UK Minister of Defence cancels Atomic Weapons Establishment contract

By David Oliver

On 2 November, AWE Management Limited received notification from the UK Ministry of Defence  (MoD) of the termination of its Management and Operations contract from 30 June 2021.

AWE Management Limited, comprising Lockheed Martin Corporation, Jacobs Engineering Group and Serco Group, has supported the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) mission, central to the UK’s defence, for two decades and supported the UK Government’s nuclear defence strategy and the Continuous At Sea Deterrent.. 

AWE Management Limited will continue to manage and operate the enterprise until 30 June 2021 and will work closely with the MoD over that period to ensure a smooth transition and the seamless continuity of the vital work carried out by the enterprise.

On the 1 July 2019 the MoD triggered the Successor Arrangements clause with AWE ML to enable it to consider alternative viable management options ahead of the current contract expiration. Although the existing arrangements have brought stability to the organisation the MoD has concluded that AWE will revert to a direct Government ownership model.

Under the revised arrangements, AWE plc will become an Arms-Length Body wholly owned by the MoD. It will continue to be managed by a world leading team and a new Board will be appointed by the MoD. The new business model will see AWE plc continue to draw on private sector specialist support to strengthen capability as well as playing a key role in managing capital projects and contracts. This approach is recognised as best practice in other major complex programmes.

The MoD, AWE ML and AWE plc will jointly manage the termination of the contract and the transition to the new arrangements, which are anticipated to be completed by the end of June 2021. This will be completed in close co-operation with workforce representatives, regulators, the supply chain and the local community.

AWE ML makes nuclear warheads for the UK’s submarine fleets, but earlier this year the facility came under fire from spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO).

Photo courtesy Royal Navy