Select Committee on Defence Sixth Report

9  Conclusion

143.  The original SDR was published more than three years before al Qaeda attacked New York and Washington on 11 September 2001. The world did not stand still in those three years. We are now 20 months on from 11 September and much has changed over that time too.

144.  In the New Chapter the MoD attempted to assess the implications of the threat from international terrorism for the Armed Forces. This was not a new threat but 11 September brought home its reality and urgency in a uniquely dramatic and horrifying manner.

145.  At the same time, however, the MoD emphasised that it was not embarking on a review of the SDR as a whole. The New Chapter was to be exactly that—an addition to existing, still valid, policy in order to address a specific additional threat. In theory at least this appears to be a logical approach. Furthermore any fundamental reappraisal of the SDR itself would have been both hugely more time-consuming and, given that many elements of the SDR are still in the process of implementation, might have seriously disrupted current planning.

146.  But the MoD's chosen approach has made the New Chapter process untidy. Many of the developments in fields as apparently far apart as doctrine and equipment, which are discussed in the New Chapter in the context of counter-terrorist operations, have a wider relevance to other types of military operations. This is particularly true in the complex and rapidly-moving area of Network-Enabled Capability. A policy paper on what these developments mean only in the context of counter-terrorist operation risks appearing perversely narrow in scope. At the very least, by trying to avoid the broader picture, the New Chapter has in fact served to draw attention to the many areas where developments since 1998 are making the SDR look increasingly out of date. We have been told that these gaps will be filled by the Defence Policy White Paper which is to be published this autumn. That, in our view, will be a major challenge, particularly as the lessons from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq will have to be absorbed. We await that publication with interest.

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