Who does UK National Strategy - Public Administration Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Rt Hon Oliver Letwin MP, Minister for Government Policy, Cabinet Office

  As agreed at the 27 July PASC, I am writing to outline in more detail the role and structure of the National Security Secretariat (NSS).

  The NSS was formed from existing directorates within the Cabinet Office in response to the creation of the National Security Council (NSC). Headed by Sir Peter Ricketts, the National Security Adviser, the NSS:

    — supports the Prime Minister in the full range of national security issues, ensuring his priorities are understood across Whitehall and that departmental work is effectively coordinated;

    — supports the NSC, ensuring that departments bring forward well-prepared papers presenting options for collective decision and that there is effective implementation;

    — coordinates closely with the National Security structures of our key allies;

    — acts as the key government body responsible for national resilience and crisis management; and

    — leads cross-government work on cyber-security.

  In addition, the National Security Adviser (NSA) is the accounting officer for the Intelligence Agencies.

At the Prime Minister's request, the NSA has been asked to lead the National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), working closely with all the departments especially MOD, FCO, DfID and HMT. In order to deliver this a temporary team of 10 secondees has been formed within the NSS, working alongside existing staff.

  An organogram is attached which shows the current organisation and staffing levels of the secretariat.

  As you will see from the organogram, the answer to your question (Question 48) about the number of people working under the National Security Adviser on issues relating to foreign and defence policy or strategy is actually rather complicated. A large number of staff working in the Secretariat are not directly engaged in this area. For example, the Civil Contingencies team are engaged on work to improve the UK's resilience in dealing with major incidents such as floods or pandemics. Many of the staff on the Strategy and Counter-Terrorism team are responsible for ensuring that the Government's Crisis coordination arrangements, including COBR, are operational around the clock. Many of the staff in the Security and Intelligence Directorate deal with budgetary issues in relation to the Intelligence Community. Around 60 staff are closely involved in foreign and defence policy, and strategy issues, including the 10 full time equivalent (temporary) officials on the SDSR team who work in conjunction with colleagues across the NSS in the delivery of the SDSR.

  I also promised to let you know about the future evolution of these teams. The NSA has set in hand a review of this structure and the Secretariat's working methods. This review will report in October, and any changes implemented as soon as possible after the conclusion of the SDSR process, taking into account any decisions made in relation to the role of the NSC. This will ensure that resources and working practices are in line with the overall cross-Whitehall effort on National Security. This process will form part of the Cabinet Office-wide programme to reduce staffing levels. I will of course be delighted to provide the Committee with further information once the review is complete.

August 2010

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