4.4 A new emphasis on domestic security
The paper states that effective border control is the first line of defence against the entry if unwanted persons.
A long standing Conservative commitment has been the creation of a robust and unified border policing capability. The current patchwork of the UK Border Agency, parts of HM Revenue and Customs, local police forces, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and many others has created an over complex, inefficient and largely ineffectual capability that a single unified agency or force would seek to address.
The commenters and authors at Think Defence have for some time supported the notion of a much stronger Coastguard with responsibilities for maritime security, search and rescue, pollution control and fisheries management.
4.5 A new focus on our capacity to deal with emergencies, including through the establishment of a new Permanent Military Command for Homeland Defence and Security
This section is prefaced with this comment…
Maintaining territorial integrity and safety becomes both more important and more difficult as terrorists and organised criminals evolve new modes of operation, and as natural hazards increase in scale and frequency.
Again, I instinctively dislike the term ‘homeleand’ because it sounds like we are aping the USA and this is a section where I think the Conservatives are simply behind the current state of reality, they make the assumption that we are on a precipice, unable to cope and cruelly exposed. Whilst there may be some grain of truth in this the reality is that the UK is one of the best provisioned and well prepared countries for ‘civil defence’ type disruption with an active emergency planning and business continuity sector that in many regards leads the world.
Military contribution to homeland security and resilience
The paper makes the bold claim that the military is best placed to provide agile and innovative command and control capabilities in support of the civil power where natural events are of such a scale, pace and danger that the emergency services cannot be expected to have adequate situational awareness and/or are in danger of being overwhelmed. Whilst this might have been true some years ago and was proven, particularly in the Mad Cow Disease outbreak, it is simply not the case anymore.
The publication of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, excellent work that has been carried out by the Emergency Planning Society, Civil Contingencies Secretariat and many many others means that the UK civil response capability is actually very good. Of course there is always room for improvement, the CCA Enhancement Programme is working to build on the work already done.
The military should always have a limited role but terrorism at home is a law enforcement matter and natural disasters are rightly in the domain of the emergency services and local authorities, not the military.
The paper makes two proposals; first, the establishment of a small military command or HQ for homeland defence security and secondly ensure there is a predictable regular armed force contribution to homeland tasks.
In the Joint Doctrine Publication 02 Second Edition (JDP-02) published by the MoD and distributed via the Cabinet Office Civil Contingencies Secretariat to emergency planning agencies throughout the UK the concept of the Standing Joint Commander (UK) is detailed. JDP 02 might be a rather dry document to read but it is plainly obvious that the MoD and SJC (UK) ‘has it covered’ so quite what the Conservative proposal seeks to achieve by co-locating it with Permanent Joint Headquarters and duplicating what is already in place is unclear.
With the TA and Regular units much of the equipment needed is now centrally pooled and in the case of Royal Engineers C Vehicles (Mobile Plant) is provided from a few depots via a PFI run by ALC.
Liaison with regional responders is already done by service Joint Regional Liaison Officers (JRLO) and works well.
As the paper quite rightly states, apart from a few niche response capabilities such as protection of offshore installations, anti terrorist and airspace control, the military contribution to civil tasks is contingent on them being available and not on military deployment abroad. This is of course a statement of the obvious.
However, the military is over stretched as it is, if there were yet another target to reach, having sufficient forces available in the UK to meet a non-existent need it will place even greater stress on an already over stretched force.
Personnel would be of little use without equipment, the armed forces as the Conservatives make great play of are already under resources so keeping not only personnel but their equipment in the UK will impact overseas operations, unless the man at the Treasury is going to open the cheque book, mmm, thought not.
What of the need…
In recent years the MoD has withdrawn from civil response for a number of reasons, firstly response to this type of disruption is a civilian affair and this has forced the responder community to properly plan, resource and put in place mutual and regional aid agreements for large scale disruption. JDP 02 makes this quite clear and in the few circumstances where niche military capability has been required the established common and control arrangements have worked well.
Local authorities have less of a need because they have to come to realise that many of the capabilities that they had relied on the armed forces to provide can actually be provided me economically and affectively by themselves.
Rather than relying on a shrinking military the UK should be increasing funding for local and regional civilian capabilities. The military will always be able to provide niche capabilities at short notice but these should be on a last resort basis, pretty much as the current situation.
Standards for emergency services
Achieving standardisation across multiple responders is an obvious common sense objective but again, much work has already been done.
Involving individuals, communities and businesses in building their own safety and security
It is clear the UK has looked to those in authority to provide increasing support whilst self reliance seems to be in decline. The overall objective is increasing self reliance and a contribution to safety and security is to be applauded.
This section of the document is long on platitude but short on practical proposals, provide better, tap local knowledge, foster corporate contributions etc etc
The National and Local Risk Registers is an area that needs improvement in legibility, accessibility and clarity, the proposal calls for improvement, great, how is this to be done.
The proposal to foster greater corporate contribution to emergency assistance and support for resilience interesting, stating that the insurance industry should incentivise companies through decreased insurance premiums if they comply with the business continuity management standard, BS25999.
This proposal sounds rather like a bit of state interventionism. The insurance industry will do as it pleases, as it should be.
Instead of tinkering and dabbling the Conservatives should ensure the public sector can actually meet the requirements of the Civil Contingencies Act and have suitable continuity arrangements. Earlier in the document it talks of setting examples so rather than preaching to the private sector, which, by the way, are usually streets ahead of the public sector in resilience terms, it should simply ensure that all public sector organisations comply with BS25999, especially Part 2 of the standard which is verified by external audit. Nothing would sharpen the minds of the public sector like having to comply with a widely respected and adopted international standard like BS25999.
This would then trickle down through the private sector and massively improve resilience across both the public and private sector; the UK would then be much more resilient.