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!


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.




Major Projects Leadership Academy

In September I moved to RAF Air Command to set up a post as the RAF’s Senior Responsible Owner for delivery of our Air Command & Control and Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance programs.  These include some big-ticket items: Project MARSHALL, which is replacing all UK and overseas Air Traffic Management via a service delivery contract with Aquilla, a joint venture between Thales and NATS.Reaper  Also, the REAPER and its replacement, PROTECTOR Remotely Piloted Air Systems, soon the new UK Multi Mission Aircraft in the Maritime Patrol role initially, the AIRSEEKER signals intelligence aircraft and E3-D Sentry extension and upgrade are among the programmes for which I am responsible.  I do not control the day-to-day operations and tasking of these systems – the ISAirseeker.jpgTAR Force Commander carries that role, whereas I deliver the programmes that introduces new
capabilities, change, extend or upgrade existing ones or provide capability management out beyond the necessarily shorter-term horizon of the Force Commander but as you can imagine, we seen a lot of time on the phone, ensuring that we are in agreement and alignment about the many issues that crop up right on the boundaries between us.


So with that established, what is the MPLA all about?  The Civil Service Reform plan in 2014 established the MPLA in order to try to ensure that major programmes delivered on time and to cost.  At that time only a third of them did, with large over runs or cost growth typical.  The programme is run by the Said Business School, part of the University of Oxford and is mandated for Senior Responsible Owners of government Major Programmes.  A Major Programme is generally defined as either something of considerable financial value (typically >£1Bn) or has particular non-financial value (such as a major change activity) or that in some other way would be important to the prosperity or security of the UK.  There are currently about 350 Major Programmes in the UK, and the Major Projects Authority is charged with ensuring they are delivered effectively and efficiently.

The MPLA (overview here) is run over about 15 months and is akin to a Masters-level programme but the qualification is a bespoke one, not matched to any other Masters.  There are numerous essays and case studies, 3 Residential periods of a week each, masterclasses, ‘Action Learning Sets’ where groups of us form into smaller teams to discuss the problems that we are finding tricky to solve.  In addition, each of us conducts Cabinet Office training to become a high risk reviewer.  This allows us to participate in formal reviews of the most challenging Major Projects acrid government.  Normally, participants will have already faced similar reviews as part of their duties so this experience as ‘poacher’ helps us to make the transition to the other side, whilst learning all the time from others on how to make our own programmes better.

At the end of the programme, our entire portfolio of work and evidence is bound together for a final Viva, where we are given pass or fail – a career-defining moment for all of us.

I’ll post more details as I progress through the MPLA: So far I have completed the first written assignment, 2 Action Learning sets, High Risk Reviewer training and the first Residential!  If you’d like even more information about the content of the course, this is the MPLA handbook which guides us through the programme.

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