A week of defence policy announcements: What do they mean and will anything change?

by CMS Team on 01 March, 2024

The past week has seen a tranche of major defence announcements from both the UK’s major political parties. With a general election on the horizon, these policy proposals seek to address issues that have long plagued the Ministry of Defence (MoD) – procurement and strategic readiness. This blog takes a deeper look at the policies proposed by the Government and Opposition, highlighting their potential impacts on the defence sector.

The Government’s Integrated Procurement Model

In a Ministerial Statement the Minister for Defence Procurement, James Cartlidge, released his long-awaited strategy on procurement in Defence. Cartlidge used his speech to set out how the Government aims to create a more joined-up and accelerated procurement process within his department, something likely welcomed by industry and the Armed Forces.

The Integrated Procurement Model is predicated on five key strands: a joined-up approach, developing new checks and balances, prioritising exportability, empowering industrial innovation, and spiral development by default. Many of these changes will be welcomed by industry which, in many cases, have championed spiral development and integrated exportable defence concepts that provide value to our Armed Forces and UK PLC.

Questions however will remain regarding whether these changes will have any real impact on the speed of procurement.  The MoD’s strategy document outlines a series of ongoing procurement bids that it says will be examples of the model in action. However, with marquee programmes like New Medium Helicopter and Mobile Fires Platform listed – programmes which have seen extensive delays in the early stage of bidding – how can these changes be expected to deliver true speed and decisiveness back into procurement?

John Healey at Policy Exchange

John Healey at Policy Exchange © Georgia Pickering

Labour’s Vision for Defence and Security

In a speech to the think tank Policy Exchange, the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, John Healey, set out his plan for Defence, should Labour win this year’s General Election. Healey signified three key issues he would endeavour to solve as Defence Secretary including the “hollowing out” of the Armed Forces, a broken procurement system, and a lack of strategic readiness.

To tackle these ills, Healey identified a number of “week one” changes that he would look to implement. These include the creation of a Military Strategic HQ within the MoD, providing more power to the Chief of Defence Staff, extending the time service chiefs are in post, and appointing a National Armaments Director.

Many of these proposed reforms will be seen as sensible by industry, with a focus on providing clear strategic leadership from the Armed Forces – helping those serving make key decisions around their personnel. Despite this positivity, many journalists in the room, and many watching online, wondered how any of these changes would reverse the “hollowing out” of the Armed Forces. The question for Labour will therefore be, will these changes really impact the Department in a meaningful way or are they a series of bureaucratic changes that draw power away from the Secretary of State to civilian and military leaders in MoD.


The myriad of defence-related announcements made this week on the surface appear to be common-sense changes that would deliver a positive step forward for the MoD. But looking deeper, these changes have no guarantee of improving the state of the Department.

The big barrier facing the Conservative Government is time. With procurement feeling like an eternal issue in Defence, even the best reforms are likely to make little to no impact in the mere months left until the General Election. Defence and procurement are unlikely to swing public sentiment back behind the Government, however, continued failure and overspend are glaring issues for the electorate – an image that the Government must start to show movement on ahead of the election.

If current polling is to be believed, Labour’s ambitions for Defence should be scrutinised as if it were government policy. Healey’s reforms denote potentially positive changes for Defence – but they provide questions regarding the true impacts of these changes, are they really going to fix procurement? Are they really going to provide more scrutiny?

The only thing we know for sure is that should Labour win, the sector will see a year of review as the incoming government launches its planned defence review, the impact of which is yet to be known.

Written by: Toby Flower, Senior Account Manager at CMS Strategic

CMS Strategic’s expertise extends beyond analysis and insights. We work across parliament to help clients navigate the intricacies of policy and defence. Find out more.

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