Brown to close DESO, bad news for BAE- good news for Forces?

The Treasury is planning to disband the government's controversial arms sales department. The 450-strong defence export services organisation (Deso), based near Oxford Street in London, has long been the target of anti-corruption campaigners and opponents of the arms trade.

The former Treasury cabinet minister Stephen Timms launched proposals earlier this year to close down the secretive unit on the grounds that it subsidises profitable weapons giants such as BAE, Britain's biggest arms firm. According to Westminster sources, the Treasury's industrial productivity section argued that the taxpayer should not continue to subsidise an "anachronistic" department which had gained too much influence within Whitehall.

The Treasury disputes the claim that Deso-backed arms exports reduce the cost of equipment bought by UK forces. It says there is no evidence of this. On the contrary, Britain bought the over-priced Hawk trainer jet from BAE purely to help the firm's exports, when "an Italian equivalent would [have been] vastly cheaper, more capable and easier to maintain".
In full,,2121881,00.html

Any defenders of DESO in the house?
Regarding the Hawk buy we already operate those so how would buying an Italian aircraft be cheaper in the long run when you add on the cost of the simulators, spares, aircrew conversion etc ??

Plus if we bought the Italian jet they would be useless for weapon's training, it would reverse back as you approached it with the bombs and ammo .. :wink:
And the reverse thrust from the engines would be immense.
The clue is in the name - Defence Export Services Organisation. It's primary role, therefore, is to promote British arms products and services and generate sales for British companies. It does not actually buy or sell anything. It's history is as follows:

The Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO) was formed in 1966, under the name of the Defence Sales Organisation, by Denis Healey when Secretary of State for Defence. The organisation’s role was to assist the UK defence industry in securing overseas orders. Over the years, DESO’s role has expanded and its key functions now are:

Giving assistance to company-led marketing campaigns by way of nurturing relations with key decision-makers in overseas Governments

Harnessing other parts of MoD, the Armed Forces and Whitehall to support industry’s efforts

Negotiating and supporting Government-to-Government agreements

Supporting MoD’s defence diplomacy efforts

Supporting MoD's key partnerships and alliances, confidence and security

Building measures and promoting Britsih interest and influence abroad

Advising DTI and industry on export licence applications, and making sure that Government policy on defence exports is reflected in MoD’s work on acquisition and other policies and activities, and vice versa

The decision to purchase the Hawk jet, regardless of whether or not it was the best buy or not, was a decision made by the MoD and not DESO. I assume it was made to demonstrate to potential buyers of this product that it was good enough for British forces and was therefore a viable product. This is not an isolated case of course - one only has to look at Westland, the SA80A1, and Leyland DAF to find further instances of where we have been sold short by a political decision.

It is, of course, an admirable MoD strategy to support British manufacturers but to blame DESO for a political decision that potentially shafted British forces is clearly wrong.

If I understand it correctly, the dept exists to subsidise BAE (about 95% of the UK's defence industry IIRC). Its a subsidy in all but name. Its abolition is probably not a bad thing but I'm too far connected from the defence industry to know if its budget makes any improvement for the tax payer themselves rather than BAE shareholders.


Book Reviewer
I'm surprised that the EU let the DESO exisist for so long without taking the UK to the European Court for breaking the legislation on state aid.
I think that the defence industry and UK MOD will miss this. There have been some very good coups (of a selling nature rather than d'etat) and DESO do help the little fish sell kit abroad. Companies that could hardly afford the airfare can have their wares displayed at big overseas shown thus generating sales and thus jobs. If the treasury are to get rid of DESO they shoulds also get rid of the Defence Industrial Strategy which is forcing us to buy British Kit, Submarines and Carriers in orsed to ensure we have the ability to produce these things in the future. If we do not need them now why would we want them later.

The classic is the Complex weapons business where, as far as I can see, we have given a UK company (MBDA UK!?!) total control of the whole Complex weapons study and the power to exclude other UK companies and foreign devils. It will cost us Squillions of pounds so we can have a home grown solution.

The treasury is as ever dodgy and dishonest. If they say that there are no spin off to UK MOD and reduced costs I would question that, I would also wonder how they got the info.
The reality is they may do away with DESO, but most of the work carried out by DESO will still have to be done so most of it's functions will have to be taken over else where in the MOD. All this is is a bit of window dressing probably to cover any flack that surfaces over Al Yamama.
Presumably, with closure, the "Big Book of DESO-Approved Hookers, Saudi Nobs for the use of" and other such documents will just mysteriously go down the shredder...whoops, we no longer have those records, Minister..
Running a small and specialised business that exports equipment to military users around the world I have found DESO to be very helpful and highly professional. They have given us valuable advice and guidance and have representatives around the world. They support representation overseas and provide useful contacts. We are way too small to fund the resources that DESO offer. They allow us to fight above our weight in many areas and have opened doors we could not.

The government does little enough for industry and to reduce their support further would adversely affect many small businesses.


Book Reviewer
Agreed. DESO does a good job in promoting British exports, something that all our competitors do as well. The French defence industry is an extension of the French Govt and used as a very effective arm of government business.

As to the benefits to the British forces, frankly the reason why a lot of the stuff that's bought is so expensive is that no one else buys it. This is often because its too specialised for the export market and there's not enough quantity to make it cheaper. If, as the French military do, there was some thought at the start into how kit could be exported it would be cheaper for us to buy.

Killing off DESO will damage the smaller companies far more than BAE or Thales. They can always get the kind of high level ministerial or govt support that the smaller companies sometimes need and get through DESO.

And finally, "In service with the British Army" (or RN, or Crab) is still a brilliant selling point around the world. It tells potential buyers that its been specified and tested by the best to be the best available. But that message often needs to come from a government official, not a weasely salesman.

Ok, and yes, I work in the defence industry
Suprise suprise its DESOs old foe the Guardian that sees the papers again

If I were a betting man I'd lay odds that the Campaign against the Arms Trade have already seen these doc's

DESO does a good service for UK arms industry and I don't see that cutting it will save money! What would help is if Brown (Gordon) hadn't cut spending!
So maybe this is the Defence equivalent of stopping smoking on tube trains. Next it'll be the underground itself, then the pictures, then restaurants, then offices, then the boozer. 30 years - bye bye armed forces - cheers Gord!
MSSC said:
If I understand it correctly, the dept exists to subsidise BAE (about 95% of the UK's defence industry IIRC). Its a subsidy in all but name. Its abolition is probably not a bad thing but I'm too far connected from the defence industry to know if its budget makes any improvement for the tax payer themselves rather than BAE shareholders.
Well you don't. Nice to see that ideology still never gets in the way of factual argument though...

DESO was a very useful tool for all UK firms involved in the export of defence equipment, not just BAE. In fact BAE probably made less use of DESO day-to-day than the "small" equipment and component producers. After all BAE has a global netwrok of agents and while it is thoroughly supported by the attaches network and the RMDs in DESO, that is no different to any other British (or 2near-British" these days!) company.

ericthellama makes this point very well. DESO is anathema to the trendy liberals and bleeding heart stop the arms trade types. however if DESO pulled half the strokes that the French GIFAS did, there would be a long queue down the dock-steps at the Old Bailey. DESO also fills an important role in disposal of kit which we no longer require but which can be disposed of at profit, the cash being traditionally recycled into the defence acquisition budget.
I have worked with some of the DESO people, a good bunch regulated by a fierce set of rules as to what they can or cannot do.

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