Select Committee on Defence Sixth Report

3  The New Chapter White Paper

17.  In this section we set out the principal elements of the New Chapter White Paper in order to provide the context for our subsequent discussion of how it was drawn up and the conclusions it reached.

18.  The New Chapter should be seen not only as an immediate and necessary response to terrible events, but also as part of a continuing process of defence policy review and publication by the MoD. Its starting point was that the original SDR had not fully contemplated the scale of asymmetric threats that emerged on 11 September 2001 and so another look at the UK's defence posture and plans was required. Its focus was—according to the Secretary of State—on "the way we want to use our forces against a determined, mobile, often disparate, and elusive enemy".[33]

19.  At the same time the MoD continued to maintain that the SDR provided a firm foundation on which to build. Thus, one purpose of the work on the New Chapter was to check the conclusions of the SDR against lessons learnt not only from the events of 11 September, but also from campaigns such as Kosovo and, as it turned out, Afghanistan. It was also designed to contribute to the wider effort across government to develop a strategy to eliminate terrorism as "a force for change in international affairs".[34]

20.  The New Chapter concluded that it was better to engage the enemy, where possible, at longer range (i.e. away from the UK itself) and therefore that the UK needed to have significant forces ready to deploy overseas to act against terrorist groups and regimes that harboured them. Military force could be used to "prevent, deter, coerce, disrupt or destroy" opponents.[35] To achieve these objectives, UK forces should aim for "knowledge superiority" over international terrorists.[36] Particular UK strengths were identified both in find-and-strike operations and in prevention and stabilisation operations. The former were identified as requiring high-intensity war fighting capacity and decision-making structures to enable forces to act rapidly and decisively. For stabilisation operations, a particular UK strength was identified as being in the early, more demanding stages of operations, such as in leading the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and in Operation Essential Harvest in Macedonia.

21.  In discussing the need for deterrent capability, the New Chapter argued that the UK needed to be able to deter not only any use of weapons of mass destruction against the UK, its interests or her allies, but also any attacks that caused (or intended) mass casualties, or grave damage to the economy, the environment, government or fabric of society.[37]

22.  Britain's nuclear weapons were identified as having a continuing use as a means of deterring a major strategic military threat and in guaranteeing the ultimate security of the UK, but at the same time all UK Armed Forces could be expected to contribute in different ways to the full spectrum of deterrence. The New Chapter did not announce in advance how Britain might respond to particular threats but merely stated that the response would be appropriate and proportionate—"It should be clear that legally the right to self defence includes the possibility of action in the face of an imminent attack".[38]

23.  The New Chapter argued that the trend towards expeditionary operations would become even more pronounced. Furthermore, such operations might not be limited to the core geographical regions identified by the original SDR (i.e. Europe, the Gulf and the Mediterranean). UK forces would need to be ready to engage "further afield more often than perhaps we had previously assumed".[39]

24.  It also reaffirmed the SDR's conclusion that in most cases the UK's Armed Forces would be working alongside allies, often with the US in the lead—

    Our ability to operate alongside the United States and other allies, especially in Europe, will be essential to our future success.[40]

It noted, however, that local infrastructure (otherwise known as Host Nation Support) might not always be available. Thus, operations might become more frequent, often with smaller, but possibly simultaneous deployments placing an increasing strain on "enabling assets" such as deployable headquarters, communications and logistic support. This has been called the challenge of concurrency.[41]

25.   The analysis in the New Chapter also highlighted the importance of what it called "network­centric capability"—that is precision weapons and information technologies linked together to produce military effect at a qualitatively higher tempo, and often using smaller force structures than in the past. The three critical elements required to deliver this "military effect" were sensors, a network, and strike assets. Exploited to the full, these elements could provide a "common understanding among commanders at all levels" which in turn had the potential to offer: greater precision in the control of operations, greater precision in the application of force, greater rapidity of effect, and better force protection.[42]

26.  This capability was identified as being particularly important in operations to counter terrorism overseas. But its implementation would depend on the effectiveness of a number of advanced technologies. In this regard the New Chapter stated "we will accelerate and want to increase our investment in network-centric capabilities"[43] and identified areas in which investment had already begun, including airborne surveillance, communication systems, unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), and precision munitions. UAVs in particular were identified as a key element in improving operational effectiveness and the New Chapter announced the establishment of a joint UAV operational development unit. It also stated that the two consortia to work on the development of the Watchkeeper UAV project would be announced "next month" (i.e. August 2002) with practical experimentation to "begin in the first part of next year".[44] In the future, the New Chapter argued, it would be "specific effects",[45] not simply platform numbers and people, which would be critical.

27.  The New Chapter also acknowledged that Britain's service men and women had been "working at or near, and in some cases beyond, the boundaries of what was planned in the SDR for some considerable time now". It emphasised that they should not now simply be asked to do even more.[46] Admitting that fully manned and sustainable force structures were proving elusive, the New Chapter identified individuals in certain of the most heavily used specialisms as critical for the success of its approach. It noted that increasing use of civilians and contractors in operational deployments was to be expected.

28.  Increasing co-operation with allies was also highlighted with the emphasis on working through international organisations such as the United Nations, NATO and the European Union. Particular mention was made of NATO's work to improve its capacity to deal with weapons of mass destruction, enhance home defence and cooperate with other agencies and organisations.

29.  In discussing home defence and security, the New Chapter acknowledged that the SDR's assessment that there was no direct military threat to the UK needed to be readjusted in light of the events of 11 September, although it emphasised the lead role of the Home Office in counter-terrorism. In a continuation of the arguments in favour of fighting the enemy at distance, the New Chapter argued that "operations overseas are often the best form of home defence" and that threats at home must not be allowed to tie up significant numbers of the Armed Forces.[47]

30.  Nevertheless the New Chapter proposed a number of changes in how the regular and reserve forces support the civil authorities, including: a "clearer role" for the HQ Commander-in-Chief, Land Forces as the principal focus for the provision of military assistance to the civil authorities; joint regional liaison officers as single points of contact for civil authorities; more staff in regional Brigade Headquarters for contingency planning and emergencies; and the formalisation of 2 Signal Brigade's role in providing a deployable national communications infrastructure, compatible with systems entering service with the civil police and emergency services.[48]

31.  In light of the emergence of suicide hijackers being prepared to use civil aircraft to attack city centres, the New Chapter also highlighted the need to refine the UK's air defence arrangements, and specifically to adjust the provision and basing of Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) aircraft. In addition to enhancing existing radar systems, facilities would be upgraded at three airfields for QRA purposes, with most of the work to be completed within 12 months. Adjustments, as appropriate, would also be made to counter ship-borne threats. [49]

32.  The New Chapter proposed an enhanced role for the Reserves Forces in home defence and security (i.e. aiding the civil authorities in handling major incidents), through the creation of Reaction Forces (subsequently renamed Civil Contingency Reaction Forces, or CCRFs) of 500 reservists in each of the brigade districts of Britain, with an "initial reaction forces capability in place before the end of the year [2002] and then to build up to full capacity as soon as possible".[50] The details would be agreed once a concurrent discussion process with interested parties had been completed in September 2002, but the intention was to be able eventually to deploy some 6,000 personnel nationwide.

33.  The 2002 Spending Review (which was announced the same week as the publication of the New Chapter), provided that the annual Defence Budget would rise by £3.5 billion between 2002-03 and 2005-06 (£1.1 billion in real terms). The New Chapter stated—"Within this is some £1 billion of new capital and £½ billion of new resources for the equipment and capabilities needed to respond to the additional challenges".[51] This, the Secretary of State said, provided—"a mandate for accelerating the modernisation and evolution of the Armed Forces".[52]

34.  The New Chapter concluded by noting that operationally, the Armed Forces had deployed on more operations concurrently than had been envisaged by the original SDR, risking overburdening particular units, such as key enablers (i.e. those working in key specialisms such as communications, engineering and logistics) for expeditionary deployments, although the scale of these deployments has in some respects been smaller than envisaged by the SDR.

35.  The capability requirements that flowed from the New Chapter were judged to be consistent with other likely demands on UK Armed Forces and so should be seen as enhancing the existing rapid reaction forces, rather than as dedicated counter-terrorism capabilities.[53]

    While some enhancements to SDR military capabilities are needed, the scale of operations to counter terrorism is unlikely to be large, so only relatively small quantities of the new specialised equipment are likely to be needed.[54]

36.  The New Chapter raised, but did not answer, the question of how its conclusions might affect the balance between frontline combat capability and support (or enabling) capability in terms of both personnel and equipment. The Secretary of State merely noted that "some adjustments…to rebalance our force structure" will probably be required.[55]

33   HC Deb, 18 July 2002, col 460. Back

34   SDR NC Vol 1, para 5. Back

35   SDR NC Vol 1, para 11. Back

36   See chart on the MoD's conceptual approach to countering terrorism in Chapter 5 below. Back

37   SDR NC Vol 1, para 21.  Back

38   SDR NC Vol 1, para 22. Back

39   SDR NC Vol 1, para 26.  Back

40   HC Deb, 18 July 2002, col 461. Back

41   See Chapter 7 on equipment and force structures below. Back

42   SDR NC Vol 1, p.15. Back

43   SDR NC Vol 1, page 15, para 38. Back

44   SDR NC Vol 1, para 48. Back

45   SDR NC Vol 1, para 41. Back

46   SDR NC Vol 1, para 61. Back

47   SDR NC Vol 1, para 77. Back

48   SDR NC Vol 1, paras 79 and 80. Back

49   SDR NC Vol 1, paras 86 and 87. Back

50   SDR NC Vol 1, para 83. Back

51   SDR NC Vol 1, para 89. Back

52   HC Deb, 18 July 2002, col 461. Back

53   SDR NC Vol 1, para 92. Back

54   SDR NC Vol 1, para 93. Back

55   HC Deb, 18 July 2002, col 463. Back

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