Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from Rt Hon John Reid MP, Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence to the Chairman

  You wrote to Douglas Alexander, Minister for Europe, on 19 December 2005[67] requesting a number of documents referred to in the UK Presidency ESDP Report. The request for the documents related to Battlegroups has been referred to me as the Ministry of Defence leads on the military capability aspects of ESDP.

  Please find attached the paper on "Lessons Identified from Battlegroups Initial Operational Capability". This summarises and explains the initial lessons identified following the period, 1 Jan-30 Jun 05, in which the UK Battlegroup was on standby.

  The updated Battlegroups roadmap which you requested has not yet been completed by the EU Military Staff. As soon as Member States have agreed it, I will forward you an unclassified summary.

27 January 2006

Annex A


  1.  The Interim Operating Capability (IOC) for the EU Battlegroup Concept was initiated on 1 Jan 05. The UK provided a BG for the period 1 January-30 June 2005, alongside France. The BG was not deployed, but as this was the first commitment to a new EU concept, the UK initiated an internal review which identified a number of lessons, both external and internal. These lessons are offered to all MS as part of the ongoing process to refine and develop the BG concept and to assist with their own preparations for standby.

  2.  The UK commitment involved the Department for International Organisations (DPIO-MOD Policy), the Directorate of Joint Commitments (DJC-MOD Commitments), and the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) which supported and prepared to activate the potential OHQ; Options for the FHQ existed from differing formations[68] with force elements provided from within the respective formation selected.


  3.  Common Understanding. Because the BG commitment was a new concept and a new commitment, wider understanding of its rationale and implications was not as good as it might have been both within the UK Armed Forces as a whole and within the MOD. A programme is required to foster better understanding, dealing with its raison d'e¤tre, the range of tasks involved (TEU Article 17) and a broader understanding of EU strategic and operational planning processes, This programme needs to deal with both the specialist requirements of strategic/operational planners and the broader needs of the Armed Forces in general and might include wider participation in seminars, workshops and similar activities as well as ensuring that knowledge of the BG concept is promulgated in teaching and educational establishments.

  4.  Lesson. A broader understanding of the BG concept is required across UK Defence. A. programme is required to ensure this occurs as appropriate at all levels.


  5.  Communication. Links between EUMS and UK proved adequate, although the efficacy of the CIS link between EU and potential OHQ was not tested under busy conditions. It became apparent during the standby period however that UK and EUMS Liaison Officers (LOs) would play a vital part in the early stages of a potential deployment. Some work is required to ensure that plans for a liaison officer matrix and its manning are developed for activation during a potential deployment.

  6.  Lesson: Liaison Officers will play a vital part in facilitating the deployment of a BG. It is recommended that the ECAP HQ PG examines the requirement for LOs and makes recommendations.

  7.  EU BG Preparation—"Document Pack". Although all MS have access to the relevant documents underpinning the BG concept, there would be merit in formalising a "document pack" to ensure a common understanding of the task, continuity between BGs on handover of standby and to lessen the opportunity for misunderstanding and error. This pack might include the key BG documents, notes on EU crisis management, the latest iteration of the Watchlist, and any other up to date papers to set the scene for the standby period, such as agreed recent EU CFSP statements. The pack would be a living compilation, which in due course might include lessons identified from previous BG standbys/deployments. It is envisaged that the updated pack would be issued by the EUMS to each MS (not direct to BGs) before it assumed its standby responsibilities.

  8.  Lesson: The possibility of the EUMS issuing a BG pack to MS before each BG commitment should be explored, with a view to formalising procedures and ensuring a common and up to date understanding of tasks before the assumption of a BG commitment.


  9.  Sister BG MODs. During this first IOC period there were 2 EU BGs on standby. During Full Operating Capability (FOC) this will become routine. The BGs are designed to be stand-alone forces. However this should not preclude the standby BG MODs from regular liaison with each other to exchange ideas and familiarise each other with like capabilities from other MS. Ways of improving liaison should be explored with a view particularly to improving a common understanding of the tasks and feeding off the experience of others.

  10.  Lesson: Liaison between the MODs of nations with BGs on standby should be established as a matter of routine so as to share experience and foster a common understanding of likely tasks.

  11.  Assuming a BG standby commitment requires the establishing of clear points of contact within the UK MOD Policy and Commitments areas. Although this occurred, the POCs were not promulgated to all interested parties, with the result that advice was not always sought from the appropriate quarter. For future BG commitments, a clear MOD POC should be established and promulgated to PJHQ, Fleet, Strike and Land Commands.

  12.  Lesson: Assumption of a BG commitment requires the establishment and promulgation of an MOD expert POC.

  13.  Although sufficient Strategic Lift was identified for the BG throughout the period of IOC, maintaining this in the face of other commitments remained a challenge. This issue was particularly relevant during the deployment of the UK Ready Battalion to Kosovo in March 2005. This short notice movement requirement impacted heavily on aircraft availability within the charter market. Over this period, deployment of the EU assigned BG would have required careful prioritisation of resources.

  14.  Lesson: Identifying sufficient strategic lift to sustain a BG throughout its duty period is one of the most challenging aspects of such a commitment. This is likely to be the case for all MS and is an aspect that requires particular attention, especially during periods of concurrent activity.


  15.  During the UK standby period it became apparent that the OHQ required to oversee a BG deployment could be smaller than that required for other larger deployments. The current "one size fits all" approach to the design of an EU OHQ therefore requires examination. Some redesigning is necessary to ensure that relevant augmentees are identified and that any smaller number meets the notice requirements of rapid reaction, particularly concerning the timely and effective integration of the MN and EU elements. It is suggested that the EU HQ Project Group examines this issue and makes recommendations.

  16.  Lesson: The generic OHQ requirements of an EU BG deployment require re-examination. The EU OHQ could potentially be smaller, but it must also meet the needs of rapid reaction. The EU OHQ PG should examine this issue and make recommendations.[69]

  17.  PJHQ retains responsibility for the adequate preparation of UK forces for potential EU BG deployments and provides the key nucleus for the potential OHQ. In this instance, PJHQ was therefore responsible (as it is for all UK force deployments) for ensuring that all relevant measures were in place to facilitate a successful standby. Key elements were:

    (a)  Direct liaison was established between force elements and the coordinating authority over force elements vested in the potential Force Comd, from as early as the 6-month point (including an exchange of POC details).

    (b)  Force Generation exercises and rehearsals were conducted.

    (c)  Logistic planning was conducted, including the identification of sustainment stocks.

    (d)  Force element planning was conducted (where detailed numbers for personnel, weapons, vehicles, etc were determined).

    (e)  Assembly / deployment exercises and rehearsals were conducted (including all procedures up to departure from APOD).

    (f)  Pre-emptive pre-deployment training was conducted (by means of a generic package, tailored to "more likely" op destinations—tailoring informed by Watchlist). Training consisted of staff and HQ training CPXs (against scenarios drawn from Watchlist docs) as well as FTX-type activity as well as familiarisation training between the staffs at all levels (PJHQ, FHQ, BGHQ).

    (g)  Appropriate precautionary medical, dental, moral and welfare preparations were conducted.

  18.  Lesson: The preparation requirements for a BG standby period are similar to those for any other short-notice standby, and cannot be conducted by the BG in isolation. The potential OHQ needs to be involved at an early stage to ensure that appropriate preparations for BG standby have been made to meet the requirements of rapid reaction.

  19.  Lesson: Prior identification and rehearsal of the OHQ, the Op Comd and his Op Staff is likely to have a significant effect on early performance.

  20.  The Force was satisfied with the range of BG-related material received, although the adoption of a more formal mechanism would have saved time and engendered confidence that all relevant issues had been addressed (para 7 and lesson 8 refers).

  21.  Gaps in understanding referred to in para 3 (lesson at para 4) were most apparent at Force level and below where the novel aspects of BG standby and differences between this and other standby commitments were initially not well understood. Particular efforts to foster a broader understanding are required at this level.

Letter from the Chairman to Rt Hon John Reid MP

  Thank you for your letter dated 27 January 2006 providing the document "Lessons Identified from Battlegroups Initial Operational Capability". Sub-Committee C considered this letter at its meeting on 9 February.

  We look forward to receiving the updated Battlegroups roadmap. The continued development of the Battlegroups remains an issue in which we take a close interest.

  We noted the absence of any mention of a standardised testing process for the operational readiness of a Battlegroup. Could you provide more information on how a Battlegroup, whether from the UK or another Member State, is considered ready for operational activity on a mission.

14 February 2006

Letter from Rt Hon John Reid MP to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter dated 14 February 2006 regarding the EU Battlegroups Roadmap and the testing procedures for Battlegroups.

  The EU Battlegroups Roadmap, which is agreed in committee by all member states, is published six-monthly, usually in January and July and sets the work schedule to take forward the Concept for the period following. January's Roadmap this year was slightly delayed in order to take into account the outcome of discussions which were held in Brussels on 31 January 2006. The new Roadmap was agreed and distributed on 13 February 2006 and an unclassified summary is enclosed at annex.

  The Battlegroups Concept has been instrumental in persuading some nations to shoulder greater responsibilities under the ESDP and to transform their military structures and capabilities in the process. Of the four main elements of existing work you have already received from me a summary of the Lessons identified paper from the UK Battlegroup standby period, the basis of which is being used for the EU Military Committee lessons identified work from standby period 1. It is important that we continue the lessons identified exercise so that we are able to improve with experience. For this reason work will begin to examine the experience of the Italian Battlegroup in standby period 2.

  The work on Battlegroups reserves is designed to understand the principles and procedures that should be adopted if, after a Battlegroup has been deployed, there is a need for reinforcement. The Government view is that each Battlegroup should arrange suitable reserves for itself before it begins its standby duty. This should be carried out through national or bilateral agreements between the members of the Battlegroup.

  The Government believes it is essential that there is good alignment and cooperation with NATO. Indeed the Battlegroups concept might be a good stepping stone for some nations to be involved in the NATO Response Force. Cooperation with the UN is also key to ensure that there is good understanding of how, and under which circumstances a Battlegroup could be deployed. Equally the Government believes that work to understand how the Battlegroups concept could fit within civil-military coordination needs to be explored, for example to understand how Battlegroups will interface with civilian security sector reform. Much of the "Possible new work" outlined in the Roadmap stems from initiatives made under the UK Presidency and hence, the government remains hugely supportive of this programme.

  You raised a question about a "standardised testing process for the operational readiness of a Battlegroup". Work on this issue is still evolving. The UK has been involved from the beginning with the construction of the EU Battlegroups Standards and Criteria and many of its principles stem from our ideas and processes which are compliant with NATO. We are now starting to work on the detail but until this has been agreed member states are responsible for their own certification but may, of course, call upon the European Defence Agency or the EU Military Staff to assist them.

24 February 2006

Annex A

Unclassified Summary of the EUMC Roadmap BG Concept

  1.  The Roadmap summarises three different strands of work as follows.

  2.  Existing work. The following issues from on the former roadmap remain in progress:

    (a)  EU Military Committee Lessons Identified from the 1st standby period.

    (b)  Battlegroup Reserves.

    (c)  Co-operation with NATO (NATO Response Force) and UN.

    (d)  Civ-Mil co-ordination.

  3.  New work. The following items need to be addressed in 2006:

    (a)  Experience on preparation and standby period 2005-02. By April 2006, Italy might share its experience on the preparation of the Italian BG. This issue should be taken forward in conjunction with the UK Lessons Identified paper.

    (b)  BG Co-ordination Conference (BGCC) 1/06. The 3rd BGCC is planned for 3 May 2006. A key issue is likely to be the identification and confirmation of BGs for 2009.

  4.  Possible additional new work. The following further areas of work might be considered during the next semester:

    (a)  Editorial review of the BG Concept. The aim of the editorial review is to compile one comprehensive document based on the BG Concept and its annexes. To do so, some text could be adapted, but the BG Concept as such will not change.

    (b)  Assessing the need for and feasibility of producing media products. The aim of this assessment would be to identify possible media products to further support the implementation and common understanding of the BG Concept.

    (c)  Full Operating Concept (FOC) event. In relation to the previous area of work, the desire for having a FOC event at the end of 2006/beginning of 2007 should be assessed. Main players in this area of work are the future Finnish and German Presidency. However, if assessed useful, work has to start early 2006.

    (d)  Further consideration. Discussions during the Czech Battlegroups Seminar 3-4 November 2005 and the UK Battlegroups Workshop 8-9 December 2005 led to the need for further consideration of Crisis Management Procedures and Advance Military-Strategic Planning.

67   Correspondence with Ministers, 45th Report of Session 2005-06, HL Paper 243, p 280. Back

68   Formation HQ included HQ 16 Air Assault Bde (Airborne Task Force) and HQ 3 Cdo Bde (Lead Commando) with the Joint Force HQ also available to command the Spearhead Lead Element (SLE). Back

69   Such recommendations should be without prejudice to the need for the Op Comd to retain the ability to tailor the structure of the OHQ according to the scale and complexity of the operation. Back

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