach to driving change" for the organisation
Photo: Adobe Stock

By CSW staff

03 Jan 2024


Tell us three words that sum up your 2023... 

Challenging, humbling, exciting. 

...And why you chose those words   

I’ve worked in the defence industry for my whole career, before joining the MoD 15 months ago and I cannot remember a more challenging time in terms of the threats to global security.  

Humbling, because of the way people in the UK defence enterprise work together to help protect our nation and our allies while working to help it prosper. That is a real team effort, from our armed forces, to our passionate and committed civil servants to the defence industry providing essential defence equipment. 

This year, we’ve supported our armed forces to deliver deterrence and humanitarian missions all over the world. Our collective support to Ukraine has been phenomenal. It was a proud moment when Major General Havrylov – Ukraine's deputy minister of defence – visited us to thank our teams.  

At the same time, we’ve been cracking on with delivering over 500 projects to make our Armed Forces more capable. This has included delivery of more F-35s; increasing availability of the RAF’s A400M; rapidly delivering two new ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary; rapid procurement of Archer heavy artillery systems for the British Army, and innovative work on unmanned air systems by our Future Capability Group.  

Exciting, because we’re in the process of unlocking the true potential of all our people. Since my arrival in September 2022, we’ve been using a different approach to driving change by bringing together colleagues at all grades from across the defence enterprise to look at the way we operate, to identify how we can improve. We’re now in the middle of a programme to fundamentally change the way DE&S operates. We’re focused on removing the frustrations and barriers that colleagues say are getting in the way of being operationally excellent. We’re also supporting a bigger MoD programme to make acquisition faster and more effective.   
What are your organisational and personal priorities for 2024?   

Our highest focus is always on supporting current operations, ensuring our Armed Forces and allies have the right kit at the right time, from supporting the Continuous At Sea Deterrent to getting essential munitions to Ukraine. We’re focused on driving up the availability of equipment today and developing new equipment to meet tomorrow’s needs. 

To improve our delivery we need to implement change, both at a defence and a DE&S level. Bedding in this change is a focus this year, to ensure we can work together, effectively as a whole defence enterprise to deliver the improvements we want to see – driving of pace, the reduction of time to deliver projects, and increasing availability of equipment for our forces. 

Our people are so passionate and their level of commitment to the mission is humbling – it’s a joy for me to lead the people of DE&S on this journey of improvement. 

What’s your favourite festive treat, and what makes you say: "Bah, humbug"?  

The treat has to be eating a hot mince pie with friends! I say “bah, humbug” (or something worse) when I hear people say we can’t change for the better or put narrow interests first. Protecting the nation and helping it prosper is just too important. 

This is part of CSW's annual perm secs roundup. Read all the entries to the 2023 roundup here

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