Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 160 - 179)



  160. NATO itself does not have an intelligence capacity of any significance and is dependent on information made available by its members.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Yes.

  161. So it would be true to say, would it not, that NATO's own intelligence is not as good as our own UK national intelligence?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I think we, and other countries, have bilateral arrangements with other people that will give us intelligence that NATO as a body does not have.

  162. Is that not then one of the reasons for the problem, that when NATO makes a collective decision it is perhaps not based upon the highest common factor of the contribution from Member States but more on the lowest common denominator and with the political cohesion problem you have already mentioned?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) That may be so but there are countries in NATO, especially countries who have joined very recently, that have very good intelligence sources that previously NATO did not have. I do not think we should dismiss that easily the capability of NATO to draw intelligence feed from all its 19 member countries and build up quite a good picture which may not actually be available to us.

  163. Are you aware of any significant intelligence in the hands of the United Kingdom which was not shared with most NATO members?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) There may well have been but I think I prefer to give you a classified answer on that.

  164. Finally, it is well known that the vast majority of the intelligence information in the hands of NATO comes from the United States. Do you think that the United States' scepticism about the security of this intelligence information within NATO, which as we understand was justified, inhibited the effectiveness of the air campaign and inhibited what intelligence was made available to NATO and, therefore, caused problems in terms of the effectiveness of the operation militarily?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I find that very difficult to answer because I am not sure what intelligence NATO did not receive from the United States. I cannot answer that question so it is difficult for me to make a judgment on that one, I am afraid.

  Mr Gapes: I think I will leave it there.


  165. You say you are quite satisfied with the intelligence you receive, but looking at the intelligence provided by the United States, an incredible array of satellites, U2 aircraft, UAVs, even the Americans admitted that despite having progressed beyond the level of the Gulf it was still sadly lacking. If the Americans admit their system is lacking, are we eternally dependent upon the quality of intelligence gathering from the United States or are the UK and the Europeans going to try to contribute more than simply selected members leaching off the United States?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) As you have heard from Air Commodore Torpy we need to do more in what we call the ISTAR arena. That is well recognised and the Ministry of Defence is working very hard on improving that. We get a lot of intelligence from the United States. We also get information from other nations. I am not familiar totally with what we do get because that is a matter for Chief of Defence Intelligence. Of course we could know more, we all know that we do not have the full picture. We all know that we do not have everything that we would like to have, but within the constraints of the air campaign, within the need to identify targets to a sufficient degree that we could attack them knowing the potential for collateral damage or otherwise and then look at the targets afterwards to see what we had achieved, and to look at Kosovo to try to spot fielded forces, drawing on both NATO sources and our own national assets, I think we had a pretty good feel for it. That is not say it was perfect and that is not to say we could have had more information.

  166. Did we deploy any UAVs to Kosovo?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) The Americans deployed UAVs and in the later stages we did.
  (Air Commodore Torpy) We did deploy Phoenix.

  167. That is a pretty deadly weapon because they do tend to drop out of the sky causing damage to anyone standing underneath. Was that a secret weapon? It was probably quite an accurate weapon.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I think that is being unfair to Phoenix.

  168. No, it is not being unfair. Admiral, you prove to me that it is an unfair statement and I will be more than pleased to eat humble pie, if you tell me the best we could do was Phoenix and we could not even deploy that.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) This is coming back to the point you made earlier. Of course we would like to have better unmanned aerial vehicles to give us intelligence and perhaps we might have that capability in the future.

  169. Would you like it?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I would like it, yes. I would like lots of things but I cannot necessarily have them.
  (Air Commodore Torpy) I would just like to add one thing. One step we have taken on the ISTAR front is to procure ASTOR and that is coming into service fairly shortly. That is the equivalent of the JSTAR system that the Americans have. That will be a very important step forward for the UK.

  170. I will refrain from asking you why we have the equivalent of and not JSTAR, but that is another matter. Phoenix: I am warning you that when we talk about weapons systems performance we will be on the Phoenix. We have a long interest in the performance, or non-performance, of Phoenix. They are being deployed now to elicit information, are they?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Yes, they are.

  171. Have we lost any so far?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Yes, we have lost a Phoenix. I do not know the details but I can let you have a note on that.

  Chairman: Could you let us have a note on how many we have, how many we have lost and how many have come back?

  Mr Hancock: And where have they gone, the ones that have not come back. Do you know where they are?

  Chairman: I am sorry to be so cynical on this but we did produce a report on this and it was not one of the great procurement successes of history. We hope that the faults have finally been remedied. I understand that the Phoenix is being re-engined. I was not aware that it had been deployed, the fact that it is being re-engined within weeks of being deployed indicates a significant failure of the GEC and Ministry of Defence to provide something of even 1970s quality such as Phoenix. Frankly, we will discuss later whether we are going to have to depend on Phoenix as our almost entire UAV capability for the next decade or so. I hope that your wish list is translated into reality. We will certainly support anyone who argues that we should have that capability. Right, having given that little lecture I will move on to my colleague, Julian Lewis.

Dr Lewis

  172. Under questioning last week Sir Charles Guthrie said "I would like to have seen a ground option planned before the first bomb was dropped. I believe it was important to do that because you need to face Milosevic with different options. You want to worry him. If he was worried about a ground campaign, which he was in the end, because you will remember in my opening remarks I said I thought this had a lot to do with him caving in at the end, . . ." I am afraid the rest is not quite grammatical, "but I would like to have planned and hoped we would never have had to do it." Do you agree that it would have been militarily desirable to have had a ground option planned before the first bomb was dropped?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, yes, but that is a standard military response. We always like to have options planned but what we have to realise is the extent to which you can then declare it publicly as a coalition aim has to reflect the political realities of the situation.

  173. That leads me precisely to my next point. There were two ways in which ground option planning could have taken place. It could have been what you referred to earlier, pure contingency planning that was done in secret and not admitted publicly, or it could have been planning done which was admitted publicly in order to have a deterrent effect on Milosevic. When did the contingency planning for a ground option actually begin in secret?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Was this the contingency planning for the main force to go into Kosovo or the planning that was done in 1998 in anticipation of the OSCE mission?

  174. I am talking about the possibility of confronting Milosevic with armed forces on the ground before he had given up.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I joined PJHQ in February, so I will ask Air Commodore Torpy what happened before then. I know that in the spring, probably in about late April, we began to carry out illustrative campaign planning in the PJHQ for the Ministry of Defence, as I said earlier, to reveal to ourselves the sort of forces we might need, the time it would take to gather them, the training requirement and so forth.
  (Air Commodore Torpy) In 1998 NATO had a number of contingency options to identify broad order sizes of forces. What we did subsequently, as CJO mentioned, was to put more flesh on the bones of that nationally with our own illustrative campaign planning.

  175. I am still not happy with this for the following reason: what Sir Charles was saying was that it would have had a beneficial effect on Milosevic if he could have feared that ground forces might be used against him. I think you accept that.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I agree.

  176. What you also accept, I am sure, as you have indicated several times this morning and what Sir Charles said last week under further questioning, is that publicly you could only go as far as the market would bear.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Yes.

  177. I think that is what you are referring to by the danger of Alliance cohesion breaking up.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Yes.

  178. However, it is no excuse not to have done planning for armed action on the ground in secret just because at that stage of the proceedings Alliance cohesion and public opinion might not have been prepared to put up with that option if it were openly proclaimed.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I cannot answer that question for 1998. I think what you are indicating is that we should have carried out more and fuller illustrative campaign planning in 1998 before we even got engaged.

  179. I think I heard you say earlier that the serious planning for the ground force began some time well into April, was that right?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I think from memory, yes.

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