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For most of its history in submarine building, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) exercised significant authority and responsibility in design and development and performed the integration role for the acquisition programme. However, political changes in the 1980s and 1990s — mainly the push for a smaller role of government — forced the MOD to transfer as much of its submarine acquisition responsibilities as possible to a prime contractor (BAE Systems for the Astute programme currently under way). Now, with cost and schedule problems confronting the Astute programme, the MOD is trying to reengage in the process of effectively overseeing submarine design and production.

In light of history and the recent experience drawn from the Astute programme, the authors of this book suggest appropriate roles for the MOD in its partnership with the prime contractor for each phase of future submarine acquisition. Based on management best practices, they propose a middle-ground alternative approach — a ‘partnership’ model — between the hands-on and hands-off acquisition models used in the past. They propose changes to the evolving MOD acquisition structure, new staffing levels, and ways to address some potential impediments, such as the loss of submarine expertise within the MOD.

The research described in this report was prepared for the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence. The research was conducted jointly in RAND Europe and the RAND National Security Research Division.

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