Non-Executive Chair – Submarine Delivery Agency

Body: Submarine Delivery Agency
Appointing Department: Ministry of Defence
Sectors: Business, Finance & Skills, Charity & Public Sector, Defence, Energy, Science & Technology
Location: Meetings are usually held at MOD Main Building, London. Occasional travel to other locations may be required.
Skills required: Audit and Risk, Business / Commercial, Major Projects, Transformation
Number of Vacancies: 1
Remuneration: The annual remuneration is £100,000
Time Requirements: The post requires a time commitment of 2 days per week. The appointment is not pensionable. Candidates should demonstrably have the time available to fulfil the role.

Campaign Timeline

  • Competition Launched


  • Closed for Applications


  • Panel Sift


  • Final Interview Date


  • Announcement


Vacancy Description

Message from the Director General Nuclear

Thank you for expressing an interest in the role of Non-Executive Chair of the Submarine Delivery Agency (SDA).

The UK’s independent nuclear deterrent is essential to our nation’s security.  Since 1969, the Royal Navy has maintained Continuous At Sea Deterrence with at least one nuclear-armed submarine on patrol at all times. Sustaining that critical capability is the most significant and wide-ranging of all the major defence tasks.  The 2021 Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to the nuclear deterrent as a key part of Global Britain and the SDA, an Executive Agency of the MOD since 2018, is a key element of this.

We are seeking an exceptional individual as the Agency’s new Non-Executive Chair who will work with the Executive Team to continue to strengthen the SDA’s position as a world-class client delivery organisation. The Board works closely with the SDA’s customers (Royal Navy and Defence Nuclear Organisation (DNO)) and the Director General Nuclear. A key task of the Board has been the shaping of the SDA to deliver effectively for its customers and an essential part of this has been leading the business in the delivery of submarine programmes in what is a complex stakeholder environment.

As Chair you should be a strong and effective leader with an excellent track record in delivering high-value programmes and have considerable experience of handling complex commercial issues. You will need to inspire the SDA to keep making the step-changes necessary for the future, have the personal resilience to work on very high-profile issues, and the personal integrity to deal with highly sensitive information.

If you find the challenge set out here an exciting one and have the skills and experience we are looking for, we hope you will follow up this opportunity.

Vanessa Nicholls

Director General Nuclear


Role Profile

We are looking to appoint a new Non-Executive Chair of the SDA.

The Chair, through their leadership of the SDA Board, scrutinises and evaluates the day-to-day programmatic deliverables and corporate operation of the Agency, providing assurance to the Departmental Sponsor that the Agency is equipped and structured to deliver its purpose today and in the future.

The Chair oversees and supports the Agency’s performance, using their expertise to coach and mentor the Executive leadership team.  They utilise the skills and experiences of the Non-Executive Board members with the goal of transforming the Agency into a high-performing delivery organisation, capable of managing industry to performance, time and cost.

The fundamental role of the Submarine Delivery Agency (SDA) Board, acting on behalf of the Departmental Sponsor, is to support and challenge the Chief Executive and wider Executive team in the conduct of their business. The SDA Chair is accountable to the Permanent Secretary of MOD and leads, on behalf of the DNO, independent strategic challenge of and support for the Agency.

The Non-Executive Chair’s function will be to provide external advice and expertise in association with independence of thought which informs the decision-making process and they should meet regularly with the CEO of the SDA to reflect on their roles, review performance and evaluate arrangements in MOD.

With the recent outcome of the Integrated Review and 2020 Spending Review, the Ministry of Defence stands at the gateway to great opportunity, but also to great challenge. It is important to both that the SDA delivers the high-quality infrastructure advice and services expected of it under the Defence Plan and the Defence Operating Model and the SDA Chair will play a pivotal in the delivery of this.


The main responsibilities will be:

  • Leading and managing the SDA Board, providing clear direction and focus as well as creating an open and cooperative relationship with MOD.
  • Ensuring the Board has sufficient information to review the performance of the organisation, including future trends, risks and opportunities and that Key Performance Indicators are effectively monitored.
  • Providing advice to the MOD on the SDA’s strategic direction, objectives and risks, business performance and governance.
  • Supporting and advising the Chief Executive on all material issues, including engagement with industry.
  • Providing an important oversight role in ensuring that the SDA’s independent Non-Executive Directors act to protect the interests of the Department and reinforce the principles of accountability which apply to organisations within the public sector.
  • Advising MOD on the performance of the Chief Executive.
  • Ensuring there is a Board Operating Framework in place consistent with the Government Code of Good Practice for Corporate Governance and a code of practice for board members, consistent with the Cabinet Office Code of Conduct for Board Members of Public Bodies.
  • Ensuring that the Board is supported by effective and properly constituted Subcommittees (Remuneration and Nomination, Audit, Risk and Assurance).
  • Determining and agreeing the composition of the Board with DG Nuclear and the Departmental Sponsor, taking into account its diversity  and ensuring a balance of relevant expertise and experience.
  • Managing the frequency, agenda, content and conduct of board meetings, ensuring that systems are in place to provide members with accurate and timely information of good quality to enable the Board to consider properly all matters before it.
  • Ensuring that the Board as a whole is effective, including assessing the performance of the Board and of individual Non-Executive Directors, and making recommendations on areas for development.
  • Ensure that all Non-Executive Directors are effective in the support and challenge they provide to the SDA Executive team, acting to protect the interests of the Department and reinforcing the principles of accountability which apply to organisations within the public          sector.
  • Encouraging all Board Members to express their views frankly and challenge constructively to improve the standard of discussion in Board meetings.
  • The Chair will have regular dialogue with MOD Head Office and will also have a standing right of access to the MOD Permanent Secretary  and Secretary of State.
  • On behalf of the Board, the Chair will be responsible for escalating to the Departmental Sponsor material matters where agreement              between the SDA Chief Executive and a majority of the Board’s Non-Executive Directors cannot be reached. If it is not possible to resolve the issue at this stage, the route for escalation is through the Permanent Secretary, and ultimately to the Responsible Minister.



Person Specification

The SDA Chair should have a strong reputation as a business leader with experience in the governance of a large and complex commercial organisation, and an appreciation of the importance of Defence to the UK’s national security interests. The SDA Chair should have experience of working with government, at a central government level, and understand the constraints that this creates.

The Chair will have the authority to command the respect and confidence of the SDA Board, MOD and other stakeholders, and the resilience to challenge and support the CEO and the wider high calibre executive team. Candidates must have the time available to commit to the role.

As the SDA is a delivery focused organisation serving two customers; the DNO and the Royal Navy, the SDA Chair should be a strong team player with experience of working with key stakeholders to ensure the organisation can meet its objectives and priorities.

As MOD attaches great importance to the effective operation of Functional Leadership, across all of its functions, the SDA Chair, through their programme and leadership experience, should empower the SDA to deliver across programme, commercial and contract management areas as the Agency enters the next stage of its journey. The SDA Chair should have experience, as a strong leader, of empowering and supporting others in leading their organisation to achieve successful outcomes.

The Chair will provide leadership to the SDA Board, ensuring Board members fulfil their duties and responsibilities for effective corporate governance, through supporting guiding and mediating their concerns and promptly address performance related issues.

Reflecting the high priority accorded to Diversity and Inclusion across the Department, the Chair should have experience in supporting organisations in their efforts to recruit, retain and develop a high quality, diverse and inclusive workforce at all levels of the organisation to help the wider Departmental ambitions.

The SDA Chair should oversee senior succession planning and maintain effective oversight of capabilities developed across the SDA, including key infrastructure roles. The SDA Chair should discuss issues affecting the organisation’s performance with the CEO, and wider executive team, to ensure the organisation is firmly focused on its role, vision and strategic direction and any remedial action is put in place.

The SDA Chair should lead the Board in supporting the SDA’s “One Team” ambition and the development of relevant professions and enhanced professional standards. The Chair should also ensure the SDA gives due recognition and support to Function-driven business improvement plans that cut across organisational boundaries.


Skills and Abilities

  • A strong and effective leader who has demonstrable experience of leading large, complex, commercial organisations to achieve success.
  • A strong track record of delivery at Board level.
  • An excellent professional reputation gained at a senior level managing major programmes of work.
  • Demonstrable strategic, analytical, commercial and intellectual thinking skills.
  • A reputation for building strong multi-stakeholder relationships.
  • An understanding of Government and the ability to engage with senior officials and Ministers in a politically sensitive environment.



  • Experience as an effective Non-Executive or Chair.
  • Delivering major transformational, culture and operational change in an organisation of scale, perhaps from procurement, engineering, or a major infrastructure programme environment, and operating in a safety and security critical environment.
  • Supporting and challenging the executive team to drive organisational priorities.
  • A strong understanding of corporate governance best practice, Nolan principles, diversity and equal opportunities.


The Role of the Submarine Delivery Agency

The SDA exists to:

  • Programme and support the safety, availability, reliability and security of UK submarines that are in-service in order to maintain the UK submarine capability, including Continuous At Sea Deterrence (CASD);
  • Procure and programme the construction of all new UK submarines and, working with the DNO and Navy Command, bring them into service as effectively and efficiently as possible to fulfil their role in maintaining the UK submarine capability;
  • Dispose safely of the UK’s submarines that are no longer in-service;
  • Inform its customers’ evaluation of acquisition and support options and deliver the agreed acquisition, support and disposal programmes of its customers as cost efficiently as possible and within affordability constraints;
  • Lead the supply chain: work with industrial and public sector partners to preserve the UK’s technology advantage and skills-base, and to ensure submarine manufacturing and maintenance capability is sufficient to support the UK’s submarine requirements long term; and
  • Support and fulfil the relevant roles in international partnerships, including the 1958 Mutual Defence Agreement and the 1963 Polaris Sales Agreement.


The Role of the Board

The SDA Board’s principal role is to hold the SDA Chief Executive and their Senior Management Team to account and provide challenge and support to the CEO and CFO on resource and business decisions. The Board also approves the SDA Corporate Plan, which sets the medium and long-term strategic direction of the organisation whilst being reviewed and agreed on an annual basis.

The SDA Board comprises:

  • An independent Non-Executive Chair;
  • A maximum of three Government Non-Executive Directors (NEDs);
  • At least three independent NEDs;
  • SDA Chief Executive Officer (CEO);
  • SDA Deputy Chief Executive Officer;
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and;
  • Additional Executives as deemed necessary by the SDA Chair, subject to maintaining a majority of NEDs on the Board.

The SDA Board:

  • Endorses the strategy of the SDA in line with its purpose to deliver in-service and new platform programmes; ensures that strategy is reflected in the SDA’s Corporate and Business Plans; and recommends approval of the Corporate Plan by the Departmental Sponsor and Responsible Minister.
  • Provides advice and insight, challenge and support to the SDA Chief Executive and his or her Senior Management Team in their delivery of the Corporate and Business Plans, delivery of the SASPs, achievement of the SDA’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and the SDA’s financial performance.
  • Identifies and endorses the SDA’s KPIs, and agree these with the Departmental Sponsor.
  • Monitors and assesses the SDA’s performance against its KPIs as agreed in the SDA Corporate Plan.
  • Assures itself that the SDA has sufficient competence and depth of resources to conduct its nuclear and operational-related activities safely.
  • Ensures the SDA develops successful relationships with its customers, enabling them to be strong, intelligent and informed, well-advised by the SDA and have confidence in the SDA and in its cost and programme estimates and forecasts; likewise oversees development of successful relationships with other key stakeholders and major suppliers.
  • Oversees the financial and operating controls in the SDA and its programmes, and ensures they are compliant with the delegations afforded to the SDA and the SDA Chief Executive’s scope of responsibilities as Accounting Officer for operating expenditure of the SDA; oversees risk management strategies in the SDA and ensure they are adequate; oversees the generation of accurate financial, management and programme reports and production of financial statements, consistent with the requirements of Managing Public Money, the SDA Chief Executive’s obligations as Accounting Officer, and other applicable government requirements;
  • Reports to the Departmental Sponsor on the Framework Document, associated delegations and other governance arrangements for the SDA, and on the funding arrangements for the SDA and its programmes, as to whether they are fit-for-purpose for the effective operation of the SDA.
  • Assures itself that the SDA is operating in full compliance with all safety and security requirements.
  • Reviews the SDA’s succession planning including in relation to senior nuclear qualified and experienced personnel; recommends the appointment and if necessary the removal of the SDA Chief Executive and other senior leadership positions to the Departmental Sponsor.
  • Reviews the remuneration policies and incentive policies of the SDA to fulfil the objectives of the SDA (within the freedoms and delegations afforded to the SDA); and
  • Agrees, based on the recommendation of the SDA Remuneration & Nominations Committee, Chief Executive remuneration for approval by the Permanent Secretary through the Sponsor.

All members of the SDA Board are expected to act in line with high standards of corporate governance to ensure that the SDA complies, where appropriate, with the Code of Good Practice for Corporate Governance in Central Government Departments.

Additional Information


The appointment will be for a fixed term of three years. There may be a possibility of re-appointment, subject to a satisfactory annual appraisal of performance assessed by Director General Nuclear and at Ministerial discretion.  The likely start date is April 2022.

How to Apply

If you wish to apply for this appointment, please supply the following:

  • A CV (maximum two sides A4, minimum font 12) setting out your career history and including details of any professional qualifications.
  • A short supporting statement (see below) (maximum two sides A4, minimum font 12) explaining how you meet the essential criteria (page 4). Make sure you refer to the contents of this information pack and provide specific examples which demonstrate proven and demonstrable expertise or ability. Please ensure your full name and the reference number are clearly stated at the top of your CV and additional papers.
  • Complete the Expression of Interest form including your supporting statement; contact details for two referees (by providing their details you are giving consent for us to contact them should you be successful at the shortlisting stage) and any conflict of interest (see further information below and Annex B).
  • Complete the Diversity Monitoring form, including stating any political activity. Once you have completed your application, you will be sent an automatically generated email asking you to complete a Diversity Monitoring Form. Your Diversity Monitoring Form will be stored separately from your application and will play no part in the selection process.
  • Note References will only be taken up if candidates are successful at shortlisting. You should ensure that they have given you their permission to share their names with us and for us to contact them when you include them in the EOI


If you are applying under the Disability Confident Scheme you will need to meet the minimum criteria for the role as determined by the AAP at sift.  This will guarantee an invite to an interview.  To ensure fairness, the AAP will not be informed of who has applied under the DCS until they have set the minimum criteria at the start of the sift meeting. Please complete the Disability Confident scheme declaration form.


  • If you have a disability and require reasonable adjustments to enable you to attend for interview, please advise us when you return your application.


  • If you cannot apply online*, please post application marked for the attention of Anne Neill to:Odgers Berndtson
    20 Cannon Street
    London EC4M 6XD


Please note: it is your responsibility to ensure we receive your application by the closing date.


Further information

If you have queries about any aspect of this role or the recruitment process, or you wish to have an informal discussion, then please contact Laura Spurgin:

Tel: 020 7529 1072

45645_SDA_CHAIR_NED_Expression of Interest Form_OSP
45645_SDA_CHAIR_NED_Diversity Monitoring Form_OSP
45645_SDA_CHAIR_NED_Disable Confident Scheme Declaration_OSP
45645_SDA_CHAIR_NED_Campaign Information Pack_OSP

This post is NOT regulated by The Commissioner for Public Appointments.

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