5 What more needs to be done?|
118. The changes that have been introduced, including
the introduction of the National Security Council (NSC) and the
Levene reforms, have clarified and improved the structures of
decision-making. But they have not yet addressed fundamental problems
in the process of decision-making.
119. We are concerned that the Government does
not fully recognise the extent of the flaws in past decision-making
practice, and therefore needs to make more fundamental changes
than have already been effected. We would therefore welcome the
Government's views on the analysis in this report, including our
assessment of the Helmand and carrier design cases, and our views
of more general problems in the past decision-making process.
120. We believe that there is still a crucial
lack of authoritative, expert information which can serve as the
basis for strong defence decision-making, in particular on the
detailed political situation in conflict areas. We do not believe
that the existing information-gathering institutionsincluding
within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence
and intelligence agenciesare currently capable of
providing information of sufficient quality and quantity. We urge
the Government to explain how it plans to remedy this situation.
121. We ask the Government to outline how it will
equip military and civilian advisers with better education and
training in thinking strategically.
122. We believe that Ministers may not have the
necessary capacity or personal support to be able to reach a well-informed
judgement on the issues they are asked to decide, nor to challenge
constructively the official advice they are receiving. We recommend
that they should be more often provided with the opportunity to
reach their own conclusions, including through visits to conflict
regions during which they should have wider and unfiltered access
to local opinion. We recommend that the Ministry of Defence investigate
how to improve induction training for new Ministers in their portfolios,
and examine what additional advice and support they need.
123. We believe that the Levene reforms have been
helpful in giving the Chiefs of Staff greater authority for the
management of their services, and in reducing the potential for
Single Service institutional rivalries to distort spending plans
and operational policy. But these benefits have also come at the
expense of severely limiting the ability of the Chiefs to provide
expert strategical advice. We feel that the post-Levene Chiefs
of Staff Committee is too detached from the central policy-making
process in the MoD and also, crucially, from the NSC. We recommend
that the roles of the Chief of Staff should be redefined to give
greater weight to their function as strategy advisors. We recommend
that the Chiefs of Staff Committee should become the official
military sub-committee of the NSC, in order to tender to it joint
military advice on strategy. We believe that such a sub-committee
will be effective only if its military members do not use its
deliberations to pursue Single Service institutional agendas.
124. We note the drastic reduction in recent years
of domain competence in the Civil Service, reflected in the civilian
representatives on the Defence Board and on other high level decision-making
bodies. We also note the deplorable loss of defence scientific
expertise from the Defence Board. We recommend that the Civil
Service should once again be required to possess specialist defence
and technical expertise to improve the quality of decision-making.
This will also have the benefit of balancing military input with
expert civilian input and of reducing the temptation to pursue
Single Service agendas.
125. Furthermore we consider that there are major
weaknesses in how the NSC operates. This is particularly important
given its dominant role in decision-making.
126. We are concerned that discussion in NSC meetings
is too tactical and discursive, and not does not sufficiently
draw on authoritative expert opinion.
127. We believe that the creation of the NSC has
failed to eliminate the risk of a personal, private and reactive
style of decision-making involving only the Prime Minister and
his closest advisers.
128. We are concerned that the increased use of
the NSC could have the effect of undercutting the principle of
Cabinet government. We seek clarification from the Government
on the relationship between the NSC and the Cabinet, and further
reassurance on how the Cabinet will be involved with national
strategy and the formulation of the next SDSR.
129. We therefore conclude that unless the Government
makes better use of its decision-making institutions, and draws
on higher quality information and advice, there is a significant
risk that future decisions on defence and security issues will
be as poor as in the past, with consequences which are just as
130. We urge the Government to take urgent steps
to remedy these weaknesses, and to put in place a genuinely strategic,
well-informed and properly balanced decision-making machine.