Foreign Military Sales

Recent reporting has announced that Governmental process in the US has approved the sale of P8-A aircraft to the UK, pending Congressional approval. I will be the Senior Responsible Owner for the delivery of this aircraft and capability to the UK inventory and wanted to take a moment to explain the significance of what has just happened and the hopefully forthcoming Congressional part.


The UK is acquiring the P8s under an arrangement known as Foreign Military Sales. This is a process the US has established to share military capabilities with allies and partners and is governed by The Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act. To secure a sale under FMS, a government to government agreement is reached (although the negotiations can be complex, the letters that seal the deal are often straightforward) and the customer country then buys the equipment or service from the US government, not the manufacturer. This helps keep costs down for all as it allows us to benefit both from the sunk costs of research and development and from the economies of scale of joining a larger US order.

The actual way this process is managed is that the UK would typically submit a non-binding Letter of Request for Pricing & Availability – it's exactly as it sounds and allows a rough cost to be determined. If the decision to go ahead is made a Letter of Request for Offer and Acceptance (LOA) is sent and when this is returned, we have a limited time period to go ahead and buy, or to withdraw. It's similar to getting any price quote, only on a grand scale

Who is Involved?

The key organisations that make this happen in the US are the Defence Security Cooperation Agency, which administers and supervises all FMS cases on behalf of the Department of Defense. In the case of the P8-A, the

US Navy has primacy so the Navy International Programmes Office provides the Single Service oversight whilst the day to day negotiation and contracts are worked between the US Navy's Programme Management Office 290 and the UK's Defence Equipment & Support

Congressional Notification

For certain programmes, usually high value or ones that fall under the International Traffic of Arms Regulations, US Congress retains the final say and must approve the Foreign Military Sale. This approval comes right at the end of the process described above and means that subject to UK agreement and approval, the deal can go ahead!

Finally

Thanks for reading, please leave any feedback or questions and I'll try to get back to you.I'll write a separate piece on how the UK goes about procuring and approving new capabilities another time – there's only so much process anyone can read! I hope this has been useful in explaining how we're going about getting the P8-A and why this Congressional approval is so important. The process is very similar for anything we purchase through this route and if you want to find more detail, the DCSA guide to Foreign Military Sales is here.

 

 

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Senior Responsible Owner

Senior Responsible Owner – what does that even mean and what does he or she do? Well, one of the key reasons that big, complex programmes can fail or at least, not achieve what they are supposed to, on time and budget is a lack of clear accountability. So in 2000, the UK adopted the SRO (sometimes also referred to as a programme executive) as the single point of accountability for public sector programmes: SROs of major UK projects are named here.

The SRO is ultimately responsible for the achievement of ‘benefits’ i.e. the thing doing what it’s supposed to in support of the bigger picture. As an RAF SRO I am expected to be publicly visible, an advocate for the programme and in a change to past military postings policy, stay in post for an extended period to see programmes through key stages.

I’m responsible for managing my stakeholders; informing and collaborating with them to make sure they deliver to me, I deliver to them and they work in support of my programmes. I ensure the programme is on track, keeping tabs on the myriad of inputs complex programmes can have. A good example for the RAF is our ‘capital programmes’ like the AIRSEEKER signals intelligence aircraft. It’s tempting to focus just on the 3 aircraft that the RAF is acquiring, but particularly for a capability like

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Defence Lines of Development capture the ‘non-equipment’ factors

this, the aircraft is only a portion of what delivers the benefit. To do this, we have to have trained people, infrastructure support for operations and maintenance, a plan for how to use the capability (in military terms, this is out ‘doctrine’) and of course an information and communications backbone to gather, filter and transmit data to get it where it needs to be to inform decisions. The aircraft really is just the tip of the iceberg; recruiting, retaining and training the right people can often take longer and be harder than negotiating a contract to buy airplanes!

How do you know things are on course? Well the National Audit Office compiles an annual report of Defence’s largest programmes so it’s possible to track them. Also, the Major Projects Authority compiles an annual report. The most recent one shows that the UK has some 188 projects officially designated ‘major’ due to their cost and/or impact. These combined are worth ¬£489Bn! AIRSEEKER is one of these Government Major Projects. In order to drive the kind of improvements identified in the MPA report a rigorous holding to account process is established; I may be summoned to give evidence to the Parliamentary select-committee-300x150.jpgAccounts Committee about any of my Major Projects and I am required to undertake a third party ‘Gateway Review’ at frequent stages throughout the lifecycle.

In order to make sure I can deliver both the programme and the information to enable the governance of it, I have a Programme Management Office here at RAF Air Command. With the help of other distributed staff, notably in the Defence Equipment & Support at Abbey des.gifWood, these people are the powerhouse of the programme. Together, we work on those things that put at risk any element of the programme, we manage the drumbeat of programme activities, co-ordinate publicity and stakeholder communications and of course, produce information for scrutiny.

I hope this has given you an overview of what an SRO does but I would be happy to answer any questions through the comments section and please watch my Twitter account for some of the day-to-day SRO work that goes on in managing some of these programmes.

Airseeker

 

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