Defence and Cyber-Security - Defence Committee Contents

4 Relationships with allies

In addition to its other tasks, the Defence Cyber Operations Group (DCOG) takes the lead in establishing links with "key allies" on cyber.[91] In March 2009, in the course of an inquiry into Russia's relationship with NATO, the Committee visited the NATO Co-operative Cyber-Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia. In our report, we noted that the Centre did not receive core NATO funding, being funded instead by the contributions of sponsoring nations, and we asked the MoD to explain why the UK was not a sponsor.[92] In its response, the Government stated that it believed the best way of making use of its resources was to contribute to the work of the Centre by assisting with specific workstreams, rather than by attaching personnel permanently.[93] During oral evidence for this inquiry, we asked Francis Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office, who had recently visited Estonia, and James Quinault, Director, Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance, Cabinet Office, why the UK was still not a sponsor of the Centre. They replied that the Centre was developing "know-how and research" rather than being engaged in operations, which means that it is "not the place from which cyber-defence of NATO would be commanded".[94]

However, since the final oral evidence session, the MoD told us that, as the role of the Centre expands under the auspices of the NATO Cyber Defence Action Plan (CDAP), the MoD has decided, from 2013, to send a national representative and to pay the annual 20,000 subscription using funds from the Defence Cyber Security Programme (DCSP). It is proposed that the UK would initially make a two year commitment, with the intent to review ongoing participation. Long term, the MoD will have to make a decision on the continuation of funding once the DCSP ends.

Provision of a national representative will give the UK a seat on the Steering Committee with the opportunity to influence future work. This action will confirm UK commitment both to the Centre and to broader NATO Cyber Defence activity and, we understand, will be welcomed by close international partners, particularly the United States.

The UK also participates in the NATO Incident Response and Command Centre (a 'GOSCC' for Alliance operations) in Belgium, and pursues cyber work in collaboration with a number of allies, notably the United States and Australia, with whom a tri-lateral memorandum of understanding has been agreed.[95] Cyber is also a strand of the UK-France defence co-operation agreements. General Shaw told us that the UK found that "bilateral relationships are where you can make progress. [...] In terms of creating unified NATO policy, I think that is a very slow boat indeed. That policy is coming along, like all NATO policy, at the speed of the slowest runner".[96]

We welcome the Government's decision to play a more active role in the future work of the NATO Cyber-Defence Centre of Excellence. We ask that the MoD keeps Parliament fully apprised of future decisions regarding participation in this and other international co-operative arrangements.

91   Ev 45 Back

92   Defence Committee, Tenth Report of Session 2008-09, Russia: a new confrontation?, para 153 Back

93   Defence Committee, Sixth Special Report of Session 2008-09, Russia: a new confrontation? Government response to the Committee's Tenth Report of Session 2008-09 Back

94   Qq 231-2 Back

95   Q 43 Back

96   Q 43 Back

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Prepared 9 January 2013