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Defence capability in the UK since 2010: explaining change in procurement practices

Abstract : Arms procurement highlights tensions within British industrial policy. Once seen as an economic sanctuary to be preserved in the name of ‘strategy’, in the 1980s, it became a symbol of neoliberalization. However, how can contemporary procurement in the UK be characterized? To answer this question, this article analyses ‘political work’ carried out by politicians, bureaucrats and military officers within the MoD and DE&S, the state agency in charge of defence equipment and support since 2006. Beyond the protectionist/liberalized dichotomy, our documentary, interview and lexical analysis reveals the development of a new policy frame that we label ‘value management’. We first show how the issue of procurement has been reproblematized around the term ‘capability’ to provide a new set of regulatory organizing principles and social relations. The way in which this frame has been equipped with managerial and policy instruments is then analysed. Finally, we show how this ‘problem’ and these instruments have been legitimized in a way that transcends the polar opposites of neoliberal cost-cutting and interventionist industrial policy. Overall, we conclude that ‘value management’ is currently proposing the basis for a new British defence consensus.
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Andy Smith, Benoit Giry. Defence capability in the UK since 2010: explaining change in procurement practices. British Politics, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019, 15 (4), pp.433-455. ⟨10.1057/s41293-019-00125-4⟩. ⟨halshs-02294025⟩

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