DE&S chief Simon Bollom praises ‘brilliant’ team – and hits back at negative publicity about major project costs

2020 may have been a year like no other, but 2021 was a chip off the old block and relentless from day one. The defence equipment chief exec tells us about 12 more months of dealing with Covid as well as new challenges
Defence Equipment & Security Chief Simon Bollom

By Civil Service World

29 Dec 2021


What was your highlight of 2021?

Undoubtedly the way we navigated our way through Covid and maintained continuity of our outputs at the same time as delivering vital equipment and expertise to the NHS; 11,000 people, a £10bn programme and 600 projects – stretching from aircraft carriers, to aircraft, to armoured vehicles and warehousing – is a big responsibility to shoulder and the DE&S team have done this brilliantly. 

Whilst most of the shock impact of Covid was felt in 2020, 2021 was the year that we had to figure out how to cope with an extended period of lockdown and restrictions, the impact on our supply chains and adapt to this as a new norm. 

Our people have been flexible and responsive and taken to smart working very readily – this is not all about working from home, this is also about adapting to the new workspace in the office, warehouse or repair facility. 

How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your organisation in 2021?

Apart from the additional Covid challenge, there is an enduring challenge of delivering some of the most complex programmes in government – modern military equipment is increasingly characterised by high tech equipment, software intensive systems and rapidly evolving threat to counter. 

"My job is to create the right environment which is exciting and challenging and which persuades people to remain"

In spite of some of the negative publicity that we receive, 81% of our current major projects are forecasting to be delivered within the original cost approval, and that comes down to the skill and commitment of a very dedicated workforce who I am very privileged to lead. 

What is your number one priority for 2022?

Quite simply to get better. We need to continue to focus on delivery to time and cost but we also need to look at how we can really engage with the digital age and get technology into service quicker. 

Again, this comes down to people and skills. My job is to create the right environment which is exciting and challenging and which persuades people to remain, and also attracts new people from the outside who want to make a difference for the country. In short, creating a great place to work.  

Which historical, mythical or contemporary figure would you most like to join you for a New Year’s Eve celebration?

Lord Botham of Ravensworth. 

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