The Strategic Defence and Security Review and The National Security Strategy

Written evidence from Peter Luff MP, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Ministry of Defence

As the Committee may be aware, Dstl became responsible for the formulation and commissioning of the non-nuclear defence research programme on 1 April 2010, which is carried out through the DST Programme Office within Dstl. This was a consequence of a review commissioned by our Chief Scientific Adviser in 2009 to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of MOD’s management of science and technology.

There are two clear benefits from this new approach. First, through removing managerial and geographic interfaces we are able to manage the research programme more efficiently. So, in the current financial year we have made savings in manpower costs, which have been re-directed to funding research projects. Second, we are now able to manage the complete programme more effectively and coherently, with clear oversight, in one place, of each key technological domain.

In moving to these new arrangements, we have put in place a number of measures to ensure transparency and to address any perceived conflict of interest for Dstl in managing the complete programme:

a) The R&D Board sets the overall strategy and priorities for the research programme. It is chaired by our Chief Scientific Adviser and to ensure greater transparency for planning and delivery of work, has a number of independent members, including the Chairman of the Defence Scientific Advisory Committee and a senior industrialist nominated by the Defence Industries Council.

b) The research programme is managed by the DST Programme Office within Dstl, headed by a Director level Senior Civil Servant. The Director is directly accountable to the R&D Board for the formulation and commissioning of the programme, and for its efficient and effective management in order to support UK’s needs in defence and security capability.

c) The DST Programme Office have a clear procurement policy and process for determining whether a particular project or suite of projects is commissioned from an external supplier (ie industry or university) or from a Dstl Department. The policy has been briefed to the Defence Industries Council and to its Research and Development Group.

d) The policy states that all work will be undertaken outside of Government unless there is a clear reason for work to be carried out within Government. The criteria to be considered in making these decisions include the need for impartiality, engagement in sensitive policy or national security matters, third party (international or commercial) constraints on information, the need to maintain a critical technology base either in house or within industry, or a legal requirement that work is undertaken by the Crown. A record of the all procurement decisions, supported by detail of the evidence, consultation and rationale considered in reaching such decisions, will be maintained by the DST Programme Office and will be subject to audit.

e) The overall balance of the programme is kept under regular review by the R&D Board, advised by officials working for our Chief Scientific Adviser. We have invited the Defence Scientific Advisory Council to undertake an audit of these matters and that audit is currently underway.

I hope I have re-assured you that we are alive to the issues raised with you by the Defence Industries Council. We are seeking the maximum benefit and value, in both the short and long term, from our investment in Defence Research, and there is every indication that the new arrangements are improving that, for example in the range of industry suppliers we are engaging through mechanisms like the Centre for Defence Enterprise. Nonetheless, I can understand the concerns of some industry representatives over Dstl’s role and recognise that they will only be fully addressed once we have completed a full year’s cycle and demonstrated the practical working of the measures I have described above.

25 January 2011