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By Natalie Eastaugh
From local government, to central government and beyond, promoting messages has been a key component of technical publications. However, increasingly due to the demise of many “quangos” and bureaucracies the role of governmental technical publications has taken a much lighter role with the exception of defence. For instance, history publications such as the strategic defence reviews of 1997 and 2010 showed how in-depth and strategic analysis is required for unique/bespoke research when assessing a nation’s security composition needs and/or capabilities.
Moreover, the complexity of the SDRs in terms of quantitative and qualitative data meant that it was necessary for highly explanatory research findings and horizon scanning. In all, the SDRs studied the requirements of the three armed services whilst taking into account the role they will play in future combat theatres. What was particularly telling about the 2010 SDR was that its technical publication was criticised for being limited in assessing defence requirements and not valuing the true capabilities of existing defence equipment, aerospace technology and aviation, for the sake of efficiency savings. This had led to a U-turn on the discontinuation of Nimrod Spy plans but the sale of Harrier Jump Jets for a fraction of their true worth. In essence the use of the use of SDRs and the subsequent technical publications that have followed them, have been essential to many contractors, the public and the critics.
In all, the SDRs have set the scene for the future of the MOD (especially in procurement terms) and where the words of politicians have spelt out what is needed and what they want, bidding on lucrative contracts has followed. Moreover, the complexities of the SDR has meant that product requirements have had to illustrations and models being drafted by engineers from companies seeking to be order winners and service innovators. Undoubtedly, one could portray an argument that the SDRs / technical publications have enabled business to examine their core competencies and bid for the best contracts available for a lightened military (more for less). Translating this in real terms has seen the creation of new products such as the Astute Class submarine, the Daring Class Frigates and the forthcoming, Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers. Their design specifications have undoubtedly been a challenge to world-leading manufacturers, but with the SDRs (however somewhat controversial) have meant that design specifications have been interpreted clearly and concisely, perhaps saving some “quangos” along the way.
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