Industry and Support to UK Contemporary Military Operations

A Practitioner’s Strategic Military Perspective

Authored by: David Shouesmith

The Routledge Research Companion to Security Outsourcing in the Twenty-first Century

Print publication date:  June  2016
Online publication date:  June  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472426833
eBook ISBN: 9781315613376
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042228


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I write this chapter as an operational military logistician who, at various levels, has had interaction with and responsibility for contractor-delivered support to UK military operations for over 20 years, ranging from the Balkans in the 1990s, through Iraq and to Afghanistan. During this period the trend towards reliance on industry to deliver military support accelerated; the extent to which the UK armed forces became reliant on industry became clear to me when I assumed the appointment of Assistant Chief of Defence Staff for Logistic Operations (ACDS LogOps) in the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2007. This role, the senior logistics appointment in the UK MoD, gave me visibility of and responsibility for the policy relating to contractors deployed on operations (CONDO) and its practical implementation. This chapter therefore offers a practitioner’s perspective on the principles, policies and practicalities of the contractorisation of military support, formed during a period of rapid evolution forced initially by the demands of operations and latterly by the budgetary constraints post-the 2009 financial crisis and ensuing recession. It also encompasses a view from industry, garnered from the past five years I have spent working with various companies involved in defence in some capacity. The chapter proceeds as follows. The first section outlines the historical involvement of contractors in the supply of war, before discussing the rapid increase in military outsourcing immediately after the first Gulf War in 1991. Section two then examines some of the reasons behind the further development of contracted military support. The focus here is on the economic drive to reduce the cost of military support as well as the advantages to small countries of buying in skill sets instead of spending large sums of money trying to generate such skill sets themselves. The third section looks at the role of military contractors in future operations, concentrating, in particular, on why governments choose to rely on them, while section four looks at other considerations that have driven government policy-makers to use contractors instead of uniformed personnel. Section five is the conclusion.

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