Examination of witnesses (Questions 420
WEDNESDAY 29 MARCH 2000
WEST and MR
420. Thank you.
(Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) All I can say is the
new world environment does cause me a problem with languages.
At the end of the 1980s we realised that we needed more Serbo-Croat
speakers and we started training them through. Since the beginning
of the 1990s we seem to have got even more involved in the Balkans
and with Kosovo even more and, therefore, there has been a bigger
and bigger demand and I am having to put double courses through
now at Chicksands. Of course when things crop up in other places
it is quite difficult because whereas once I just trained Russian
speakers, now we have to train all sorts of people, not just Farsi
speakers, Arabic speakers, suddenly we are down in Sierra Leone
trying to speak some of those tribal languages, Rwanda. It is
an issue that you have identified but we can come back with the
421. I am pleased to hear the numbers of reservists
you are using in the service, do you have any difficulty recruiting
(Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) In fact, we just recently,
in 1999, went out and did a recruitment, the prime reason for
that being the new emphasis ***. In fact we had a very good take
up on that, a large number applied to do that. I think going back
a couple of years before that we had found it quite difficult
to get enough of the right quality. On this occasion we had a
very large number applying which enabled us to sift it down and
go through the interview process with some particularly good candidates
and we have not really had the difficulty on this occasion.
422. That is pleasing. What effect do you think
there will be if the MoD moves ahead with its plans for DERA?
Will that have any effect on your ability to get the sort of people
(Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) It should not really
directly affect it. The people I recruit come in specifically
as analysts in the DIS. They are separate from the scientific
grades who are DERA. However, I do employ quite a lot of scientists
in my scientific and technical area. Historically the way those
have been kept up to speed is because the pool of scientists at
DERA have been used to flip into my organisation and my guys have
gone back there. Therefore, one could see it having an impact
on the pool one has to work out of, depending on how big the private
or public chunks are of the new DERA organisation. I am not quite
sure what is going to happen, I have to say, with DERA.
Chairman: You had better make sure the
good guys are retained otherwise you will have to ask Nomura or
Lockheed for permission to approach them for advice, but we shall
not pursue that, that is for the Secretary of State, sooner rather
423. Of course, what we are driving at is that
we believethis Committee believesthat if we were
to go ahead with the PP partnership with DERA then it may put
at risk information gathering and our relationship with the Americans.
We know they are very upset about it. What about in this very
critical area of getting the information you need, they will not
be very happy about it.
(Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) I think probably all
I would say is that in terms of DERA, when this was first raised
clearly there were issues there in intelligence terms, because
DERA does do work for me and I reflected all of those issues and
inputted to the work that was going on and spoke with my colleagues
in the intelligence agencies in America. All of their views and
my views have been passed across and hopefully are being taken
into account in whatever decision is made.
Laura Moffatt: Good.
(Mr Hatfield) Chairman, I do not think that is quite
fair. You said "any privatisation", I think there are
certain parts of what is done by DERA which the Americans would,
indeed, feel very worried about if they were privatised, rightly
or wrongly. There are other parts of DERA where that is not even
an issue. I think, like Admiral West, there are parts of DERA
I sincerely hope are retained to support my organisation. That
is not necessarily in any way contradicting what the MoD is going
to do. They are not going to privatise, and never have been going
to privatise, the entire DERA organisation.
425. There will be a big bunch of those you
are going to retain. We will look forward to your support, Mr
Hatfield. We just have a couple more questions before we finish.
Would you list your intelligence successes and your intelligence
failures? It would be helpful if you could do that. We will start
off with failures, obviously in Kosovo?
(Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) In relation to Kosovo,
426. You cannot think of one.
(Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) I am trying to think
(Mr Hatfield) I think that is an unfair question.
It is a wife beating question, Chairman.
427. When did you stop.
(Mr Hatfield) Yes.
428. If I ask you to write them the MoD will
nobble your answer and we will have some anodyne response written
by Mr Hatfield when he has more time to reflect. Obviously we
have embarrassed you. You tell us your successes, I am sure he
would approve of that.
(Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) Going back to the build
up to it, I think one of my responsibilities is for intelligence
warning and I think we did give intelligence warning. Early on,
certainly I came in in October and I can remember at the end of
October when I had only been in post for a few days, a week or
something, speaking to the chiefs and to others saying that I
was concerned about Kosovo looking to the future and we kept up
those warnings throughout the following year. It was not that
it caught us out by surprise.
429. That is not what we have heard.
(Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) It was becoming an area
of concern. I am not saying that we were particularly clever judging
by Bush's warning in 1992 and Clinton's in 1993 and the removal
of OSCE in 1995. I think that side was good. I think the detail
we had of the IADS system, we had a very good understanding of
their IADS system and that is partly why we did not lose any aircraft.
*** I think that was a great success, the fact that we did not
lose anyone. I am trying to think now of where we might have failed.
I would not call it a failure but one of the areas where I would
like to put more work in the future is in information operations.
We could be more joined up in that. It is very early and embryonic
days there. It is an area that I think is worth putting more effort
into and concentrating on because *** and, therefore, that has
to be attractive. That might be an area where I would like to
see more done. I would not call it a failure because actually
it is very early days and I have started shifting that way.
430. I have 30 seconds for two questions. What
are the major intelligence capability shortfalls, if not for us
for the Alliance generally and for NATO in Europe?
(Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) We are doing a lessons
learned process. The sorts of areas that I would like to improve
are connectivity, in other words sufficient connectivity with
our various headquarters right down into the field at the right
levels of classification and at the right amount of bandwidth
to enable all sorts of data, ***. That is something we have still
got to work on that we have still not got right. It was something
that we were aware of before Kosovo and we have just got to keep
working at it. There is a funding aspect to that obviously. I
mentioned information operations which is an area we need to work
on. The whole issue of ISTAR, which I describe as sensor to shooter,
which I think someone else talked about because I saw it spelt
as "censor" rather than "sensor"
431. That was a civilian mistake.
(Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) The whole of that area
of ISTAR. The BDA process and how we teach people to understand
that is an area that needs improvement. What else? There are some
areas *** where I think we need some more equipment for people.
So, far from being perfect, there are lots of things we have got
to improve on but they have been flagged up and they are things
we will have to work away at. There is no quick, easy answer to
some of them.
432. Thank you so much. I was thinking when
you were talking how good it will be when Milosevic is finally
ousted if maybe Mr Livingstone's agents, who are very good at
hiring people to go on lecture circuits, hired him. It would be
wonderful if Milosevic, assuming he was not arrested and taken
to the Hague, could at least send a proxy or one of those lookalikes,
"I was Monty's double", and perhaps provide some of
the answers that you would like to have.
(Vice Admiral Sir Alan West) Absolutely.
Chairman: Thank you so much to both of
you for your help. Thank you very much.