SDSR 2015 – Impacts, Threats and Critical Assets

I love fantasy fleets as much as the next blogger but I think it’s time we started thinking about the Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2015. No Government can bind its successor but the general principle of a defence and security review every 5 years seems to enjoy cross party support so it is a fair assumption that there will be one in 2015 and the MoD, select committees and others have already started work on it.

In fact, the Defence select Committee has started taking evidence for its ‘Towards the Next Defence and Security review’

They are looking at the following issues;

  • the strategic balance between deterrence, containment, intervention and influence
  • the utility of force
  • the legitimacy of force, including the political/military interface, and the changing legal environment
  • lessons learned from current and recent operations
  • the relationship between hard and soft power in terms of influence.

Follow their evidence, deliberations and output here

Looking back at the 1998 SDSR, the New Chapter in 2002 and the SDSR in 2010, to varying degrees they look at the concept of risk as the foundation for subsequent decision making on defence planning assumptions, force composition and equipment programmes.

Each successive review matured the risk based approach as the wider risk management industry so matured and this thinking was infused across the security sector.

The 2010 National Risk Strategy produced a set of priorities based on a combination of the impact and likelihood of the risk being realised. The top priorities were international terrorism affecting the UK, hostile attacks upon UK cyber space by other states and large scale cyber-crime, a major accident or natural hazard which requires a national response, such as severe coastal flooding affecting three or more regions of the UK, or an inluenza pandemic  and finally, an international military crisis between states, drawing in the UK, and its allies as well as other states and non-state actors.

When I looked at this I thought they might be seen priorities but the simple combination of threat and likelihood did not look right.

International terrorism for example, should we be more realistic about its impact?

Even what we might consider a ‘spectacular’ would only impact a tiny proportion of the population and economic activity of the United Kingdom, unless of course it was a dirty bomb in the middle of the City of London (for example) but the documents did not make these distinctions so terrorism in all its forms becomes numero uno.

What was missing was a degree of granularity about the threat and a consistent measure of how impact was defined.

Also notably absent was energy security, food and bio diversity, flooding and severe weather. These might only have a tangential association with ‘defence and security’ and they were covered as a threat to supply (in the case of energy) but that stovepiped approach to risk needs to change, energy security is arguably more important than terrorism but where in the supposedly joined up approach to defence and security planning in a wider context did we find a discussion about policing, intelligence, organised crime, energy co-dependence or investment in shale?

Conventional resilience planning looks quantifies impacts first then combines that with risk and out pops a resultant strategy.  It works wells but it entirely defensive or passive in its outlook;

things will be done unto us so this is how we protect ourselves

This passive posture is also a significant omission in the National Risk Strategy, defence, funnily enough, does not just defend!

Defence and security capability has the potential to exploit opportunities and enhance the lot of this fair isle, where was the added value of the armed forces in the SDSR or the value of the defence industry?

Sadly, absent.

Finally, when we might look at threats and vulnerabilities, to what exactly?

Critical activities, critical assets and national outputs were not defined.

Are the people of the UK a critical asset, what about industry, the environment and the economy? This is the kind of going back to first principles that a truly effective, holistic and sustainable security review would include.

It is what a joined up government would do.

Anyway, back to Think Defence.

If you recall, a few months I floated the idea of creating a crowd sourced collaborative SDSR 2015 going from first principles.

This is the start point.

You will notice a new menu item; this is where over the next several months I am going to build a Think Defence SDSR. The one big flaw is of course this will be open source but it is designed to be a catalyst for discussion more than anything else.

Before we get to ORBAT’s, equipment and who gets what shiny new toy I want to go back to the point of this post, start right at the beginning are explore the following

  • National Critical Assets and Activities
  • Threats and Impacts
  • Opportunities

First, if we are protecting something, what is something?

Define National Critical Assets, Activities and Outputs

Over to you….

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June 16, 2013 5:41 am

Maybe we should start with the way the MOD do it,What budget are we going to get, here is a plan for how we can spend it and what new shinny phrases can we put into the lexicon to make it sound like we are conducting a review (cyber security) and not just a new round of cuts. every defence review since 1945 has resulted in massive cuts including SDR 1998 which promised to increase the budget. Now we are having annual cuts (twice since 2010) on top of the major five year cuts. We all hoped that SDSR 2015 would see the UK in a better position than it was in 2010 and we could move on with better budgets. Now it looks like things will be worse. They are few sacred cows left to slaughter and capability holidays look to become permanent. maybe SDSR 2015 is the time to recognise this fact and simply pull back all military expenditures. Cancelling of Trident and all SSN production, getting rid of the carriers and F35 and bringing the army down to less than 50k and an RAF with Just 80 or so Typhoons and no AAR or transport aircraft.

sounds drastic however after the cuts from this year and 2015 with the no doubt increased capability gaps our forces will be little more than a token subsidy for US foreign policy. at least by cutting hard now we could save a stack of cash and put it towards something else.

We might also get our politicians to finally give up their champagne taste for foreign policy and intervention. To be honest this is the only thing they actually care about anyway walking big on the world stage and the defence chiefs constantly pander to this to try and get a few more quid every time. Maybe if they found a bit of a back bone to lay it out for the politicians we might get something different.

June 16, 2013 9:57 am

Martin says “Cancelling of Trident and all SSN production, getting rid of the carriers and F35 and bringing the army down to less than 50k and an RAF with Just 80 or so Typhoons and no AAR or transport aircraft.”

I know the above is just an example of off the cuff thinking and not an idea of a viable structure. But it interesting that you only go so far and leave all three forces extant. The Army really is only a tool of foreign policy. 80,000 isn't enough to defend the UK let alone 50,000. But it seems we can’t just stomach or comprehend the idea of how small our armed forces actually, never mind just the Army. If you truly wanted to go minimum and not bother joining in interventions you would scrap the Army as enemy capable of getting here would overwhelm us anyway. You would replace the RN’s current ORBAT with a fleet of OPV’s like the Irish Naval Service. And you could cut the RAF down to Typhoon 32 and 4 tankers. They would be the big ticket item but really they are of little or no utility as again anybody capable of reaching us here would overwhelm them too, we have no defence against saturated cruise missile attack anyway, and the few billion they would cost to run just escort the occasional jet because of the threat of terrorism isn’t really good value.

I just find it odd to talk about minimums, scrapping this and that and the other, and yet still talk of a rump capability that isn’t worth keeping anyway. In a way we are already at a minimum.

As I said I know your example was just an off the cuff thought experiment. But it is revealing. Not getting at you. Just interesting.

June 16, 2013 10:22 am

It wasn’t. You asked, what are we defending? If Martin proffers the idea that we should virtually scrap everything it is fair that somebody critiques his idea of how much is everything. The primary reason why we retain an Army is foreign intervention. It hasn’t been about defending the UK since the time the V-Force came on line. Personally I think there is a lot of merit in the scrap the lot idea if the arguments for that approach are cogent. As I said it interesting that we seem unable to get away from the idea that we aren’t physically defended. It would be an even bigger leap for some to take onboard that we have truly never really been defended; it is more a question of the ability of the other side to carry out offensive action against us; and then only against centres of power, centres of gravity, that are as often symbolic than physical. Unfortunately we live in a technical age and when talking about force we quantify that in terms of platforms. What separates masters and Phd students from undergrads is that the former have to think up questions. Thinking up questions is a lot harder than providing answers. If others provide answers with which are not happy perhaps you are not asking the right questions or expecting too much from a very diverse audience who have to spend as much time establishing a dialogue as they do communicating ideas or indeed defining ideas. Talking in terms of platforms and capabilities is the lowest common dominator here. Sorry.

June 16, 2013 10:22 am

EDITED AFTER COMMENT POSTED! TD can you delete the first one?

I think this show 2 fundamental problems associated with risk analysis: from whose perspective are you analysing the risk and what information is being used in the analysis?

Your context and world-view are going to have a fundamental impact on the analysis.

From my point of view terrorism is virtually no threat at all – I would be a very unlucky chap to get killed in a phenomenon that has killed less people in this country in a decade than ladders probably have.

But then if we extend the envelope of analysis to Northern Ireland even now terrorism is a real risk to a lot of people in society there. And if we extent the envelope still further and take into account financial and material risks then arguably terrorism is a bit more of a risk to me: if by risk I mean worrying about having access to the same level and type of services and income at all times.

I think you get the picture that it’s very complex before we even introduce the information factor and the possibility that the risk analysis is based on information we are not privvy to which makes the analysis look odd to anyone who isn’t armed with the full facts.

I think with SDSR we’re looking at risks from the State perspective not from the perspective of human life; where you go from there is down to your philosophical bent. Terrorism is about the only human driven existential –security– threat to the State of the UK at the moment (leaving aside for the time being environmental and energy concerns etc) because it is aimed at the Government.

Even so called “New Terrorism” has as its aim the overthrow of the state’s status quo in favour of the interests of the terroriser. Democratic governments are ironically far more vulnerable to this type of action because a democratic Government can fall if there is no confidence in its ability to defend the State from such acts even if those acts are actually puny in their violent effects. The resultant political instability is never a good thing for a State and political stability is affected by perceptions.

So from that perspective the National Risk Strategy or whatever it was called doesn’t look quite as weird unless your philosophical bent is that its the Government putting its interest above the People’s: rather than believing that the interests of the Government are at one with the interests of the People. Sticky stuff.

What TD rightly alludes to however is that any Risk Strategy is going to have to go well beyond violent threats and into environmental threats, energy threats, demographic threats and fiscal threats and arguably on and on and on. Our entire Government and state should be concerned with Risk – the fact that there is a Risk Strategy is therefore an encouraging step. But above all it means that any future SDSR is only going to be one part of any action plan, one part of any solution and it needs to be considered as such – that suddenly puts a whole new swing on things. It also means that we have to artificially delineate the risk environment because it is beyond human organisational capacity to take a truly holistic approach and that in itself represents a risk we need to be aware of and try and manage.

June 16, 2013 10:23 am

My second post above was for TD not Phil. :)

June 16, 2013 10:24 am

” It hasn’t been about defending the UK since the time the V-Force came on line.”


That’s a very anaemic definition of defending the UK. You don’t go much further than thinking about defending its actual soil.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 16, 2013 10:45 am

If I understand @Phil’s argument correctly (and I may not) that suggests to me that we need to start with the Gove reforms to the National Curriculum…especially in History and the Humanities…we need to find a new paradigm different to but as compelling as “England’s Rise and Progress” which underlies national debate about this and other issues, and around which those who choose to live or want to come here (long-term) can and should be expected to cohere…before we can start defining collective interests or the risks to them…or is defining what it is about our shared Home that is worth defending a deconstruction too far?

That said maintaining territorial integrity, the rule of law/social order – and energy, food and trading security – might be another starting point…


June 16, 2013 11:00 am

My main point re: SDSR 2015 was that all Government agencies are concerned with risk and instead of diluting the defence debate by going on about other risks and de-constructing ad-infinitum we instead need to delineate (however artificial the delineation might seem in some areas) and realise that the armed forces are there to provide military outputs which at its simplest is the application of force, or its threat, or enabling others to do the same. Where those outputs are projected is not a defence concern per se and what resources defence gets needs to be considered in the wider context of the risk envelope.

That defence should simply be a tool bag for political use and focused on force and generating force, and that it should be resourced with an eye to wider risk management plans and take it’s place as one part of a wider effort is all unsurprising and boring stuff: but it is basic stuff that is forgotten amidst a myriad of endless deconstruction which muddies quite simple waters.

There are limits to what human organisations can achieve and I don’t think it is possible to achieve a truly holistic and joined up National Risk Management Strategy because everything the State does can effectively be boiled down to collective risk control. There needs to be some discrete boundaries and that means in terms of defence we can boil the issues down quite a lot. It is still incredibly complex but it means the debate over energy security and so forth can be removed from the defence debate beyond any recognition that defence might have to employ force to physically secure energy supplies or it might have to operate with less resources because the funds are needed for energy.

June 16, 2013 11:02 am

I think the main issue with the risk based analysis is that their is nothing clear on the horizon that represents a military risk to the UK. our forces are about maintaining an ability to regenerate a force in future should it be needed while at the same time using what we have in foreign interventions with some vague notion of heading of future issues of the country.

That being said I will put my thoughts and efforts into the debate :-)

@ X – You are right it was off the cough remarks however I am starting to think as you that a bastardised rump force is not worth the £30 billion + a year we spend maybe it is better to just own up to the fact that the country does not want to play world power even if the politicians do and massivley pare back our defence budget.

Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
June 16, 2013 11:03 am

Too many parameters at-the-mo’….

What are we expecting regarding:

– Autumn, 2014
– Eurozone,
– Iran?

The SDSR 2015 will occur after May 2015. With ‘known-knowns, known-unknowns, unknown-knowns, and totally incomprehensible politicians’ we are gaming-a-play, no?

So lets JMH it:

– Does UK/England have any strategic interest in Europe?
– Who are likely to attack our dependencies, why and how to deter?
– Could concessions – Deigo/India – prove to be a better bet in the long-term?
– Should we use the aid budget to stabilise – tiffy – Pakistan whilst India has mere Rafales?
– &c.

I can see efficiencies in the Army; I can imagine rationalisation in the RAF; I have realistic expectations about the Royal Navy’s equipment: Outwith a political scenario – oh, gosh; here we go – then a SDSR means naught. It is as realistic as any five-year plan thought of two-years before reality.


So what should our defence posture be and how will the die roll?

– Should the [r]UK expend cash retaining manufacturing capabilities?
– Which territories are we willing to defend?
– How much do we benefit from multi-lateral systems?
– Is the “Old Commonwealth” viable?
– Who are our enemies [EU?] and friends [EU?]
– Post-Barry should [r]UK look south to Latin-America (again)?
– ….

So all we have is – in effect – a preliminary statement. What will be touched upon will become poitical (which I’d recommend is not for this place but I’m a ‘puntah’; wudda-i-know)! As some geezer once said, Assumptions must be assumed and requirements assessed: We have a sketch of a requirement but need to construt a model.

“Events, dear-boy. Events!”

Rocket Banana
June 16, 2013 11:05 am

Critical Assets

1. The populous
2. Farmland, freshwater lakes and woodland
3. The infrastructure of energy and transport
4. Industry


1. Terrorism
2. Piracy (trade disruption)
3. Proliferation of restricted goods (narcotics, firearms, uranium, etc)
4. Resource contention/extortion (oil, oil and more oil)
5. Natural disaster
6. Attack/invasion


…have I gone too far already?

Corin Vestey
Corin Vestey
June 16, 2013 11:09 am

Fire away!

National Critical Assets, Activities and Outputs

-Power: National Grid, Fuel Supply (Domestic/Foreign), Fuel Distribution Logistics, Storage and Strategic Reserves, Control and Responsibility, (Resilience and Redundancy)

-Water: Reservoir Storage Capacity and Utilisation, Water Treatment Capacity and Utilisation, Water Distribution Network Capacity and Utilisation, Sewage Treatment Capacity and Utilisation, Control and Responsibility, (Resilience and Redundancy)

-Food: Global distribution chain ending in local supermarket is a National Critical Asset. Domestic agriculture and food production industry maximum contribution is far below subsistence level. Control and Responsibility, (Resilience and Redundancy)

-Internet and Networks: Command and Control, COBRA, National Emergency Response Capability, Emergency Services, Military Networks, the City of London, just-in-time logistics planning and execution, Trade, Commerce, Air Traffic Control
Control and Responsibility, (Resilience and Redundancy)

-The Deterrent: Primary function is deter aggression by larger and more powerful foe using conventional forces. Secondary function: Mutually Assured Pain (MAP).
Control and Responsibility, (Resilience and Redundancy)

-Airspace/airports: Trade, Control of skies. Control and Responsibility, (Resilience and Redundancy)

-Space/Satellites: Global intelligence gathering capability, telecommunications, GPS, Control and Responsibility, (Resilience and Redundancy)

-Access to Sea Lanes/Global Commons: Control and Responsibility, (Resilience and Redundancy)

-Transport Network: Control and Responsibility, (Resilience and Redundancy)

-Military and Defence forces: Control and Responsibility, (Resilience and Redundancy)

-Intelligence Agencies: Control and Responsibility, (Resilience and Redundancy)

-Police Force: Control and Responsibility, (Resilience and Redundancy)

-Criminal Justice System: Control and Responsibility, (Resilience and Redundancy)

Democratic oversight: COBRA, Emergency Protocols, Cabinet, Parliamentary Committees, MPs, Lords.

June 16, 2013 11:11 am

“I would challenge the statement that it is beyond human (or perhaps governmental) ability to produce a really joined up view of risk, why should we not consider the value of a gas storage plant against that of an infantry battalion or investment in policing against an aircraft carrier?”

It can be done on paper but is it really worth anything when the results of that process are going to be a mish mash of compromises, clashing political philosophies and wildly different risk perceptions? A very broad consensus is probably better than nothing and I don’t advocate abandoning the effort completely but we need to realise that any sort of detailed Government strategy and action plan concerning national risks is going to be a hopelessly compromised document and the implementation of it is going to be virtually impossible because of the, in my mind, inherent structural limitations of human organisations and the contexts in which they operate. Is it not better to declare these limitations and keep our efforts at such a high level to a far more broad perspective? Otherwise you get a never ending de-constructed debate that can’t decide if the chicken or the egg comes first. If we have poverty and social inequality, and if that harms our welll-being and social stability and life spans then should we not forego every penny on defence where no state existential threat exists in a ready made form? These kind of debates are fine in an academic sense but they are worthless in practical terms – they don’t bring us any closer to a solution just endless debate.

So defence is there to generate violence: what means of violence do we need to employ considering the physical security threats and what resources do we have within a –vaguer– framework of national risk analysis to generate them with. Everything else is a political question ie where they are used, how they are used and what they are used for. What resources defence gets in the wider context is another question entirely and probably more to what you are after in this post.

Rocket Banana
June 16, 2013 11:20 am

Defence is also there to neutralise violence. It doesn’t matter how many aircraft carriers you have if there are people willing to strap bombs to themselves and stand in the middle of Trafalgar Square.

Sometimes the solution does not involve any military capability at all.

June 16, 2013 11:21 am

@ Simon

I think you’ve covered everything there. Maybe you should add Political Ineptitude to the Threat Column though!

Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
June 16, 2013 11:28 am


Nice, liberal answer to ‘The Boss’: Beghorrah, my edited response was consumed by the time-out!

The three critical areas highlighted cannot be assessed outwith:

– Education
– Industry
– Rule-of-law
– Diplomacy
– Freedom of Association (especially internationally).

These are – however way we cut [sic] it – the ways of the world. As for outcomes:

– Rebuild our forces in the most expedient time (c.f. Weimar). Will require education.
– Ensure core industrial infrastructure exists to rebuild said force. Will require an industry.
– Ensure all people are responsible for their actions. Will require demonstrable rule-of-law!
– Ensure we have enough time to achieve our goals. Will require [a-letter-in-my-hand] diplomacy….
– Defy silly treaties and alliances that bind us against what we are not party to! [:cough: EU :cough:]

Hope this helps….

Corin Vestey
Corin Vestey
June 16, 2013 11:29 am

Further thoughts:

-English Language: words define reality, modes of thought and shape ideals

-BBC Online: one of the most visited websites in the world. Spouts horrific lefty nonsense, clearly, but should be part of World Service and come under FCO soft-power.

-BBC World Service: see above

British Council: See above

Permanent Member of UNSC: speaks for itself

Economic Strength: Economic power brings diplomatic power and allows for greater resilience in the face of any threat than does economic weakness. Not being intimidated by the bond markets or foreign purchasers of UK government debt is a strategic imperative, if not exactly a National Critical Asset.

Access to Global Rule Making Bodies: WTO, ILO, UN, etc, etc

National Alliances: US/UK, NATO, FPDA, Commonwealth, bilateral defence arrangements (e.g. via St. Malo), some might include full membership of the EU, I would not, given the lack of control that comes with.

Network of embassies and consulates: diplomats, defence attaches, intelligence gathering and sharing, British national interest.

June 16, 2013 12:00 pm

Well I think terrorism remain the biggest threat to the uk. It does and is affecting our way of life ever day. As an example anyone who flys regularly now endures airport security strip downs the ensuing delays (french atc not withstanding) all in the name of terrorism prevention. Fly to the states and its even worse.
We also have qra taskings and the assignment of ato units and sf response based around the country.

The most damaging expensive threats to the uk are the ones which affect something we take totally from granted and use very day. See bse, fuel strikes, loss of national water supplies as seen in Northern Ireland a couple of years ago after a very cold winter spell. Can anyone imagine the outcry if the House of Commons or Buckingham place (or other examples of national identity) were destroyed buy some attack. The shock experienced by someone invading the Falklands is another example of a line being drawn. The invasion of a country by another country is also something this country has not really tolerated either.

June 16, 2013 12:20 pm

A few off the cuff thoughts, but the problem outlined needs to be approached from a more fundamental angle, i.e.:

What is the nature of the threat?
What effects and/or influence do we want to have on the global stage?
Therefore, what capabilities do we need to possess?

Capabilities are NOT restricted to Defence. This is pan-Governmental.

Starter for ten, the nature of the threat is radically different from that faced 30 years ago. There is no longer a risk of a major land war on our doorstep. Seriously. The cost to any civilised nation now would be destructive. The threat to the UK homeland is much more diverse and asymmetric in many ways, ranging from nuclear attack to cyber warfare and terrorism. There is absolutely no point in maintaining a legacy capability simply because to change it would be too difficult and/or costly. The cost, surely, would be to fail to invest in those capabilities that we actually need.

The nuclear threat is still valid. After all, are there not still world-ending numbers of nuclear weapons pointed at the UK, US, Russia and China by those various parties? Until we unilaterally disarm the major nuclear states, there will always be a need for a nuclear deterrent – unless, and this is a bit different, we can establish a comprehensive and effective nuclear shield that will deter any attack. Not such a remote possibility these days.

The threat to the UK includes energy security. That we have still to solve our resilience to gas shortages and have comprehensively failed to set down a proper nuclear power generation policy is criminal negligence of the highest order. SOmeone once told me we have about a week’s gas in reserve, and every 200 miles between the UK and the UAE is a LNG tanker bound for Milford Haven. That is a critical threat to the UK.

Influence is critical. We maintain strategic influence within NATO, the EU, G8, Commonwealth, UN and various other groupings. Some of this is influenced by Defence. Good relations with South Africa, for example, are maintained through regular military exchanges. Other key nations, like Brazil and Chile, have political structures where the military is significantly more influential than so in this country. Fail to secure good relations at this level, and you risk losing influence with these emerging world players. And as stated above, the UK’s influence across the world is not insignificant but is vast and diverse.

Without wasting the majority of Fathers Day I think we are probably looking at the problem from the wrong end.

June 16, 2013 1:03 pm

“A few off the cuff thoughts, but the problem outlined needs to be approached from a more fundamental angle, i.e.:”

To be fair this is exactly what TD is trying to achieve with this topic.

“This is pan-Governmental.”

it is to an extent but at the level we’re talking about here there’s not much to be gained beyond recognising this and documenting it in the broadest terms or we end up in an endless debate, we already have “English Language” down as something to be defended.

What I mean to say is that there needs to be some Terms of Reference to the debate. And I have offered my opinion on what those terms of reference should look like – ie more focused on defence capabilities. Other stuff just doesn’t come under defence in my book per se. Defence can contribute to those goals and different government agencies should seek to find ways to locally synergise within a very broad framework but I think we need to (a) frame the debate in a sensible way and (b) cut our cloth according to the structural and organisational limitations we have as humans. This means terms of reference which concentrate on defence capabilities and physical security issues first and foremost and recognising that we’re just not capable of delivering a Final Draft Risk Strategy that encompasses everything which means such an endeavour is not worth the paper it is written on.

I support having a Contingency Committee to give direction to the efforts and I support a broad Risk Register (caveated of course) to underpin that direction and a broad governance structure that puts into place the mechanisms to get agnecies to work together at a local level but we’re not ever going to have a truly coherant or truly joined up approach as the State is too complex a thing to manage in that way. By pretending its possible we’re just wasting precious resources and thinking power. I think we can go too far in the direction of “joining up” because it denies the true reality of organisational behaviour. And if we’re blinding ourselves to the risk then we’re creating risk.

June 16, 2013 2:29 pm

@ Corin – “BBC Online: one of the most visited websites in the world. Spouts horrific lefty nonsense, clearly, but should be part of World Service and come under FCO soft-power. ”

A good deal of the value perceived in the BBC by those outside the UK is its independence, make a tool of the FCO and its perceived value will plummet, fast.

Corin Vestey
Corin Vestey
June 16, 2013 2:59 pm

@jedi Good point, but coming primarily under World Service, but funded by FCO, allows valuable independence but locates the cost correctly within government, imo

Rocket Banana
June 16, 2013 3:02 pm

I think TD is approaching this from exactly the right direction.

You have to “scope” a problem first.

What are we defending and from what/who?

When we’ve determined that we can examine the solution.

How can we defend and why is it necessary in the first place?

June 16, 2013 3:09 pm

F**k me Phil, your last answer sounded like you swallowed a management digest!

I think I agree with most of what Phil is saying. We can highlight domestic terrorism as a danger, but beyond any military contribution to things like hostage rescue and providing bodies at events like the Olympics, the military contribution to fighting terror – at least domestically – is minimal.

Milford Haven was brought up. Very important hub. A military concern? Who’s going to attack it in a manner that would require a military response? Maybe a 9/11 style plane job, but we already have QRA which covers that angle. If you’re anticipating some kind of suicide bomber in a boat job then you need armed police/coastguard. That’s not really a military task. Now if we’re talking about identifying and protecting the route of the LNG tankers, and making sure that “our” tankers are protected on their passage here, then I think we’re getting into the military realm.

June 16, 2013 3:09 pm

But the what part needs some sort of terms of reference or its a black hole of never ending recursive levels and nobody will ever agree a thing. And the how part needs the same or else we’re looking at an unrealistic monolithic solution that actually solves nothing because it is based entirely on how we wish the world and human organisations work and not how they actually do.

June 16, 2013 3:12 pm

F**k me Phil, your last answer sounded like you swallowed a management digest!

More like swallowed and hopefully digested several volumes on risk management and organisational behaviour and learning!

Fear not I give myself a lash for every management bollocks-word I write and the irony of using management speak to decry modern management philosophies is not lost on me either. This means at least a paddling, perhaps delivered by RT, I imagine he’s game.

Rocket Banana
June 16, 2013 3:15 pm

Just to elaborate a little…

Critical Assets

1. The populous – both home and abroad.
2. Farmland, freshwater lakes and woodland – foundation for the provision of food, water and fire.
3. The infrastructure of energy and transport – this includes our ports, sea lanes, gas lines, oil tankers, airlines, etc.
4. Industry – this includes primary, secondary and also tertiary (service).

The other area we need to protect (although actually covered by the above) is our future. This includes things that are current unknowns (like resources that may be valuable in the future) and future possibilities (which to a certain extent includes education and continuity of skills).

June 16, 2013 3:23 pm

One thing you can’t escape from is that there needs to be a short-medium and a long-term analysis. In the short-term there is no threat to UK territorial integrity that the FRE, the QRAs and the specialist CT units of the armed forces cannot deal with. Longer term there might and probably will emerge a real territorial threat in which case one of the Critical Assets to be defended in the short-term becomes certain high end military capabilities. And the elephant in the room is the fact that the biggest threat to these capabilities is Peace. Just to throw the cat amongst the pidgeons.

Rocket Banana
June 16, 2013 3:35 pm


No. What you need to defend in that case is the ability to regenerate the “high end military capabilities”… Industry and skills/education.

June 16, 2013 3:43 pm

No because regenerating from an inexperienced industrial base can take 10 years, growing a capability already in existence can be done in 2-4.

June 16, 2013 4:15 pm

I really can’t see many jobs for the military in the Threat colum. almost everything we outline from terrorism to cyber security would seem to be jobs better done else where.

could we really expect the military the recruit the best Programers and software engineers? We can’t get our soft ware developers to even put on a tie let alone a uniform. The vast majority , infact almost all terrorists who attacked or tried to attack the UK have been British citizens , a job for the police not even the security services.

energy threats in the gulf would seem to be the only thing worth mentioning in the military context. however today’s election result in Iran could result in a major shift for the better. if the gulf was shut down then we could expect to see a very broad coallition from the USA to China and everyone else in between reopening it very rapidly.

If we were really serious about security as opposed to defence then we would turn our budget over to building Nuclear power stations and electric cars with urban agricultural farms. Spending an extra £30 billion a year on such things would make the UK self sufficent in food and energy very rapidly.

These reviews are more about trying to find a peace time justification for military expenditure.

Rocket Banana
June 16, 2013 4:20 pm

What makes you think it would be an “inexperienced industrial base”?

I suggested that defending our industry is one of the key requirements. Just because we’re not building fighter jets or missiles doesn’t mean we’re not building aircraft and rocket engines. Just because we’re not building tanks and warships doesn’t mean we’re not building liners, tankers and trucks. The industrial base should be (and I think is) capable of turning design into reality. The “educated” can still do the design so I don’t really see how there’s be much of a difference.

Are there any historic examples of slow regeneration?

June 16, 2013 4:22 pm

Broadening the debate a bit we should also look at the long term picture of emerging major powers and the reduction of the American/western hegemony. One of the reasons we can find few if any security or defence threats in the overwhelming military and economic might of the USA and to a lesser extent the UK and the rest Of Europe. However with American increasingly straining to provide this capability and a Europe that has all but given up how to we keep this peaceful situation in the face of potentially belligerent nations such as China who do not appear to have the same benevolent view on foreign policy as the USA.

Do we try to engage with such nations and form early alliances or do we require large scale military capabilities to deter aggression. it’s not enough to simply rely on nuclear weapons for such threats. Neither the Uk or the USA is likley to nuke china for invading Saudi Arabia or Iran.

June 16, 2013 4:38 pm

Because it would be inexperienced in designing and building the high-end capabilities. The Australian Collins class is a case study of this. And it is not just industry having to learn how to build it the military would have to re-learn how to use it and then get good at using it. It is far easier to order more Astute SSNs and use existing crews as cadre’s for new ones than to start from scratch. It seemed to me that your argument was that we could let high end capabilities go because industry could re-generate them. We can’t shit out much kit these days without a couple of decades notice and that’s kit for capabilities we already use and are familiar with. 3-5 years seems to be the worse case scenario for an evil power re-arming out of nowhere to cause interntional mischief so we really can’t let any capabilities go that would take longer than 3 years or so to rectify.

Rocket Banana
June 16, 2013 4:40 pm

Martin et al,

What’s wrong with just brain-dumping the things that we all believe should be defended like TD has asked?

I think there’s plenty of security and defence threats, just not an army poised to release electric death ;-)

What do we need to “deter agression” from?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 16, 2013 5:07 pm

@ Martin – “Neither the UK nor the USA are likely to nuke China for invading Saudi Arabia and Iran” quite right, and even less likely to do it if they “stabilise” North Korea or “help” a “friendly government” in one of the ‘Stans adjacent to Xinjiang to “contain terrorism”…both of which are much more likely in current circumstances…

They won’t arrive on the Persian Gulf for some years…


June 16, 2013 5:17 pm

Martin said “Spending an extra £30 billion a year on such things would make the UK self sufficient in food and energy very rapidly.”

Pray tell how? The only way we could do that is if somebody crack fusion. And then we would still need access to minerals and other raw materials from around the world.

Now if we were take £1.2 billion per year, there might be something we could do. There are 25 million houses in the UK. If we spent £30,000 per house on green energy (I will just assume every building is suitable) it would take 25 years to do the installations. Perhaps 30 years to be safe. That is if we had the personnel. Say a week per house for a team of 4. 20,000 houses per week. (50 week year to make the maths easier!) Say 100,000 staff. If you add in admin staff and managers, say 120,000. Sounds a lot but many more work for Tesco! By the time the job is finished it would be time to start over. But of course we would then be installing even better tech to run even more efficient equipment. The older I get the shorter a time 30 years appears to be.

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 16, 2013 5:22 pm

One minor thought on the police. Most police firearms teams could deal with 3 or 4 armed terrorists, but what if we had a Mumbai style attack with 30-40 heavily armed terrorists wandering the streets taking pot shots with AKs & RPGs ? Most senior cops get huffy about allowing the Army on the streets, but in that scenario you need them PDQ.
Might need a Home Guard again. Vested interest here, as I am too bloody old to run up & down mountains, but would make a great Captain Mainwaring Mk2 with a .38 strapped to my hip.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 16, 2013 5:39 pm

Hartley – can’t help feeling that assembling military style firearms in those numbers would attract MI5 attention before it became a real and present danger…


Rocket Banana
June 16, 2013 5:42 pm


Perhaps the Australians struggled with the Collins class because industry had to (re)learn how to build it.

I will therefore have to add the knowledge of the ancients (libraries) to the list of things that should be defended :-)

Rocket Banana
June 16, 2013 5:50 pm


I’ve just come back from the States and was quite surprised to only go through security screening on a domestic flight from a small airport (one whose security I think I could easily have overcome) to Chicago. I then wandered directly onto a flight to Heathrow with no further checks. I do so hope that MI5 checked me in some way I was not aware of because I got off the plane and went straight to my car and home. Could easily have brought back 1/2 an assault rifle (by hand baggage was not huge). So could another 600 or so people that day!

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 16, 2013 5:52 pm

GNB I fear there are some mad mullahs with a sense of irony, who would love to take Cameron/Hague supplied weapons from Syria & use them on the streets of Britain. With Turkey in turmoil, weapons could be smuggled. I seem to remember being shocked as to how many Czech assault rifles could be fitted in the boot of a Ford Scorpio(was it 80?). RUC did a routine traffic stop at the end of the troubles & got quite a shock when they opened the boot.

June 16, 2013 5:53 pm

By looking at the bigger picture, with all its inherent flaws and uncertainty, we could at least start putting hooks into the pot of cash that is public spending. Going wide angle does not stop us going narrow when we get to the detail but if we insist on starting with the smaller picture how can we be certain what we are talking about makes sense?

I don’t disagree at all. I think we should differentiate between the conceptualising and the practicalities. We can conceptualise about how defence fits into a wider risk management context (or broad strategy) but I think what we must not do is allow the, by necessity, vague conceptualisations to substitute for realistic action. When you drill down (I get to say drill down because you said golden threads) you need to have your organisation and your plans match normal human organisational behaviour: I’ve read too many management document bollocks that describes an organisation how we want it to be and not how it is and likely will remain. So (i) grand conceptualising is important (ii) we need to be practical and draw the lines somewhere and (iii) these lines do not mean that there should not be a wider governance structure that allows different Government and other private and third sector agencies to work together and crystallise local efforts. That way you have real solid local results that are joined together in a broad direction so aren’t pulling against each other too much.

In practise in my mind what all my management mush speak means is that there is a National Direction on Risk Management based on common sense and well defined areas of primary responsibility and there are the legal and administrative laws and tools in place to allow local co-operation where and when it is found to be useful (a bit like the Local Resilience Forums but with more bite etc) . Of course real life is not that simple so there will always need to be something of a carrot and stick approach and some areas will need some stick to get agencies to work together in some areas, perhaps an arbitration mechanism whereby if the Maritime and Coastal Agency wants the Royal Navy’s assets to help control a particular risk and the Navy is sticking two fingers up at MACA then this mechanism could step in and decide. Perhaps not the best solution I am thinking aloud here but such a mechanism at least realises that different organisations have different interests and they won’t always work together no matter how compelling the common good is. We too often deny (with the exception on here of the RAF and RN and Army!) that agencies and organisations are primarily answerable to themselves and act like it.

Phil also makes the point that in a world where no state existential threat exists then defence spending should be eliminated

Not quite I was playing devil’s advocate and saying that is one argument one could make if they believed socio-economic inequalities were more of a risk than existential threats. A lot of politicians today make that argument but obviously in practise don’t tend to either extreme.

June 16, 2013 7:59 pm

National Critical Assets and Activities
Threats and Impacts

I have to say Corin has given a truely excellent response, I wholeheartedly agree with the trail of thought.

Influence & Strength of leadership are critical, and it is obvious to all that diplomatic, economic, financial and ‘interweb’ are all possibly more important than military – but weaknesses will be exploited where-ever and what-ever they are.

China already has massive strengths in all of the above and I’d argue their military capabilities are the least of our worries, the other four are far more dangerous.

I would also add that our energy security is poor. The Severn Barrage, more domestic generation etc would all help.

Threats are formed from the above, so they are mainly reduced influence, Corin has already produced an excellent list, although I would add restrictions to crucial raw materials. China is trying to tie up the African continent – I rather think they have read the making of the British Empire and are using this as a blue print.

Opportunties come from maximising our strengths. Namely English language, time zone, historical links (Commonwealth), Law, Britishness, technological prowness, Financial centre, status and armed force capabilities.

Expanding on the armed bit

Threats EEZ – need strong Navy, and control/capabilities of bases/supply routes to protect them. i.e. Ascension and Diego Garcia should be British aircraft carriers not American.

Need to justify UNSC membership

Need to keep the technological edge, and exportability.

Sensibilities aside, I would be happy to have a single US Marines style force if it saved lots of money, in practice I fear further cuts cannot be justified and various capabilities need to be restarted. Namely MPA as anti-sub is a key specialised skillset.

June 16, 2013 8:08 pm

Rather than just obfuscate the thread further with what I’ve banged on about already I thought I’d have a quick crack at TDs categories but using my thoughts above. This means that I can pretty much strip away most of the domestic UK aspects and instead concentrate on what is beyond our borders and the military focus means I can concentrate on military / security threats.

So what are the vulnerabilities? I argue from the highest levels the main vulnerabilities are to (i) world-wide trade movements, and (ii) the world wide flow of energy and resources.

So these are critical areas – without the world-wide flow of goods and resources our way of life goes kaput in a very short time. There is at present no existential physical security threat to UK territorial integrity but we will make this a vulnerability if we cannot in good time re-generate to meet such a threat. So I will add a medium term (iii) existential physical threat to the list of vulnerabilities.

What security and military threats can undermine these vulnerabilities? The main one is state and regional instability whether by agency or other factors. So civil war and insurgencies spreading instability can affect trade movements and resource movements across an entire region. How to meet this threat from a military perspective – provide security so that stable institutions can be built and gain legitimacy. The other threat is state actors deliberately affecting trade and resource movements to weaken us as part of a deliberate campaign. The remedies are obvious in the military context. The other threat is non-state actors such as pirates. Again there is a military role here.

So in summary: the main vulnerabilities are to our trade, to our resources and to our physical existence. These are threatened by instability, deliberate actions by other state actors and actions, directly or indirectly by non-state actors.

Rocket Banana
June 16, 2013 8:13 pm

There seems to be an interesting ulterior motive in that I’m pretty sure defending “our influence” is simply in order to exert military pressure and warrant the size and capability of the armed forces.

Personally I’d suggest that we don’t need to defend “our influence”. That becomes implicit in the fact that in order to stabilise (which I will assume for the moment will be required since unstable states cause us problems) you will undoubtedly educate and influence.

There seems to be the “we will influence you and you will enjoy it” mentality rather than simply leading by example to influence without them even knowing it.

June 16, 2013 8:50 pm

There seems to be the “we will influence you and you will enjoy it” mentality rather than simply leading by example to influence without them even knowing it.

That’s just ineffective idealism.

Rocket Banana
June 16, 2013 8:56 pm

Not really. Just a deep understanding of humanity and psychology.

Imperialism didn’t work for us and is unlikely to work for anyone.

June 16, 2013 9:02 pm

I’d argue its the exact opposite.

We in the west live in the richest more prosperous states ever known to human kind with long lives and lots of money. Doesn’t stop other individuals in other states using its resources to give themselves those same things at the expense of everyone else because it’s easier for them to do so than bring about prosperity for everyone.

June 16, 2013 9:23 pm


The British Empire was built on trade and innovation, it wasn’t challenged until a Navy was big enough to get into the same ring.

The American ‘pax americana’ was built on finance and trade (largely at the expense of the British during the 1st and 2nd world wars).

The new Chinese powerhouse is being built on economic, financial, trade relationships, and internet espionage/control.

In all cases the economic might enabled a big physical punch but the influence was mostly soft power. In order for us to effectively influence the aid budget and spending more resources on the FCO helps, but as you point out it probably needs to be subtle.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
June 16, 2013 9:34 pm

A complex subject. I think that in order to decide how we “defend” what we need we firstly have to look at what we do need and where it comes from.
So for example we need to provide.

1. Food, the general public(GP) have a realistic expectation that they will be able to feed themselves. What do we grow/farm ourselves what do we import and from where? Could we expand self reliance or import from a different source?
2. Energy, the GP have a realistic expectation that when they go to the petrol station or turn on a light or their central heating it will do what it says “on the tin”. What is our energy policy? Where do we need to exert influence to secure it?
3. Employment, what do we have to do to ensure the economy allows people the opportunity to work, how does this relate to exports etc?
4. Security, both Foreign and Domestic threats, our populace have the right to live within a well ordered society safe from rampant crime, terrorism or outside threats to their way of life. How do we ensure that this is the case. where do we have to target resources?
5. Public services, we need to make sure that our GP have access to the health care, benefits and services that they need.

I have no doubt missed many but these are the sort of building blocks a society needs and that need to be defended. They will be defended in different ways and by different agencies in very different ways but without establishing the fundamentals then you will never have policy designed to meet requirements.

June 17, 2013 12:10 am

The problem with this debate is how wide do you go?

If we spend a lot of time talking about things that aren’t military, then it kind of defeats the point because those elements are not related to the SDSR. Like a major flu virus. There’s a certain level of risk that a virus could crop up somewhere in the world and make its way to the UK. That could potentially be very deadly for a number of people, but that’s a public health issue, not a defence issue.

I think the scope for this discussion has been set too broad as it stands.

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
June 17, 2013 4:06 am

Defence forces are an exercise in evolution. That is short of a crisis, Defence forces changes by replacing equipment.
In a defence crisis a government tends to find money it otherwise wouldn’t, Likewise in a economic crisis a government will make cuts it would otherwise not risk making.
It is not really grand strategic planning which changes things these days.
So, 1 What is the economic position of the UK likely to be in the period covered by SDSR15; and
2. What assets are coming up for replacement?
Fill in those 2 blanks and you can start having a discussion on what is likely.

Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
June 17, 2013 6:53 am

What is it ‘defence’ is there to defend.

So ignore finance and allocations. Not [yet] an exercise in building an SDSR but an exercise to “justify” the next SDSR.

As a start I have take three core areas of our nation and attempted to define three attributes to each one. I have also tried to match each Asset with an Activity and Outcome. Its a work-in-progress….

+ Economics:
– – Human Capital.
– – Financial Capital.
– – Land and rental Capital.
+ Political:
– – Liberal society.
– – Safe-haven.
– – Rule-of-Law.
+ Social:
– – “Relative” peace-and-harmony within the lands.
– – The image of Britain we seek to project to the world.
– – Fairness and Justice.

+ Economics:
– – International-trade (idealy operating under free-trade and movement).
– – Secure cross-border transactions.
– – Defence of property-rights.
+ Political:
– – Ensure equity before the law.
– – Protect those whose safety is threatened politically.
– – Ensure a transparent legal process.
+ Social:
– – Support of the civilian law-enforcement agencies.
– – Media, sport and ‘culture’.
– – Open-society defended by law.

+ Economic:
– – Naval and Air-assets to defend trade-route; army to be able to secure ports/airports.
– – GCHQ and “private-partners” to be able to secure communication systems.
– – Armed-forces should be able to assist civilain agencies as/when required.
+ Political:
– – The ability to protect “our way-of-life” from foreign interference.
– – Protect those persectuted unjustly by foreign ‘actors’.
– – Ultimate guarentor of the Legal and Justice System.
+ Social:
– – To create an environment in which people can live without fear of the threat of invasion.
– – Assistence to civilian agencies.
– – The “War-on-Terror” (and other extremist views) operating within a legal framework.

Of course, if this was a Venn diagram a lot of spheres would intesect. Its quite difficult trying to define who we are as a nation; our goals and aspirations; our means and willingness to do so; and – let’s be frank – our success/failure to date. Maybe others could chip in…?

June 17, 2013 6:57 am

To be honest I wouldn’t take this discussion beyond saying just UK territories and their peoples. Anything more it could get a bit sticky. Rather like one of those threads over on ARRSE about what they refer to as “that religion”. Energy yes. Fantasy orbats yes. Education yes. Relations with the US, the EU, and the wider world in a generic sense. Some civil defence, policing, and personal protection. But as for the “what” keep it simple.

Rocket Banana
June 17, 2013 7:20 am

Pehaps therefore we simply need to concentrate on the physcical rather than the intellectual and emotional things we want to protect?

All of our people
All of our land
Our International network of supply lines (provisions and energy)
Everything we’ve ever built (from roads to factories)
Our friends, their land, networks and the things they’ve built

June 17, 2013 8:03 am


we could do but we should define the threats and opportunities too or it trail of thought wont flow

Rocket Banana
June 17, 2013 8:14 am

Okay, any more threats than these?…

1. Terrorism
2. Piracy (trade disruption)
3. Proliferation of restricted goods (narcotics, firearms, uranium, etc)
4. Resource contention/extortion (oil, oil and more oil)
5. Natural disaster
6. Attack/invasion

…what do we mean by “opportunities”?

Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
June 17, 2013 8:46 am

But what exactly is the realm?

Folks, this is a thought exercise. Before we can understand what we want to achieve we need to understand where we are. TD keeps emphasing this point and then posters talk about threats, perceptions and opportunities.

As I posited upthread that is not the starting point of the debate. We have to agree upon the common point-of-inception at which we can investigate what is required to defend it. To requote ‘The Boss’:

What is it ‘defence’ is there to defend.

The metaphor “Assets, Activity and Outcomes” was used: We could just replace that with “Who we are; why we are; and what are doing about it”. Until we agree upon this framework we cannot address the issues that will lead to SDSR2015.

We have a preliminary statement-of-requirements but we need to transform that into an Initial-Requirements document. Core to this process is understanding our starting-point….


Rocket Banana
June 17, 2013 8:58 am


I agree, but since there were no other tangible things that we are defending being thrown into the mix I accepted what Opinon3 was saying and just went with the next stage as suggested by the title of this post.

What else constitutes “the realm” that can reasonably be defended by a military force – bearing in mind that I think we’ve accepted that trying to “defend” our aspirations, feelings of self-worth, and happiness are probably outside of the scope if this discussion?

June 17, 2013 9:14 am

First time poster, so forgive me if I do sound out of my depth. (I only learn what AShM stood for less then 2-3 months ago)

“But what exactly is the realm?”

I think everyone has roughly the same idea of what we know and love as realm.

To give this a title or summary sentence that would fit our requirements of SDSR 2015: is “The continuation and preservation of life as we (the UK) know it.”

I think this rather fitting, as it covers anything you would think of and, in fact can also be drawn to extend over our friends, allies and cousins without going all stary eyed on every little detail. And so I believe that is the frame work we should work with.

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 17, 2013 9:27 am

That famous old saying “the enemy always has three courses of action open to him & of these, he always adopts the fourth.”
We need to go easy on the management speak definitions, as we are unlikely to predict exactly the threat we will face. Best to have flexible, well equipped armed forces that can cope with whatever is thrown at them.
Remember we spent £26 million on lawyers to write the rail franchise contracts, only to find they lacked the key clause we ended up needing.

Rocket Banana
June 17, 2013 9:54 am

I thought I’d cut (at least my own) long story short, jump the gun, and say that we need (then shut up)…

1 large/division enduring fighting force [Army, Air Force, RFA]
1 medium/brigade enduring fighting force [Army, Air Force, RFA]
1 small/battalion enduring logistics force [T/A, RFA]
1 intervention/protection force (battalion-brigade depending on duration) [Navy, Marines, Carrier, Amphibs]
Home defence force [T/A, Fighter Command, Coast Guard]
CASD [SSBN, Trident]
Sea patrols [Frigates]

…which I think is very similar to the last SDSR. And this is all based on (re)analysis of generic threats and a very difficult process (well, at least for me) of estimating how many of these threats may happen at the same time.

They are also in order. The most important being at the bottom. With the main “core” being the bottom three.

Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
June 17, 2013 10:25 am

Simon (of OGH’s gaff?):

I thought I’d cut (at least my own) long story short, jump the gun, and say that we need (then shut up)… ^

WinNT 5.0 was quite effective. MicroSoft gave us Vista (apparently without coming-up with a reason other than it ‘needed to be done’ (for licence-schedules)).

The result was Windows 7 (which, on my PC, still has that reassuring “Blue-Screen-of-DEATH!!!” experience). They had to bring it out in-order-to bury Vista.

But – apparently – licence-schedules required a Windows-8 experience. How is that going…?

This thought-exercise – do I need to remind people – is trying to build a construct for SDSR2015. It could be argued that SDSR2010 will do until FF2020! What we need to do is define the reason for another review: It would help if we could define what it is for…!

:sorry-boss[MKII]: *

* Starting to enjoy this…! :P
^ Must use “cite” tag….

Corin Vestey
Corin Vestey
June 17, 2013 10:56 am

@ Opinion3. May I say, sir, that you are a person of rare judgement and wit!

@Fluffy Thoughts. I like your the way your approach follows through from Assets to Activities to Outputs.

June 17, 2013 11:10 am

As an add on to Simon’s list above,

“1. Terrorism
2. Piracy (trade disruption)
3. Proliferation of restricted goods (narcotics, firearms, uranium, etc)
4. Resource contention/extortion (oil, oil and more oil)
5. Natural disaster
6. Attack/invasion”

How much of these are actually mlitary jobs? Terrorism, piracy, border control, daily patrol of EEZs, most other countries have this under the banner of civilian policing. Not to say you have to follow other countries blindly, but I believe in the UK, a lot of these are not military jobs either.

The only possible places that are commonly recognised as the military as having a primary role is the last one.

Terrorism and disaster management, the most common usage of the military in these are usually as added manpower and a storage facility with supplies for large number of people on hand and ready for immediate use.

June 17, 2013 11:22 am

@Fluffy Thoughts: don’t worry about all that. After all, the Type 45 still runs on Windows 2000, and that’s just fine!

Rocket Banana
June 17, 2013 11:49 am


Funny really. I sat down (last year*) and figured out who/what best to counter the above threats and quite a lot of it is military… just more of a big stick policing role rather than guns and missiles.

That’s why I ended up with the T/A and RFA as the best capability we have for natural disaster. Fast to deploy. Well trained. Good command structure. Efficient. etc. [A battalion sized logistics force].

The thing about piracy is that it often happens a long way from home. You can arm the trade ships or squash the pirates. I opted for the latter… along with a realisation that it is actually a disparity of wealth that leads to the need/want for piracy in the first place and a long-term education process for the West to start sharing some of their wealth. Urgh!

* All of this came from last years “Summer of Strategy”. I haven’t done anything other than copy and paste – something that doesn’t work quite as well as you’d expect on Windows 8 ;-)

June 17, 2013 12:08 pm

wf said “don’t worry about all that. After all, the Type 45 still runs on Windows 2000”

When I first stepped into ops in Dauntless and saw Windows waving at me it really did spoil my day. I just hope they are running it in a VM on Linux……

June 17, 2013 12:09 pm

Seems to me that our forces exist to defend our interests when the politicians decide there is the military necessity to involve them.

Our fundamental interest is in preserving and perhaps enhancing our way of life.

Our way of life rests on internal political and social stability and international stability.

Thus our main threats are domestic terrorism and sedition and international instability.

The armed forces have niche roles in internal stability. For international stability we need to project international force. The trouble is international instability can come in many many different forms.

This means we need a wide range of capabilities especially capabilities suited to stability operations. But we cannot get around the fact we need to contribute to high end war fighting too. Look at Syria.

So we need broad spectrum capabilities. No surprises.

Then the question becomes one of resources which is fed by wider government policy and then a question of where do we bare the risk when we can’t afford everything.

We get a woolly and diffuse answer and this is the problem. There’s no focus because there’s no focused threat. Instability is a key threat but that can be anything from civil wars to pirates to coups by unfriendly actors to states invading other states using conventional forces.

June 17, 2013 12:19 pm

Hi Fluffy, RE “It could be argued that SDSR2010 will do until FF2020! ”
– if you refined the 2010 with the best bits from 1998, that would do the 2015 and still be a useful basis for the 2020

Johnno said on one thread today that it is the replacement schedules for key kit that dictate these documents… and that is very true.

But there is a big residual which should be approached in zero-base budgeting terms. After all, that technique was imported to the Pentagon from Ford (by R. McNamara)

June 17, 2013 1:40 pm

Having thought about this for a while it seems to me that the list of threats and concerns the UK is up against both currently and in the possible near future calls for a split (cross service) into three main areas for concern and thus three main categories of framework and response that are required.

For the sake of argument I’ll name them domestic, preventative and reactive….

1. Domestic. The UK isn’t facing direct attack from a peer enemy. The most likely threats are going to be from terrorism, cyber-warfare and natural disaster with the potential consequences being significant material damage or the disruption in the smooth/efficient running of the UK economy and rule of law.

What’s needed? Id say that aside from non-military security services and the police what the Armed Forces need to provide is a small force of Typhoon for QRA against terrorist hijacking, Sentry/land-based radar providing the ‘eyes’ and a territorial force that can support civil authorities when it’s required.

To this I would probably add mine-hunters as they are best placed to provide what is essentially maritime based dome disposal, and possibly the chemical-biological warfare unit depending on how feasible/infeasible and effective/ineffective it would be to make this a civilian agency or branch of the police. UK coastal security I really think should go the way of air-sea rescue and be solely handled by a properly funded coastguard.

2. Preventative. By this I mean having standing commitments and a framework of influence and partnerships in place. Militarily I think we are talking about small training detachments working with allies in key areas, small forces forward deployed to hot spots such as the Persian Gulf where we have a vested interest in maintaining security and building solid relationships with friendly nations and being able to deploy ships as part of wider international efforts against piracy, drug running etcetera which directly damage UK prosperity.

This one is a bit vague but what I am talking about beyond diplomacy is maintaining a spectrum of soft power, from low-end surface ships that can maintain sea control, to flexible auxiliaries and amphibian’s that can react to disasters with humanitarian relief, to small training teams and residual logistical/infrastructure footprints in key areas.

To this I would add the range of military capabilities that it’s worth keeping in the Falklands which is the unique situation in which hard power can be used to prevent conflict over the territorial dispute (even if Argentina is in no position at the moment to challenge the UK’s control of the islands).

3. Reaction. This is the real good stuff, the hard power that can react to an overseas crises when the proverbial hits the fan.

I think the likelihood of the UK taking on a medium sized military power on it’s own again is so remote as to be almost not worth thinking about. Obviously with any kind of substantial force set-up in place the UK will be able to mount small-scale Sierra Leone sized operations on it’s lonesome, but beyond that any future effort of this size is going to be with other partner nations in coalition. I think and hope the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan will make long enduring COIN operations a thing of the past from the UK’s point of view. Any intervention is either going to have to be at arms length with predominately naval and air forces or a short, sharp ground offensive that completes very specific objectives and then sees a withdrawal within months.

So what’s needed? Well I think the ability to put a brigade into action at quite short notice and the ability to field a division with a longer build-up time is a sensible approach to take. Lower down than that keeping one marine and one para battle-group at very high readiness is sufficient for any unexpected turn of events that require an immediate response.

In terms of air-power a full spectrum of expeditionary capabilities need to fit together to provide the same small level of short notice high reactivity and longer notice larger build-up. So that means enough fast-jets to either embark a full carrier group or a similarly sized land based contingent (up-to around 40 aircraft available sounds about right), enough tankers to give them the range and endurance required, enough transports to keep a battle-group supplied indefinitely or a brigade sized force in the field for several months (putting a division into foreign territory and supplied solely by air is just too prohibitively expensive and would have to be done predominately from the sea), and enough ISTAR platforms and helicopters to support land forces as and when it’s needed. To be honest I think the current force projections for the RAF sound about right for the level of commitment I have in mind.

In naval terms it’s largely the same. Enough auxiliaries, escorts and submarines to integrate with and support a fully laden carrier in a surge and enough amphibians to land a battle-group with ease and a brigade in an emergency situation with enough notice. For this the current RN/RFA set-up is a bit light and I think keeping both carriers in service, eventually replacing the Albion’s with 2 larger LPD’s and the Bays with 4-6 similar LSD’s (all with large flight-decks and moderate hangars), keeping a fleet of at least 8 Astute’s and a sizeable clutch of auxiliaries (2 more MARS tankers and 4-6 MARS SSS should do it) are all essential. Id also want to see around 20 high-end escorts (with a batch of 6 low-end ships for the soft-power mentioned in point 2) but given the proliferation of frigates and destroyers amongst our allies and the almost certainty of coalition action I can’t see that a large surface fleet is of the utmost priority. We should after all be be seeking to bring to the party the stuff that others don’t have, the framework on which smaller allied forces can attach their own resources (unless of course the American’s are running the show).

I guess if their was a point 4 it would be concerning the maintenance of Trident and CASD or some other form of deterrent, but I think that is an argument for another day!

I tried not to get too bogged down in the specifics of how many battalions, tanks, aircraft and ships I think we need, just tried to give an overview of what I think the priorities are and how best we can respond to them.

Rocket Banana
June 17, 2013 2:46 pm


Surely CASD comes under your preventitive heading?

I like the split.

Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
June 17, 2013 4:27 pm

I’m gonna’ annoy a lot of folks (quelle surprise) but we need to address basics. Ergo, I supply the following question to those who wish to build battle-plans:


Now, can we please address the question…?


Rocket Banana
June 17, 2013 5:00 pm


Have we not addressed the basics yet?

June 17, 2013 5:09 pm

You cannot be too detailed about what you need the military to accomplish – not at this level.

This is because the use of force or military based soft power effect (sorry!) is entirely a political decision. The services can advise but as we all know, that advice can be effectively disregarded. So there is no point finely tuning the armed forces because their use will be decided on transient and dynamic domestic factors as well as the strategic reality of any situation (sometimes the domestic simply trumps all).

We might like the Army to be structured for Stabilisation Operations only but we all know that does not stop a Government throwing that force into a World War let alone a Syrian intervention or an Iraqi one. We might like a Navy that can generate a carrier battlegroup only but then we’ll have ships plying up and down the oceans hunting pirates or escorting Green Peace away from the French.

So we must not forget that the armed forces are entirely subservient to a very skatty and fickle master and thus they have to be very flexible. Flexible to do what? Intervene in our interests, which is ensuring our way of life, which is based on stability which means we must be able to produce stability throughout the whole spectrum because instability simply takes too many forms.

So at this grand picture level I don’t think you can do much more than have some common sense terms of reference so we’re not worrying about how the Army can defend the World Service, and recognise that the threats to stability are diffuse and being a diffuse problem it needs a diffuse range of remedies which equates to a wide range of military capabilities. It’s not sexy or exciting but its reality.

Now we can’t do everything I hear people cry! Of course. So we risk assess based on wider Governmental resource allocation to see which capabilities we can do without, which ones we can transfer to allies and which ones we must have because we’re almost certainly likely to use it.

None of it is very concrete, and the entire process is imperfect and messy but it’s reality when you have to have an armed forces which has to be ready for anything but can’t afford to be.

Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
June 17, 2013 5:14 pm


Have we not addressed the basics yet?

No. I am repeating what TD has – oft – requested: Please define what defence is for! :eek:

Less shipbuilding: More reasons to justify shipbuilding (and ovver stuff innit)! Too much “We want; too many sucked-thumbs”.

[DisqUS is easier than “Vanilla” BTW….] We do seem to have emoticons to boot…. :?

Phil June 17, 2013 at 5:09 pm


June 17, 2013 5:19 pm

Please define what defence is for!

To defend our way of life when the State perceives it to be threatened and the State has ordered its military assets to intervene in a manner the State sees fit at the time, bearing in mind, but not being held to, service advice and counsel based on the resources and capability structure the States wider policies have left for Defence.

June 17, 2013 5:33 pm


Basically there’s plenty of shit out there that can fuck us up because our daily routine is fuck upable without too much effort and we have no way of knowing which shit we’ll have to deal with or who will be flinging it because the neighbourhood is a cess pit and our boss is an emotional schizophrenic prone to wild mood swings and what’s more, controls the purse strings based on the voices in his head and some tea leaves; which means we also don’t have a fucking scoobies how much dosh we’ve got to play with from one day to the next but we still have to save up steadily for 25 years to buy the baseball bat we need to go do our job.

I think that sums up defence’s predicament in a more “street” and less “management bollocks” manner. Teasing out defined roles from that chaos is pissing into the wind when there’s such a wide range of things that can fuck us up, as I said. Come back the Soviet Union all is forgiven.

Rocket Banana
June 17, 2013 5:59 pm


Bro, you is, like, well informed and brainy.


Defence is for, you know, defending stuff innit. Especially stuff that is well buff like ships ;-)

June 17, 2013 6:11 pm

So should we consider this question as more ‘what should we be able to ensure we can do? Insure against certain eventualities?

It goes without saying that having insufficient capabilities in place at a critical time may prove too late and be insurmountable further down the line.

We should be able to ensure that an unexpected or expected invasion can be rebuffed to defend the UK and British Isles. That an invasion of other British terrorities and dependencies could be rebuffed or reclaimed by force if needed. That our contribution to NATO is fair, effective and does not put excessive undue risk on our forces (due to poor equipment for example) then we are probably largely covered on the essential. But I am prepared to pay for further capabilities, such that influence and deterent capabilities are there. Furthermore I believe technological and training skills will only be maintained by ensuring the SDSR considers the infrastructure requirements needed to maintain the skills and technologies.

June 17, 2013 8:59 pm

What has defence always been for? Trade.

Previously the RN was responsible for protecting and enforcing global ‘free’ trade. Now that task falls to the USN and with that responsibility come the rewards of the world’s largest, most diverse economy and essentially, the American way of life. That is what we need to defend and if needs be, fight for – the british way of life. So that means not just energy and resource security but also influence and access to markets (the carrot works wonders but nothing comes close to a big stick).

Currently, a globalised world economy prevents any major state on state action occurring that would threaten our way of life. As populations continue to grow and competition for resources and access to markets increases with the rise of the BRICs, we may well see a return to full state on state conflict.

A precursor to this may be action by non-state actors (with political, ideological or religious motivations) or state sponsored ‘proxies’, acting to disrupt any or all of the above.

I feel that the next 50 or so years will resemble the late 18th-19th century’s ‘scramble for africa’ and ‘great game’ as states continually find their interests competing and conflicting each other as they seek to further their own interests abroad whilst securing the electorate and their own re-election at home (as ‘democracy continues to be exported).

Those of us young enough are in for an interesting half century.

June 17, 2013 9:11 pm

So to summarise my post, we are seeking to defend (and advance if possible) our wellbeing and prosperity.

June 18, 2013 5:27 am

“Previously the RN was responsible for protecting and enforcing global ‘free’ trade”.

I disagree on this. Free trade used to protect itself. Even East Indies merchantmen came with guns, only in times of war did merchant ships rate an escort, and even that is due to government funded privateers. Even in the 80s, most cargo ships travel without escort, peace being maintained by patrols of local waters by resident powers rather than an escort detail. You will NEVER have enough naval ships to escort even a small fraction of the world’s container traffic, piracy is controlled by daily patrols of the residents, not a “once through, never seen for months” passage of an destroyer.

Shipping can and has almost always protected itself, aided by locals keeping their areas clear, not any navy. Which makes the Gulf of Aden a rather strange and recent phenomena.

And besides, if you intercepted a pirate in a country’s borders, remember one very important thing. You have no authority to enforce the law as a transit guest through another country’s waterways. Self-defence, yes. Arrests? No.

June 18, 2013 6:02 am

Correction: Arrests, maybe. Persecutions, no.

Rocket Banana
June 18, 2013 6:39 am


“You have no authority to enforce the law as a transit guest”

If the law does not protect or serve us it is wrong… and that’s where the problems start ;-)

I like Andymeds comment and agree with the gist. In addition, I’m not sure we really need to escort all of the worlds container ships. You therefore need to police the “hot spots” and “choke points”. You have to catch the opportunists red handed. Perhaps we need more Predator drones than Frigates?

June 18, 2013 7:09 am

Hi Observer, there has been some progress on this
“Correction: Arrests, maybe. Persecutions, no.”
– the Seychelles that, as a state, has jurisdiction over vast parts of the affected area, has agreed to prosecute (after arrests by someone else, mainly)

June 18, 2013 8:14 am

Too simplistic Simon. MQ-9s and all other aircraft tend to drop out of the sky if you fly them around too long, a frigate can just float around for days. Aircraft are short spurt surveillance, ships are long endurance surveillance.

“If the law does not protect or serve us it is wrong… and that’s where the problems start”

Refusal to allow foreign agencies to persecute IS protection, of a country’s sovreignty. Seen it happen before, claims on territory brought before the World Court depends heavily on “effectives” or application of acts of control over the area, like building civic buildings or policing the area. Letting other people police your territory reduces your control over it, and can lead to claims by another country due to “inability to control the area.”

Lose a chunk of the country just to save a few ships. Worth it? I don’t think so.

June 18, 2013 6:17 pm

You are missing the point slightly. Escorts don’t necessarily need to escort anything to be effective. Presence alone is often a sufficient format of deterrent, as was and has always been the case. Sure, merchantmen were armed in days of old, but if this was a sufficient deterrent on its own why then did the RN (and now the USN) forward deploy warships the world over (and build up a vast network of bases to support them).

In a modern context, forward deploying minehunters to the person gulf and rotating through frigates and destroyers, not only serves as a deterrent to anyone who may seek to disrupt the flow of oil, but also provides stability. This helps to instill confidence in business and governments the world over – helping keep oil prices low and economies (hopefully) growing. It is in our interest to use our armed forces in such a fashion.

June 18, 2013 6:35 pm

Feck, just realised some comments I made earlier didn’t stick…

In short our assets are our people – that’s it.

People need food, water, warmth, security, somewhere to live, health, purpose and right of self determination.

For food, you either need to grow it or you need to trade it. To trade you need something worth trading which is either raw materials, skills / knowledge, services or manufacturerd goods. These typically need power and the ability to trade freely.

We’ve plenty of water :)

For heat you again either have raw resources or you trade for it.

For security you need law and order and defence from others who want to take what you have. Ultimately you need wealth to pay for it.

Health is provided by knowledge and typically wealth.

You typically need land to live and grow things on.

Purpose is a difficult one – but I think overall it is to improve the other things we have and also help other nations that do not have what we have.

Self determination is ultimately being able to choose how the country is run.

So, in summary to protect our assets (people) we need land, water, raw materials, education / knowledge, ability to freely trade, access to energy, ability to help others and wealth. These are the things we need to protect in my view.

June 18, 2013 6:46 pm

“if this was a sufficient deterrent on its own why then did the RN (and now the USN) forward deploy warships the world over.”

Well, there was this thing called the Cold War and Truman Doctrine. Probably before your time.

“It is in our interest to MISuse our armed forces in such a fashion.”

Fixed. Trade can take care of itself with the help of Coast Guards. Not frigates or destroyers. What are you going to do? Use a million dollar Harpoon on a 30k speedboat? The real main reason all those TF 151/152 coalition ships are stooging around Somalia is that it is a really great place to get some hands on training, and with the Cold War over, they need to justify their paycheck.

The Malacca Straits was almost as bad as the Gulf of Aden for years, so why no coalition ship patrols then? Because they were still gainfully employed watching the commies.

June 18, 2013 6:52 pm
Reply to  Observer

More likely that very little of our oil transits malacca.

June 18, 2013 6:54 pm

The RN was deploying warships the world over long before the Truman doctrine or cold war. Hong Kong anyone?

June 18, 2013 7:04 pm

andy, the USN captured their first pirate in 50 years in 2009. If piracy was their job, you would think that half a century without a single arrest might indicate a certain lack of interest?

Bottom line, USN military ships from 1960s to 2000+ never had anti-piracy as their main duties, even when they were globally deployed.

Rocket Banana
June 18, 2013 7:10 pm


Are you suggesting that our escort fleet does not need to maintain a presence to demonstrate our interests in the fact that our sea lanes remain open in certain areas?

If so, how else do we protect the trade routes that keep the people of this country alive?

June 18, 2013 7:13 pm

Where have I ever mentioned piracy in any of my posts!

June 18, 2013 7:15 pm

I would assume the force is proportional to the threat of closing the trade routes.

Rocket Banana
June 18, 2013 7:18 pm


I get your point but if it takes 1-month to do a anything about it then the threat is exacerbated by distance. This country would be crippled in a month!

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 18, 2013 7:23 pm

You would hope that any response to an attempt to shut trade routes would be multinational. After all I cannot think of a single choke point that would affect the UK alone.

June 18, 2013 7:32 pm

Possible but fairly remote, no country could really shut this countries imports down.

June 18, 2013 7:38 pm

They don’t need to. That’s the point I was trying to make. The nature of our modern economy means that the mere threat of disruption / closure of trade routes would be enough to depress markets sufficiently enough to throw us back into a deep, dark recession.

June 18, 2013 7:43 pm

Yes like I said possible but unlikely. How many countries/groups could do it and how often does it happen along with the ‘deep dark recession’ ?

Rocket Banana
June 18, 2013 7:43 pm

It doesn’t have to shut them all down to cripple us. Just a portion of the gas or oil.

I suppose it also depends on what we mean by “cripple”. My view of defence is that I pay for it and I expect it to protect me. If “democracy” and “finance” continues I couldn’t really give a toss. If I can’t feed my family, keep them warm or get them to hospital in an emergency then it has failed catastrophically.

If it truly doesn’t make that big a difference then it should come off the list of things we need to defend. Based on the fact that we have stuff coming in from multiple channels for supply redundancy.

I’d have to ask what the point in our Navy is though. I’d also have to ask why it was created in the first place. Which ties nicely back to andymed’s original comment.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 18, 2013 7:46 pm


How often has Iran threatened to shut the Straits of Hormuz?

Anyone threatening to close Hormuz or Malacca is going to piss off the Chinese and US, Bab el Mendeb, Suez or Strog pisses off the US and the whole of Europe.
Nobody is going to chance the world of hurt that would come down on them in anything short of a war situation.

Rocket Banana
June 18, 2013 7:47 pm


Oh, well if you’re suggesting it’s due to the nature of our modern economy then we can leave it to the Americans since they have more to lose in this International economic system.

In which case we need an International (well at least Western) sea lane police force, not the Royal Navy, not the USN, not any coast guard, but a force who’s finances are raised through global (or Western) taxation.

June 18, 2013 7:49 pm

‘If it truly doesn’t make that big a difference then it should come off the list of things we need to defend. Based on the fact that we have stuff coming in from multiple channels for supply redundancy.’

That’s one way of looking at things and has some arguement. I don’t think that it the navy’s top business, all this protecting ships and trade are one of it’s tasks but I think it’s not at the top. Before anyone says it no I don’t think because the navy don’t have a big role in this taskings that they should be cut back. Merely that we don’t need to look through the ‘protecting trade’ microscope when talking of the navy.

June 18, 2013 7:52 pm

@ allpoliticians my point exactly. The fact that Iran hasn’t carried out their threat is as you say because of the whole world of hurt the US (and other allied powers) would rain down on them. The big stick is enough to minimise risk in the eyes of the markets and deter any real Iranian aggression. Without the stick, there would likely be burning tankers in the hormuz straits and powercuts in western Europe.

Rocket Banana
June 18, 2013 7:57 pm


Well that’s urinated on all my fireworks and basic understanding of world history.

The Royal Navy is here because it had to defend our trade routes\shipping. The lifelines of this country.

Nothing has changed in my book.

June 18, 2013 8:29 pm

Well, I’m glad someone (APATS) said it:
” Anyone threatening to close Hormuz or Malacca is going to piss off the Chinese and US, Bab el Mendeb, Suez or Strog pisses off the US and the whole of Europe. Nobody is going to chance the world of hurt that would come down on them in anything short of a war situation.”

There are risks and there are issues. Issues are he sorts of things that the system, as it stands – and just directed to to the right place, at the right time, with agreed resources (not that much, in the main) can easily cope with.

Risks are things that come in from the outside, and are either unexpected or not easily managed (even contained).

An example of the former would be the pesky pirates: in the past Malacca, Gulf of Guinea, lately the Horn of Africa and all of that part of the Indian Ocean (though again overtaken by the Gulf of Guinea, as no one is looking that way, right now).

Risks: The lining up up Shias and Sunnis (at state level and also within far too many state entities for it to look manageable over the medium term)… I hope Keynes was not right when he was asked why he never talked about the long term: ” in the long run we are all dead”.

Anyway, the US is firmly on the one side of the divide, for once everyone has forgotten about Israel… and we’ll all too soon see where it goes from here.

June 19, 2013 12:58 am

“Where have I ever mentioned piracy in any of my posts!”

andy, what do you think most escorts currently are escorting against?

And thinking that the Iranians would simply go running around razing things for the fun of it is simplistic thinking. They do threats and pinprick harassments for a reason, and that is under the ambit of international politics. If they went that wild, their own insurance rates would go sky high, and the automatic boycott as ship owners avoid the risks to their ships would kill their own economy. Half their money comes from oil, if no tankers showed up due to risks, who suffers?

June 19, 2013 10:03 am

Impacts = exposures, before the facts emerge. They are facts, but may not be apparent without expert assessment (and identification in the first place)

Threats = those are the facts, but we are not really party to the scanning of early warning signals (was it 40.000 in signals int plus all the more quirky parts of secret service, and a good dose of our diplomatic service as well?)

Critical Assets? Nothing is critical without the context, but some assets are less easily reproduced than others

How should the above be looped then, to be constantly updated, but also realistic and sustainable, considering the long lead times in changing force structure (and levels, up or down), getting major (uptodate) pieces of kit into service (well, ordered first) and ensuring the training levels that glue it all together, to an effective force?

White Papers seem to have gone out of fashion? So much so that I even forget what Green Papers were.

So SDSR(s) are the “spoken will” of the Gvmnt then, that should include the broader (than just defence) objectives, and an evaluation of all those ‘bits’ I have mentioned above, as to whether they are congruent with achieving/ safeguarding those broader objectives, in the light of not only Clear & Present danger, f any, but also heeding emerging threats… we are now a dozen years into the over-reaction to an undetected threat emerging, and in the cloak of that legitimate reaction all other kinds of objectives have sneaked in.

How can an internal change in the forces be effected, if they are “otherwise” engaged? The answer is a “no” and quite wisely the last SDSR recognised that, and the F2020 was set as an objective… but it was at the same time a money saving and salami slicing exercise and now, depending on which service we look at, the 2020 has slipped to 2022 or 2024…

What is missing from the preparations is a neat recapping of what Defence Strategy is as things stand, then doing a gap analysis as to capabilities and assigned resources, and then and only then, going to the starting blocks for the next round.

Rocket Banana
June 19, 2013 11:56 am

Just thought I’d mention that if you look at the National Security Strategy PDF on page 27/28 you’ll find a nice list of threats all nicely prioritised.

I agree with all the threats, but don’t agree with the priorities. The priorities appear (no, I’m not a conspiracy theorist) to be skewed by an ulterior motive of justifying either the war in Afghanistan (as it was then) or the general “War on Terror”.

I would suggest that disruption to oil, gas, food or minerals would do more harm than a terrorist attack on London. I’m not sure what it meant by “short to medium term” in the document but if the “Tier Two” major instability occurs (e.g. war involving Saudi Arabia or Egypt) the effect we would feel would not be the war itself but the effect it had on our supply lines.

Obviously policing these areas and avoiding the war in the first place would be best, but we (NATO) might not have enough influence, war breaks out and we’re left having to try and go “about our business” or reroute ships twice as far, costing twice as much, making the relative economies of import unviable.

June 21, 2013 6:54 pm

Having listened to the two evidence sessions with the Defence Select Committee, I would go so far as to say that the biggest strategic danger to the UK could be from our own politicians and our decision making apparatus.

If it is true that (virtually) no amount of tactical acumen, equipment, blood or bravery can make up for a strategic error, then the witnesses collectively painted a worrying picture of where we are, because our strategic underpinnings sound, if not shambolic then what shall I say: haphazard?
1) Failure to rigorously analyse and then learn lessons from previous wars at an institutional level. (WHAT?)
2) Failure to respond constructively to criticism from below, but rather cover it up.
3) Failure to teach strategy effectively at most levels.
4) Failure to employ, engage or listen to wise strategic thinkers in government decision making.
Consequently politicians (who may not lead anything of note until they lead the country) are not adequately educated or advised, and the military, from top to bottom, do not have the mechanism to understand, or ammunition to decline, strategic stupidities.
Addenbrooke would not be impressed.

The new(ish) National Security Council may have begun to address problems with formulating strategy at an institutional level, though it remains to be seen how effective it will be. As for the rest, well the “Chief of Defence Staff’s Reading List” is a start. And in this context perhaps the recent legal right won to sue MoD for negligence in failing to provide body armour or suitable armoured vehicles is a thoroughly good thing. (note: which doesn’t mean they will win, what has been granted is that the MoD should not be exempt from due care).

Perhaps others closer to the scene will comment, as surely there are other takes.

June 21, 2013 10:42 pm

1) Failure to rigorously analyse and then learn lessons from previous wars at an institutional level. (WHAT?)
2) Failure to respond constructively to criticism from below, but rather cover it up.
3) Failure to teach strategy effectively at most levels.
4) Failure to employ, engage or listen to wise strategic thinkers in government decision making.

You just described 90% of the offices in the UK. Indeed the world.

June 21, 2013 11:33 pm

Probably true but that doesn’t make being in the majority clever, it doesn’t make it alright, and it doesn’t mean we aren’t sleepwalking towards a cliff*

One defence select committee witness, when asked “Who does this sort of thing (ie: planning for strategic effect) well? Who should we look to?” answered (as close as I can remember) “Australia. They are pretty effective. I don’t think one should talk in terms of punching above ones weight, these things are pretty silly…but they think we punch below ours.”

* discounting GWII, Basra and Afghanistan after, maybe, 2006 naturally.

August 7, 2013 9:59 pm

Strategically the key assets requiring protection are (in no particular order):

– the global economic system, upon which the UK economy rests: within this our core trading partnerships and sources of critical raw materials (oil and gas especially) – this includes the global financial and trading system, “the West” (USA, EU and Canada, but also Asian allies such as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and Korea), energy security (especially the Gulf but increasingly East and West Africa), growing trade with emerging economies (BRICs, Africa, south and east Asia);
– the alliances which form the western security system and provide a mutual defence shield for the west if faced with another major power or asymmetric threat – NATO, the US, UK, Australia and Canada mutual intelligence alliance etc. Existing and new alliances with close partners outwith NATO such as Japan, Brunei, Jordan, Oman and the Gulf States. Sustaining a capacity to meet our commitments under these alliances.
– the integrity of the UK and overseas territories, waters and airspace. From both unforeseen general war and more likely smaller scale or asymmetric threats. This includes sustaining an effective deterrent to a conventional attack on UK territory (however unlikely), cyber security, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics and managing specific threats to the Falklands, Gibraltar etc.
– sufficient support to the civil power in the UK and overseas territories to sustain law and order (including protection of borders and offshore assets from criminality), and effectively respond in the event of natural disaster or man made emergency (including SAR, where required).

Threats can be measured in two ways, probability and impact – so I will score them probability/impact (from 1-5, five being highest) – anything that scores 5 for either probability or impact MUST be factored into plans in my view. Probability assumes no capability in place (i.e. if the UK had no capacity to respond Argentina might well occupy the Falklands).

The “fives”

1. Breakdown of key defensive alliances affecting global balance of power – NATO especially 2/5
2. Terrorism against UK 5/2 ( the highish impact measures potential impact on economic systems/confidence/trade/energy security and alliances not just lives lost)
3. Cyber Attacks 5/3
4. General or nuclear war against the UK and/or key allies 1/5
4. Limited war or asymmetric attacks against the UK’s overseas territories and key and potential political and economic partners 5/2 (e.g Falklands)
2. Overseas political or humanitarian crisis necessitating short-term or light-touch military intervention (Sierra Leone-type) 5/1 (this is based on the assumption that military intervention will probably be effective)
5. Humanitarian emergency or other crisis responses in the UK or affecting critical overseas partners 5/1
6. Criminal threats in UK borders, waters and airspace or affecting UK overseas trade and interests 5/2 (e.g. addressing narcotics trafficking, piracy and illegal fishing)

The rest

1. Humanitarian crisis requiring long-term large-scale military/peace support intervention (Bosnia-type) 4/1
2. Overseas political crisis necessitating long-term military intervention (Afghanistan-type) 4/1 (this is based on the assumption that military intervention will probably be ineffective)

What is required?

1. Protection/insurance against very unlikely but devastating general or nuclear war – nuclear deterrent
2. Meeting commitments to NATO to defend the western political and economic “system” (these may change – NATO probably needs to be re-strategised rather as a West-wide SDSR)
3. Capacity to build, contribute to and sustain new alliances in Asia, Africa and Middle East (more overseas training teams, more participation in joint overseas exercises and establishment of overseas bases etc.)
3. Counter-terrorism capability (SFG, SIGINT, HUMINT etc.)
4. Cyber-warfare capability (new capability, but including advanced SIGINT and ECM)
5. Short term but long-range all-arms expeditionary capability to defend overseas territories and mount limited war fighting/humanitarian or political interventions as pat of alliances or alone.
6. Global humanitarian response capacity, with an emphasis on UK and overseas territories
7. “Gendarme” capacity, especially for UK waters and airspace, and pelagic and littoral waters globally