Written evidence from Derek M Long |
With a background of being a past Board Member of
the Communications Information Systems subset of the Defence Scientific
Advisory Council (DSAC) (1996-2006), Visiting Senior Fellow Kings
College London and a 30 year career in the Royal Navy I would
offer the following comments for the Committee's consideration:
1. DSAC CIS Board Members were given extensive
briefs upon MoD equipment needs, the strategies and operational
requirements which directed the investments. Throughout my time
and over 10 major studies/working parties the individual MoD scientists
and uniformed personnel had a good grasp of what was required
but frequently the short and rotating time in post, coupled with
a lack of knowledge of civil technical advances followed by an
extraordinary procurement timescale, meant it was difficult to
bring into service systems and equipment that was able to ride
the technological second wave. Equally the systems and equipment
once in place had an inordinately long service life. In the case
of maritime platforms and transport air this was not a problem
if module design allowed upgrades during the lifewhich
in the case of a ship might be 50 years or more from raising the
requirement to decommissioning the last of the class.
However in programmes such as Bowman or IT systems
these timescales frequently mean that a system was delivered into
service which was a decade or more behind the civil market.
2. In the 1990s it was obvious that the US had
moved into network centric operations across all military branches
and the UK had fallen behind, making it difficult for comfortable
interoperability and knowledge sharing. I suspect that the US
has moved further ahead and the MoD has failed to close the gap
very much at all. Budgets are of course greater in the US but
the MoD management has been lax in implementing a tri-service
systems engineering approach to integrated operations. Too many
programmes remain single service focussed and not multi-task.
One wonders if the move to greater sharing with France rather
than the US is based more upon our failing joint equipment and
technology standards than any political need. The last common
bilateral military event was Suezwhich was curtailed by
3. The NSS introduction makes some key points
which are highly relevant and rightly widens National Security
into non-military contents. Later on in 3.18 it comments on unpredictability
which was exemplified by my own service career; the early part
was spent in using tactics from WWII, a period of instability
and support to civil authorities in Malaya, Borneo, Aden etc.
before then moving into Cold War chess play. The Falklands and
Iraq came out of the blue. On each occasion existing equipment
had to be adapted and new tactical lessons had to be learned.
These current NSS strategies will require MoD investment and change.
4. The SDSR, unlike previous reviews, has been
carried out extraordinarily quickly and can be likened to the
application of surgeons standards at Trafalgar compared with a
modern day neurosurgeon undertaking keyhole surgery.
5. The MoD Grand Strategic task should be to
"direct and provide coherence to overall national, alliance
or coalition policymilitary and non-military aspects".
I would suggest that the SDSR as it currently stands is not compliant
with that statement. For example by drastically reducing the maritime
lift capability the MoD cannot support the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office (FCO) by offering off-shore protection to UK citizens in
a rapid timescale or protecting trade should the Suez Canal be
closed, pirates or terrorism attacks on our North Sea Oil assets
and the like. There are in theory, numerous circumstances where
our national interest will not be taken up by another nation.
There is a need for a mixed blue water fleet able to operate in
a self sufficient mode at a distance from UK shores and indeed
in other oceans. That investment can be made to last operationally
25-30 years, quite a cost effective investment. It may be that
in a more "market driven" government, the MoD should
fund the hardware and manpower but if used for the benefit of
other departments then operational costs and depreciation should
be borne by another ie FCO, International Development, Law &
Order (antidrug in Caribbean in the same manner as GCHQ funded
the special fit Nimrods and submarines.
6. The MoD Strategic Level tasks which "determine
the military strategic objectives and the desired state with allocation
of resources etc" has also been sidelined in the SDSR. The
present programme places the mainstream naval aviation into a
form of "hibernation" until 2020. It seems to assume
that this platform and that which it is built to operate are not
for use unless there is a "State" war. As global politics
currently stand that may be so but moveable offshore airpower
has been used for multiple "peacekeeping" operations
such as Bosnia, Kosovo and as "control or power projection"
in West Africa and operationally in support of NATO in Afghanistan.
The aircrew skill sets and blend of age/experience usually found
in operational units will be lost so that the new 2020 squadrons
will be filled with new pilots or some who have not flown Fixwing
for 10 years. The USN is already flight testing the new F37, thus
MoD should review the current operational requirement and consider
jumping a generation and extend the life of the Harrier for five
7. The MoD budget remains focussed on the short-term
needs to complete operations in Afghanistan. After several years
of underinvestment in the wrong equipment the Army is now receiving
suitable vehiclesthe Mastiff at around £1.3 million/unit.
However the lack of suitable air transport means that the UK is
dependent upon Soviet and US built heavy lift aircraft to deliver
units to the NATO operation. If such vehicles are brought back
to the UK and then needed for another overseas military operation
which is non NATO then the MoD can only drive them overland or
hire in commercial heavy lift. An example of procurement without
a systems engineering approach of impact and supplementary support
8. One could quote many similar equipment examples
without crossing over into the social and economic impacts of
poor defence planning.
9. The SDSR requires a thorough review and the
current knee jerk budgetary reactions frozen until a comprehensive
and cross departmental review driven by the Cabinet Office (rather
than the Treasury) has taken place to set the MoD on course to
meet the NSS and enable compliance with an ever changing complex
world. There is room for some imaginative thinking with better
use of civil technology, a return to lease lend with key allies
and common anti-terrorist inter-state legislation.
10. The Defence Committee is the one cross party
body which can take a step back to consider these wider impacts.