Engineers critical over DERA break-up move

Engineers critical over DERA break-up move
Political correspondent Engineers and scientists at the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) have criticised government plans to break up and partially privatise the establishment. Defence Secretary George Robertson has announced “a wide-ranging consultation exercise” on how to press ahead with a public/private partnership for DERA. It follows a study team report which proposes “a special purpose corporate vehicle containing most of DERA’s existing staff and facilities”. The new DERA would operate in the private sector while having mechanisms to preserve its essential character and protect the MoD’s interests. “It would have significantly more freedoms than now, be able to retain and reward high-quality staff, attract private finance and develop successful new business opportunities,” said the study. Robertson’s promise of consultation produced an immediate reaction from the Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists (IPMS), the union representing 4,000 scientists and engineers in the agency. It said it was “the wrong proposal at the wrong time” – especially in view of the Yugoslav war. IPMS General Secretary Paul Noon said: “A sale would jeopardise the independence that is the essential ingredient of DERA’s success, in exchange for a small one-off lump sum.” The IPMS fears that partial privatisation would damage DERA’s independent standing with the defence industry, end its collaboration with US research establishments, threaten the MoD’s access to DERA’s intellectual property and curtail its long-term speculative research. It also fears the move could lead to a brain drain of the best staff out of DERA. DERA employs 12,000 and has a budget of ?1bn a year.


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