The Strategic Defence and Security Review and the National Security Strategy - Defence Committee Contents

Written evidence from DefenceSynergia


1.  The incoming Coalition Government determined to assess, comprehensively yet swiftly, the threats to the United Kingdom, her dependencies and allies in formal pacts and publish the outcome of the relevant reviews.

2.  A National Security Council (NSC) was established and a Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) body commissioned. Both committees would work in parallel with remits to submit their findings to government in November 2010.

3.  No such review had been conducted since 1998 and the majority of authorities and individuals, interested in Defence and Security, believed the timescale to be far too short for proper analyses to be made. Additionally, the work was to be conducted in the face of severe financial constraints and a "hot war" in Afghanistan.

4.  In spite of oft repeated assurances that the assessments were to be "threat led" it became increasingly clear, from many calculated "leaks" and briefings, that "threats" would play a subsidiary role to "savings measures".

5.  It is DefenceSynergia's analysis of a full range of post SDSR criticisms that the conclusions of the NSC, which in themselves cannot be easily faulted since they can be read in any number of ways, are, nevertheless, flawed and deficient. The National Security Strategy (NSS) is a turgid document clearly designed, very cleverly, to "situate the appreciation".

6.  The NSC's analysis of the highest priority threat, that of terrorism—predominantly Islamic by all their accounts—is highly prolix and quite misses the point that "western" reactions exacerbate such threats. Whilst DefenceSynergia acknowledges the toxicity of this threat, we urge serious questioning on the relative merits of an improved Foreign Office broad approach to detoxification. For far too long have "arabists" dominated thinking in their Department of State.

7.  By contrast, there has been a lily livered, limp wristed, approach to all things "ex colonial"; whilst one does not put the Falkland Islands in this category, the initial 1982 reaction to the invasion was immensely weak—so much so that the Foreign Secretary was constrained to resign—a sad outcome exacerbated by his Secretary of Defence colleague almost scuttling the campaign to reverse the situation. Only a "tough" Prime Minister supported by a defence team fully steeped in an amphibious philosophy turned the tide.

8.  These issues highlight the incoherence between the woolly priorities laid out in the NSS and the means of combating them in the SDSR. To explain where we believe there to be woolliness: whilst the NSC attempts a clear distinction in prioritising into three categories, the document then goes on to eliminate any clarity by obfuscating over their relative importance. DefenceSynergia would make far clearer distinctions.


9.  For centuries, there have been countless advocates of a "continental" strategy for the United Kingdom and its forbears. Whilst we have been extremely courageous, and successful, in a number of forays that might be described as falling into that category, our record has never made us a continental power. By contrast our position in the world stems from a "maritime" strategy. By this we do not just mean the Royal Navy, who have, from time to time, slipped, marginally, from excellence (eg Jutland, Hood, Prince of Wales), but the entirety of combined forces generated for amphibious or naval/air supported operations. In this respect, the Committee will have received more than enough evidence on the "Carrier Gap". DefenceSynergia would only add this, quoting Sir Ray Lygo in the presence of the then Secretary of Defence and at the time of the last debacle on this subject:

"For those of you who came aboard up a covered gangway you might not realise what kind of ship you are actually in, but I have to let you in to a secret. It is an aircraft carrier. There, I've said it! And because it is an aircraft carrier, it is also a frigate because its anti-submarine helicopter can operate in the same way as a frigate does. It's a guided missile destroyer because it has air to air missiles which can also be used to attack other ships. It is also a cruiser because it has its 'Buccaneers' with long range weapon systems that can certainly outrange any modern cruiser. It is a battleship because it is capable of engaging the enemy in any battle scenario that he likes to develop. It is a commando carrier; it can carry troops, it can carry supplies. It can do anything. It is the most flexible and versatile weapon system that the Navy possesses."

10.  It would seem that, in their wisdom, the various committees and individuals associated with current defence development have forgotten this long historical sequence. They have naively assumed that nothing much, other than a genetic modification to Al Quaeda is going to happen over the next five years or more. It did not take more than a "twinkling of an eye" for Tunisia, Egypt and, perhaps, the rest of the Middle East to erupt into a volatile situation for which flexible amphibious forces might be required. Our response? Scrap most that is valuable, albeit ancient, for the defence of our interests in such circumstances.

11.  DefenceSynergia believes there to be a number of costly contradictions and anomalies within the long standing customs and traditions of all three services: the regimental system, combat trained troops required for so many ceremonial duties, armoured divisions facing the Soviet threat, aircraft no longer fully fit for purpose, unbalanced naval forces, unchallenged single service pleading; and ask why we are not training all military elements as we do the Parachute Regiment or as the Royal Marines do in forming the spearhead of air and sea supported forces.

12.  For there is a massive SDSR lacuna over the Army's future. Instead of building on a somewhat sclerotic military structure which, although it has repeatedly proved its worth under now outdated circumstances (by all NSC accounts), why not restructure to meet the new and much more flexible requirements now deemed to be necessary?

That would have been an SDSR indeed.

DefenceSynergia urges your Committee to question all current military structures and to ask why organisation and training does not match the new requirements for flexible operational requirements.


14.  Something that has been troubling DefenceSynergia, in addition to the Nimrod's demise, is the loss of the Jaguar and Harrier within such a short space of time and no replacement until JSF (if it arrives!). This means Close Air Support (CAS) has been gapped. We suppose some will argue that the Apache fills the CAS role; well, it might in some instances, but not all. It's not much use on mud or in mountains and is designed for low level flight, in which, self-evidently, it can't easily look over walls into compounds where nasty people lurk—not in the way a dive attack by a Harrier with a ground controller/old Jaguar with laser designator could.

15.  Then there's the E-3D AWACS which was due an upgrade (Project Eagle) that didn't happen because MoD hadn't enough cash. Meanwhile the US and NATO have both upgraded their aircraft to Open Systems Architecture (OSA). Our machines will slowly but inevitably age themselves into uselessness because they will not be capable of keeping pace with the other fleets. That is to say, US and NATO will be interoperable but the RAF E-3D will fall behind and eventually not be wanted in combined operations, because it will cause as many problems as it resolves—unless it operates in isolation of the others!

16.  The Nimrod R must be a bit of a problem now, too. No replacement airframes, although perhaps there will be plenty of spares. A three aircraft fleet and nothing else to help offset costs and gain economies of scale. We wonder how long that can be maintained and if the intended replacement will ever happen.

17.  The transport fleet seems in disarray, too. We've worn the aircraft out and not replaced them or upgraded them soon enough. VC-10 and Tristar are both on their last legs and nothing comparable is in the pipeline.

18.  Finally we have but the rump of Tornado GR4s left to mount effective ground attack missions over the middle distance. That's really not a role for the Typhoon. However, introducing a positive note, we do at least in the latter have an effective air superiority machine—something the F3 never was.

19.  A very thin picture.

The Committee might like to consider the hideous risk of scrapping Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) and, whilst doing this, delve into the rationale supporting other savings measures in air assets.


20.  Turning to the NSC's "top" priorities; they smack of a trend towards "Little Britain", fully subservient to some mightier powers. Their selection and the demotion of some others might be ascribed to special pleading and a desire to direct the SDSR into adopting savings measures that place the UK at dangerous risk in the event of the unexpected "event". DefenceSynergia has made an analysis of a scenario based on what could occur in the South Atlantic (perhaps the most likely Overseas Territory at risk) and, contrary to all that has been said about our improved defences there, the likely outcome would be a military and political disaster.

The Committee might wish to question the strength and weaknesses of the resources in place for such a contingency, based on our assessment at Annex A.


21.  DefenceSynergia understands that the Secretary of State for Defence on the recommendation of CDS, is to place Cyber Warfare as the responsibility of a single service. Cyber Warfare is but an element or tool of all our forces and is agreed to be a vital and deadly weapon—but a weapon best developed and combated in the hands of experts whose expertise should be untrammelled by service discipline as is that of all those "IT specialists" whose peculiar knowledge so drives the science. Their output would, then, be integrated into the weapons systems of the services waging more specific and intimate warfare as users.

The Committee might wish to tease out just how Cyber Warfare is to be managed and under whose authority.


22.  As far as anti terrorism is concerned, significant elements of all three services are engaged with no further major spending projects for these operations being specifically proposed in the SDSR. Funds to support this "war" come out of the Strategic Reserve (UORs)—or should do and so would have no further effect on the defence budget where options ought to be concerned with longer term requirements.

Given the relatively low numbers of personnel and equipment involved, the Committee might wish to ask how the high priority of this campaign so distorts the Defence Budget as a whole.*


23.  DefenceSynergia questions the wisdom of postponing the "Trident Submarine" replacement programme. That a "tooth" arm be placed at risk of unreliability and breakdown in operability should be unacceptable, particularly when the bulk of incurred savings are well downstream after it is supposed that financial constraints will be behind us. And the costs of keeping an aging force operational might well outweigh the postponement savings. DefenceSynergia believes this to be an ill advised "sop to Cerberus".

The Committee might wish to probe the true costings of this measure, ensuring that all contingencies are being taken into account.


24.  As to Major Natural Hazards; are they really a defence and security issue? DefenceSynergia would place them under the responsibility of the Home Office and, possibly, the Foreign Office. The Armed Forces should be pleased to help but……..!


25.  Whilst the establishment of the Defence Reform Unit (DRU) is welcomed, DefenceSynergia is not sanguine that the outcome of their work will be radical or imaginative enough to secure the necessary changes to structure and methodology. The fact that membership of and support to the DRU is so heavily impregnated with "in house" Ministry of Defence (MoD) representation does not bode well. DefenceSynergia does not believe that the MoD can reform itself and presents, at Annex B, their view on a more radical approach. The Committee may wish to establish why the DRU, chaired by a rather less than successful previous Head of Defence Procurement and studded with "insiders" can hope to provide the requisite reforms. They may also wish to point to principles being employed by the noted heart surgeon, Mr Shetty (try Wikipedia), in providing universal surgical treatment to every Indian with a heart problem regardless of their ability to pay. Trained at Guy's Hospital and an admirer of the NHS, nevertheless, he believes it to be hopelessly unable to align treatment with value for money.

The DRU might be urged to look into Mr Shetty's approach of melding structures, best business practice and professional skills into a much more effective whole.


Whilst this does not purport to be a comprehensive nor exhaustive paper on the SDSR outcome, we trust that it will serve as a useful "aide memoire" to Select Committee members in their pursuit of the philosophy underpinning the National Security Council's recommendations and how the SDSR fails to match up to the fundamental defence and security needs of the United Kingdom.

January 2011

Annex A


1A.  Prior to the 2010 SDSR being published it was possible to contemplate a combined British Task Force of naval, air and ground forces being gathered to reinforce or retake an Overseas Territory such as the Falkland Islands. But with the demise of Royal Navy carrier capability, reductions in Royal Marine and amphibious readiness, the early retirement of Harrier and Nimrod is this still a realistic operational aspiration? If not, what options does MoD have for defending the UK's overseas territories and other vital international interests?

2A.  In asking this question we draw upon a criterion called "The Falkland's Dilemma". This postulates that if the UK's foreign policy includes defence of our overseas territories the single most complex and most likely requirement will be to defend or re-take the Falkland Islands following a threat or actual invasion.


3A.  In this scenario it is assumed that the garrison on the Falklands consists of circa 500 infantry/troops, SAM artillery batteries, four fast jets, one AAR Tanker, two medium lift helicopters, a supply ship, one FF/DD guard ship and one Offshore Patrol Vessel. A SSN is within a few days transit time and Mount Pleasant and RAF Ascension Island have normal flight operations—including aviation and bunker fuel reserves.


4A.  Normal diplomatic relations between Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and the UK have broken down over the issue of sovereignty. Natural resources and the discovery of large oil deposits being the underlying catalyst. Local South American public opinion is being turned against the UK and her supportive allies and national "Latin" fervour for de-colonisation of the Falklands is encouraging large crowds in several Latin Countries to become very agitated, burning Union Jacks and besieging embassies. At the request of the Organisation of American States (OAS)—led by Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina—the UN convenes an emergency meeting of the Security Council to reopen the issue of UK's sovereignty over the Falkland Islands. China and Russia vote for, the US and France abstain and the UK vetoes the motion.

5A.  Argentine forces in coalition with Brazil and Venezuela begin joint naval exercises in the area 40-60 degrees South and 55-65 degrees West following rejection by the British Government of a diplomatic note insisting that all oil drilling and exploration in the area ceases immediately. The USA and European Union attempt to mediate but will not confront the OAS states—the stated position being one of concerned neutrality. Therefore, the British Government has decide to make a rapid air landed reinforcement of the Falklands using RAF Ascension Island as the "Hub" base and Mount Pleasant as the receiving base. All forces stationed on the Falklands are stood-to and preparations for defence and reception of the reinforcements instigated—the air delivered reinforcements are expected within 72 hours. A reinforcing main body, if required, is to sail within seven days—transit time to the Falklands 15 Days—giving a total time to full deployment of 21 days. RAF Ascension Island is also reinforced by an RAF expeditionary air wing with embedded logistic support units enhanced by E3D and Special Forces are despatched immediately by dedicated C130J and SSN.


6A.  Advanced Air Defence and Air Landed Components. Although arguably speculative, the advanced forces allocated to deploy may include RAF personnel supporting eight Typhoon and eight Combat Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capable Tornado and an air landed battle group based on elements of 16 Air Assault Brigade (16 AAB). In total a small force of around 2100 lightly armed RAF/army personnel possibly equipped with air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, sensor pods, vehicles, personal weapons, section weapons, Apache helicopters and light armour.

7A.  Twelve hours in advance of the air assault battle group the Typhoon and Tornado plus weapons and support deploy to reinforce the Falklands air defence component. Bouncing through Ascension Island they will require multiple sorties of A330-200 and C130J to provide air-to-air refuelling, carry equipment, munitions and 600 support personnel—airborne C4I being provided 24/7 by Ascension based E3D. Following on via Ascension Island will be the troops of 16 AAB who will require multiple sorties of C130J, C17 and A330200 to carry 1,500 troops, an Apache flight, light armoured vehicles, command vehicles, munitions and supplies and to provide air to air refuelling support. 16 AAB cannot arrive until the Falklands garrison has been reinforced by the RAF air defence reinforcement and as aircraft generation, streaming and handling are affected by available fleet size and limited manoeuvring space at departure and receiving airfields this deployment could take two to three days to complete.

NB. Post SDSR the RAF's air transport (AT) and air-to-air (AAR) refuelling capacity is to be reduced—23 Tri-star and VC10 being replaced by circa 13 A330-200 and ultimately 38 C130 to be replaced by 22 A400M. There are currently six C17. [RAF inventory figures based on DASA Defence Statistics for 2009].

8A.  The Follow-on Sea Borne Task Force. Based on today's forces the sea-embarked elements might consist of the remaining 6500 personnel of 16 AAB minus the 1500 already deployed by air plus Apache helicopters, air-mobile artillery equipment and high velocity air defence missiles. The Brigade capitalises on the combat capabilities of the former 24 Air-mobile Brigade and 5 Airborne Brigade, including two parachute battalions (when not deployed elsewhere) with increased combat service support and is commanded by Joint Helicopter Command (JHC). However, for the duration of the operation it is assumed that 16 AAB would come under the command of a Joint Force Commander (JFC). Support helicopters are provided by JHC and according to MoD the Brigade would normally expect to operate with 18 x Chinook and 18 x Puma—an Air Assault Infantry Battalion can be moved by 20 x Chinook equivalents lifts and each battalion has a notional personnel strength of 687 equipped with 12 x ATGW firing posts.

9A.  3 Commando Group. The Royal Marines' 3 Commando Group (formerly a brigade) is the Royal Navy's amphibious infantry on readiness to deploy across the globe and is a component of the UK's Joint Rapid Reaction Force. Together with the Royal Navy's amphibious ships the Group offers a highly mobile, self-sustained and versatile organisation, with a strategic power projection capability relying on the RN and RAF for fixed wing air support. 3 Commando Group stands in readiness (when not committed elsewhere) to move anywhere in the world to meet emergencies which threaten Britain's vital security interests, and those of its allies. With air cover it has utility in all phases of the campaign, from benign presence to the conduct of forced theatre entry combat operations. However, post-SDSR force readiness has been reduced to 1,800 troops (from 5,000)—hence it now being referred to as a Group not a Brigade.


10A.  With the demise of the RN carrier fleet, reduction in readiness for the RM and amphibious ships and the early retirement of Joint Force Harrier (JFH) - which was the only British force in the UK inventory that could provide fixed wing air cover for the fleet -any Task Force must sail with significantly weaker support than was the case in 1982. This affects all forced entry options not least because of the lack of maritime air-cover and must be viewed as a cause for serious concern. Post-SDSR the RN and RFA have suffered readiness criterion changes and reductions in vessels—most notably the retirement of all fixed wing carriers. Therefore, at short notice, the RN and RFA could only provide 1 x Landing Platform Helicopter (HMS Ocean) and 1 x Landing Platform Dock (HMS Albion) and must draw maritime protection and sustainment forces from a reduced inventory of destroyers, frigates, tanker, replenishment vessels and submarines. However, subject to availability and given time for conversion ships taken up from trade (STUFT)—liners, cargo vessels and oil tankers may offer alternatives.


11A.  Capability Gaps. The inclination of any force commander is to go with the maximum capability that the inventory provides but long range short notice expeditionary operational deployments impose constraints on these aspirations. Not least among these is the absence of aircraft carriers and sea-borne air power coupled to the limited capacity of the RAF to deploy large numbers of personnel and heavy equipment by air. Thus any air landed option for a quick reaction force must by necessity be "light"—a major limiting factor being the steadily reducing AT/AAR capacity of the RAF at the same time as the RN is being downsized and denuded of its organic air-cover. Therefore, with the demise of the carrier and Harrier option—and until the Queen Elizabeth class carriers enter service with a compliment of fixed wing fighters circa 2020 this is the situation for the next decade—any sea-borne task force will be totally reliant upon surface and sub-surface defence systems and RAF air-cover from any in-range land bases along the sea lines of communication (SLOC). Hence, gaining local air superiority in the immediate area of operations ahead of any reinforcement is crucial for without it any air landed option is compromised and a naval task force would have to operate well beyond enemy mainland or carrier-based aircraft range or risk major losses to enemy air.


12A.  "Counter Surprise" expeditionary capability depends upon the forces assigned being available within the time-scale set by the enemy. As the British forces are drawing-down in terms of manpower and equipment this affects availability, flexibility and resilience and the number and size of concurrent operations that they can respond to and then sustain. Hence, a "counter surprise" expeditionary capability will be affected by ongoing operations and the MoD's ability to gather resources and guarantee "spearhead" forces at very short notice. Once a force is deployed it will have a finite level of endurance depending upon the immediate availability of strategic transport, defence platforms, stocks of munitions, fuel, rations and spares and these sustainment constraints must be planned for, costed and funded in advance.

13A.  Post-SDSR it is very unclear whether all of these constraints have been planned for.


14A.  It can be concluded that the UK still retains the notional ability to defend the Falkland Islands, having in-place arms and some ability to reinforce these with air-landed "Light" forces if necessary. [It is also fair to say that other overseas bases such as the Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus are less vulnerable because of geography, NATO and EU connections]. However, in the case of the Falklands—located 8,000 miles from UK; 4,000 miles from the support base on Ascension Island; close to the potential enemy with no potential allies; the defence plan seeming to be totally reliant on two intersecting operational runways—the issues are far less certain. The latter calling into question the credibility, vulnerability and deterrence value of the in-place forces which, if attacked, might for no fault of their own, succumb to superior numbers before any reinforcement arrived.

15A.  However, any plan to retake the Falkland Islands in any opposed landing scenario without fixed-wing-aircover for the fleet would be a calculated risk. Whilst the assets exist to form a basic air-landed and sea task force to carry a reinforced brigade, without air cover and the means to sustain the force, the sea borne element would be too vulnerable and fragile to risk in all but benign or desperate circumstances. Furthermore, as long as "Op Herrick" continues to absorb the elite fighting units of the army and RM, there will always be difficulty providing "spearhead" forces for any short notice "counter surprise" expeditionary deployment even assuming that the RN had the capacity to gather and launch a sea-borne task force within the time scale. All the latter being difficulties that must be addressed before unfriendly states, whose intelligence agencies share all of this information, decide to act upon it.

16A.  Finally, when a plan relies on the enemy offering the time to reinforce any window of opportunity may not be open for long. Therefore, if the foreign policy of the British Government is still to defend our overseas territories—despite the lack of indigenous organic air-cover or long range maritime surveillance for the fleet—overseas garrisons must be strengthened. This recommendation to strengthen is not just predicated on larger in-place forces capable of holding the fort but also upon pre-positioned munitions and heavy equipment for reinforcing elements thereby reducing the logistic burden upon the air-bridge and focussing resources on urgent delivery of reinforcing manpower. To be blunt, this self -inflicted air-cover gap for the fleet for most of the next decade may seem a "manageable risk" to some but without clear headed strategic alternatives this capability gap might precipitate unfriendly states to gamble leading to a humiliating major defeat for British arms—the Falkland Islanders being the biggest losers ahead of the political fallout following serious damage to British prestige at home and abroad.

15 January 2011

Annex B


1B.  The challenge UK defence faces is to gear its MoD command and control system to the imperatives of national doctrine and strategy. Those imperatives, drawing on coherent and unimpeachable sources of advice and guidance, have to be balanced, cohesive, and cost-effective.


2B.  Within all government departments there are many dynamics at work and often dozens of personalities directing events that are not always in sync with each other. Unlike a commercial enterprise which, if properly managed, will be configured to maximise profit and devise the most streamlined system to achieve this end a government department is almost constantly internally at war with itself and externally competing with other departments for funding. Political, functional and financial pressures affect the normal harmony of the enterprise leading to confusion, mistrust and inevitable financial inefficiency and to overcome these identified difficulties government departments tend to introduce Byzantine structures rather than streamline.

3B.  The Ministry of Defence (MoD) suffers from all of these failings and has done so despite valiant attempts at reorganisation over a century or more. Indeed, because the MoD is an amalgam of four competing, proud and very independent organisations—The Royal Navy, The British Army, The Royal Air Force and The Civil Service—it can be argued that the internal divisions outlined above are often exacerbated by this mix of strongly defined independence and self-interest reinforced by peak levels of loyalty, professionalism and a meritocratic but insular promotion system.

4B.  This drive for loyalty and professionalism within the armed forces is a positive bonus when esprit de corps is required in very difficult and dangerous circumstances and should not be underestimated nor interfered with at an operational level. However, the very qualities that engender dogged determination and singular loyalty to one service can be counterproductive at the point where national strategy, combined or commercial decisions are to be taken. Indeed, when clear strategic thinking or commercial common sense is required, open minds tend to offer the best solutions and this is not always the case under the current system.

5B.  Some critics have spoken of an "internal civil service culture" which excludes service personnel and leads to mistrust and alienation. So the problems are systemic and do not begin or end with the armed forces themselves; the Civil Service sharing some of the blame for any central MoD failures. Not least alone is the disruptive "fast track" system of promotion that often inflicts multiple managers upon joint departments within very short timescales (one department had four AUS appointees in two years) hardly enough time to add value in an appointment. Add to this the poor level of training for some complex tasks and the high level of turnover for "mobile" grades who move from one discipline to another on promotion and the ground is set for confusion, inefficiency and failure—problems that must be addressed if professionalism is to be ensured.


6B.  It is not possible for the current crop of civil servants or serving officers to effectively change the culture within MoD as they are just too close to the issues and possibly part of the problem itself. Therefore any reform must be driven by the Prime Minister and the methods used must be independent of those currently serving—MoD should of course be consulted but must not be allowed a veto.

7B.  The Gray Report has made an excellent start by offering a blue print for structural reform within the MoD procurement discipline and should be accepted as a whole and not "cherry picked". However, as Gray himself alludes, without reforming the way in which higher level decisions are taken within the MoD and addressing the culture of complex overlapping management and interference across the board any changes to the procurement system in isolation may prove ineffective. There are few who question that each of the services require an independent professional chain of command—First Sea Lord, Chief of the General Staff (CGS), Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) and attendant staffs—but there is doubt that a central staff drawn from disparate services (military and civil) can be totally "purple" which in this context means tri-service but strategically cohesive and balanced.

8B.  The British Armed Forces are recognised as arguably the best in the world. However, they have achieved this accolade by doing what they individually do best; providing second-to-none training and establishing fierce esprit de corps and loyalty to service, ship, squadron, corps, battalion or unit. These admirable traits serve each force well at an operational level but mitigate against a culture of wider freer expression at the joint or strategic level. As career patterns develop and advancement becomes a reality esprit de corps is supplemented by ambition to succeed and the tendency to want to "rock the boat" is, sometimes, reluctantly suppressed. To do otherwise is possibly to find a career cut short and in the case of senior MoD appointments this paradox is more complex because of the British system of automatic patronage linked to senior posts. However, ultimately, the responsibility for raising and maintaining the Armed Forces in the UK is political. The elected government must propose, parliament must vote the money and it is to the Queen through parliament that HM Forces owe their allegiance.

9B.  Therefore, the civil and military central staffs must be rationalised in favour of a politically led secretariat (with the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) and a cadre of Armed Forces liaison officers and professional advisers) working to the Secretary of State (SoS) for Defence. A key role of this slim-lined secretariat will be to act as arbiter between the three services to ensure that all major spending decisions meet UK defence and foreign policy objectives as advised by the National Security Council and agreed and funded by HM Government—the day to day command, control and conduct of operations—including associated budget management—being delegated below MoD level.


10B.  The main principle behind any MoD reorganisation must be to provide strong and certain leadership across the department, focusing resources, ensuring budgetary prudence and increasing efficiency and accountability by ruthlessly cutting out any conflict or duplication of effort. The spin off being clarity of command leading to savings in the administration, procurement, infrastructure and personnel budgets. Therefore, the aim of MoD reformation is to establish clear lines of single and joint-service command and control that provide for financial "grip" whilst identifying the essential independent elements, roles and functions of higher and lower formations.

11B.  The National Security Council (NSC) should have primacy in evaluating threat based analyses and advise on matters of foreign and domestic security policy and strategy thereby becoming the primary driver for UK defence doctrine which in turn will drive the major procurement processes. To achieve this the NSC must be able to consult the SoS, defence colleges, academia, intelligence services, Department for International Development (DfID), Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Home Office, the three Service Chiefs et al.

12B.  The Commander Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) should take on the roles formerly undertaken by the central staffs and have budgetary control and command of all joint and combined planning and doctrine, formations and forces, the Defence Medical Services, operational planning, command and control of current operations, Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) and provide the MoD Operations Room function. Consideration should be paid to setting up a "Blue Light" civil emergency planning function within PJHQ thereby negating the requirement for additional decentralised facilities for the civil authorities. However, to be effective and to reflect its military status PJHQ must be predominantly staffed by serving or Retired Officers (RO) personnel with civilian specialists being kept to a minimum. The First Sea Lord, CGS and CAS should retain single service budgetary control and responsibility for training, administration, planning, command and control over their respective services through their own staffs but within a reduced headquarters structure. They should be allowed private access to the Prime Minister and SoS for Defence on strictly single service issues.

13B.  The MoD Secretariat should be headed by the SoS for Defence supported by a small permanent staff consisting of his political office, CDS, the ministerial team and essential administration staff. To assist the secretariat senior liaison officers (LO's) from PJHQ, the three services (four if the RM is to have representation), Reserve Forces, the FCO, DfID, Home Office, Intelligence Staffs, finance and Defence Equipment and Support (DES) must be appointed. All military staff must have screened tours of three years minimum—five years for civil appointments with maximum consideration being given to employing a nucleus of RO's to provide essential military experience and continuity through longevity of employment. However, whilst the SoS should be guided by his advisers, LO's and the NSC he must retain executive and financial decision making authority—including delegable powers—for the Armed Forces as a whole.

14B.  To this end, DES—which accounts for over 40% of the defence budget—should be an independent agency reporting directly to the SoS. DES must be capable of responding to major MoD equipment needs as dictated by operational and threat doctrine—advised by the National Security Strategy (NSS)—and informed by an agreed government industrial strategy. Therefore, it is essential that DES has direct liaison with British industry and have responsibility for chairing the National Defence Industrial Council (NDIC) with authority to speak on behalf of the Minister for defence procurement. However, it must be recognised that without specialist training and experience civil servants and serving personnel maybe ill-equipped to administer large and commercially complex budgets which drives the requirement for contracted-in specialists to be the primary employees of DES rather than mis-employed civil service or Armed Forces personnel.


15B.  Suffice to say here that MoD procurement procedures and the attendant cost price inflation, cost overruns, excessive contract delays, constant late delivery and technical deficiencies are well documented by the NAO, PAC and Defence Committee of the House of Commons. They have also been explored in the "Gray Report". The question to be answered is not how this has occurred but how to prevent it happening in the future.


16B.  The first area that must be addressed is the culture within MoD whereby inexperienced and under-qualified service personnel and civil servants fill highly specialised appointments in the procurement chain of command. This particularly applies to the misconception inherent within MoD that rank and/or seniority equate to specialised experience. This is a myth, exposed as such by the examination of the career patterns of service personnel and civil servants who find themselves being posted into slots simply because their required posting date or promotion happens to coincide with a vacant position. This latter issue being exasperated by limited training and time constraints placed upon employment rarely allowing the incumbent (or the post) to benefit from any experience gained. Furthermore, it must be recognised that civil and armed service training, career development and ethos rarely provides the best grounding for personnel to excel in the specialised commercial world of Programme and Project Management. Indeed, the parochial and generic nature of civil service and Armed Forces training and experience may even mitigate against best commercial practice—the latter requiring more innovative, agile and complex legal and financial negotiating skills than provided in military or civil service circles. To this end, defence procurement should be viewed as a series of defined and commercially controlled engineering and contractual processes under careful risk management; not simply "just another military exercise".


17B.  Therefore, DES must be an independent procurement branch that has its own internal career pattern geared to long-term service (five years plus) within the discipline and must either outsource the task or recruit suitably qualified personnel with experience in buying, contract pricing, negotiating, technical writing, commercial law and contract progression. Moreover, this should all be conducted within the discipline of Programme and Project Management by well and formally qualified staff who have earned their way over many years in industry delivering to time, budget, specification and, most important of all, according to a benefits realisation strategy. Whilst it is right for non-DES service personnel and civil servants to input to the procurement system at the operational requirement and equipment acceptance stages and to liaise with manufacturers during the production phase, they must not be permitted to set, amend, override or interfere with contracts or programme management beyond limited parameters. To do so might perpetuate the current problems that lead to capability creep and project redefinition thereby causing spiralling contract costs and in-service delay.


18B.  As the British Armed Forces reduce in size so do the opportunities for economies of scale and unit price becomes an ever more complex conundrum -should MoD purchase in UK and so retain national technology, research and manufacturing capabilities, or abroad at lower prices? A further balancing factor for any apparent lower price of buying overseas is that somehow UK has to earn that foreign currency with exports or suffer balance of payments penalties. However, few people believe that the UK should not have a viable defence industrial base, most acknowledging that government funded R&D often leads to technological spin-offs, increased skill levels in an expanding UK workforce, economic multipliers through improved balance of payments and company profits. In a 2010 paper written for the UK defence industry by "Oxford Economics" it was calculated that for every £1 spent in the defence sector £2.7 accrue within the UK economy as a whole and that for every defence job created 1.6 more are created in support industries. Therefore, the MoD and Commercial interface must be viewed through this prism of overall public and commercial good and not as a purely insular financial equation. This is not to say that best practise must not be observed or value for money sought only that in calculating the cost and strategic benefit of any procurement decision MoD (and for that matter industry) consider themselves part of a dynamic national economy and look to the long-term and not just the current balance sheet.

19B.  What must not be overlooked is that defence industries are major components of UK's depleted but valuable manufacturing base. So, if manufacturing is to have any chance of resurgence in UK, our defence industry will surely be at the very heart of that growth utilising its innate ability to take all the best science, technology and business practices on offer (from anywhere) and applying them throughout their formal supply chains and on into secondary and tertiary levels of supply. It is well known that technological spinoffs accrue from military applications which lead to profitability in unrelated industries and that exports often follow once the British forces have procured equipment. [To be sure and lest anyone be in the slightest doubt on this matter, every liquid crystal display (LCD) computer screen anywhere on earth owes its existence to UK government defence research]. Indeed, there are often overlapping civilian applications within the UK for versions of military hardware and technology—government agencies and local authorities having uses for commercial helicopters, emergency vehicles, communication equipment, computer hardware and software and more generic military equipment. These latter overlaps must be identified as they can offer significant economies of scale in many key procurement areas.

20B.  To achieve this it will be necessary for inter-department and commercial cooperation to become de rigour thereby maximising economies of scale -possibly to consider an inter-government departmental office within DES. This will require a commercial approach to the future not a conventional departmental view of the world through the eyes of the civil service. Therefore, the newly independent DES must have full authority and responsibility for liaison with other departments and industry through chairmanship of the NDIC and authority to advise the SoS on cross departmental and industrial procurement cooperation opportunities. Furthermore, MoD must become more commercially aware of its patent and proprietary rights especially in relation to government funded R&D projects, drawings, jigs and tools. All too often, as with the LCD, internally generated innovations and inventions have been lost to commercial enterprises, generating large profits for commerce, without any benefit or cost recovery for MoD or the government funded inventors. To realise these economic benefits HMG must legislate to allow departments of state (most especially the MoD) to become more professional, equipping and authorising them to act in a cohesive commercial capacity thereby generating profits to offset procurement costs. The alternative strategy is to allow wholesale transfer of responsibility to joint government-commercial ventures—not horrendously expensive PPP or PFI programmes but true and 50/50 sharing of investment, profit and risk.


21B.  TLCM is a crucial procurement discipline all too often mishandled by MoD in its efforts to maximise new weapons platforms at the buying stage in the naïve belief that numbers in the inventory impress. But, without regard to TLCM unnecessary expense and inefficiency is incurred when weapons platforms or components are unavailable for operations because they are unserviceable or have to be used as extravagant spares providers for the remaining fleet.

22B.  Therefore, TLCM must be seen as a crucial factor in determining the true cost of buying, maintaining and operating a given platform or component. This must become the guiding principle for all major procurement decisions if a true cost per unit purchase is to inform the CSR and provide accurate data for the long term costing (LTC) process. [For example, the unit cost of a platform maybe £10 million but the cost for it to be maintained annually maybe £1 million, therefore, if the unit operational life is10 years the actual LTC per platform will be £20 million (or £2 million per year not adjusted for inflation)]. To disengage the in-service operating cost of a weapons platform from its basic unit price at the procurement stage simply to provide more numbers is to invite under-investment in the maintenance package which in-turn will skew the defence budget when unplanned maintenance or spares contracts must be let and spares shortfalls are met by cannibalising otherwise serviceable platforms. Based on the example above, it is more cost effective and makes clear operational sense to pay to have 90% availability of 75 platforms (67 platforms funded and available = £1.42 billion) than 65% availability of 100 platforms (65 platforms funded and available = £1.65 billion).


23B.  In the case of military employment of a weapons platform, utility and capability is a function of the platform itself, its survivability in a given environment, its availability and the weapons systems it carries. To this end a weapons platform is not necessarily obsolete simply because it has been in service for many years nor as a result of new technology changing the parameters. If the platform is still sound it maybe just a case of upgrading rather than replacing with new however desirable it may seem to have the latest "sexy technology". This is the basis behind CILOP when, at times, it can be more cost effective to modernise, upgrade or modify an existing weapons platform rather than replace with new procurement. Sometimes it can be the only sensible option if suitable new technology is not readily available, manufacturing lead times or cost are excessive and a capability gap is to be avoided. Very often the retention of older technology will have beneficial effects elsewhere in the LTC funding process—established and funded training and maintenance regimes, available spares packages, in-place basing infrastructure and ongoing production lines and support contracts in industry to name a few areas. Naturally it is not sensible to retain major weapons platforms that are clearly an operational, maintenance or financial liability but to retire them simply because of age is not necessarily a cost effective option if modification and/or upgrade can restore their safe operational useful life below the cost of replacing with new. Indeed, as the introduction of complex weapons systems can take many years to implement requiring major investment in R&D, training and support lines, CILOP, if used wisely, can offer DES and industry the time to plan ahead and phase in new production or supplement capability when in-service-dates are delayed. The US developed CILOP principles to a fine degree during the 1980s and have, arguably, subsequently made it a mainstream acquisition process. An example is the B-52 bomber, still in service and being upgraded some 50 years after it entered service.

24B.  The CILOP principle must be applied to the defence inventory as a whole, across service boundaries, and a constant evaluation made as to the capabilities that may be offered in place of procurement of specialised new assets. Can effort be directed at existing aircraft, vehicle and ship modifications to fulfil roles that were not envisaged in the original specification? Can a platform perform multi-role tasks in a simple to execute, cost effective and operationally acceptable modular configuration? For example, with the demise of the Nimrod fleet could a modular sensor and weapons system be designed and fitted to another airframe such as the C130J or A400M to fill the capability gap created—could the Sentinel be converted rather than disposed of or perhaps the Sentry AWACS? Given the success in the US with aircraft, these should be centre stage for future consideration. Airframes are simply lumps of metal (however intricate) and, once designed and manufactured can be repaired and, if the jigs are retained, re-manufactured from scratch. The latter offers all manner of opportunity to improve original designs by removing old flaws and accommodating new engines, IT, sensor systems and the raft of technologies that will have been seen in the 20-40 years since the first build was completed. And all at a fraction of the original procurement price.

25B.  This principle should also be explored, as a minimum, across the three services in respect of MACA with particular emphasis on those specialised defence assets that are employed more rarely for their prime purpose—infrastructure and bridge building capability, deployable shelters, light helicopters and aircraft, in-shore craft, landing ships, UK based vehicles and personnel et al. Can these UK based defence assets provide aid to the civil power in an emergency now or in the future and once identified as such could funding for procurement, maintenance or use be shared with the appropriate civil authorities—is there scope for cross department "dormant" hire contracts?


26B.  The MoD has reached a point where reformation is essential if it is to meet the administrative, operational and financial imperatives laid upon it. The inherited system of central staffs being too heavily reliant upon officials has not achieved the necessary dynamic balance to ensure that UK defence as a whole benefits. Indeed, the central system has led to duplication of effort and consequent over-staffing at all levels leading to a lack of cohesion and effective budgetary control—a disconnect that may have led to decisions being made as a compromise rather than for doctrinally sound reasoning. A situation that fails to provide for optimum defence capability when set against foreign policy objectives is a position that is untenable and it is time to reconsider centralised command and control of MoD and to radically reform a system that has manifestly failed in its prime function—to provide UK with cohesive and cost effective management of defence.

27B.  To this end the Prime Minister must take the lead in reforming the central staffs as currently configured and replace them with a slim-lined tri-service oriented MoD secretariat, led by the SoS for Defence with CDS reporting directly to him as Military Head of the Armed Forces and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Committee. The Commander PJHQ should have operational authority for all military central planning and MACA liaison, whilst the three service chiefs should retain their independent chain of command each providing LO's of appropriate rank and experience to advise on single service doctrine and requirements. However, all major procurement decisions must be invested in an independent and professionally recruited DES that responds and reports to the SoS but that has independent authority to liaise with industry directly and through chairmanship of the NDIC—DES must maintain liaison with PJHQ and the three Single Service Chiefs on technical, contract progression and requirement grounds but must be independent of this command chain.

28B.  If the government is serious in its ambition to reform MoD thereby providing the UK tax payer with an accountable and agile defence management structure it must learn from the past and be prepared for radical change. The central staffs system has not (does not) perform well because it has too many intrinsic flaws not least alone its inability to control budget overspend and to provide cohesive and impartial tri-service (national) decision making on all occasions. Bernard Gray has shown the way in defence procurement but for his reforms to be truly effective the MoD must eradicate duplication of effort and focus decision making to provide cost-effective financial management of cohesive and balanced forces.

January 2011

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Prepared 3 August 2011