New bosses: Iain Coucher (left) and Ian Tyler (right)
The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) has announced new appointments to the two top posts in the commercial consortium that is contracted to operated the Establishment on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.
Ian Tyler has been appointed as Chair to the Board of AWE Management Ltd (AWE ML) and Iain Coucher will take over as the new Chief Executive of AWE plc. Both are new to AWE and come from outside the three shareholding companies in the AWE ML consortium: Serco Group plc, the Lockheed Martin Corporation and Jacobs Engineering Group.
Ian Coucher is the third person to take over the helm of AWE plc in a period of less than five years following the unexpected departure of Kevin Bilger, who has spent less than 18 months in the role of Managing Director. AWE is now referring to Mr Bilger's tenure as a “secondment”, although it was not announced as such when he took on the post in September 2014. Both Kevin Bilger and outgoing AWE ML Chair John Holly will return to posts at Lockheed Martin.
Both Ian Tyler and Iain Coucher come from construction sector backgrounds, and, according to AWE, were recruited for their “extensive experience of leading large, complex organisations and managing major strategic infrastructure programmes”. Their role will be to rescue AWE's struggling construction programme, currently facing delays and cost over-runs.
Around £500 million each year is being spent on construction work at AWE to build facilities for manufacturing new nuclear warheads, and the two biggest projects in this programme – the 'Pegasus' uranium components plant and the 'Mensa' warhead assembly / disassembly facility - are in difficulty and behind schedule. A recent news report in the Sunday Times has suggested that the Ministry of Defence is considering firing the current AWE management consortium for failing to get to grips with the problems.
Ian Tyler is a former chief executive of the construction and infrastructure company Balfour Beatty but stepped down in January 2013 in the wake of poor financial results at the company. Iain Coucher was Chief Executive of Network Rail from 2007 to 2010 but left the company with a £1 million payoff after complaints from trade unions and politicians about the company's remuneration regime.