Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Ministry of Defence on Defence and Security in the UK (January 2002)


Co-ordination of the response to major terrorist incidents, including changes made since 11 September

  1.  The events of 11 September 2001 in the United States, and the subsequent coalition response, have stimulated significant interest in the arrangements made for defence and security in the UK, and in particular the armed forces' response to international terrorist outrages. It is necessary, however, to place the MoD's role in this response in context if it is to be properly understood.

  2.  The security and defence of the UK continues to rest on the UK's membership of NATO, and our willingness and ability to participate in operations and tasks abroad with partner countries in mutual self-defence. This is certainly the case in the campaign against international terrorism. The campaign reflects the willingness of the UK, along with that of many other countries, to take any action necessary to destroy international terrorist groups that threaten their citizens. This includes, where necessary, military action against that small minority of states which support, harbour or otherwise actively encourage the activities of international terrorist groups. The fight against international terrorism is itself international. The defence of the UK, which contributes significantly to the security of the UK, rests on the ability of our armed forces to undertake missions outside the UK. We work in co-operation with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development, and other appropriate institutions to this end.

  3.  Although the events of 11 September have focused public attention on the threat from international terrorism, rather than Irish terrorism within the UK, the mechanisms for managing and co-ordinating the response to either variety of threat are well-established and well practised. Whatever its source, terrorist activity within the UK is criminal activity. The operational lead rests, in most cases, with the police. Developing and implementing methods of preventing terrorism in the UK, including threat assessment, and responding to terrorist incidents in the UK while they are under way, rests on the activities of a wide range of agencies and Departments. Cabinet Office groups co-ordinate both the prevention of terrorism and the response to an incident.

  4.  The Committee will be aware, for example of the existence of the Civil Contingencies Committee, which is chaired by the Home Secretary and includes Ministers from all relevant Departments including the Ministry of Defence. It co-ordinates plans for managing the consequences of a terrorist incident and for enhancing national resilience to a terrorist incident.

  5.  This role is consistent with its wider remit to co-ordinate the national response to civil contingencies and disasters. The two issues are not identical. But the need to ensure that the relevant authorities are managing resilience and able to address the direct consequences of a terrorist incident are similar to the challenges posed to the Government by natural disasters and other civil contingencies. Consequently, the remit of the Civil Contingencies Committee goes well beyond the significant contribution it is making to responding to terrorism hence the need for two complementary structures.

  6.  The Committee will also be aware of the changes made by the Government to the Civil Contingencies mechanism in support of the Civil Contingencies Committee, through the formation of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat in June and (following the events of 11 September) the formation of three Civil Contingencies Sub-Groups, on UK Resilience, CBRN Terrorism (addressing the issues associated with the consequences of such an attack) and on the Resilience of London.

  7.  These groups provide the central focus for the co-ordination of contingency planning to respond to different aspects of terrorist incidents. Similar groups can also, however, be convened to provide the central response to an incident whilst it is underway. In particular, the COBR mechanism provides strategic command and control for a response to a terrorist incident. COBR was convened on 11/12 September and again on 20/21 December (for the MV NISHA incident).

  8.  There is, similarly, a well-established mechanism for operational and tactical command and control, focused on the police force responsible for responding to an incident. For major operations or incidents, the police exercise operational control but can, under certain circumstances, pass tactical control of the incident to the military commander on the scene to allow military action to take place. In general, command and control of military units remains within the armed forces command chain.

  9.  Prior to 11 September this mechanism was used in February 2000, to bring the hijack of the Ariana Airlines aircraft to a successful conclusion. A similar mechanism can be implemented for Civil Contingencies. Both mechanisms include the rapid formation of strategic operational and tactical level command chains (a more detailed note on these command and control mechanisms is at Annex A).

  10.  The Ministry of Defence is a full participant in all of these mechanisms. They are designed to prepare the fullest possible response to a terrorist incident or the results of a terrorist incident, drawing on the widest possible range of resources and expertise, and to provide command and control of the resources and expertise should an incident occur. The Ministry of Defence provides a contribution to this response, under the various Military Tasks (MT) known collectively as Military Aid to Civil Authorities (and most importantly under MT1: Military Aid to the Civil Power; and MT4, Military Aid to Other Government Departments). These contributions can vary. For example, as part of the response to an incident which is under way, Explosive Ordnance Disposal * * * assets are more likely to be required, whilst in the response to the consequences of an incident that has already taken place, other MoD assets may be more appropriate.

  11.  The events of 11 September have also focused attention on contributions which formally fall to other Military Tasks and notably MT8 (Integrity of United Kingdom Waters in Peacetime) and MT9 (Integrity of United Kingdom Airspace in Peacetime). But even this is a contribution to a wider response, which involves all of the emergency services and many other agencies besides.

  12.  These events have highlighted the importance of this wide-ranging, and fully co-ordinated response. It is not, however, the purpose of this memorandum to discuss the wider response in detail. The memorandum will, instead, concentrate on the MoD and armed forces' response.


  13.  The MoD's contribution to the response to a terrorist incident focuses on a number of classified contingency plans (these are listed at Annex B). The plans include provision of support in the disposal of explosive devices and the provision of a combined military and scientific capability, permanently available within the UK.

  14.  All of these plans involve close co-operation with other departments and agencies, and notably the police. Capabilities in many cases are partly funded by other government departments.

  15.  There is no attempt to duplicate the capabilities of other agencies and departments. To do so would be wasteful of resources and risk undermining effective command and control. For example, the Metropolitan Police have developed an Explosive Ordnance Disposal capability. Within the London area, therefore, the MoD only provides expert support and a backup capability (rather than the full capability deployed in the rest of the country) if a terrorist device is discovered. Similarly, there is no attempt to duplicate the medical, fire and rescue, or public order roles of the emergency services which would be essential to manage the consequences of a terrorist attack (although once again the armed forces can play a supporting role if required and available). Domestic intelligence collection—on which so much depends—is, of course, the domain of the intelligence agencies, not the MoD.

  16.  By their very nature contingency plans are constantly evolving and form the framework for a response rather than covering every eventuality. And they must be varied, at every level, when they are brought into play, to match the actual circumstances.

  17.  Clearly the events of 11 September led to a review of these contingency plans, and rapid evolution in some areas. Thus, prior to 11 September * * * * * * and plans and capabilities had developed to deal with a discovered device. * * * In practice, however, hoaxes (and the separate but technically similar problem of suspicious packages) were rare until October and November 2001. That period saw a significant number of these events, reflecting the anthrax attacks which did take place in the US. A mechanism was however, developed * * * to allow an effective response to these incidents which ensured that the plethora of hoaxes and suspicious packages, as well as any actual device, could be effectively managed. In common with other elements of the counter-terrorist response, this process will continue to evolve and improve in effectiveness.

  18.  Arguably more radical changes occurred in the evolution of air defence mechanisms and have been publicly demonstrated in the evolution of maritime defence. Prior to addressing these developments, however, we need to consider the longer-term evolution of the MoD counter-terrorist response and the security of the MoD itself.


  19.  The Secretary of State for Defence announced on 2 October 2001 that the MoD would be undertaking work to ensure that the Armed Forces have the right concepts, forces and capabilities in place to meet the additional challenges posed by asymmetric attacks of the kind that we saw on 11 September.

  20.  As the Secretary of State said in the House on 4 October, this will not be a new Strategic Defence Review (SDR) but more the adding of a new chapter to it. Indeed, the SDR left us well placed to participate in the campaign against international terrorism. The SDR and the lessons of subsequent operations in Kosovo and Sierra Leone have all moved our defence posture in the right direction. We need to look hard at the priorities in our plans and programmes—so that we can add capability where it makes a difference.

  21.  The Latest Position: The Secretary of State and officials gave evidence to the Committee on the SDR new chapter work during its enquiry on "The Threat from Terrorism" and we are currently preparing the Government's response to the Committee's report. The work on the new chapter is continuing and, as we have already informed the Committee, we are currently working through the defence policy consequences of the events of 11 September, particularly in the areas of defence of the homeland and our capability to counter and deter terrorism abroad. We are also looking at the impact of these events on the international organisations, including in particular NATO and the EU, and on our regional interests, not least given the need to sustain long-term coalitions against international terrorism.

  22.  The work is underway to look at defence posture and capabilities, and taking a first look at the implications for force structures. We need to ensure that our concepts, policies and capabilities to deter, dissuade and, as necessary, defeat groups or states which pose a threat, are optimised to the circumstances in which we now find ourselves. We must do the same in relation to the contribution of the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces to the security and defence of the UK.

  23.  This work is, of course, set in the context of the wide range of other work going on across Government, of wider UK foreign policy (as was the SDR) and, importantly, of domestic security policy—clearly we will want to fit into work being undertaken by a wide range of departments and agencies under the auspices of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat. We are clear that the MoD work cannot be undertaken in isolation, and representatives from other government departments are closely involved.

  24.  We have done a large amount of work over the past few months, but there is a good deal still to do. We expect to be in a position to publish some conclusions in the spring or early summer. In the nearer term, in February we will make available discussion material setting out the range of areas we are considering. This will reflect our emerging thinking and we will seek views. This is designed to give interested parties an opportunity to contribute and the Secretary of State has made it clear that we will welcome contributions from Members of Parliament, members of the public and others with particular interests or expertise. We plan to follow up the discussion material with a seminar to discuss the issues raised and we also hope to arrange other discussions, for example in universities.


  25.  As the Prime Minister stated on 11 September, UK defence facilities around the world moved to a heightened state of vigilance following the attacks on the United States, to ensure the safety and protection of service and civilian personnel. This was in line with similar measures implemented across all government departments and in accordance with advice from the Cabinet Office, who have responsibility for determining the appropriate level of security.

  26.  The MoD Security Structure: The MoD's security organisation has undergone major change since April 2001, as a result of an internal Security Structures Review conducted by the present Director General of Security and Safety, the Departmental Security Officer. The aim of the review was to create a structure that would better reflect risk management principles and the requirements of corporate governance, aligning responsibility for the implementation of security more closely with ownership of the risk and budgetary resources. The new structure is more suited to a joint approach to defence issues, as required by joint expeditionary operations, the demands of the information age, and the formation of the Defence Procurement Agency and the Defence Logistics Organisation.

  27.  The main changes made as a result of the review have been:

    —  Commanders in Chief/Top Level Budget Holders (CinCs/TLBs) have been made clearly accountable for the implementation and risk management of security in their areas of responsibility;

    —  the former "Security Authorities", based in MoD Headquarters, the single Services and the Permanent Joint Headquarters, have been replaced by security advisers to the Top Level Budget Holders;

    —  policy formulation and standard setting has been consolidated in a single body, the Directorate of Defence Security (DDefSy), under the Departmental Security Officer;

    —  accreditation of corporate IT systems has been brought together under a newly formed organisation, the Defence Security Standards Organisation (DSSO), responsible to the Departmental Security Officer; and

    —  an independent audit function has been established, as part of the DSSO.

  28.  The Threat: The MoD has only a very limited capability—mainly in respect of the threat posed to deployed UK forces overseas—to assess the terrorist-related intelligence collected by the Intelligence Agencies. At home, we depend on threat assessments provided by the national authority, the Security Service. A major responsibility of DDefSy is to ensure that changes in the terrorist threat level originated by the Security Service are disseminated in a timely way throughout the Department, and to co-ordinate defensive counter-measures, where necessary advising the Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Commitments) (DCDS(C)) when changes are required to the MoD's BIKINI Alert State.

  29.  Nuclear establishments: While the threats posed by Irish republican and international terrorism are kept under constant review, and threat levels fluctuate as new intelligence is received or incidents occur, the security of MoD nuclear installations is at a permanently high level, based on a postulated threat of armed terrorist attack * * * * * * Details of the postulated threat in Great Britain, which is classified, are given at ANNEX C. The high level of physical security of MoD nuclear installations, and for road and rail movements of nuclear materials, is kept under constant review, tested frequently and is subject to annual formal inspection.

  30.  Electronic attack: Aside from the threat of physical attack posed by terrorism, the MoD also maintains a constant watch on the threat of electronic attack on our information systems, whether conducted by state players, international terrorist groups or individual hackers. As with the conventional terrorist threat, we have the capability rapidly to disseminate threat alerts received from the Security Service or allies and to co-ordinate defensive counter-measures. A 24-hour watch capability is maintained by the newly formed Joint Security Co-ordination Centre under DDefSy, which is located in the Defence Crisis Management Centre.

  31.  Demonstrators: Responsibility for assessing the threat to MoD establishments and activities posed by extremists and anti-nuclear demonstrators rests with Home Department Police Forces and the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP). As with other threats, responsibility for internal dissemination of intelligence and threat warnings, and for co-ordination of defensive counter-measures, rests with DDefSy.


  32.  The Terrorist Alert State: The MoD's defensive measures against the terrorist threat in GB are set out in standing guidance given in the BIKINI alert state, which itself is based on the Government-wide alert state system. UK forces permanently based overseas, and those on temporary operational and other deployments, use alert state systems based on the BIKINI system, but the decision on the alert state to be adopted rests with the operational commander, rather than with MoD Headquarters. Details of the BIKINI alert state definitions are given at ANNEX D.

  33.  While the MoD has the right to raise the BIKINI alert state unilaterally if it judges itself under a particular and pressing threat, it normally changes in line with changes ordered in the Government-wide alert state. Decisions on the latter are normally taken by the Security Division of the Cabinet Office, whenever time allows after discussion in committee, in which the MoD takes an active part, and following briefing on the latest intelligence by the Security Service.

  34.  In addition DDefSy chairs a monthly meeting of the Counter-Extremist Advisory Group at which MOD Headquarters, Service and other Top Level Budget security staffs are briefed on the latest terrorist and extremist threat intelligence and review the BIKINI alert state and other security measures.

  35.  Since November 1999, the BIKINI alert state had been maintained at the high level of BLACK SPECIAL, based primarily on the Irish republican dissident threat. The two states higher than BLACK SPECIAL—AMBER and RED—are designed to be implemented only for limited periods, * * * * * *

  36.  Armed Guarding: In MoD, armed guarding against the threat to life posed by terrorism is carried out by trained Service personnel (including the Military Provost Guard Service) and by MDP officers. While the decision to order armed guarding is not linked directly to the BIKINI alert state, Ministers have delegated standing authority to order armed guarding to the Service Commanders-in-Chief at all alert states from BIKINI BLACK to RED. Armed guarding has accordingly been set as the standing posture, with scope for variation, taking into account local circumstances. In practice, armed guarding has been the norm maintained for over a decade, initially against the threat posed by the Provisional IRA, and more recently against Irish republican dissidents.

  37.  Service personnel deployed on armed guarding duties are authorised by their Rules of Engagement (ROE) to open fire in extremis to protect life. The guidance card carried by armed Service security guards is essentially the same worldwide. In Great Britain, Service personnel are only exceptionally authorised to carry loaded weapons outside the Defence estate, and by prior agreement with the local Chief Constable. Service personnel employed on guarding road nuclear weapon convoys are a case in point.

  38.  Authority to arm MDP officers rests with the Chief Constable MDP. Unlike Service personnel, MDP officers do not receive separate ROE guidance but rely on relevant legislation. MDP training mirrors that given to their Home Department Police colleagues, in that they are trained to act in accordance with the use of force continuum. They are instructed to use firearms only for the protection of life, using only such force as is absolutely necessary. The use of force must be strictly proportionate to the threat, in pursuit of a legitimate aim and in accordance with current legislation.


  39.  The BIKINI Alert State: The MoD BIKINI alert state has, together with the Government-wide alert state, been raised from BLACK SPECIAL to AMBER on three occasions since 11 September. On 11 September and 7 October (when military operations in Afghanistan began) this was done as a precautionary measure, * * * against the possibility of an attack in Great Britain by the Al Qaeda organisation. On 27 October it was again raised to AMBER.

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  42.  In London, the particularly high risk of terrorist attack on high profile targets in the Whitehall area has been recognised by the deployment of armed MDP officers at the entrances to some Whitehall buildings. A review of MoD Guard Service (MGS) operating procedures has also been conducted. General security measures have been enhanced by increasing the frequency of security patrols, inspecting the interior and exterior of buildings daily before occupation and by random bag searching of people entering the buildings (including MoD employees). There has also been a concerted drive, led by the MoD Guard Service, to ensure that all building reception areas are kept clear of goods and rubbish to enable more ready identification of suspicious packages. Additional scanning facilities for scanning packages and hand luggage have been procured for Central London buildings.

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  44.  These actions complement the increased patrols provided by the Metropolitan Police in central London and other constabularies. We will continue to work closely with the Metropolitan Police, and other police forces across the country, in maintaining the security of the defence estate, and minimising the risk to the public.

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  46.  The Anthrax Alert: Following the distribution in the USA of letters containing anthrax spores, the MOD, in conjunction with the Cabinet Office and other government departments, and taking advice from the Security Service and DSTL Porton Down, issued guidelines on the protective measures to be taken against similar attacks in the UK, and on the immediate action to be taken on finding a suspect letter. This guidance is consistent with that issued to government departments and the public in general.

  47.  The guidance was disseminated widely down to unit/establishment level and is being kept under constant review. Measures taken have included the issue of protective masks and gloves as a precautionary measure to post-room and other staff responsible for opening public mail.

* * *

  * * * Where feasible, units have also reorganised their mail handling activities so as to limit the damage from any incident as far as possible.

  48.  The Ministry of Defence Police: The Committee will be aware that the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 was enacted on 14 December 2001, and has the effect of extending the provisions of the MDP Act 1987 in regard to policing activity outside MoD land. The extensions to MDP jurisdiction were negotiated and agreed primarily to prevent and respond to acts of terrorism and provide reassurance to the general public. Perhaps the most significant change is the "emergency" power that gives MDP officers the powers and privileges of constables in any part of the United Kingdom. Thus, in the context of terrorism, MDP officers now have the necessary powers to intervene in potential terrorist-related incidents off the Defence estate. Guidance has been issued to the Force on the circumstances in which the new powers may be exercised. Officers have been advised that the "emergency" power should be used only in circumstances of genuine emergency.

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  50.  Responsibility for security at key sites and economic key points outside the MoD estate rests with a number of departments, co-ordinated by the Cabinet Office. Under standard arrangements for assisting the police, the Armed Forces could provide manpower and equipment to protect key sites in the UK from terrorist attack. There has not, however, been any request for such assistance in the wake of 11 September.


  51.  The Strategic Defence Review made our Reserves more relevant, more useable and more integrated with their Regular counterparts. The Reserves have contributed significantly to peacekeeping operations in recent times. Before and following the reforms of the Strategic Defence Review, they have played an important role in support of regular forces when deployed overseas.

  52.  The Committee has itself raised the question of enhancements to the role of the Reserves in the war against terrorism, and in particular in guarding sensitive establishments. As outlined above, the work on the New Chapter of the SDR is still under way, and it is too soon to comment in detail on possible new roles (which might, or might not, stretch beyond key point security). An important stage in this work will be consultation with them and with their employers. No immediate changes to Reserve Forces legislation[1] are contemplated specifically as a result of the 11 September terrorist incident. However, to facilitate call-out procedures, work is already in hand on the revision of The Reserve Forces (Call-out and Recall) (Financial Assistance) Regulations 1997. Details will be made available in spring 2002 through the public consultation required by section 85 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996. It is too early to say whether any proposals for other changes or additions to legislation will flow from the current work on the New Chapter of the Strategic Defence Review and the Future Strategy for the Army. It is clear, however, that the Reserves already play an important role in the armed forces, and consequently in the defence and security of the UK. With certain exceptions they provide reservists who may be called-out for operations under the provisions of the Reserve Forces Acts 1980 and 1996, but who may in certain circumstances also provide volunteer manpower to supplement peacetime or crisis manning.


  53.  Most obviously, the events of 11 September highlighted the possibility that civil aircraft might be used as weapons, causing considerable destruction and loss of life. The possibility of the use of ships for a similar purpose cannot be entirely ruled out. The MoD has a responsibility for protecting the integrity of UK airspace and territorial waters. There is also a clear legal basis for taking military action against a terrorist attack from these directions. It is recognised in international law under Article 51 of the UN Charter and Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 that reasonable force is permitted in the prevention of crime and general right to act in self-defence or defence of others. Equally, there has never been any question of the Government's determination to detect, deter, and if necessary destroy such a threat. The events of 11 September have, however, led to a review of the procedures as to how these threats can be met.

Air Defence

  54.  Air defence (AD) of the UK is conducted as part of the NATO Integrated Air Defence System (NATINADS). The peacetime mission of NATINADS is to preserve the integrity of NATO airspace and safeguard forces from air attack on behalf of contributing nations. This is achieved by continuous surveillance of the airspace, detection of unusual activity and active policing/response using interceptor aircraft. The system is designed and optimised to counter the threat from military aircraft.

  55.  The UK Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS) performs the primary AD tasks under the command of NATO Combined Air Operation Centre (CAOC) 9 located at RAF High Wycombe. The ASACS maintains a Recognised Air Picture based on inputs from AD ground radars, NATS air traffic control (ATC) radars, airborne early warning aircraft and digital data links with neighbouring NATO and French air defence organisations. Based on this information, ASACS weapons controllers direct Quick Reaction Alert interceptors (QRA(I)) to investigate any aircraft acting suspiciously or presenting a threat to the UK. Command and control of the UK ASACS and QRA(I) aircraft are assigned to NATO to enable NATO to police the airspace on the behalf of the UK.

  56.  CAOC 9 and the UK ASACS also maintain close liaison with UK civil and military ATC organisations. Therefore, early warning of any potentially suspicious aircraft activity and exchange of information is readily achieved.

  57.  Enhancements since 11 September: Countering the threat of the use of civil (rogue) aircraft as terrorist weapons poses a number of challenges for air defence.

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  58.  Consequently, a number of * * * * existing air defence arrangments. * * * * * have been put in place to enhance the * * *

  59.  Unlike the Ariana hijack of February 2000, we would now expect any hijacked aircraft heading for the UK * * * * * * If a rogue aircraft is detected in or around UK airspace with little or no warning, * * *

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  63.  Ground Based Air Defence: Ground and sea based air defence systems (GBAD) are designed to defend high value targets against conventional attack by enemy air forces.

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  66.  We retain the option of deploying ground based air defence assets * * * * * * In general, however, GBAD systems are inappropriate in peacetime for the role of defending sensitive targets that may be subjected to attack by civilian aircraft. * * *

  67.  Ballistic Missile Defence: In taking forward its own programme to develop missile defences, the US has always made clear it is only one element of a much broader effort to deal with the problem posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. Equally, there is no suggestion in the UK that BMD will contribute towards homeland defence to terrorist threats. For completeness, however, details of our current position are outlined at Annex E.

  68.  Maritime Defence: The events of 11 September raised the perceived level of threat from international terrorism from a broad perception of an area of increasing concern to that of a more real but as yet non-specific threat. In such an environment there is a danger of achieving the terrorist goals ourselves by adopting a risk averse approach that impacts on the basis of democratic society (including the right to free movement and trade) without necessarily achieving commensurate effect against international terrorism. The UK's approach of risk awareness is the most pragmatic and sustainable route in providing defence from sea attack.

  69.  Adopting a risk aware approach does not mean retention of the status quo prior to 11 September. The threat is now more credible, and indeed expanded by the adoption of novel asymmetric means, demanding a review of the three functional areas associated with countering the threat in the maritime environment:

    —  Awareness—to provide cueing or warning;

    —  Presence—to deter;

    —  Interdiction/Assault—to address or limit the effect of the threat.

  70.  Awareness: * * *

  * * * an essential element of maritime awareness is timely intelligence to cue Maritime interdiction operation (by both MoD and other agencies). * * * * * * * * *

  71.  Presence: No military patrol is maintained specifically to achieve counter-terrorism deterrence. The inherent flexibility of warships enables them to deploy, at short notice, the requisite capabilities in support of maritime interdiction. To that extent presence, by default, is proffered by all RN operational warships on passage, exercise, training or indeed operating for separate purposes (for example fisheries protection duties) in UK home waters. Inevitably there will be periods of reduced Fleet activity in UK waters. Accordingly a Fleet Ready Escort (FRE) is maintained throughout the year against such contingent tasking. * * * * * * In all of this it should not be forgotten that RAF and RN aircraft operating or exercising over UK home waters also provide a measure of presence, as do maritime units of other government agencies.

  72.  Interdiction/Assault: Following 11 September the shift in the nature of the threat has led to the need to adjust plans to counter terrorist activity in the maritime environment * * * That said, the current MCT set of naval, air, army * * * proven adaptable to dealing with a terrorist ship as a weapon. * * * * * *

  73.  Lessons identified from the ship interception in December are now informing the review of contingency plans to ensure that Maritime Counter Terrorist procedures remain flexible and adaptable enough to meet the threat. This work is also contributing to work on the SDR New Chapter.


  74.  The future role of the armed forces in managing the results of a terrorist attack is under consideration in the context of the SDR New Chapter, and it is too early to state the outcome of that review. The baseline for armed forces' involvement remains, however, the need to apply appropriate skills to the problems that would emerge from an attack (for instance) on the scale of that of 11 September. The police, fire, ambulance, and health services will play a significant role in managing casualties, and the public order and public safety issues arising from an attack. A wide range of agencies, including local government, utilities and transport authorities, and even private corporations and businesses, would also become involved. In this context, a member of the armed forces with NBC training and equipment would not be as valuable as an appropriately equipped and trained policeman, doctor, nurse, paramedic or fire-fighter. It would clearly be wrong for us to attempt to duplicate their roles or to divert precious resources away from other high priority agencies and departments.

  75.  Current planning is based on recognition of these factors. The fundamental principle for dealing with all major incidents is that the responsibility, both financial and operational, for dealing with civil emergencies will always lie with the civil authorities. The armed forces, if involved, will therefore only deploy in a supporting capacity. Any such military deployment will be undertaken as one of the various forms of MACA.

  76.  There are of course some advantages the armed forces can bring in to play. They are a disciplined, national force with an established and flexible nationwide command and control structure whose availability is not affected by industrial action. Indeed, MACA is provided because the organisation, skills, equipment and training of the armed forces might be of benefit in time of emergency to fill gaps in the capabilities of civil structures.

  77.  Nonetheless, there are limited resources available at short notice for MACA tasks, and in the event of a major incident, the military can only deploy on an availability basis. The requesting authority should state what task needs to be performed, leaving the MoD to determine whether a military capability exists to perform the task and how it can best be provided. As the foot and mouth crisis amply demonstrated, in many areas civil resources exist on a scale which vastly exceeds the resources available within the armed forces (and this is, perhaps, particularly true of those resources necessary for recovery from a terrorist attack). The key issue can therefore become the ability of the wider range of authorities involved in mobilising these civil resources in their support. In general we would expect assistance to take the form of the provision of specialist equipment (with or without its operators), or the conduct of specific activities for which the armed forces are specifically trained, such as logistics support, communications and planning and management. We would not, however, rule out any request in advance.

  78.  The legal authority for the use of Servicemen on these tasks is based on three principles:

    —  the deployment of the armed forces is the preserve of the Royal Prerogative. The Prerogative is vested in Defence Ministers;

    —  there is a Common Law duty for every citizen, Servicemen included, to go to the aid of the police when requested to assist in the enforcement of law and order;

    —  Queens Regulations lay an additional duty on military commanders to act on their own responsibility without a request by the Civil Power where, in very exceptional circumstances, a grave and sudden emergency has arisen which, in the opinion of the Commander, demands his immediate intervention to protect life or property.

  79.  But the following points should also be noted:

    —  every member of the armed forces, including military commanders, are, in all cases, answerable before the law for his or her actions and must be guided by the requirement to respond to any particular situation with the minimum force reasonable under the circumstances. It may even be decided that military intervention is unwarranted;

    —  servicemen have no special legal powers beyond those of the ordinary citizen. Hence, Servicemen may use reasonable force to prevent crime, including in self-defence but servicemen will not normally attempt to arrest a civilian unless there is no other option;

    —  the Ministry of Defence has a responsibility of care for the members of the armed forces. The armed forces are trained to undertake particular, dangerous, military tasks, and many are trained to work in, particular, dangerous environments. This does not, however, mean that they are more expendable than ordinary members of the public, or that they should be instructed to undertake tasks for which they are not properly equipped or trained, especially where alternative capabilities are available.

  80.  This means that the decision to deploy the armed forces in any particular set of circumstances needs to be carefully assessed, balancing the various factors. This assessment generally takes place at strategic level, on advice from the operational level of the command structure. Decisions require Ministerial approval except where life is immediately at risk.

  81.  When considering a request, MoD is guided by the following principles:

    —  that the Civil Power has demonstrated that the use of mutual aid, other agencies and the private sector is impossible or unsuitable, and that MoD assistance is being sought as a last resort, or

    —  that the Civil Power lacks the required level of capability and it is unrealistic to expect it to develop one, or

    —  that the Civil Power has a capability, but the need to act is urgent and there is an immediate lack of Civil Power resources.

  82.  In particular, armed forces' involvement in the maintenance of public order, other than through the provision of particular supporting capabilities as outlined in earlier sections of this Memorandum, would only take place in exceptional circumstances, and remains contentious.


  83.  As the above would suggest, the important element in the national response to the threat from international terrorism, including the response to the consequences of a successful attack, is the wider national response, bringing civil resources available to bear on the problem. This wider response is outside the remit of this Memorandum and does not fall to MoD to develop or co-ordinate. The MoD maintains very close ties with all other Departments, Agencies and units responsible for the response to a terrorist incident and is conducted at all levels from political to official. This wide-ranging contact enables a greater understanding of each others' capabilities and allows a faster, more efficient response to crises as they arise.

  84.  Strategic level liaison has been described in the introduction to this Memorandum. At a regional level, MoD Joint Contingency Planning and liaison with the relevant emergency services and local authorities is the responsibility of the Army Regional Brigade Commander. He fulfils his liaison responsibilities through a Joint Services Coordination Group, which meets regularly to consider issues relating to emergency planning and the provision of military assistance (from all three Services) to the civil authorities. This group includes representations from members of the following organisations:

    —  The Army Regional Brigade

    —  The Royal Air Force (Regional Liaison Officer)

    —  The Royal Navy

    —  The Fire Service

    —  The Police

    —  Local Authorities (emergency planning teams)

  85.  In general, the Armed Forces do not carry out specific training to prepare troops for MACA tasks. Headquarters and units involved in specific national counter-terrorist contingency plans conduct joint training with the police and exercise frequently on MoD and Home Office sponsored counter terrorist exercises.

  86.  In particular, counter-terrorist contingency plans are tested at three levels. There are regular police sponsored "tabletop" exercises that involve representatives from Government Departments in developing and practising the operational response to terrorist incidents. This includes participation by relevant military headquarters. Secondly, exercises are planned and run by the Home Office to test major operations up to the police incident commander level. These include inter agency participation as well as elements of those units involved in military action.

  87.  Last but not least, an exercise takes place annually involving the entire Whitehall crisis management machinery and relevant armed forces units and civil capabilities.

  * * *

  * * *

  89.  Military participation in local authority based civil emergency response training is also possible, but it remains at the discretion of local commanders, where:

    —  participation does not place an excessive financial burden on the Unit.

    —  military skills can be exercised (consistent with the armed forces' involvement in a civil contingency).

    —  participation will not penalise other military training.

    —  military involvement is focused on developing and rehearsing joint military/civil procedures.

  90.  The MoD has provided support to improvements in the capability of the police to deal with terrorism. Joint initiatives with the Police Service have led to the establishment of a Police National Search Centre (established some time ago) and the more recently formed Police National CBRN Centre of Excellence at the Defence NBC Centre Winterborne Gunner (where police training has also taken place). These organisations draw on the expertise, experience and facilities that exist within the MoD to better prepare Police forces to deal with crime and more specifically terrorism. They are co located with the MoD's own centres of excellence in these areas and thus are of considerable benefit in developing mutual understanding and common procedures between both parties.

  91.  In response to the events of 11 September the MoD has sought to provide further assistance whenever it has been able. As we have made clear above, armed forces' Explosive Ordnance Disposal experts were instrumental in assisting Police in dealing with the initial surge of Anthrax scares around the country. The MoD has provided emergency training to Police officers to enable them to operate in a CBRN environment, and thus deal with the significant number of highly disruptive incidents. Finally the MoD has given logistic support to the Police service to allow them to continue the level of activity demanded by events. This included the provision of additional protective and detection equipment.


  92.  In common with other aspects of the response to terrorism, lead responsibility for public information rests outside the Ministry of Defence. The MOD is generally responsible only for providing briefing on the role and activities of any deployed military units, including any Reservists. Media support can be provided, and during the recent Foot and Mouth epidemic, for example, the MoD provided Press Office support to MAFF Headquarters (latterly DEFRA), and also attached Media Operations personnel to military teams deployed to support MAFF in the regions.

  93.  More importantly there is a clear recognition that, during an incident, its aftermath, or even at time of higher tension there is a need to co-ordinate information passed to the public, to ensure that it is clear, accurate, consistent and relevant. Provision of information is therefore managed centrally, by a News Co-ordination Centre operated by the Cabinet Office, which forms an element of the command and control structure.


  94.  The importance of maintaining public confidence in the ability of the government as a whole to respond to the terrorist threat, including the effectiveness of the MOD contribution, is also recognised. This must, however, be balanced against the need to ensure that operational security is maintained. The nature of terrorist attacks, which can be specific as well as indiscriminate, means that public knowledge of particular procedures, locations, plans and even individuals can make them vulnerable. And whilst particular elements of the whole can be replaced, clearly any information on key elements of the response would be of value to terrorist groups. The need to keep much information concerning the government's response to terrorism out of the public domain is therefore regrettable—since that information would contribute to public confidence—but it is unavoidable. We can be clear, however, that this response is wide-ranging, is designed to bring every facet of government (including the Ministry of Defence) to bear on this insidious and evil threat.

1   The Reserve Forces Act 1980, where still extant; The Reserve Forces Act 1996; The Reserve Forces (Safeguard of Employment) Act 1985 (currently the responsibility of SofS, DTI); The Reserve and Auxiliary Forces (Protection of Civil Interests) Act 1951; From each of these secondary legislation in the form of statutory instruments has been enacted. Back

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