Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence

Letter to the Chairman from the Secretary of State for Defence on Strategic Defence Review: Joint Initiatives

  You will recall that one of the key themes that emerged from the Strategic Defence Review was an increased emphasis on "Jointery". Several important initiatives were proposed and I have already announced details on the Joint Helicopter Command and Joint Force 2000. I am making a further announcement today setting out progress on a number of other Joint Initiatives. My purpose in writing to you is to explain our proposals in more detail.

  We shall be establishing a Joint Doctrine and Concepts Centre (JDCC) which we intend to be a centre of excellence in developing Joint doctrine and a future Joint vision for the United Kingdom's Armed Forces, at the very heart of our contemporary and evolving security thinking.

  The JDCC will be located at Shrivenham and so will be able to maximise its synergy with the Joint Services Command and Staff College (when it re-locates from Bracknell to Shrivenham in mid 2000) and the Royal Military College of Science. An Implementation Team will form at the beginning of April in London and will establish an Initial Capability in temporary accommodation from September this year. We plan to achieve a full capability from April 2000. The proposal will involve the transfer of about 30 military personnel and the creation of 20 new civilian jobs.

  We considered a number of options for the location of the JDCC, including the former Staff College buildings at Camberley. We have yet to receive advice on the future options for the Camberley site but I shall inform you of the outcome in due course.

  We plan to optimise commonality between the Army and RAF in a Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) Organisation, which will ultimately operate common Rapier Field Standard C (FSC) equipment, with common procedures, standards and support.

  A Joint Rapier Training Unit will form at RAF Honington on 1 April 1999. In parallel, work is being undertaken to identify the potential for further integration of Army and RAF Ground Based Air Defence and again I shall inform you of progress in due course.

  Recognising that the proliferation of biological and chemical weapons programmes presents a continuing threat to our deployed forces, I have announced that a Joint NBC Regiment will be established from 1 April 1999, initially at RAF Honington for at least four years.

  The Regiment will comprise 75 per cent Army personnel (mostly drawn from the 1st Royal Tank Regiment) and 25 per cent RAF personnel (from the RAF Regiment). It will also include elements of the Territorial Army and Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

  The Regiment will be commanded on a permanent basis by a lieutenant colonel. A study to determine the Regiment's long term location is currently underway.

  The formation of the Joint Rapier Training Unit and the Joint NBC Regiment will mean a total increase of about 300 Service and 24 civilian posts at RAF Honington.

  The Defence NBC Centre at Winterbourne Gunner will remain at its current location. To ensure the activities of the Centre and the new Joint NBC Regiment are fully co-ordinated, command responsibilities for the Centre will transfer from the Army Training and Recruiting Agency to RAF Strike Command on 1 April 1999. A Defence NBC HQ, commanded on a permanent basis by a group captain, will be established at Winterbourne Gunner on 1 April 1999. It will control both the Defence NBC Centre and the Joint NBC Regiment.

  Turning to the Joint Rapid Reaction Forces (JRRF) the SDR highlighted that our current rapid deployment capability, the Joint Rapid Deployment Force (JRDF), fell short of our evolving requirements in a number of key respects. The JRRF concept builds on the JRDF to plug this gap, and is the most important tri-service Joint initiative of the SDR.

  The JRRF are a pool of highly capable force elements, maintained at high and very high readiness and trained to undertake short-notice force projection operations of all kinds. The JRRF are to be deployable and sustainable in joint force packages, tailored to meet the specific operational requirement, and able to conduct warfighting operations, either nationally or multi-nationally under NATO, WEU, UN, OSCE or coalition auspices. The JRRF are not a collection of specific units placed within a fixed pool of forces; rather, they will be drawn from assigned high readiness units which will rotate through the JRRF commitment. Turning the concept into reality is a major undertaking and the timetable will be challenging. We intend to have this larger, much improved and more balanced capability in place by October 2001. We have already identified the forces that are needed to meet the JRRF requirement and an initial operational capability will be achieved on1 April.

  I have also announced the expansion of the Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ) to enable it to command two simultaneous operations. We will also provide it with a dedicated signals squadron drawn from 30 Signal Regiment which will remain based at Bramcote in Warwickshire. The JFHQ staff is commanded by a 1* officer who, from 1 April, will be known as the Chief of Joint Force Operations and will be the first choice to command a Small Scale operation launched at short notice.

  Finally, I have announced the increased authority of the Chief of Joint Operations at Northwood who will assume greater responsibility for Joint training, standards and exercises. To assist him in this task, we have created a new 2* post, that of Chief of Joint Force Operational Readiness and Training (CJFORT). The first CJFORT is Major-General CNG Delves, formerly General Officer Commanding 3 (UK) Division. The CJO and CJFORT will prescribe the Joint Standards that force elements are to meet, confirm that these Joint standards are being met, and co-ordinate the Defence Exercise Programme to make the most effective use of each exercise.

  Where appropriate, Consultative Documents will be issued setting out the rationale behind today's announcements. No final decisions will be taken until the process of consultation is complete and all interested parties have had the opportunity to state their views on our proposals.

  I am writing along similar lines to John Maples, Margaret Ewing and Menzies Campbell. I have also written, explaining the local and regional impact in more detail, to Nicholas Hawkins, Robert Jackson, Richard Spring and Robert Key who are the constituency MPs most affected by this announcement and to Keith Simpson who has shown an interest in the Joint Doctrine and Concepts Centre.

30 March 1999

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