Select Committee on Defence Sixth Report

4  Producing the New Chapter

37.  Even before the events of 11 September, a number of studies had been underway, updating aspects of the original SDR. As well as Defence Policy 2001 and the Future Strategic Context of Defence which we discussed above, these included work on Future Shocks by the JDCC, the UK Joint Vision which was published in June 2001, and British Defence Doctrine.[56] However, in these published documents there is only scant discussion of asymmetric threats, virtually none of which is in the context of home defence.

38.  Although a number of terrorist attacks in the mid-1990s had led certain commentators, notably in the United States, to become preoccupied with low-probability high-consequence mass-casualty terrorism, it was the attacks of 11 September 2001 which focused attention on the potential vulnerability of the UK to asymmetric threats. The Secretary of State, as we have noted, was quick to identify these challenges as requiring attention—

    the attack on the United States has brought home to us, with brutal clarity, the question of whether we are doing enough to cope with the full force of the new threats we face. The changes we have made since the Defence Review have made our Armed Forces far more able to deal with these kinds of asymmetric threats. However, it is clear that we must build on what we have already achieved. As a result of the attacks on the United States, we will be looking again at how we organise our defence. This will not be a new Strategic Defence Review—but an opportunity—if necessary—to rebalance our existing efforts. We must have the right concepts, the right levels of forces, and the right capabilities to meet the additional challenges we face from international terrorism conducted on this scale.[57]

As early as 12 September, in an "immediate reaction"[58], the head of the JDCC, Major-General Tony Milton moved to the Ministry of Defence to take charge of a strategic think-tank of staff from the JDCC which operated from 12 September to 5 October, at which point the SDR New Chapter work was formally announced by the Secretary of State.[59]

39.  The work was split into two phases, the first of which ran from October 2001 to January 2002 and sought to establish a policy and conceptual framework, identifying the questions to be answered and the issues to be addressed. This phase concluded with the release of the SDR New Chapter Discussion Paper on 14 February 2002. The second phase which focused on the practical implications for capabilities and resources, continued from February until publication of the New Chapter itself in July 2002.

40.  Four working groups were set up at the start of the process, each under the direction of senior officials or military officers and involving some 150 staff from the MoD and other government departments, including the intelligence agencies, the FCO and the Treasury.[60] The Working Groups (and their heads) were as follows:

    i)  Strategic Issues (Air Vice-Marshal David Hobart, Assistant Chief of Defence Staff, Policy);

    ii)  Overseas Relations and Deterrence (Mr Brian Hawtin, Director General, International Security Policy);

    iii)  Home Defence (Mr Bruce Mann, Director General, Financial Management);

    iv)  Overseas Operations (Phase I: Major-General Tony Milton, Director General Joint Doctrine and Concepts; Phase 2: Major-General Rob Fulton, Capability Manager, Information Superiority).

A variety of secret elements to the work were swept up by what in effect was a fifth working group.[61]

41.  In each of the groups, sub-groups were created as required to tackle particular elements and where the issues had implications across the working groups, these were coordinated centrally.[62] The range of skills brought to the process, we were assured, was impressive.[63] Mr Simon Webb, MoD Policy Director, told us that the conclusions of the first two working groups emerged in the February public discussion document and the rest of the work emerged in the final New Chapter White Paper. An internal report was discussed with ministers and various government departments in late autumn 2001.[64]

42.  Like the original SDR, this New Chapter was intended to draw widely on advice and comment from agencies and advisers outside the Government, and, as far as possible, to be conducted as an open process. At the outset the Secretary of State assured the House—

    Just as the strategic defence review itself benefited from an open and inclusive approach, so will this further work draw fully on wider opinion and expertise…I am determined that the work will be as open and inclusive as it can be.[65]


43.  When the Secretary of State came before us on 28 November 2001, he set out a list of questions which the New Chapter work would need to address—

The Secretary of State described this as a "formidable catalogue of questions".[67]

44.  In his King's College speech on 5 December he set out some of his Department's emerging thinking. He cautioned that a sense of proportion was needed and that the New Chapter was designed to build upon, but not reopen the Strategic Defence Review's assumptions. He then considered to what extent the strategic context had changed following 11 September—

    On the one hand, it could be said that the US national command chain was not seriously threatened and neither was their economy…on the other hand, the US homeland had never before experienced such an external attack…The scale and coordination of the attack on 11 September—and the willingness of educated terrorists to lose their lives—are also major differences from anything we have seen before. The threshold of terrorism has potentially been raised, and the risk of terrorists turning to chemical, biological and radiological means may have increased. Furthermore, it has demonstrated that we cannot dictate the geographic areas where our interests may be engaged. It is clear that there are groups and states that potentially have the reach to act against us, or our allies, in a manner that cannot be ignored…This means that, in future, we may be engaged across a different, and potentially wider canvas than we perhaps envisaged even at the time of the Strategic Defence Review.[68]

45.  Indeed, it might be argued that the extent and duration of operations in Sierra Leone, as well as the deployment to East Timor, had already indicated that the SDR's regional focus might have to be reconsidered. But the implications of an open-ended war on terrorism—particularly one that would address the problems of collapsing and failed states which created the political space for terror and crime networks to operate—suggested that operations elsewhere, such as Central Asia, East Africa, and perhaps the Indian sub-continent, could become necessary.

46.  We concluded at that time that a widening of the SDR's geographical and regional assumptions was likely to have significant implications for UK force structures, scale of effort benchmarks and the future equipment programme at the very least. Taken with the terms of reference set out by the MoD and the list of questions raised by the Secretary of State, this struck us as requiring a more fundamental reappraisal of the SDR than was implied by the phrase "a new chapter".[69] We see little reason to revise that judgement.

47.  On 29 October 2001 the Secretary of State told the House "I would anticipate that we would be ready to publish conclusions in the spring of next year".[70] He told us that "I have set a fairly tight timetable because I do think it is important to conclude this work fairly speedily".[71] He also confirmed that it was his intention to publish an outline, in the early part of 2002 which "would enable people to react without committing ourselves to anything very specific."[72] We welcomed this promised document and the intention of proceeding in as open and inclusive a way as possible. Nonetheless we had some reservations over the practicality of this approach, given that the subject matter included questions over the role of special forces and the potential vulnerabilities of the UK homeland.[73]

The SDR New Chapter Discussion Paper

48.  In February 2002 the MoD published the public discussion paper on the New Chapter with an even longer list of key questions (11) than that put to the Committee.[74] However, despite its title, the paper also clearly indicated the direction in which MoD thinking was going.

49.  In the paper the MoD distinguished between actions to address the symptoms of terrorism and efforts to address the causes. Actions to address the symptoms of terrorism were listed under the headings of "coerce, disrupt and destroy". What they had in common was that each attempted by pre-emptive action to prevent an attack being launched. Actions to address the causes of terrorism came in two parts. Firstly there were efforts to prevent the conditions which allowed international terrorist organisations to develop. These included peace support operations in fragile states or regions and assistance with building up the capacity of states to act against international terrorists in their own country. Secondly there were steps that could be taken to—

    deter would-be attackers by making sure that international terrorist groups and those that actively sponsor or harbour them, are aware of our capability, readiness and willingness to act against them.[75]

Also included in this were efforts to deter and prevent the proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons and devices.

50.  What these actions all had in common, whether they were to address the causes or the symptoms, was that they would be taken overseas. In other words the principal role of the Armed Forces was clearly still seen as being to participate in operations and tasks abroad, while by contrast "whatever its source, terrorist activity within the UK is criminal activity. The operational lead rests, in most cases, with the police".[76] As we observed in our report on Defence and Security in the UK, over the years since the end of the Cold War, there has been a significant shift in the Government's interpretation of how the Armed Forces should discharge their fundamental responsibility for the defence of the realm. This has occurred in response both to the changing nature of the military threat to the UK and to developments in the understanding of where the Armed Forces could most effectively make a contribution to the security of the UK. [77] The discussion paper did not, however, clarify the MoD's understanding of asymmetry and specifically how it related to existing doctrine. Similarly it left unclear how operations against asymmetric tactics might, in practice, be conducted.

The Consultation Process

51.  At an invited seminar in Birmingham to discuss the SDR New Chapter in late February 2002, some of the emerging conclusions were aired with representatives of other government departments, opposition parties, the Muslim community, NGOs and the police, as well as academics.[78] It was attended by the Secretary of State, the Permanent Under Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Staff.[79] Although this event was the only one of its type undertaken during the consultation, it did provide an opportunity for the MoD to test out its thinking. This has been carried out more thoroughly by other departments such as DFID, who have carried out regional consultations in conjunction with the publication of recent White Papers; the MoD could learn from their example.

52.  The Secretary of State told us—

    One of the things that we were keen to do was emulate the consultation process that had taken place during the SDR and I think we were able to do that…Whilst I believe that we could use more outside expertise to build up the picture and…to contribute to these kinds of discussions…I was still very pleased at the willingness of people to give evidence…[80]

In the event the discussion paper elicited 252 responses.[81] Whether the discussion paper and the seminar in Birmingham together constituted wide consultation outside government, as the MoD claimed,[82] remains questionable, although clearly an attempt was made.

53.  The consultation process, however, was never intended to match the efforts made under the original SDR. As the Policy Director told us—

    we had a consultation phase during the New Chapter which was somewhat different in style from the way consultation was done in the SDR…It was just different.[83]

The Birmingham seminar, for example, with its select invitation list and limited distribution of its conclusions was very different from the process undertaken in the original SDR.[84]

54.  In May 2002, following the end of the consultation period, in a speech at the National Liberal Club the Secretary of State indicated much of what was to emerge in the New Chapter White Paper. He emphasised though that the publication of that White Paper would not be the end of the process.[85] The three key themes of his speech were the balance between addressing the causes as against the symptoms of terrorism; the balance of the defence role in protecting the home and contributing to operations overseas; and the balance between operations to disrupt potential threats and those to stabilise conflict zones. On capabilities, the Secretary of State set out some preliminary thinking on the centrality of networked capabilities for future defence planning and the need for what he called, effects-based thinking.[86]

55.  The drafting of the New Chapter was thus almost complete, although in the central area of planning for the use of reservists in homeland defence, the MoD decided to embark on a separate consultation process whose deadline was 13 September, well after the planned, and indeed actual, publication of the New Chapter.

56.  The discussion document: A New Chapter to the Strategic Defence Review: The Role of the Reserves in Home Defence and Security was published on 12 June.[87] In setting the context for its proposals, the MoD stated—

    A key issue is how to strike the right balance between the defence role in helping to protect the UK, and contributing to operations against international terrorism and other asymmetric threats overseas.[88]

Although it seemed odd to us that the New Chapter would reach conclusions on that issue while the MoD's proposals for the use of the reserves for home defence were still under consultation, the Policy Director saw no logical flaw in this order—

    First of all we needed to think before we asked people to come and give their time as reservists to the issue…We needed to talk about what we were going to do before we talked to the reserve community about whether they would do it…reservists are most available to be consulted during the summer…so we actually timed the consultation for that to run over the summer period.[89]

Curiously, in February the Secretary of State had told the House that consulting with reservists and their employers was scheduled for "the coming weeks".[90]

57.  We understand the arguments for consulting reservists during their summer camps, although we doubt whether it was essential to do so. What is surprising is that the MoD had apparently not considered these arguments when the timetable for the New Chapter work was originally planned. The result has been to undermine the coherence of the process and to contribute to an overall impression that this work has in practice lost out to other MoD priorities. We believe that the two strands could have been better co-ordinated. Given the importance of the issues—which was demonstrated by the early energy and commitment to the process by the MoD—it is surprising that some of the momentum appeared to have been lost in the later stages.

58.  Ministers and MoD officials also emphasised that publication of the New Chapter was not the end of the work they had set in hand. They pointed to the planned Defence White Paper of 2003 as a next stage in the evolution of policy. The Secretary of State told us in March 2003 that—

    Publication of the New Chapter White Paper was the start and not the conclusion of this exercise. We always intended to use the Department's normal planning process to determine exactly how best to allocate additional resources from Spending Review 2002…The planning process is in full swing and will continue for some time. My aim…is to reach decisions and present them in the next general Defence White Paper. I had hoped to publish this before the summer recess but, realistically in light of the current situation, I now envisage that it will appear in the Autumn.[91]

59.  We conclude from this that the MoD is now engaged in a continuing process of reviewing defence policy, but believe it should be accompanied by appropriate consultation beyond the department. We expect to see the consequent developments in policy translated into practical results for the Armed Forces.

56   Q 545 and 564. Back

57   Geoffrey Hoon, speech to Labour Party conference, 2 October 2001. Back

58   Q 568 Back

59   Q 564  Back

60   Q 27 and Ev 8 Back

61   Qq 14, 15 Back

62   Ev 8 Back

63   Q 1 Back

64   Q 27 Back

65   HC Deb, 4 October 2001, col 809-810. Back

66   HC (2001-02) 348-II, Q 261. Back

67   IbidBack

68   Geoffrey Hoon speech at King's College, 5 December 2001. Back

69   HC (2001-02) 348-I, para 101. Back

70   HC Deb, 29 October 2001, col 613. Back

71   HC (2001-02) 348-II,Q 369. Back

72   HC (2001-02) 348-II,Q 371. Back

73   HC (2001-02) 348-I, para 136. Back

74   Ministry of Defence, The Strategic Defence Review: A New Chapter-Public Discussion Paper, 14 February 2002. Back

75   SDR NC Discussion Paper, para 31. Back

76   HC (2001-02), 518-II, Ev 28. Back

77   HC (2001-02), 518-I, para 25. Back

78   SDR NC Vol 2, para, 73. Back

79   Birmingham Post, 1 March 2002. Back

80   Q 628 Back

81   SDR NC Vol 2, para 77. Back

82   Ev 8  Back

83   Q 627 Back

84   HC (1997-1998)138-I, para 80. Back

85   The New Chapter to the Strategic Defence Review: A Progress Report, Speech by the Secretary of State for Defence to the City Forum, 23 May 2002,


86   Ibid Back

87   Ministry of Defence, A New Chapter to the Strategic Defence Review: The Role of the Reserves in Home Defence and Security-A Discussion Document, 12 June 2002. Back

88   Ibid, para 5.  Back

89   Q 9 Back

90   HC Deb, 14 February 2002, col 341. Back

91   Q 624 Back

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