Public Administration CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Cabinet Office (ST 01)

In the Government’s 20 December 2010 Response to your Committee’s report on UK Grand Strategy we committed to providing you with an update on progress on two particular issues—bringing the strategy-making community closer together and strengthening its collective working; and developing collaborative working on national security issues across the relevant Government departments. The work that Government has undertaken to progress these two areas is set out below.

1. Following the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) we committed to explore ways to bring the strategy-making community closer together and strengthening its collective working. Work has been taken forward as follows.

(a) National Security Strategy Network

A number of national security departments have “strategy units” which support the development of forward-thinking in foreign, defence and security policy. As set out in the SDSR, we have a commitment to strengthening the central direction of Departmental strategy units. We have now established a formal strategic thinking network, overseen by the National Security Adviser, where representatives from each national security Departmental strategy unit meet. They have met on a number of occasions to discuss and map out their Departments’ work programmes and they will build on this to identify opportunities for future collaboration on national security programmes. The strategy network has formalised its terms of reference and objectives and convenes on a six weekly basis. The main aim of the network is to build a national security community, ensure closer coordination and where appropriate to conduct pieces of collaborative work.

National security issues usually cut across the remit of several Departments. With their good visibility of the breadth of work conducted within their own Department, “Strategy Units” are well placed to spot opportunities for their Departments to work closer together. Closer working between these units is expected to achieve the following objectives:

Improve cross-Government awareness of current and future “strategic” projects.

Spot overlapping areas of interest, and commission joint projects.

Pool resources where necessary, enabling work which might otherwise be unachievable.

Share best practice and techniques and ideas for improvement or broader application.

They are also sharing ideas on how best to engage with academics and other experts external to Government. This should help ensure that Whitehall is more open to wider perspectives and fresh ideas and carefully considers challenges to strategic convention.

As outlined in my previous memorandum to the Committee, we are also exploring options to improve education in strategy across the national security community. The UK Defence Academy has been working with the Cabinet Office to develop collaborative leadership training for relevant senior civil servants in the national security community. The pilot course phase has now successfully completed. The National Security Secretariat is working with the Defence Academy and other Departments and agencies to identify ways to develop this for national security Departments’ induction programmes by the end of this year.

(b) Strategic Capacity—Defence Reform

The Defence Secretary published Lord Levene’s report on Defence Reform earlier this month, accepting all its recommendations. That report recognised that the MOD’s capacity to think strategically and to contribute coherently and effectively to Government strategies was weak. It recommended a number of measures to strengthen this function within the Department.

For example, the report recommended reinforced governance structures for strategy. It clarified that PUS and CDS should jointly lead Defence strategy and chair a new strategy group to consider how Defence can most effectively support Foreign and Security Policy objectives as set out in the National Security Strategy. The report also recommends the new Defence Board, chaired by the Defence Secretary, should provide oversight to the formulation and delivery of strategy including monitoring the implementation of the Defence Engagement Strategy as one of its strategic objectives. This is currently being developed by the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and seeks to coordinate and prioritise international engagement and Defence diplomacy. It will form a core part of the Defence Strategy. In addition Lord Levene’s report made a number of recommendations which will result in a head office which is smaller and more strategic, and focused on setting direction rather than micro managing delivery.

Implementation of many of these recommendations is already underway, and the Defence Secretary has committed to provide more detail on his plans in this regard in the Autumn.

(c) US/UK Joint Strategy Board

Following the publication of the SDSR, we have been conducting further work to identify opportunities for joint strategic working. On 25 May the Government announced the creation of a UK-US Joint Strategy Board. The Board will enable a more guided, coordinated approach to analyse the “over the horizon” challenges we face in the future and also how today’s challenges are likely to shape our future choices. It is designed to integrate long-term thinking and planning into the day-to-day work of our governments and our bilateral relationship, as we contemplate how significant evolutions in the global economic and security environment will require shifts in our shared strategic approach.

The Board is co-chaired by the US National Security staff and the UK National Security Secretariat, and will include representatives from the Departments for State and Defense, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Joint Intelligence Organisation. It will report to the UK and US National Security Advisers. The Board will meet quarterly alternating between sites in the US and the UK, and will be reviewed by respective NSAs to decide whether to renew its mandate.

2. We also committed to exploring the possibility of developing and examining the effectiveness of collaborative working on national security issues across relevant Government departments. Examples of work in this area include.

(a) Building Stability Overseas

The Government will shortly publish its strategy for Building Stability Overseas. The strategy stems from the NSS and SDSR commitments and its purpose is to address instability and conflict overseas. It sets out how we will do this using all of our diplomatic, development, defence and security tools, and drawing on our unique experience, relationships, reputation and values. Work on the strategy has been taken forward jointly by the Foreign Office, Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence, working closely with other Government Departments. The strategy draws on insights from the Arab spring and from a wide range of external experts. The National Security Council was consulted as the strategy was developed.

(b) Prevent Review and Contest Strategy

The review into the Government’s strategy for stopping people becoming terrorists (Prevent) was published in June 2011. A new version of the Government’s strategy for counter-terrorism (of which Prevent is one part) followed in July 2011. The Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) at the Home Office has lead responsibility across Whitehall for counter-terrorism so production of both these strategies was led by the OSCT Strategy Team. An effective counter-terrorism policy depends on many Government Departments working together. Throughout the strategy development process OSCT worked with the Ministry of Justice, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for Communities and Local Government, the police and security and intelligence agencies. The National Security Council was consulted throughout the process and cleared the final strategies.

(c) Strategic Communications Review

The SDSR noted that strategic communications are an important element of the Government’s security strategy and included a commitment to produce a National Security Communications Strategy. To inform the development of the communications strategy a review was commissioned by the National Security Adviser. The review included an assessment of current practice and capability of government communications in this area; interviews with policy leads for each security risk and communications practitioners across departments and agencies; and an analysis of best practice approaches in the UK, US and NATO. As a result of this review a cross-Government approach to National Security and strategic communications has been agreed to improve Government’s collaborative working in this area. This will be taken forward by a cross-Government group of experts under the chairmanship of No.10. This group will work with senior national security risk owners to ensure that strategic communications is integrated into forward planning; identify ways to improve the Government’s capacity, both in terms of training for staff who are not communications professionals and access to advice from those who are; and plans for integrating strategic communications into the Government’s response to significant new security issues.

(d) The National Cyber Security Programme (NCSP) and the Work of the Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance (OCSIA)

Cyber security is a cross-cutting issue that requires partnership across Government, the private sector, and internationally. Government Departments including BIS, FCO, Home Office, DWP, GCHQ, MOD (and many others) have worked together to shape the Government’s strategic response and the underpinning of the National Cyber Security Programme. Our shared approach means ensuring the cyber security agenda contributes across the breadth of the Government’s economic, social and national security objectives. Internationally, OCSIA is working with a range of countries. With strong OCSIA policy input, FCO is leading work on an international conference to discuss norms of behaviour in cyberspace. Within the UK a number of private sector companies are working with Government to design the approach needed to protect our shared cyber interests. Working in new ways with a wide range of organisations and individuals is challenging, but we are convinced it is right that we respond to the greater interconnection that cyber space brings. In this fast-moving environment there is an important role at the centre in shaping a shared vision and approach.

(e) Risk Assessment

Government already co-ordinates an annual cross-Government assessment of civil emergency risks which informs resilience and contingency planning: the National Risk Assessment (NRA). In the 2010 National Security Strategy, the Government conducted the first ever National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA) in which subject-matter experts identified and assessed the full range of existing and potential risks to our national security. The Government made a commitment in the NSS to review the NSRA every two years. The methodology of both assessments has been reviewed this year. The two Assessments will in future align more closely, with plans to run some elements jointly in 2012. Strategic all-source assessment, horizon-scanning and early warning across Government feed into both Assessments and scientific evidence is used to identify and assess the risks therein. Following recommendations from the Government Chief Scientific Adviser’s “Blackett Review” and the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee’s February report, further scientific advice will now be accessed specifically to identify, assess and facilitate the co-ordination of evidence for cross-cutting or indistinct risks and risks which trigger one another. The NRA and NSRA are overseen by the National Security Council which continues to drive forward the UK’s national strategy.

July 2011

Prepared 20th April 2012