Navy seeks £3m-a-year support partner for Top Secret IT operations

Tender seeks external team of up to 25 experts to support the most sensitive domains

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The Royal Navy is seeking a supplier to support the operations of IT systems at the Secret and Top Secret levels of classification.

A contract notice newly published by Navy Command invites bids from potential support partners for the operations of the network of maritime operational secret and above secret domains (MOSASD). This involves assisting in the functions of networks “deployed both ashore and afloat, in ships and submarines including hardware, software, and mission-configurable elements”.

The ultimate objective of the networks in questions is to provide “security domain information services so that ships and submarines can undertake mission activities securely”.

The notice said: “Maritime digital secure services are complex and constantly evolving to meet the needs of the ever-changing real-world maritime environment. This results in a series of networks that are technically challenging, comprising many components across a number of fixed and mobile locations. A support arrangement that can deal with this is required to maintain essential operational outputs. Navy Command is looking for a single supplier to provide a managed service to support these capabilities.”

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The chosen supplier will be expected to provide “first, second and third-line support, defect repair onsite if needed, routine upgrades, technical refresh and temporary/permanent decommission of systems”. 

This work will be delivered by a team of between 21 and 25 “specialists of varying skill sets” who will collectively assist in the delivery of “a steady state set of activities”, according to the Navy.

All staff provided via the contract must undergo a developed vetting process – the highest level of vetting undertaken by the government, and only required for a small number of internal and external roles that involve potential access to Top Secret information.

The “core activities” required of the chosen provider will be based at Navy Command facilities near Portsmouth, with a “small team” based at a network operations centre in Northwood on the outskirts of north west London.

“There is [also] an overriding requirement to provide support to ships and submarines wherever this is needed, worldwide,” the procurement notice said.

Bids for the work are open until midnight on 24 November, and the Navy expects to evaluate bids from up to three potential suppliers.

A contract is scheduled to come into effect on 1 May 2022 and last for an initial period of 18 months. The deal will be worth an estimated £2.95m a year plus VAT to the winning bidder, and the length or cost of the engagement can each be extended by 25%, the notice added.

Online procurement records reveal that Navy Command last tendered for the support of MOSASD systems in July 2019, awarding a two-year deal worth £5.1m to Carbon60 – a Luton-headquartered recruitment and consultancy services firm specialised in the defence, aviation, construction, energy and engineering sectors.

Secret and Top Secret represent the upper two levels of government’s three-tier system of information classification. Most data created or processed by public sector entities is classed at the Official level, which covers information related to “routine business operations and services, some of which could have damaging consequences if lost, stolen or published in the media, but… not subject to a heightened threat profile”.

The Secret classification is given to “very sensitive information that justifies heightened protective measures” while Top Secret is reserved for “HMG’s most sensitive information requiring the highest levels of protection from the most serious threats”.

“For example, where compromise could cause widespread loss of life or else threaten the security or economic wellbeing of the country or friendly nations,” the government’s definition said. 


Sam Trendall

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