Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)



  40. Things we do not talk about.
  (Mr Ingram) We do not confirm the utilisation of such forces. I know that there is a debate out there that there may be a need for a greater clarity and a greater debate on that but at present that is not something we want to comment upon.


  41. Perhaps you could drop us a note please. You can leave a few blanks if you wish and we can interpret, but certainly you can tell us what you have kept out of the pot.
  (Mr Ingram) If you look at what we have contributed it is easy to say what we have not contributed in that sense. The rest of our resources of the 12,500, and I think they have listed an 18-warship capability in terms of ro-ros, in terms of nuclear submarines and whatever else and the aircraft, so if there is something not there then it has been defined as not being necessary to meet those requirements.

  42. Thanks very much. That is a startling revelation.
  (Mr Ingram) I am intrigued by the question.

  43. You can tell us why something was put in and why it was not. What was the rationale for including the figure of aircraft? Was it a whim or did somebody say, "We would like X number of aircraft", or did you say, "We only think we can put in X per cent"?
  (Mr Lee) We can answer that now. This has not been approached against the criterion of what we could leave out. It is approached from the other end of what we should put in, starting with the Headline Goal itself as the collective goal. That was elaborated down into a large number of particular capability requirements, 144 different capability requirement areas, and then each of the countries put forward what they could offer from their own resources to meet in those capability areas and to meet the various qualitative criteria which are within the goal in terms of readiness and sustainability and so on. In our case we looked at our programme, looked at our own defence planning assumptions and discovered what amount of forces we had which met those criteria and could be made available for those tasks. That rules out nuclear weapons because they do not come within the ambit of peace making in the sense defined. We were able to put forward what we would assume we could field for what we call a continuing medium scale operation. That is how the programme in the UK is constructed. That is what we could put into the pot as it were for this purpose. That is what we have done and we know that other countries have done their own equivalent version of that exercise according to their own plans and their own availabilities.

Patrick Mercer

  44. Force generation: given the little progress since the Capabilities Commitments Conference a year ago, can we be confident that the necessary forces will be available by 2003?
  (Mr Ingram) We are driving towards that. I think it is more than travelling hopefully. We are travelling with a purpose. In terms of earlier exchanges that increased awareness and that increased definition of what is required assists everybody in meeting those goals. It is a very demanding task we have set ourselves but we hope we can get there with commitment and will and determination.

  45. With the forces that are available now what could be achieved?
  (Mr Ingram) UK forces or European forces?

  46. European forces.
  (Mr Ingram) Very much at the lower end of the task. Geoff Hoon when he was here last in March gave an example, and he may have given it to the House of Lords inquiry, that Mozambique would be the type of example that could probably be delivered at the present time. Indeed the communiqué from Laeken indicates that it would be at the lower end of that. We are only two years away from the starting position on this to where we now are with another two years to go to get to that final point of 2003. It is at the lower end we would be able to deliver.

  47. By the end of 2003, the way that progress is being made, what level of task would you be confident of reaching by that stage?
  (Mr Ingram) I would have to give you the answer that I would be confident that we could give the commitment and determination and will and countries seizing of the enormity of what we are trying to do and driving this through across a range of issues that they have to face, whether it is in defence budget terms or whether it is in capability terms, getting to that objective, otherwise at a low point defining those objectives. Closer to call I think would be the time to say, "Is this now going to be achieved?" It would be wrong for me to say we are going to fall far short because that is almost a recipe for failure and that is not in our thinking. The closer we get to it may create of itself a demand to say that we are now significantly short of achieving our objective in 2003; say it was towards the latter end of 2002. That of itself may then give a spur to countries to say, "Okay. We now need to step up what we are doing here". There is a dynamic in this on where we have come from to where we now are, and that is why in my opening statement I used phrases like "significant achievement" and "considerable progress", because we genuinely do believe that much progress has been made and much more will be made.

  48. We are talking about a figures of 160,000 which, by the time it has been added up will be 100,000; 12,500 from the United Kingdom. You know the formula as well as I do. If you post one sentry to cover you, you need three to cover him. How do we sustain 60,000 if we have them in the field for a year?
  (Mr Ingram) How would you sustain that in terms of all the capabilities that are being put in? You are talking about the multiplier of 60,000 because of rotation and things like that.

  49. For a sustained period of, let us say, a year it is unlikely that you will get even the same forces in the field for 12 months, one resting, one on stag, one waiting to go. How do you sustain that?
  (Mr Ingram) It is part of our planning assumption that by making that contribution we have taken that into account. Other countries are doing the same in the way in which they define this. In what they are putting into the pot they will have included in that assumption the rotational training aspects of their troops in the same way as we would have to do that. By offering 12,500 it is part of our ongoing process of rotation; that is implicit within all that.
  (Mr Webb) Sixty thousand is a commitment to provide troops for up to a year. That implies that behind their offers countries must have the rotation to do that. Our 12,500 is not the total number that might participate in the ESDP operation. That is our commitment to provide 12,500 and to sustain that. As you say, we need a lot more than that.

  50. We are looking at a division really, are we not, a division plus to sustain 12,500 in the field?
  (Mr Webb) Yes.

  51. It is clearly with our other commitments a huge earmarking of troops.
  (Mr Ingram) I think it is a significant contribution we are making; there is no question at all about that. We are committed to the concept because it does life capabilities. We can take some credit from the fact that we are taking a lead in this. In one sense we were first to the examination of what we had to do post the Cold War. The SDR gives us an advance in many ways of being able to define our capabilities, to know the stresses that puts upon that if we are dealing with other areas. Remembering what I said earlier, at the end of the day if we are committed elsewhere because of other events then we do not have that to draw upon. A decision has to be taken at that time what do we do, and it is all a question of priorities—where lies the national interest, the European interest, and indeed the NATO interests.
  (Mr Webb) I hesitate to correct a soldier, but—

  52. A former soldier.
  (Mr Ingram) I think you may be correcting a politician.
  (Mr Webb) The 12,500 is really about a brigade size formation and that is what we are talking about. If you go back to the Strategic Defence Review what we said was that we were going to scale for ability to conduct a medium scale operation, which is a brigade plus the extra commitment, on a continuing basis and another medium scale. This is if you like part of our medium scale capacity. Although you only have a brigade out there you might have at administrative level a division to sustain that but it is a brigade. What we are really talking about is that a part of our SDR capacity could be available to the SDP if it was not committed elsewhere, so we are not in that sense extending ourselves any further. It is something we were planning to work up in any event.

  53. The force generation—who physically puts it together? Where does DSACEUR fit into the process?
  (Mr Webb) There are two possibilities. If this is an operation where there is recourse to NATO assets then one of the NATO assets you get is DSACEUR and his ability to do force generation. There is a procedure for that, we do it all the time, and DSACEUR would provide that process. It could be dealt with elsewhere in NATO command chain but DSACEUR would I think be the first port of call. If it was not done there, in other words NATO assets were not for some reason being used, then a national headquarters under the ESDP concept would be provided and we see PJHQ as being able to undertake that role. I would see that happening at PJHQ. I should say perhaps that they would need a bit of reinforcement from the MOD to do it and they would need some extra bodies and we have ideas for that. Basically PJHQ could do that sort of function. As you know, they have commanded multinational operations before.

Mr Howarth

  54. That is an extremely important point. What you are saying, Mr Webb, is that in the event that NATO is not involved it has been decided that the extremely important task of force generation will not be carried out by DSACEUR? It will be carried out by PJHQ?
  (Mr Webb) What I am saying is that normally it would be done by DSACEUR but if for some reason that was not feasible there is an alternative. The French have a similarly capable headquarters.

  55. It is a very important issue because it actually brings together these disparate forces, does it not, in terms of force generation?
  (Mr Webb) It is a technical function.

  56. It may be a technical function, Mr Webb, but it is rather an important one, who is responsible for physically organising the co-ordination of these forces.
  (Mr Lee) The operation commander would be responsible for that function and, as Mr Webb has said, if the operation was being conducted with recourse to NATO assets and capabilities then DSACEUR is the candidate for that.

  57. We understand that. I am trying to get to the position of what happens if NATO is not involved.
  (Mr Lee) Then some other person is designated as the operation commander and that other person would draw on a national headquarters to be used for these purposes.

  58. Surely it has been decided who that person is to be?
  (Mr Lee) No. There is a range of options there.

  59. So it has not been decided who that person should be?
  (Mr Ingram) In what circumstances are you seeking a decision, would be the question. What coalition of forces is being brought together? Who then takes the lead in those circumstances?

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