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
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.