With a vote on the principle of renewal of Trident set to take place in Parliament today, it is essential that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) learns the lessons of past failures in defence procurement to ensure the costs of the Successor Programme (which will replace the 4 Vanguard submarines) does not spiral out of control and leave taxpayers on the hook for a large, unexpected bill.
Although forecast costs will be £31 billion, Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, has argued that there is no ‘viable, cheaper alternative’, citing the 2013 Trident Alternatives Review which suggested only submarines could ‘provide the continuous deterrent we need’.
We have previously analysed recent and ongoing defence acquisition programmes and issued a set of recommendations so that the Successor Programme comes under budget and on time:
- Update the cost estimates as the programme proceeds
- Continue its international collaboration practices thus avoiding technological overlap
- Strike an intelligent scheduling balance
The Successor Programme could consume 37 per cent of the defence procurement budget according to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), potentially forcing the MoD to make savings in other areas in order to fund the project. Thus, it is more essential than ever that every penny of the taxpayer’s is judiciously spent.
The fact that the new Chancellor, Philip Hammond will try to play a key role overseeing Trident’s renewal shows that the government is aware of the risks to taxpayers.