Public Administration CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Institute for Security & Resilience Studies, UCL (ST 07)

1. Introduction

1.1 The Institute for Security & Resilience Studies at UCL offers innovative approaches to the challenges of security and resilience in a highly networked world. We bring together the public, private and third sectors to seek out ways to catalyse innovation—so that we can all better cope with, and flourish in, increasingly uncertain times.

1.2 The concepts of resilience and its inverse—irresilience—are grounded in advances in mathematics. These enable decision- takers at all levels to explore the risks and uncertainties of dynamic networks. Doing so does not just raise awareness of complex dangers; it also offers options for coherent decisive actions, which produces rather than just protects value.

1.3 Our approach to resilience moves beyond the classical origins of the word and or narrow engineering of the terms as bounce back to the status quo ante. It advances a more contemporary biological and evolutionary definition, namely: resilience is the enduring power of a body or bodies for transformation, renewal and recovery through the flux of interactions and flow of events.

1.4 Our response to the Public Administration Select Committee’s inquiry into the capacity for strategic thinking in Whitehall is based on three facets of our current research:

In general, we examine the role of the Net Assessment Strategies in a multi-polar world as an alternative to “grand” or “national” strategy;

In particular, we have recently looked at the challenges thrown-up by the man-made environment of cyberspace being added to maritime, land, air and space; and

In practical terms, we highlight the potential for a UK Office of Net Assessment adapted from its 40 year old US defence counterpart for security and resilience.

1.5 We are therefore responding to three of the questions in particular which PASC has set for this inquiry:

1(c)Is the term “national strategy” (or “grand strategy”) the most helpful way to describe the requirement?

6(b)How do developments in cyber, technology and social media affect all these discussions?

9.What can we learn from what other countries, both in terms of what they do in strategic policy making and how they perceive the UK?

1.6 At this time, we have nothing further to add to the understanding of the other questions posed.

2. Net Assessment of Strategies (NAS)

2.1 Both “national strategy” and “grand strategy” are inadequate labels for strategy-making that befits the challenges ahead of us all. In a multi-polar world a diversity of strategies will interact. Continuity and change will be an incessant challenge. Adhering to a rigid strategy will be as much of a hostage to fortune as having no strategy. Whether producing strategies as products of learning or contending with the interaction of strategies, plurality will prevail and crises abound. Any simple rational calculus of “interests” or “balance of power” will seldom work. On these terms, confidence in the competent authority of decision-takers will be constantly tested. They will be found wanting if the evolving plurality of strategies (and uncertainties they create as much as address) is ignored.

2.2 A more appropriate concept, Net Assessment of Strategies (NAS), is derived from the US Office of Net Assessment (ONA). ONA was established in 1973 by Andrew W Marshall, a foreign policy strategist and alumni of the Rand Corporation’s golden era. He remains ONA’s director, having been re-appointed by successive Presidents, to this day. The production of “comprehensive net assessments” is a statutory requirement in the US.1 However, NAS for a multi-polar world cannot be confined to the defence community of one Nation-State. All relevant capabilities need to be considered (public, private and third sector) from a plurality of transnational perspectives.

2.3 NAS seeks to promote policies based on the thorough appraisal of all relevant contexts in which various patterns of events can unfold. In short, NAS continues to be a comparative multi-disciplinary assessment of economic, social, political, and other factors governing the relative capabilities of organisations, in order to identify competitive advantages and dangers that deserve the attention of decision-takers.

2.4 Arguably, its greatest strength for decision takers, policymakers and strategists lies in the challenging of assumptions through robust reasoning. If deployed correctly, it is an assured means of avoiding dangerous consensus based on misunderstanding of affects, cognitive biases, and weak science.

2.5 NAS consists of four main elements:

2.5.1Genuine long-termism: with Government reaction and pro-action too often influenced by the current news cycle, the immediate (daily, weekly, monthly) effects of policy are heavily scrutinised at the expense of their cumulative effect over time. In these circumstances, the power of actors and their actions can be misperceived, with either too great a strength or too great a weakness assigned to them. “Power” in that context is, in fact, a perception of power. NAS seeks spotlight misperceptions and self-deception so as to avoid what one commentator describes as the “tyranny of small decisions”.2

2.5.2A focus on the overlooked: NAS is less concerned with proving current estimates right or wrong as it is with identifying issues not yet covered by estimates at all. This is the natural corollary of genuine long –termism: recognition of a desire for convenience and the challenging of that desire. There is a close analogy in economics in the consideration of opportunity costs when assessing costs and benefits, ie asking what is the result of all possible actions rather than predicting only the potential result of something that is already happening.

2.5.3Strategic interactions: Net Assessment arose out of Cold War imperatives to fully comprehend Soviet capabilities relative to Western capabilities. An initial understanding of the term net, comes from the subtraction of “Red” from “Blue” capabilities to produce an overall assessment of a competitive situation. However, the correlation of forces is neither arithmetic nor static. The assessment of relations between “Red” and “Blue” owed most to their respective capacity from innovation, seeking competitive advantage through change not just doing more of the same. The evolutionary drive for innovation is not unfettered. Net Assessment has always been realistic about powerful drag factors; in particular, bureaucratic vested interests and rent seeking behaviour. These are endemic in various guises within organisations, especially those parts of them which are invested with prestige and influence. This skews investment decisions, funding allocations and other decisions that weigh heavily on the prospects for strategies delivering desired outcomes. Net as interacting networks rather than the summation of relative capabilities, merely underscores what Net Assessment has always been about.

2.5.4Emphasising strategic asymmetries: understanding an organisation’s resilience and irresilience relies not just on identifying its competitors but the very nature of that competition, ie a full understanding of the environment and processes that makes competitors fail or succeed and not just recognition of the success or failure itself.

3. The Crucial Challenges of Cyberspace and the Need for Cyber Doctrines

3.1 Cyberspace is transnational. Yet thinking in most sovereign bodies remains national or international. Cyberspace is more diffuse and invasive, entailing simultaneous actions in many dimensions and levels. The cyber environment permeates the fabric of societies. It does not add a stand-alone environment to maritime, land, air and space; but weaves them into more obvious interdependence. Since cyberspace constantly evolves, so must the behaviours of bodies seeking fitness for such dynamic environments. Although the first man-made environment, cyberspace is bringing us back to the state of nature with a thump.

3.2 While traditional law- and treaty-making is proving inadequate in this context, doctrines offer coherent ways forward. Cyber doctrines must be founded on the recognition that resilience is competitiveness. It should be synonymous with entrepreneurship. At its centre is the vital principle of the easy integration of competent authorities and capabilities with the capacity to thrive on innovation. The coherence of competence, capabilities and capacity is vital. This will be the test of any would-be strategy and will happen in real time not bureaucratic time. Our advocacy of doctrines is pragmatic. It enables jurists to work with principles rather than over-codified, out-dated and fragmented laws. It offers a way to develop education coupled with research that supports innovative drive and entrepreneurship.3 And cyber doctrine can thereby honour the realism of strategy as always being about the outcomes of doing4 and learning, which is not to be confused with the inputs or ideals of drafting and plans. Unless, that is, the Post-Bureaucratic Age is a prize we leave to our competitors.

3.3 Such doctrines can bridge the gaps between law, policy, security and technology across our highly networked lives. They are an organic approach to continuous learning which is vital to building capacity for strategy in action rather than as artefacts of thinking.

3.4 Recommendations for policy-makers to support the development of cyber doctrines include:

3.4.1Establishment of a Task Force under a dedicated Minister, reporting directly to the National Security Council (NSC), and with responsibility for.

3.4.2The establishment and development of cyber doctrines for the UK, which will offer a framework for learning resilience to develop greater depth and breadth to capabilities and capacity for the challenges ahead, not least advancing national competitive advantage.

3.4.3Developing transnational liaison, involving the public, private and third sectors (especially academia).

3.4.4Encouraging entrepreneurship by selecting, training, educating, and examining competent individuals for recruitment and advancement to posts in public, private and academic sectors vital to the continuous demonstration of competent authority in cyberspace.

3.4.5Incentivising innovation through organising incubators (Cyber Enterprise Zones) as venues for entrepreneurs for all sectors to invest in and catalyse innovations that can be spun out as Joint Ventures with equity shared appropriately.

3.4.6Developing means of measurement and assessment that instrument the capacity for innovation and the production of resilience as a value, not least in terms that insurance can use appropriately to incentivise healthy behaviours.

3.4.7Developing open source tools and apps that evidence the value of information sharing by enabling the mapping of evolutionary capabilities (as ecologies of competencies and technology) across and through time.

3.5 Making such recommendations is not the measure of the capacity for strategy. Delivering on the pragmatic ambition of such recommendations is—and continuously learning from doing so.

4. An Office of Net Assessment for the UK

4.1 The United States Department of Defense’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA) was created in 1973. The Director of Net Assessment is the principal staff assistant and advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense on net assessment matters. According to Defense Directive 5111.11, the Director shall develop and coordinate net assessments of the standing, trends, and future prospects of military capabilities and military potential in comparison with those of other countries or groups of countries so as to identify emerging or future threats or opportunities.

4.2 ONA successes have included:

4.2.1Anticipating how damaging the Soviet Union’s economic inherent contradictions would be to it from the early 1970s onwards.

4.2.2Anticipating the rise of the East, and being honest about the US’s relative decline in realistic terms that are still politically hard to come to terms with today.

4.2.3Clarity about how the Soviet Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) would evolve into precision strike without necessarily dispelling the “fog and friction” of war.5

4.3 It is arguable that the US ONA was established in the Pentagon because that is where the money for research is. Net Assessment demands great scholarly discipline. Its independence is as vital as its capacity to integrate many fields of knowledge in support of decision-takers concerned with the conduct of durable strategies. The US ONA found an excellent home in the Pentagon. Advice passing directly to the Secretary for Defence (SecDef) can reach the President as necessary.

4.4 The US does not have the same constitutional arrangements as the UK. Moreover, the role of defence has changed from the early 1970s, even in the US. Defence funding of research no longer dwarfs all other sources. Security and resilience will continue to rely on defence capabilities but far from exclusively so. Capabilities relevant to the contemporary and future Net Assessment of Strategies may well come from other public services, the private (not least the financial sector) and third sectors. All of which will have transnational dimensions.

4.5 Within the terms of this inquiry, and its predecessor, the idea of a UK ONA offers an interesting thought experiment. Whatever the heritage and traditions of strategic thinking MoD is unlikely to provide a viable home for such a body. Consideration of other options gives a practical edge to how the capacity for strategy-making is best nurtured in British society today. This is not such a radical departure. In the aftermath of the Vietnam War and its impact on the conduct of the Cold War, a comprehensive approach to Net Assessment was already a concern. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) might have provided a better home for the ONA in the US. In today’s circumstances homes for a UK ONA might include:

The creation of an entity with the independence of the Office of National Statistics;

A Parliamentary body akin to the National Audit Office;

An independent body reporting to the National Security Council; or

A distinctive branch of the Office for Budget Responsibility.

4.6 Wherever housed, a UK ONA would need to be constituted in ways that enable near effortless interaction with academia, civil society and knowledgeable people from almost any background. More careful consideration would have to be given to private sector involvement but their engagement is vital too, not least given their practical knowledge, investment in research and ability to drive innovation.

4.7 Again, deficiencies in cyber-security capabilities underscore how the capacity for strategy-making has to be radically enhanced. It is not enough to add another specialist cadre to the long list of others for whom the absence of NAS has meant careers blighted by poor leadership and misspent taxes. A UK ONA could support political, commercial and intellectual leadership, unashamedly configured to seek out and attain competitive advantage through the Net Assessment of Strategies.

October 2011

1 The constituting legal authority for the Department of Defense specifies that the Comprehensive Net Assessment is produced annually, see, “US Secretary of Defense,” US Code, (Title 31, Subtitle II, Chapter 11, Section 113, (i), 1; Washington, DC: US House of Representatives, 2008), available at < > accessed 21 October 2011.

2 Bracken, P “Net Assessment: A Practical Guide”, Parameters, US Army War College Quarterly, Summer 2006, Vol XXXVI, No. 2.

3 MacIntosh, Tyler, Reid (2011) Cyber Doctrine: towards a coherent evolutionary framework for learning (ISRS).

4 See, for example, Jarzabkowski, P. (2005). Strategy As Practice: An Activity-Based Approach. London: Sage Publications.

5 See Watts, B (2011) The Maturing Revolution in Military Affairs, Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment (Washington DC); and (1996) Clausewitzian Friction and Future War, McNair Paper 52, National Defense University (Washington DC).

Prepared 20th April 2012