https://modmedia.blog.gov.uk/2017/03/16/defence-in-the-media-16-march-2017/

Defence in the Media: 16 March 2017

Defence news today includes further focus on the case of Sergeant Alexander Blackman, as well as reporting on the Defence Secretary's announcement of a better deal for taxpayers, with the lowering of the rate for single source contracts.

Sergeant Blackman

There is widespread coverage on broadcast and in print of yesterday’s decision to substitute Sergeant Alexander Blackman’s murder conviction for manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility.

An MOD spokesperson said:

We have fully co-operated with each stage of Sergeant Blackman’s case, which has now involved a criminal investigation, a court martial and the appeal process, and will continue to provide personal support to the family, as we have done since charges were first brought. We respect the court’s decision and it would be inappropriate for us to comment further on it.

Some articles air criticism of military leadership in relation to Sergeant Blackman's case. The MOD's position on this can be seen below.

An MOD spokesperson said:

The Royal Navy carried out a thorough internal review and we stand by the conduct of all commanders involved. We will study the findings of this case very carefully and will act upon any lessons identified. 

Contract rate

The FT reports on Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon's announcement yesterday that the baseline profit rate for contracts placed under Single Source Contract Regulations will be lowered from 8.95% to 7.46%. The Defence Secretary has said the change will mean better value for money for the £178 billion Equipment Plan. The Times also carries a brief article on this change.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:

Taxpayers can be confident that this reduced profit rate will deliver better value for money on contracts as our defence budget rises and we deliver our £178bn equipment programme.

The defence sector is important for our prosperity, supporting high skilled jobs, and this rate provides a fair return comparable with that in other international markets.

Read more on this here.

NAO report

The Times today reports that the National Audit Office (NAO) has concerns that the Royal Navy’s new carriers have been delayed by technical problems, and that costs to the ships will rise. The Sun also reports on this issue.

An MOD spokesperson said:

The introduction of the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy, the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, together with our F-35 jets, and the Crowsnest surveillance system, will transform our ability to project power around the world. We welcome the NAO’s recognition of the progress we have made in bringing them into service. HMS Queen Elizabeth will be accepted by the Royal Navy as planned this year and we will also take delivery of a further 6 F-35s in addition to the 8 already delivered. With sea trials expected to start in the summer, we recognise that there are challenges ahead and remain committed to delivering the full range of joint F-35 and Carrier operations by 2026.

Separately, some papers call into question the manpower of the carriers.

An MOD Spokesperson said:

We have the people we need to man and operate HMS Queen Elizabeth and plans are advanced for manning HMS Prince of Wales, the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy. The Carriers, together with our F-35 jets, and the Crowsnest surveillance system will transform our ability to project power around the world. We welcome the NAO’s recognition of the progress we have made in bringing them into service.

Officers

Forces TV today reports that, while talking to students on the Potential Officer Development Programme, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has revealed figures showing that nearly one in three officers in the Armed Forces have come from lower military ranks.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:

The Armed Forces offer opportunities for everyone to reach their full potential, whatever their background. We are encouraging people to aim higher and teaching them valuable skills and become tomorrow’s officers.

Read more on this here.

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