LONDON — A key appointment for the British government agency charged with supporting defense and security exports is expected in the new year. However, industry executives are worried the new official could fall short of the sector’s needs.
The Defence and Security Organisation is looking for a new boss to replace Stephen Phipson, who recently left the organisation to take up the post of chief executive at the U.K. engineering employers association EEF. Applications for the post recently closed.
Britain employs nearly 250,000 people in the defense and security sectors, and many of those people are becoming increasingly reliant on exports at a time of growing competition from overseas rivals.
Industry executives, however, are voicing concern over the caliber of the person the Department for International Trade, which oversees DSO, is likely to attract with an annual salary of about just £120,000.
As it has done in the past, industry offered to help fund a significant increase in the salary in order to attract the right caliber of recruit, but that was rejected by the government.
“What industry needs is someone with industrial experience, considerable gravitas, prepared to work 100 hours a week, be able to lead major sales campaigns at government level and have credibility with customers. It’s a big ask for £120,000, unless there is a knighthood thrown in as well. If we are not careful, what we will end up with is a civil servant, which is not what DSO needs to restore it to the level of effectiveness it once had,” an executive told Defense News on condition of anonymity.
Paul Everitt, the CEO of leading trade body ADS, claimed that concern about the salary was widespread.
“Across industry we share the concerns that this is an important role and we need to find the right person to be able to lead on the big strategic export campaigns,” he said.
“Government will not allow us to go back to the old days of supplementing the salary of the DSO head to ensure an appropriate person could be attracted, so we are reliant on finding someone who is willing to sacrifice short-term salary in return for the experience the DSO job would afford them or somebody who is coming towards the end of their career and wants to give something back,” he added.
“Essentially it is someone who is on the way up or on the way out.”