Select Committee on Defence Sixth Report


Producing the New Chapter

1.  We concluded in December 2001 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 for the New Chapter work 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". We see little reason to revise that judgement. (Paragraph 46)

2.  The discussion paper of February 2002 did not 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. (Paragraph 50)

3.  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. (Paragraph 57)

4.  We conclude 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. (Paragraph 59)

Policy Framework

5.  The New Chapter represents a relatively modest development of policy, potentially one so modest that it will not require any change to doctrine. Other concepts, however, may be more significant. One of these is asymmetry, not a new concept but one upon which a striking new light was thrown by the events of 11 September. (Paragraph 66)

6.  We regret that the document Joint Vision is classified, given its key role in setting out the MoD's understanding of the nature of asymmetry. In the context of the war on terrorism, which involves a great many other agencies and outside bodies, its necessarily restricted circulation may reduce its effectiveness in disseminating the Armed Forces' understanding of the conceptual basis of the war on terror and how they see their part in it. (Paragraph 68)

Home versus Away

7.  That "significant place" for the task of home defence and security translates in the New Chapter only into measures to improve liaison between the civil and military authorities with what is described as a "clearer role" for Headquarters, Commander-in-Chief, Land Forces, as the principal focus for the provision of military assistance to civil authorities, joint regional liaison officers, and more staff in regional Brigade regions. However, in respect of military assistance to the civil authorities the New Chapter does not contemplate a greater role for the regular Armed Forces. Rather, it concludes that "there is a greater role for the reserves to play". The SDR New Chapter's assessment of the balance between home and away operations is qualified by the fact that the consultation period on the MoD's proposals for a role for the Reserves in home defence extended beyond the publication of the New Chapter in July 2002. What has emerged therefore has the character of a steady and rather modest evolution of the doctrine of fighting at distance that was explicitly articulated in the original SDR. (Paragraph 72)

8.  We welcome the establishment of the Civil Contingency Reaction Forces, but remain concerned that the present approach to their deployment runs the risk of developing a capability which will then not be used other than when all regular resources are already committed and that this may in turn have a damaging effect on the morale of those who have volunteered and trained for the new CCRFs. (Paragraph 78)

9.  We regret that the MoD has not taken the opportunity afforded by the New Chapter process to think more innovatively about supporting home defence. We are also concerned that only an interim communications system will be available for their first three years. We do not believe that the MoD has adequately established the appropriate balance between operations at home and away, an issue that we believe is at the centre of the New Chapter process. (Paragraph 79)

10.  If the CCRFs are to be the predictable element for the civil authorities (even if the regulars are likely to be the first to be called upon), the concerns we raised in our Defence and Security in the UK report remain valid. The MoD's list of possible tasks for the Reaction Forces includes "reconnaissance, assistance with mass casualties, site search and clearance, transport and communications, the operation of water and feeding points, control and co-ordination functions, access control, the control of movement of large numbers of the public, guarding or other tasks at the request of the civil police". Some of these clearly require more specialist skills and training than others. We are concerned that accurate data on the numbers recruited, their skills and their availability for call out are still to be provided. (Paragraph 85)

11.  We are also concerned that too little thought has gone into the implications of the establishment of the CCRFs in each region for the normal activities of the volunteer Reserve nationally. (Paragraph 86)

12.  We seek assurances from the MoD in their reply to this report that the Fit For Role figures for the CCRF elements in each brigade region will not be the same as for the volunteer Reserves as a whole. (Paragraph 86)

13.  Overall, we have seen little evidence that the MoD has taken seriously the need to rethink the capacity of the Armed Forces to provide predictable support to the task of home defence in the event of a mass-effect terrorist attack in the UK. (Paragraph 87)

The War on Terror and Military Transformation

14.  For the UK the key challenge raised by the revolution in military affairs is to monitor accurately how the process is altering the structure and operations of US forces, since they serve as the prototype for all the technical trends in new methods of warfare. The MoD also has to assess the advantages and disadvantages that the UK possesses in these regards and balance them against what is firstly feasible and affordable in the evolution of UK forces for the future, and secondly is consistent with the principles set out in the SDR New Chapter (Paragraph 91)

15.  We believe that the doctrinal basis for embracing network enabling technologies needs to be rigorous and clearly understood if the benefits of the network are to be realised by the UK Armed Forces. (Paragraph 97)

16.  We are concerned at the risks created by the potential vulnerabilities of "transformed" military forces and that they may act as a constraint on progress towards realising the full benefits of network-enabled capability. However, in the face of such vulnerabilities, the UK's cautious approach has potential advantages. (Paragraph 101)

17.  We accept that the UK now has a reasonably efficient structure to develop and embed doctrines at the various appropriate levels, and translate them into training regimes. We are still concerned, however, that the political and technical novelty of the developments the Secretary of State has outlined, and which other witnesses have elaborated, have taken some time to be addressed in a doctrinal context. Relevant work is clearly underway, but so are the evolving tactics of potential terrorists and those who would employ asymmetric tactics against the UK and our Armed Forces. (Paragraph 105)

Equipment and Force Structures

18.  The MoD's declared determination to "make sure we really do keep our forces equipped with the most up-to-date technology" does not sit with the lack of urgency in acquiring an effective networked UAV capability. The Secretary of State told us that: "What we want to ensure is that the next generation [of UAVs] available to the United Kingdom provides us with useful capabilities at the best price for the British taxpayer". It is surely not too much to hope that an effective capability will be available to the Armed Forces of this generation of taxpayers. (Paragraph 112)

19.  The Committee has seen little evidence of the urgency that the MoD has claimed to be devoting to acquiring new capabilities and embracing new technologies—it appears so far at least that pragmatic decision-making is also slow decision-making. (Paragraph 113)

20.  It remains to be seen whether present equipment programmes, and the pragmatic adjustments that the MoD is still considering, will be sufficient to allow UK Armed Forces to fulfil the realistic but demanding scenarios which will be most relevant in our military relationship with the United States. (Paragraph 114)

21.  The MoD has not addressed the risk of over-commitment leading to over-stretch in the New Chapter. The Committee believes that these issues need to be urgently considered by the MoD in an open and inclusive manner. (Paragraph 123)

22.  On the basis of the evidence, we remain to be convinced that implementing the New Chapter will not put further strain on the UK's Armed Forces, particularly in those branches that serve as "key enablers" to greater combat effectiveness in an era of rapid technological transformation. (Paragraph 126)

The New Chapter and the Spending Review

23.  The link between the Spending Review and the New Chapter remains unclear. The MoD has yet to set out how the significant increase in the capital budget will be used to reshape the MoD's equipment and infrastructure to reflect the capabilities highlighted in the New Chapter, or indeed to what extent the Spending Review addresses such new requirements rather than rectifying existing and long-standing deficiencies. (Paragraph 129)

24.  We expect the MoD to set out—in its response to this report, or at the latest in the forthcoming White Paper—how the Spending Review settlement will be utilised to secure New Chapter and other capabilities, to address existing strains on Armed Forces personnel and to enable the tempo of operations implied by the New Chapter. (Paragraph 129)

Policy versus Practicality

25.  We are not persuaded that the robustness of the original SDR is the reason for the modest practical changes to date. We have the impression that too often the practical implications of the policy developments set out in the New Chapter have not been properly thought through. To date virtually all the equipment programmes which have been linked with the New Chapter have been existing programmes, which in a few cases the department has said are being accelerated. We are concerned that this suggests the policy making process and the ability to deliver the implementation of that process quickly enough are out of step with each other, or that the MoD has scaled back its practical ambition from the vision set out by the early stages of the New Chapter work. (Paragraph 132)

New Warfare and the Allies

26.  The level of consultation with allies during the New Chapter work may be regarded as something less than close interaction since the discussion document of 14 February was produced for general public, rather than detailed private, discussion. (Paragraph 134)

27.  The Government should recognise the potential impact it can have both in providing a model of efficient US-UK technical and doctrinal co-operation, and in helping influence other European allies to embrace the implications of new trends in warfare. We are not so far convinced that the MoD appreciates the potential implications of this role, or is yet prepared for the efforts it would require. (Paragraph 136)

Legal Aspects

28.  We welcome the MoD's assurances that UK military operations will always be conducted in accordance with international law. It is of fundamental importance that our Armed Forces can be confident, whenever we call upon them, that they are operating on the basis of, and within, applicable international law. (Paragraph 142)

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