Key skills and competences for defence: the governmental domain

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The skills needed in the governmental defence domain require a deep understanding of the defence context. This can limit the transferability of skills between civilian and defence domains even as procurement agencies face competition with the defence industry for people with appropriate skills.

To help the EDA maintain key skills and competences across the defence sector, RAND Europe developed a taxonomy of skills in the governmental domain required for a functioning defence procurement system and assessed the current demand and supply for those skills across Europe.

Background

Sustaining skills — in both the industrial and governmental domains — can be challenging in the defence sphere due to long periods between procurements, the specialisation of skills required and the existence of particular demographic trends within the sector.

Building on RAND Europe’s 2015 study on skills for the European Defence Technological Industrial Base, the European Defence Agency (EDA) commissioned a further study to consider the governmental picture, both in relation to the demand for skills and factors influencing the supply of skills.

The outputs of both studies are to be utilised within the follow-up steps of the 2016 Global Strategy and the forthcoming European Defence Action Plan (EDAP). The outputs will inform the skills element of the EDA Key Strategic Activities and support the development of EDA/EU actions that seek to maintain key skills and competences across the defence sector.

Goals

The study developed a taxonomy of skills in the governmental domain required for a functioning defence procurement system and assessed the current demand and supply for those skills across Europe. The study also provided an overview of national and international initiatives to support skills sustainment and developed recommendations for further European action.

Methodology

Researchers delivered the study through a multi-method approach, which included: literature review; data analysis; stakeholder consultation through telephone and written interviews, and a stakeholder workshop focused on the supply and demand of key skills and competences for defence.

Findings

The national defence contexts and levels of defence expenditure are the primary drivers of the demand for key skills and competences. However, demand is further influenced by a number of wider trends such as increases in the complexity and cost of procurements.

Governments can only influence a limited number of the diverse factors that shape the supply of key defence skills and competences in the governmental domain. Despite several routes into government defence work, procurement agencies face competition with the defence industry and have to navigate within the competitive supply of available skills.

The skills needed in the governmental defence domain are not necessarily unique to defence but require a need for a deep understanding of the defence context and how to operate within it, thereby limiting the transferability of skills between civilian and defence domains.

Effective recruitment and retention strategies are needed to maintain necessary skills, especially in areas that are disadvantaged by demographic trends or fierce competition.

Most participating member states lack strategic approaches to skills and competences for defence procurement in industry and the education sector, resulting in little coherence in skills planning, demand and supply.

Recommendations

The report recommends that the EDA should:

  • Act as mediator for national governments, defence industry and education sector to share good practice and coordinate and encourage sharing of initiatives that address the skills gap.
  • Maximise the skills impacts of their joint procurement programmes, with the aim to further the skills dialogue with procurement organisations.
  • Assist the European Commission in the implementation of the Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills for defence.
  • Support the sharing of knowledge and information to enhance the attractiveness of defence. This would help alleviate the difficulties governments experience in competing economies.