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MoD Joint Services Command and Staff College

Category: Defence

"There is a real sense of purpose in a college like this, and the students really want to be here. The building is run tremendously efficiently by the partners. Our students and staff are probably seeing the best they have ever seen of a military PPP, and that changes people's opinion."

Admiral R J Lippiett MBE, Commandant, Joint Services Command and Staff College

May, 2002

The Joint Services Command and Staff College (JSCSC) was completed on program by Laing Ltd and was opened to service personnel in August 2000. This PFI contract is for the provision of academic training and support services and a newly built college. The project objectives were to provide purpose built college facilities with residential hotel and married living quarters for Officers from the three home services and overseas. The facilities included dining for 700, lecturing facilities for up to 450 people, a gymnasium, outdoor sports facilities and an amalgamation of the services libraries into one communal library.

Defence Management are contracted through Serco to provide building maintenance, academic and administrative support, catering, estates, library, security, cleaning and laundry under the terms of the 30 year concession agreement.

The PPP Forum interviewed Admiral R J Lippiett MBE, Commandant, Joint Services Command and Staff College.

How does the College fit in with the new plans for a Defence Academy?

"The Defence Academy has already been established as the umbrella organization to oversee a number of MOD colleges. There is to be a stronger focus on education and defence matters including research. At the moment the College is a separate building within the Academy, as an individual PPP."

Had you any previous experience of running a PPP for the MOD?

"I had no previous experience in PFI but had previously commanded HMS Dryad, and was involved in setting up a collaborative venture with the private sector for training through 'Flagship' - which is still operating today."

What were your first impressions?

"I was lucky that I inherited a college that was run exceptionally smoothly - which says a great deal for my predecessor and the rest of the team. I did expect to find a bit of an adversarial feeling but I haven't found that at all."

How do you work with the private sector concessionaire, and how do they fit in with the college?

"We have a partnership Management Board. We meet every 6 weeks and there is an on site Director of Service Support with a large staff. There is also a monthly performance review meeting between Defence Management Watchfield, Serco and my MOD representative. The college is a huge operation with around 3000 students a year, 150 military staff, 50 from Kings College London (who are subcontracted through Serco to provide the academic teaching alongside their military opposite numbers), 140 on site Serco staff and 120 staff of Eurest who deal with cleaning and catering. We probably have the largest pool of defence academia in the country, which comes to us through the partnership. The international standing for this college is greatly enhanced by this close military/academic relationship."

Have there been any teething troubles since it has opened?

"I can't think of any; the operation has matured very quickly."

Do you find that the PPP allows enough flexibility for you to operate as you wish?

"The contract is the key to success. A professionally drawn up contract is a must, which for the customer is oriented to output, and for the supplier gives maximum flexibility in providing that service. It must be professionally monitored on both sides. The MOD holds the contractor to each part of the contract. Our project officer did not permit variations during the build. The daily operation then has to be operated flexibly to run the service sensibly - both sides need to consider and understand each other. The contract also has a variation procedure that allows changes in service provision and building ranging from employing a new individual to constructing a new building."

Do you see the length of contract over 30 years as an impediment to the MOD?

"I see this as a key to success rather then a worry about being held to ransom. By putting the risk on the contractor, but in the long-term knowledge that he can plan through the length of the contract with the design and materials, this gives long-term value for money as he is then planning for long term efficiency. The contractor has a long-term interest in maintaining the product. The partnership is just that and a mutual understanding and ability to work as one team over a number of years is another key, turning it into a real partnership. It is important to understand that it is not them and us, and the recent NAO report agreed that a non-confrontational approach is the best way to operate."

Was there an active partnership at design and build stage?

"The MOD encouraged the bidders to be innovative but laid down only the output specification of the services required. The design has had a remarkable effect on the people working here. It has what I call the 'wow!' factor. This is good on many accounts; the staff and students are proud of the building. There is tremendous attention to detail, which is evident all around the college."

How have students reacted to the new college?

"The students instantly realize the MOD is investing in them and their education. It is good for our image both here and abroad. We are seeking to be, and to stay, a world leader in the provision of defence education and here we probably already have the finest college in the world."

How many foreign students do you accommodate, and how does this affect the college's reputation?

"We have 90 overseas students from 48 countries, in addition to constant VIP visitors from overseas. This is a flagship for the MOD, so the presentation of the college is very important because it is so visible on the world stage. The concessionaire Defence Management Watchfield want to be seen in the same light so it is in their interests to keep standards high."

What is the staff reaction to the new college?

"Working conditions are very good and I believe that I can say that I have a very happy staff."

Was the IT provision adequate?

"The IT provision is state of the art. All students are issued with a laptop on arrival, which can also be used to access the internet and college intranet from points around the building. Flexibility is also key here because of the rapid advancement of technology. We have a very efficient system in this building and now we have to look at how to join with the other buildings in the Academy while still retaining security. Additionally, there is an impressive audio-visual department to support training."

What is the quality of build and fittings?

"They are very high. If they weren't the contractors would have to replace them. I do not worry about this at all."

You describe the College as a kind of hotel. Has the PPP allowed you to focus more on running the student courses rather than having to tend to hotel-like issues of catering and cleaning?

"In the past when the MOD was doing more property management it was costly and time consuming. What this contract allows me to do is to concentrate on my core business and not to worry about the minute detail of running a very large and complex amenity."

Any additional plans for another PPP?

"The Director of the Academy may well turn to the PPP formula as a way ahead to help the Defence Academy in its aspirations."

What about people who say that the MOD should not engage in any PPPs as this compromises national security?

"The military are sensible about security. We have always worked with the private sector, and over the decades have established security procedures to allow the military to work with the private sector. We always carry out risk assessments. Serco itself is X rated which means that it is regularly audited by the MOD and complies with necessary security aspects. Of course, this college is significantly different from a site holding military hardware, but the MOD is used to examining any private sector involvement project by project to ensure security is maintained.

One of the sensible things the partner has done is to employ ex-military people where appropriate to assist with the knowledge of what the customer requires

How would you say the new building, and the PPP has influenced the opinion of the college?

"There is a real sense of purpose in a college like this, and the students really want to be here. The building is run tremendously efficiently by the partners. Our students and staff are probably seeing the best they have ever seen of a military PPP, and that changes people's opinion."

Were there any problems moving civilian staff across with the PPP?

"Full consultation with unions was carried out and individuals were kept well informed as the project went ahead. 8 staff moved to SERCO and 22 to Kings College. I don't believe it was an issue and they were well looked after during the transition."

If you could change anything about the PPP what would you change?

"I would want a bigger college! We already have more students than I can accommodate and are a victim of our own success from within the UK and abroad."

What do you see as the main benefit of the PPP?

"The risk transfer is very attractive, and also the single contact point for carrying out day-to-day business. Further, there is the chance of third party income generation in future. Innovation is also important as the contractor seeks innovations and efficiencies, which will benefit both partners. The MOD is seeing through its promise to improve its management techniques. It seeks to make the best use of its resources to support the front line, and to hand the peripheral business to those who have more expertise and are better able to run it.

As a Command and Staff College we are world class, if not the world leader. This partnership enables us to be so, and to continue to build on our success in the future