Select Committee on Defence Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter to the Secretary of State for Defence from Oliver Sparrow

  Defence needs have changed profoundly, as have the operational means of delivering security. However, what may have changed most of all is the basic concept of what we mean by "defence": what kind of power, projected by what means, developed in partnership with whom and to what end. It is something of a cliché that "joint-ery" will predominate in operations, and that foresighted intelligence will ensure an effective and ready framework in which these will be delivered. However, it is clear to an outside observer that those with whom it is necessary to be "joint" are not merely branches of our own forces, or our conventional allies, but the many conduits through which Britain interacts with and projects power towards the outside world. To name but a few of these: MOD, FCO, HM Customs and Excise, DFID, the assorted intelligence and security communities. That is, we need to have a means by which to liase across the many relevant interests in order to obtain this joint, intelligent oversight of our interests in the world.

  The entity capable of doing this does not, so far as I know, exists. It would, however, be both inexpensive to create and probably cost-effective to possess. It would develop slowly, as its product should develop over time and its reputation needs to mature. Its aim would be to identify the key issues well ahead of their becoming acute or political, and to assess them so that assets can be put in place and insight gathered in preparedness for events. Many of the players undertake parts of this activity, but none bring it all together, least of all in the five-to twenty year time frame that is needed for useful dispositions to be made.

  I have made a career out of just such integrating activities, and my experience makes me certain that the defence community—and not just in the UK—needs such a service. If we were to put together such a unit its product could, therefore, be useful at many top tables. My time at Chatham House is, however, drawing to an end and I am evaluating the options which are now open to me. It is my intention to reach closure on this process by the end of April.

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