Decision-making in Defence Policy - Defence Contents

1  Introduction

The inquiry

1. In July 2014, we decided to conduct an inquiry into decision-making in defence policy, including an examination of the relationships between Ministers, officials and the military. We set out to understand the current state of decision-making processes within the MoD, and to assess whether changes needed to be made.

2. The inquiry was framed in the following terms: [3]

·  What are the processes for decision-making in Defence policy? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these processes?

·  How is the relationship between Ministers and their advisers, the military and civil servants defined?

·  How have processes for decision-making and the relationship between Ministers and their advisers, the military and civil servants changed over the last 10 years?

·  Is there a case for codifying the relationship?

·  What pressures have been placed on this relationship in the last 10 years by changes in the Government's relations with the media?

·  What effect has the House of Commons vote on intervention in Syria had on this relationship?

·  Who makes the decisions on the deployment of UK troops on combat and other operations?

3. We received six written submissions, and held six oral evidence sessions, with 11 panels. We decided to investigate defence decision-making by investigating two case studies: firstly, the decision to deploy forces to Helmand Province in Afghanistan in 2006, and the deployment into Northern Helmand later in 2006; and secondly, decisions surrounding the aircraft carriers, procured by the MoD to replace the three Invincible class carriers. The first, second and fourth evidence sessions focused on decision-making in Afghanistan, whilst the third session looked at decisions about the design of the aircraft carriers in 1998 and 2010.

4. During our evidence sessions, it became evident that the National Security Council ('NSC') was being posited as a way of counteracting the weaknesses that had plagued defence decision-making, and we decided, therefore, that our fifth session would focus on the effectiveness of the NSC. We took evidence from two former members of the NSC, who were able to provide us with first-hand accounts of the inner workings of this relatively new decision-making structure. We also discussed the impact of the 2011 Levene reforms, with a particular focus on the impact on the Chiefs of Staff. During the sixth and final evidence session, we took evidence from the Secretary of State for Defence, the Rt Hon Michael Fallon MP, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, Vice Chief of Defence Staff, and Peter Watkins, Director General Security Policy. We would like to thank all the contributors to this inquiry, and emphasise that their time, effort and expertise were very much appreciated.

5. For the purpose of clarity, we shall use the following definitions of the levels of defence decision-making:[4]

·  'Grand Strategic'—the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government—is the national political level that sets the government policy on international issues, in effect national aims in peace and war that strategy is to deliver.

·  'Military Strategic'—the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence—is the highest military level, developing, sustaining and assigning military forces to support government policy and achieve goals set at the Grand Strategic level.

·  'Operational'—the responsibility of the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ)—planning military campaigns and deploying forces to achieve the strategic objectives set by the MoD.

·  'Tactical'—the responsibility of Field Commanders or Component Commanders—directing operations on the ground, at sea and in the air.

·  The United Kingdom recently replaced the term 'Grand Strategy' with 'National Strategy', defining it as National Strategy directs the coordinated application of the instruments of national power (diplomatic, economic and military) in the pursuit of national policy aspirations.

3   Defence Committee, Error! Bookmark not defined., 16 September 2014 Back

4   Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, The Royal College of Defence Studies, Error! Bookmark not defined., October 2010, p 7 Back

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Prepared 26 March 2015