A Low Dishonest Decade....Smart Acquisition and Defence Procurement into the New Millennium
Smart acquisition was the change programme introduced at the end of the twentieth century charged with transforming the effectiveness of defence procurement within the United Kingdom. The initiative was rolled-out as a cornerstone of the Blair government’s strategic defence initiative from 1998 onwards and represents, today, the management philosophy, public sector organisational structures and UK industrial strategy for delivering defence equipment. This research seeks to understand the manner and extent of changes to defence procurement derived from the smart acquisition initiative, viewed as a ‘technology’ through which government exercises power. Accordingly, understanding smart acquisition develops and deepens our knowledge of the nature of government itself. I offer, initially, in chapters 1 and 2 an introduction to smart acquisition, its background and historical antecedence. I discuss the methodology employed for interrogating the phenomenon as an auto/ethnographical study of UK defence practices. Chapter 3 details the factors that drove defence reorganisation, whilst chapter 4 derives smart acquisition as rational and benign managerial change. Chapter 5 critiques this perspective by unveiling smart acquisition as a neoliberal construct through which government procures and cements assemblages of regimes of control and socialisation, legitimised through managerial narratives and governmentalist forms. A revised critical analytical model of smart acquisition embracing governmentalist notions is, consequently, provided in chapter 6. Chapter 7 introduces a specific defence procurement project team and describes its transformation strategy and emerging business model. In chapter 8 the project team is superficially revealed as a rational change agent embedding and embracing management reform. Chapter 9 critiques this, presenting the team as a constructed governmentalist regime, an expression of control, socialisation and surrender of agency. Chapter 10 concludes the research by observing that smart acquisition is a complex set of understandings and a multiplicity of forms and discourses.