Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence

Memorandum from the Ministry of Defence


  1.  This memorandum is provided by the Ministry of Defence as written evidence for the House of Commons Defence Committee Inquiry: The Future of NATO and European Defence. It outlines the Government's policy towards NATO and European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), both in general terms and under the headings of activity, capabilities, partnerships, institutional reform and resources, and also seeks to answer questions asked by the Committee in its letter of 14 May (in italics in the text).


  2.  The Government's vision is of international organisations individually and in partnership being configured, resourced and having the resolve to provide an effective response to current and future security challenges.

(What are the key challenges affecting NATO and how can/should the Alliance change to reflect the new political and strategic realities?)

  3.  We see NATO as the ultimate guarantor of Europe's security and the means for achieving its collective defence. As such, it should be able to respond both politically and militarily to the global risks that Allies face, taking a more expeditionary role to respond to the challenges of the twenty first century.

  4.  The key strategic challenges which NATO must deal with are international terrorism, the proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery, and the instability caused by failed or failing states. Such complex and inter-related threats put a premium on close co-operation and co-ordination between international organisations, and underpin the importance of the transformation of NATO's capabilities and relationships.

  5.  NATO's Comprehensive Political Guidance (CPG), published at the Riga summit in November 2006 (, provides political direction and a 10-15 year framework for NATO's continuing transformation. It recognises that the nature of potential Article 5 operations is continuing to evolve: a large-scale, conventional military threat to the Euro-Atlantic area is unlikely in the foreseeable future; whereas threats to Allies that originate further afield, possibly using asymmetric means, are rising. Against this background, NATO must retain the ability to carry out the full range of missions, from high to low intensity; placing special focus on the most likely operations, but maintaining the ability to conduct the most demanding. In order to do so, NATO needs the capability to launch and sustain concurrent major joint operations and a range of smaller operations for collective defence and crisis response on Alliance territory, at its periphery and at strategic distance. This places an imperative on Allies' ability to develop and acquire flexible, rapidly deployable, expeditionary capabilities.

  6.  Our aim is for the EU to be an effective strategic player in its own right, able to complement NATO's efforts but also able to conduct crisis management operations when NATO is not involved. The EU is unique among regional organisations in being able to apply a full suite of security instruments: military, police, judicial, developmental, economic, political and diplomatic. It should be able to employ military forces that are interoperable with NATO, drawing as necessary on the "Berlin Plus" arrangements that allow it to make use of NATO assets and capabilities. It has proved itself in a number of operations.


  7.  We expect NATO and the EU to conduct well-planned, well-resourced operations, appropriate to their roles and capabilities and on the basis of equitable contributions from Allies and member states that make a positive impact on international security.

(To what extent should there be a division of labour between NATO and ESDP?)

  8.  NATO has a far greater military capability than ESDP. But the range of security instruments that the EU can deploy allows it to add value in different ways. There are thus some types of operation in which one or other of the two has a clear advantage: NATO for more intensive military operations, the EU where the emphasis is on civilian capability. But there are equally a range of peace support operations which could be undertaken by either organisation, or where there is a role for both. In these cases the choice of whether NATO or the EU should lead should be made on a case by case basis, according to the intended objectives and the nations that intend to participate.

(What are the key lessons of NATO's operational deployments for the future of the Alliance?)

  9.  NATO's experience of conducting operations at distance, particularly in Afghanistan, has become a significant driver for change in the Alliance, and underlines the importance of Allies acquiring flexible, rapidly deployable and sustainable expeditionary capabilities. But NATO's experience in Afghanistan and the Balkans has also shown that success cannot be achieved by military means alone: the international community needs to work in a concerted way across many fields—security, reconstruction and development, law and order, and good governance. Whilst NATO does not need to develop civilian capabilities in its own right, it does need a capability to deal with complex political and other interactions inherent in today's crisis management operations management, and to improve its ability to work with other institutions like the UN, the EU, the OSCE, the World Bank and other international and non-government organisations. It should apply this Comprehensive Approach at all stages of an operation, from initial planning to execution. Indeed, it is clear that international institutions collectively need to improve their capacity to work together to deliver comprehensive responses to modern security problems.


  10.  European nations in particular must develop the capabilities they need to make qualitative and quantitative contributions to NATO and the EU. Military capability should preferably be usable by NATO, the EU or ad hoc coalitions, so that European nations can take on an appropriate share of the global security burden. The key priority remains the development of the capability needed to mount, sustain, conduct and recover expeditionary operations. The NATO Response Force (NRF) and EU Battlegroups have been key drivers for improving capabilities. Equally, NATO armaments bodies and the European Defence Agency (EDA) offer Member states and Allies the means to harmonise their requirements and research and technology priorities, to facilitate industrial cooperation and to open up the European equipment market, thereby helping generate valuable efficiencies and ultimately capability improvements for the UK and our partners.

(What more needs to be done by nations to ensure that the Alliance can achieve its aim of being capable of deploying joint forces which are interoperable, sustainable, and deployable to distant theatres?)

(How can the Force Planning Process be streamlined?)

  11.  NATO's CPG provides a framework for continuing transformation and sets out, the priorities for all Alliance capability development and planning to meet the security challenges we face over the next 10 to 15 years. It makes clear that NATO's priority should be on the development of expeditionary capabilities for both Article 5 and non-Article 5 missions, obviating the need for separate or competing investment in static territorial defence infrastructure. If fully implemented across the Alliance it should improve the overall deployability of NATO forces and their ability to be used for a full range of missions.

  12.  The experience of conducting operations at distance, notably in Afghanistan, is a further and equally significant driver for change in the Alliance, including in highlighting key capability requirements. Transformation comes at a cost, and resources need to be rigorously focussed on the priorities set out in the CPG. Nations also need to be clear how NATO's priorities translate into their own defence programmes.

  13.  NATO's military capability and preparedness comes from the sum of each Ally's capability and preparedness, but NATO can support Allies in improving the capability and preparedness of their forces by streamlining the NATO Force Planning Process and encompassing all NATO planning activities

  14.  NATO's current force planning process identifies over a four year cycle the capabilities that would be required for NATO to meet the range of operations and missions that Minsters have agreed it should be capable of. On the basis of information supplied by nations through the Defence Planning Questionnaire, Force Goals are addressed to nations suggesting what capabilities they should develop. But the process is lengthy, complex, time consuming and in some areas unable to keep pace with changes in requirement. It does not encompass all the necessary planning activities in NATO, and is not geared to the vision and planning horizons of the CPG. Reform of the process will inevitably be complex. We consider that a key requirement is to address defence planning across the board, not just force planning, which is but one of several NATO planning disciplines (others include resource planning, logistics, communications and armaments.) These disciplines should be streamlined to avoid duplication, improve coherence and support prioritisation of capability development across the Alliance. The roles and responsibilities of the various NATO bodies, such as the two Strategic Commands, the International Staff and International Military Staff, and the committees responsible for the various planning disciplines should be better defined and streamlined.

  15.  A reform of Alliance defence planning should also consider the following elements:

    —    Differentiation in planning horizons.

    There would be merit in tailoring the defence planning process to deliver improved force generation. Focus in the early years could be on current operations, force generation for the NRF and follow-on forces. The Force Goals addressed to nations could be focused out to two years for operations and four to six years for the NRF. Beyond these timescales the focus should be on longer term capability and technological development. The planning process must be able to respond to changing priorities within the four year cycle.

    —    Coherence of NATO planning processes with national planning processes.

    NATO should consider whether it really needs a "one size fits all" planning process or whether there is scope to make the process more flexible, for example allowing NATO the opportunity to offer advice when there are opportunities to shape national thinking, like at the time of defence reviews.

    —    Coherence with EU planning processes.

    19 nations formally declare forces both to NATO and the EU. Although the scope of operations may be different, both organisations use planning processes and both are moving towards capability planning. Nations need to be able to offer capabilities to both organisations in a similar format, and one which would allow each organisation to make use of this information for its own purposes.

  16.  The NATO Response Force (NRF), which was declared fully operational at Riga, has been at the vanguard of the process of the Alliance developing flexible, rapidly deployable and sustainable forces called for in the CPG. But even its development has not been without its problems, with Allies struggling with the demands to provide the required capabilities. We are working with NATO in reviewing the current basis for forming the NRF, with the aim of making it more sustainable and useable.

(To what extent has the Prague Capabilities Commitment (PCC) been fulfilled and what measures are in place to address the remaining capability gaps?)

  17.  Before the Riga Summit in November 2006 NATO reassessed the PCC initiative. It concluded that it was a valuable initiative which had promoted progress in capability development across the Alliance. There remained, however, a number of areas in which progress had been slow, due in the main to financial or technical difficulties, but which remained important. It was agreed that the future focus of the PCC initiative should be on high priority capability development areas as determined by the Comprehensive Political Guidance; and that nations with outstanding commitments should continue to report on these. Those areas considered to require continued high-level monitoring were CBRN Defence, Information Superiority, Combat Effectiveness, and Deployability and Sustainability, containing a total of 76 individual commitments (from an original total of 465).

  18.  The Spring 2007 Assessment of National Commitments Requiring Further High-Level Attention shows that implementation remains patchy. Most commitments are on track to be implemented as planned, although concerns remain over funding, technical feasibility and a lack of multinational co-operation. At present, two of the remaining commitments are due to be implemented this year, a further eight in 2008, and the remaining 66 beyond 2009.

  19.  In general, the main capabilities sought through the PCC initiative are also being pursued through specific initiatives in the Alliance, such as in the area of strategic airlift, or through the force planning process. High-level attention to these capability needs also continues independently of individual national PCC commitments. Given this, NATO is likely to reconsider before the 2008 Summit the continued high-level monitoring of the PCC initiative

(How can the capabilities of ESDP be improved and what role do EU Battlegroups play in enhancing EU capabilities?)

  20.  The capabilities available to ESDP are to a large extent the same capabilities that are being developed for NATO. The Headline Goal 2010 process provides specific guidance on the types of capability that should be available under ESDP. That process highlights the importance of EU Member States focussing their investment not on replacing legacy fixed infrastructure and assets but instead procuring modern deployable assets.

  21.  EU Battlegroups play an important role as an example of a modern force able to quickly respond to crisis-management operations. They have also acted as a catalyst for transforming some Member States' armed forces from static to expeditionary. In preparing to assume a place in the Battlegroup roster a Member State, or more commonly a group of Member States, have to address a number of enabling capability issues. Each Battlegroup has to be interoperable, deployable and sustainable; this is tested through pre-deployment training to ensure that all of the contributing forces can work together, communicate amongst themselves and to headquarters and are able to deploy into theatre at short notice. For smaller Member States participating in a multinational Battlegroup, operating alongside other nations builds confidence in operating in a multinational force.

(Is the European Defence Agency delivering the comprehensive and systematic support and guidance needed to help EU Member States improve European defence capabilities, meet the capability needs of the ESDP, and achieve the targets of the Headline Goal 2010 initiative?)

  22.  The EDA is providing support and guidance to Member States in improving their defence capabilities, The Headline Goal 2010 process will identify any shortfalls in the EU's ability to meet its operational levels of ambition, but the EDA will have little scope to assist member states in correcting these shortfalls, since most states' plans are relatively fixed in the short term.

  23.  The EDA is therefore now looking to the longer term (2025-30) where there are more opportunities to influence and guide Member States' plans and programmes. This initiative, called the Capability Development Plan (CDP) builds on the work done by the EDA last year in producing a Long Term Vision for future ESDP military capability needs. The CDP aims to use the work produced by the Headline Goal 2010 as a baseline that can be projected into the future, using the trends identified in the Long Term Vision, to assess which capability shortfalls or capability shortfall trends will still be relevant or be of increasing relevance to ESDP operations in 2030. By combining this information with lessons learnt from operations and with Member States' national plans and programmes for future capabilities the EDA will be able to make an informed judgement of the most important capability gaps. The Agency will be then be able to focus their efforts in assisting Member States in addressing these shortfalls in their long term planning, and assist them in aligning requirements to potentially produce joint projects.

(To what extent should European procurement co-operation be enhanced?)

  24.  European states cannot afford to determine our equipment requirements solely on separate national bases, develop them through separate national R&D efforts, and realise them through separate national procurements. This approach is not economically sustainable for any nation outside of USA—and in a world of multinational operations it is operationally unacceptable, too. The United Kingdom sees benefit therefore in achieving consolidation on both sides of the market in Europe: aligning and combining our various needs in shared equipment requirements; and meeting them from an increasingly integrated European Defence Technological and Industrial Base.

  25.  The history of European equipment collaborations is mixed—some have been successful but many have not been, often because they have been less focussed on producing cost-effective equipment and more focussed towards national defence industrial ends. Such a course is ultimately self-defeating; European defence industries will survive only if they can provide top quality goods at competitive prices. When new capabilities are required, it must be consistently borne in mind that the best collaborations start "upstream"—the shared requirements must be achieved at the point where thought is being given to what the new capability will be for, and how it will be used. Attempts to harmonise the technical requirements of independently-conceived platforms are rarely successful.

  26.  Improving the possibility of collaborative programmes being formed and their subsequent success in delivering solutions cost-effectively is the subject of several work-strands. The EDA is using its Capability Development Plan to provide a new springboard for this effort in order to maximise cooperation from the very outset. EDA also has work-strands looking specifically at best practice for cooperative programmes; improving cooperation on defence standards; and at cooperation on specific capability areas. OCCAR (Organisation for Joint Armaments Co-operation) was created with the aim of improving the efficiency and lowering the cost of managing co-operative defence equipment programmes involving European nations. This is making good progress—OCCAR is in the process of establishing a working relationship with the EDA given the expectation that it will be given the role of managing many of the programmes that evolve from the EDA's capability development work.

(What capabilities, other than purely military capabilities, should the EU develop?)

  27.  The Civilian Headline Goal 2008 was established to address the challenges of civilian crisis management and sets out the EU's ambitions for civilian ESDP. It is a similar process to the military Headline Goal 2010 process. The EU has made significant progress in identifying capability shortfalls in all the priority areas: police, rule of law, civilian administration, civil protection, monitoring and support to the EU Special Representatives. A Civilian Capabilities Improvements Plan was adopted in December 2005 which sets out a roadmap for taking the process forward. During 2006 the EU focussed on mission support and establishing rapidly deployable Civilian Response Teams (CRT). CRTs are now deployable with approximately 100 experts having received training. Their expertise covers: civilian police, rule of law, civilian administration, civil protection, monitoring, political affairs and mission support. Some key shortfalls have also been identified, notably of judges and prosecutors, prison personnel, police officers and border police officers. The forthcoming ESDP police and rule of law missions to Kosovo and Afghanistan will need such capabilities. There will be a revised Headline Goal process taken forward under the forthcoming Portuguese presidency. Improvements to the planning and control of civilian missions are also being put in place through the establishment of a Civilian Planning and Conduct Capacity. Although a civilian capacity, it will also draw on the expertise of the EU Military Staff.


  28.  The reality of the current international security situation is that solutions will come through institutions working together and with other nations. NATO and the EU need therefore to improve their ability to work cooperatively together and their ability individually or collectively to work with other nations or institutions like the UN, the African Union and non-governmental organisations that may be engaged in a crisis area. This will require that these institutions each develop the internal structures and processes and external interfaces that will allow them to work cooperatively with others. This is the only way either organisation can deliver a truly Comprehensive Approach on the ground and will also enhance their ability to draw on wider international support.

  29.  The concept of partnership also includes NATO and the EU engaging effectively with other countries where appropriate. We strongly support NATO's open door policy on enlargement. Enlargement is a catalyst for reform and stability in aspirant members and brings benefits to the Alliance: decisions to further enlarge NATO need to be based on aspirants' reform performance, their ability to contribute to Alliance security, and an understanding that they do not result in importing unresolved conflicts to the Alliance.

  30.  It is also vital to engage with nations that do not aspire to join NATO or the EU but which contribute troops and/or civilian capabilities that deploy alongside or as part of EU or NATO operations, and share our aims of promoting security. NATO will continue to develop its networks of partnerships to this end, including with these "contact countries" such as Australia. The decisions taken at Riga will enable both NATO and its partners to get more out of their relationship; with more flexible formats; improved arrangements for dialogue with troop contributing nations; and the opening-up of NATO's current partnership tools to all partners.

(How can NATO and the EU work better together?)

  31.  It is essential to foster strong and effective links between NATO and the EU, respecting the different political identity of each organisation while avoiding unnecessary duplication of capabilities between the two and thereby also minimising the chance that doctrine and procedures will diverge.

  32.  There are standing arrangements agreed for consultation and co-operation between the EU and NATO including the "Berlin Plus" arrangements whereby the EU has guaranteed access to NATO planning capabilities (aimed at avoiding unnecessary duplication) and can use NATO's command and control arrangements for running operations. EU military operations thus fall into two categories, "Berlin Plus" operations using NATO command and control arrangements, like EUFOR ALTHEA in Bosnia, and "autonomous" operations using command and control provided by one or more Member States, like EUFOR DR Congo, or in future through the newly-established EU Operations Centre. And military liaison teams have been established to facilitate coordination between the two organisations.

  33.  But tensions remain in the relationship between the two organisations. While they often co-operate together quite effectively in-theatre (as in Bosnia and in support of the African Union in Sudan/Darfur) the political difficulties can make the institutional process in Brussels more difficult, particularly in respect of information exchange and dialogue outside specific operational areas. Planning is under way for EU policing and rule of law missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan, to run in parallel with NATO missions in both countries. These are likely to require specific arrangements between NATO and the EU. We have aimed to encourage greater flexibility on information exchange at the political level and greater interaction between staffs.

  34.  But there are a number of ways in which NATO and the EU can work better together. Greater use of the new EU/NATO liaison cells would improve levels of cooperation and information exchange. We have seen with Darfur that staff-to-staff contacts can deliver effective cooperation, and expect the liaison cells will help achieve this. We expect compelling requirements to emerge for greater levels of information exchange over missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan. This should create precedents for EU/NATO cooperation and information exchange for future missions. Additionally, there have been informal meetings involving representatives of all NATO and EU member states. We hope to build on these informal meetings, to further improve the way in which the EU and NATO work together.

  35.  Greater information exchange, cooperation and transparency are also important for capability development. Since the military capability requirements of NATO and the EU are largely the same, this common approach is vital. Improving military capabilities in Europe is beneficial to both NATO and the EU, and work conducted in NATO and the EU (including the European Defence Agency) should seek to achieve common goals as far as possible. We continue to engage actively to encourage progress, including through a NATO-EU capabilities group that brings together nations and staff from both organisations.


  36.  NATO and the EU need constantly to modernise their structures and processes to ensure that they are able to respond to the increasingly complex and interconnected security challenges of the modern world. In NATO we want to see better management of common resources, more effective working within NATO headquarters, including greater integration between military and civilian staffs and a command structure that is more affordable and better meets the current demands on the alliance. In the EU we want more effective internal working across and within the pillars to ensure a more coherent effect from the EU's external actions.

(How is NATO's transformation agenda progressing?)

  37.  NATO's true strength is, and will remain, in expressing and delivering transatlantic consensus for action, and in providing a crucial framework for interoperability amongst Allies. Success on operations remains the primary measure of its value and credibility. NATO has achieved a significant amount in Afghanistan and Kosovo, but both theatres have posed significant challenges. In parallel to its military transformation and the political process of adopting more comprehensive and effective methods of working with others, NATO needs to accelerate internal reform. The Alliance's structure and decision-making machinery needs to focus more sharply on its key operational, capability development and partnership objectives. It needs to be leaner, more responsive and accountable. This is a complex challenge for a consensus-based organisation.

(Does NATO need a new strategic concept?)

  38.  NATO's 1999 Strategic Concept describes the evolving security environment in terms that remain largely valid. The CPG builds on this to provide a framework for NATO's continuing transformation and sets out, for the next 10 to 15 years, the priorities for all Alliance capability issues, planning disciplines and intelligence. Combined with NATO's developing work on a Comprehensive Approach, this provides the strategic framework against which NATO can plan to operate, and a good vision for change. These elements should eventually be brought together in a new strategic concept.


  39.  NATO and the EU need to have the necessary resources at the right time and managed to the highest standards to make the most of finite budgets. Institutional investment must be reprioritised in line with current and emerging requirements, rather than continuing to spend money maintaining out-of-date and less relevant capabilities. Nations need to shoulder their fair share of the burden. Arrangements for the common funding of military operations in NATO and the EU should be developed carefully both to maintain an incentive on nations to develop the necessary national capabilities and to avoid favouring one organisation over another. The UK will continue to lobby Allies, bilaterally and within the EU and NATO, to invest appropriately in their national defence.

(How can NATO nations address funding shortfalls and disparities?)

(How can the Alliance find the resources to match its global interests?)

  40.  While US defence spending has increased massively over the last five years, European defence budgets remain low in historic terms. The 25 NATO members who participate in the NATO force planning system (ie excluding France) have agreed two key benchmarks: that nations should aim to spend 2% of GDP on defence and invest 20% of their defence budget in equipment. In 2006 only six of those 25 allies met the first of these benchmarks, and only seven met the second. European defence spending in 2006 stands on average at about 2.0% of GDP, compared with US spending of about 3.8%. Turkey (3%) and Greece (3%) are the only two other NATO countries at the 3 % level, while France and the UK are the highest defence spenders in real terms in the EU. The shortfalls in capabilities and disparities in funding levels between nations would be reduced if all NATO nations met the existing NATO benchmarks. The EDA is developing indicators and benchmarks to underpin discussion of defence investment among European countries.

  41.  NATO has created a new command, Allied Command Transformation, to encourage military innovation among NATO members that should lead to a broad reconfiguration of forces. NATO is using the four-year old military transformation agenda to advise member governments on future procurement needs. But its budget is modest—only some only $20 million from NATO common funding compared with some $150 million a year that the US spends on defence transformation.

  42.  Alliance members will have to generate new efficiencies to underwrite transformation costs. Common funding, shared purchasing, mission specialization, more open and transparent defence markets, and planning procurement coordination are some of the ways in which NATO members might be able to take on these costs without inflating national budgets.

(How can the arrangements for the funding of the NATO Response Force be improved and made more equitable?)

  43.  The NATO Response Force (NRF) is a "rotating" force provided by a sub-set of NATO nations at any one time. Costs fall to the nations that provide the force elements until such time as the NRF deploys. When NRF HQ elements are deployed as the senior NATO HQ in a theatre the usual range of eligibility for common funding of HQ Command and Control functions and theatre-wide enablers is applicable. Costs of deploying and sustaining the force elements below the HQ level continue to fall to the nations involved.

  44.  Any rapid deployment at short notice of the NRF incurs for the nations involved substantial costs. Some nations have indicated that the unpredictable financial consequence of short notice deployments acts as a disincentive to making force contributions to the NRF. As a consequence it has been argued that the problem would be alleviated if NATO agreed at least some common-funded reimbursement of strategic lift costs. We are not persuaded by this argument. It is not clear that common funding is the answer to improving the generation of forces for NATO operations or forces. For example, SHAPE was unable to detect any early signs of improved force generation as a result of the decision in 2005 to increase the range of eligibility for common costs in support of Non-Article five operations (such as Afghanistan and Kosovo).

  45.  Nevertheless, we have agreed to a NATO proposal to partial reimbursement of strategic lift costs for an interim period whilst nations improve their lift capabilities or gain assured access to lift capabilities. Any financial support for deployment costs of national force elements will be strictly limited to short-notice deployments of the NRF. As a rule not all elements of an NRF would require costly movement by air. The mode of movement would depend on the character and location of the crisis and would need to be subject to military advice at the time. Financial support would be provided only to meet minimum military requirements and for the most cost-effective means of deployment (usually about 15% deployed by air and 85% by sea).

  46.  The intended financial support would be available for a two-year period and expected to start from the North Atlantic Council's agreement in the coming months. The interim arrangement would be subject to evaluation to assess the effects of the financial support arrangements on force generation and capacity building.

  47.  All participating nations would be eligible for reimbursement; based on a rate below the actual costs; with support available to those nations that have identified their airlift needs and have put in motion credible ways to meet them, such as ownership, or shared ownership, of appropriate aircraft, or assured access when required. The likely cost to the UK has yet to be established but we do not anticipate having to pay our 12.1% share of common reimbursement costs (even when UK forces are not participating) before early 2008.

13 June 2007

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