DESO is bad. Let’s just make that clear. This mag is called good people against bad things. DESO fits into the latter quite cosily. There’s not a lot good about it. But before you run out on the streets to let everyone know this, I’ll let you in on a little more info.
The Defence Export Services Organization was founded in 1966 under PM Denis Healey to help sell arms to other countries. At the time the industry was largely nationalised and it was felt that the MOD should get a chunk of this increasingly global market. Since then the world has changed. And DESO has grown – a lot. At its inception it employed around 20 people – now it has 400 staff in London alone, with a hundred more employees in various other countries, including Saudia Arabia, India and Pakistan.
DESOs aim is to make sure that when these countries buy another 10 fighter jets or another 100 missiles, they buy them from British companies. Hurrah for that you say! If they’re going to blow each other up let’s have some good old Blighty chaps employed for their pains… Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that any more – companies like BAE Systems are multi-national and many of the arms DESO helps to sell are manufactured abroad. The only winners are share holders.
No other industry in the UK receives this level of help from a government agency. Surely taxpayers’ money could be spent better? DESO is a contradiction of foreign policy, a symbol of corporate influence on government, and a huge waste of money.
DESO needs to be shut down. Visit www.caat.org.uk and email your MP now.
This article was originally written for the February 2007 edition of ‘GoodMag’.