It is, regrettably, an all too rare occurrence to be briefed on complex but important issues – such as bilateral or multilateral defence industry collaboration – by a governmental organisation, and to walk away with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and hope. The opacity of governmental public relations and the tendency for information to pass through strong ‘political correctness’ filters means that some questions inevitably go unanswered.
What a pleasant change, therefore, to hear from Mark Goldsack, the Director of the UK’s Defence and Security Organisation (DSO), a specialised unit in the government’s Department for International Trade. His PR machine has long been an exception to the rule and practices a degree of openness that is as effective as it is refreshing. He himself, having been in post for just a few months, is a plain-speaking ex-soldier – the first DSO Director from a military background, in fact – and it shows in his approach.
Speaking to international journalists at IDEF on 1 May, Mr Goldsack emphasised the strength of the bilateral government-to-government relationship that exists between Turkey and the United Kingdom. His perception of the market – which matches the impression gained in business and social conversations around the show here in Istanbul over the last two days – is that it is strong, sustainable and underpinned by a, “strong alignment of strategic interests.”
Significantly, in his view, it is very much a two-way street and is characterised by quite a lot of, “weaving together,” going on inside and between the two national supply chains. Of course, very few supply chains outside North America can be considered wholly national these days – a recent European study concluded that the average ‘national’ defence supply chain in Europe is, in fact, more than 24% international by geographic source of supply.
Moving from ‘warm and fuzzy’ to ‘cold and pragmatic,’ Goldsack believes the commonalities between Turkey and Britain outweigh the differences, in that the, “very strong bilateral relationship is totally unfettered by extraneous issues.”
What that means, in practice, is that the regulatory environment is relatively simple, the understanding between individual companies is, “warm and receptive,” and that the proof of the two-way nature of the relationship is that, from the British Army’s perspective, “we are marching in Turkish boots.”
There is collaboration on scores of programmes between hundreds of companies. There will undoubtedly be instances that sceptics will bring to the fore, showing how unanticipated problems (which they will contend should have been anticipated) have marred the relationship and caused issues for budget or schedule adherence. But Goldsack points out, in a further example of his refreshing candour, that one of the fundamental motivating factors underpinning behaviour in the defence industry is that, “failure is not an option: there is no other industry for which that is true.”