67.In this section we consider the other two core tasks of the Army: overseas defence engagement, and civil engagement and homeland/national resilience.
68.SDSR 2015 set out the Government’s ambition to make broader use of the Army better to support missions other than warfighting. Changes envisaged under SDSR 2015 included:
69.Under the Army 2020 plan, delivery of Defence Engagement was the responsibility of 1st (UK) Division, with the Adaptable Force Brigades and some Force Troops Command Brigades assigned responsibility for specific world regions. This approach enabled brigades to develop an understanding of the geography, culture and language of their specified region. The MoD explained that in 2016 the Army participated in over 300 overseas tasks, including 173 overseas training exercises, 98 short-term training teams and 38 individual training activities. This represented a 15% increase on activity in 2015.
70.SDSR 2015, for the first time, made defence engagement a funded core task for the MoD, meaning that the Armed Forces would have to prioritise this alongside other core tasks. On 17 February 2017, the FCO and the MoD published an updated defence engagement strategy, UK’s International Defence Engagement Strategy. The strategy envisaged the UK building strategic relationships with key countries and acting as a leader of international organisations such the UN and NATO. In a statement on the announcement of the strategy, the Defence and Foreign Secretaries said:
Defence engagement projects influence, promotes our prosperity and helps to protect our people. It enables the UK to respond to threats and crises when they emerge, and strengthens our position as the world’s leading soft power. In short, it is vital to UK interests.
71.In support of its commitment to defence engagement, the Government also announced:
72.Central MoD funding for defence engagement is currently around £80 million and is planned to rise over the next four years. In addition, defence programmes supporting broader Government strategies are funded from the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF), at a level of around £56 million. According to the MoD and FCO, the resources committed to defence engagement are now “greater than ever before”, and are underpinned by a “whole of Government” approach. However the strategy acknowledged that in the sphere of defence engagement, demand would invariably exceed supply.
73.In evidence, the Chief of the General Staff said that while defence engagement was an important task for the Army, it presented the Army with a number of challenges:
Our conventional infantry battalions, who have been at the forefront of doing this, have had to send many of their leaders away to do what is fundamentally a task, when you come to train indigenous forces, that is very much heavy on leaders and less on soldiers. Actually, what we have discovered is that we want bespoke structures that are longer on leaders, longer on cultural expertise and longer on the ability to be able to train and perhaps to take greater risk in terms of that task.
74.As part of meeting these challenges SDSR 2015 announced the creation of specialised infantry battalions. These will be relatively small, consisting of 300 personnel, and will come with cultural and linguistic skills and expertise to enable them to provide a variety of outputs. General Carter explained that these specialisms would allow a smaller force to have a greater impact:
I want them, for example, to be able to go into the heart of Nigeria and be able to train a Nigerian division to go into the fight against Boko Haram. I want them to be able to train the Kurds to go and fight against Daesh in Iraq. I want them to be able to train the Ukrainian armed forces to be able to provide an effective deterrent to Russia. I want them to do tasks that are at the higher end of risk, and to be able to really do something that is quite specialised. I won’t be able to create that many. I don’t want them any larger than they actually are.
The first two new Specialised Infantry battalions would be established in 2017, with two further Specialised Infantry battalions anticipated.
75.Sir Paul Newton believed that this approach would link well with the Army’s warfighting capability. He argued that, if an Army Division was deployed into a theatre of operations, the special infantry battalion based there would have already established a network of partnerships, which would inform the understanding and awareness of that environment. In addition, the work of 77 Brigade, which we mention earlier in this report, would feed into that understanding.
76.Other witnesses, while supportive of defence engagement, highlighted several concerns. Jie Sheng Li, an independent researcher on international development and human security, supported the policy of the regional alignment of brigades, but highlighted the fact that there remained significant gaps in the Army’s geographical footprint. He argued that defence engagement and diplomacy should have a wider focus than countries where threats currently existed, so that units were trained to meet unexpected future threats and different environments.
77.Professor Timothy Edmunds, Professor of International Security at the University of Bristol, also cautioned that experience of previous defence engagement operations demonstrated that lessons had to be “continuously relearned” and that a key challenge would be sustaining activities once the immediate project had finished. He believed that for UK defence engagement to be successful a “sharper focus” on engaging local ownership was necessary.
78.We welcome the establishment of the new specialised infantry battalions to deliver the MoD’s programme for defence engagement and the decision to fund it as a core Defence task. Given the positive influence these activities can have on conflict prevention and stability, it is essential that these tasks are funded sufficiently. However, this should not be at the expense of the Army’s, or the other Services’, warfighting capabilities. In its response to our Report, the MoD should commit to set out, on an annual basis, expenditure on defence engagement tasks (including associated training costs), together with expenditure on collective and individual training for warfighting operations to enable comparison.
79.SDSR 2015 also highlighted the support provided by the Armed Forces to UK civil authorities:
The Armed Forces support civil authorities when needed in times of emergency. This ranges from providing specialist teams after aircraft crashes, to ensuring continuity of essential services during industrial action. We have helped local responders understand the support that the Armed Forces can provide and how to access it quickly. We have integrated military experts and planners more closely into local planning and emergency response, and conducted more preparatory exercises at local and regional levels.
80.In 2016, the Army had participated in excess of 105 national resilience tasks, including 56 tasks in support of civilian agencies (Police/Border Force) and had provided the Defence real estate to civil agencies for training or operations on 40 occasions. In addition it held around 5,000 soldiers at readiness to respond to a terrorist attack in the UK. According to the MoD, this level of support reflected a doubling of the requests placed upon the Army and other Services in comparison with 2013.
81.In support of the Army’s homeland security tasks, SDSR 2015 committed to place military planners in key Government departments to provide the military with a wider and more formal role in supporting national resilience contingency planning. Furthermore, the National Risk Register and associated contingency plans would be regularly reviewed to identify areas where the Armed Forces could contribute more. The Secretary of State highlighted this work as a key contribution to improving national resilience:
You will see that we are optimising our support to the civil authorities in this country to strengthen our resilience, and we maintain through Operation Temperer a trained and ready force of around 10,000 personnel that can respond very rapidly to a national emergency such as a terrorist attack.
The Chief of the General Staff subsequently confirmed that the 10,000 military personnel available on standby were in addition to the personnel that would form the planned warfighting division.
82.The Chief of the General Staff also told us that the requirement for regional commanders to align themselves with the emergency services and with the civil administrative systems had ensured that relations between commanders and civil powers had been developed and tested, before they needed to be used. This had been reflected in the Army’s readiness plans, so that soldiers and units had the ability to respond, at short notice, to a terrorist threat or other incident.
83.We support the MoD’s decision to designate national resilience as a core defence task. However, we seek assurances from the MoD that this task will in no way undermine the primary function of the Army—to succeed in warfare given the manifest constraints on Defence expenditure. We recommend that the MoD provides us with an annual breakdown of expenditure on national resilience tasks (including associated training costs) together with expenditure on collective and individual training for warfighting operations to enable comparison.
137 Overseas defence engagement is the use of defence assets and activities short of combat operations building to achieve influence.
138 Ministry of Defence (); the core takes of the Army under Army 2020 are: contingent capability for deterrence and defence; overseas engagement and capacity building; and civil engagement and homeland resilience; (see also British Army, Modernising to face an unpredictable future: Transforming the British Army, July 2012, p 2).
142 Ministry of Defence ()
143 Ministry of Defence ()
144 HM Government, National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015, , November 2015, para 5.14
147 Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence press release, UK’s global role reinforced in new International Defence Engagement Strategy, 17 February 2017
150 Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence, , February 2017, p 18
157 Jie Sheng Li ()
158 Jie Sheng Li ()
161 HM Government, National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015, , November 2015, para 4.148
162 Ministry of Defence ()
163 Ministry of Defence ()
164 Ministry of Defence ()
165 HM Government, National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015, , November 2015, para 4.149
28 April 2017