Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 160 - 179)



  160. It is not going to make you popular with your fliers.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) I think that the Air Force, by and large, has done pretty well in the past at reinventing itself. It is always a challenge and it is always difficult, but it is a question of seizing the future and shaping it rather than reacting to it and being forced by it.

Mr Cran

  161. I have one or two questions about organisation and, in saying that, I am very aware of the fact that you said just two or three minutes ago, as I took the quote down, "It is much more about process than organisation" and you also went on to say, "It is also much more to do with interface." Notwithstanding, as I understand it, you have inherited an organisation that is divided structurally into different generic capability management areas. Do you think that is the right way to think about it in the future or not?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) I think there is a danger that one can be misled by the organisational diagram. Like all wiring diagrams, it looks a little hierarchical but that is not the way we work. Yes, we have the Directors of Equipment Capability brigaded under 2-star Capability Managers, but the Capability Managers are not there to sit on top of the Directors of Equipment Capability and secondguess them and micromanage their programmes. They have a completely different role. Theirs is a much more strategic role as members of the Joint Capabilities Board. Their role, with me, is to give the strategic direction about which I was talking earlier, to think about the cross-cutting issues, things which are not confined to one Director of Equipment Capability but which will be crucial to ensure that the projects that they deliver can be used synergistically in the future. The wiring diagram can lead you to think that it is a hierarchical upward progression but that is not the way we work.

  162. The other way of looking at it is that the way you have just outlined it depends very much on individuals providing, to use your word, they interface and so on that you have mentioned and, if you have the wrong individuals, you might get the wrong result.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Any endeavour is to an extent about the individuals within it; so it is important that we get the right individuals. I have to say that we do extremely well and I am particularly blessed by my staff. So I have no concerns on that score. The process that we set in place after the McKinsey reforms, which gave enormous flexibility and authority to the Directors of Equipment Capability, is one from which it is extremely difficult now to resile, I am pleased to say. So, if someone came in as a Capability Manager and wanted to micro manage those issues, he or she would find it extremely difficult, and of course the Capability Managers work within the framework and to the objectives that are set for them by the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Equipment Capability). So you would need that individual to also be going wrong.

  163. Given that background about which you have just told the Committee, could you tell me a little more about what you meant by saying that it is much more about the process than organisation. What do you mean by the word "process"?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Let me give you a few examples. Even when one looks at the specific projects that are being undertaken within the areas of the Directors of Equipment Capability, there are a number of inter-relationships which have to be taken into account. No project is an island, in any sense. So, the Directors of Equipment Capability, while focused very much on their projects, of course still have to relate to other colleagues around them. A number of the systems which we are introducing are going to rely crucially upon information superiority, upon command control and information systems and so on. All of those linkages have to be taken into account. The first thing is, are people asking themselves the right a priori questions when they address their projects and there are a number of those. For example, one of the first questions that any Director of Equipment Capability should be asking when considering a project and certainly one of the first questions he or she should be prepared to answer is, how does this fit into and contribute to the overall defence network capability? That is the first issue of process as opposed to organisation. The second one has to do with more wide-ranging issues, not just inter-relationships from one Director for Equipment Capability to another but issues which cut right across all of them. Those have to be managed at a strategic level by the Capability Managers and by the Joint Capabilities Board. Each of those Capability Managers has some specific personal objectives set by me related to those cross-cutting issues and they have targets that they have to meet and indicators that we watch to see how well they are doing. So, there is an issue of process there in drawing the whole enterprise together. Then there is, going wider still, the issue of how we inter-relate with people outside the equipment capability customer because we are the core area for this, but the equipment capability that we produce has to be used by other people and of course we have to take very careful account of their views in all of that and a range of other organisations as well. So, it is how we relate to outside agencies as well as internally.

  164. I understand a great deal more about it now than I did before. Notwithstanding that, going back to organisation, do you see that there might be changes made in the organisation structure and so on that we have just been talking about? In other words, are some capability areas likely to grow in importance and others diminish in importance?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) No organisation should be set in concrete. We always keep it under review and I would judge it highly likely that in the future we will wish to make some changes. I see them as evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The post-McKinsey changes were more a revolutionary change. We would want to build on the success we have achieved in the wake of those changes; so they would be evolutionary. In terms of relative importance, there is no doubt that some capabilities become relatively more important than others when considering levels of investment. They become more important perhaps because other areas now have a satisfactory level of investment and do not need to have quite so much attention paid to them as was the case previously. They may change because circumstances change: the strategic environment changes, the risks change and so on. The obvious example of this at the moment is information superiority. Information superiority is fundamental to everything that we do and that is absolutely our top priority at the moment.

  165. You may know that the Committee is having an investigation into terriorism and everything that flowed from 11 September. Do you think that there is a need for a cell within your organisation for developing capabilities to counteract that or anything that may flow from that?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) As you know, the Department is looking at the whole issue and I would not want to prejudge what the outcome of that study is going to be. All I would say is that so far, because of course one cannot wait for full results to come through, one must be sure that one is covered in the meantime, I am content that the structures and the processes that we have are sufficient to deal with that particular issue.

  166. So you would take the view that you do not need a Capability Manager for this American phrase that we are all now using, "homeland security"?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) I think that is unlikely although again I would not want to prejudge what is going to come out in the Department study. I would just say that there is a danger when people use the term "homeland security" that one can become too blinkered. Homeland security can never just be about providing a shield.

  167. What does that mean? I need to know what that means.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) When you talk about homeland security, people think in terms of reactive defence. That is never going to be enough against any kind of threat.


  168. We are thinking more of somebody specifically focusing on the work that is going on in the private sector in other departments of state, so that you are aware of what is happening. We have seen a copy of a document showing Capability Managers within the DCDS (EC) organisation, with "Strategic Deployment, Strike, Information Superiority and Manoeuvre" and, if you look down the list as to what comprises this, we wonder whether there should be somebody there, not just to show you are following what is going on, marked to homeland security, not just for public relation posts but to be able to focus on what is happening outside and see where it fits into your equipment programme.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) We do that through process rather than through organisation. We carry out an analysis of the requirements, our current capabilities and produce a gap analysis. If the departmental policy is pointing us in a particular direction with regard to homeland security, then our gap analysis will show us what needs to be done to meet that particular policy and of course we would afford it the appropriate priority in equipment planning. So I think that we are well focused on that. I would just add that this is much more than just defence capability as the Committee will undoubtedly be aware. It entails many areas of state power. I would also say, reverting to what I was talking about a moment ago, that crucial to this as to everything else is information superiority.

  169. You mentioned a study; was that the one that the American professor was doing or was it a separate one?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) This is the Department's look at the events of 11 September and the consequences of it, the New Chapter work.

Patrick Mercer

  170. In terms of equipping the Armed Forces, how much more assistance do you think is needed to reflect the post Cold War era? For instance, the Army has invested a large amount of time and training into forming and keeping Warrior battalions which are relatively high on punch but very small on bayonet power. The Infantry is increasingly needed in a substantive role and these warrior battalions would be very, very pushed to perform those roles. Where does a balance lie?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) It is a question that continually occupies us. In general terms, I think we have come a long way in transforming ourselves from the Cold War. I have been looking very carefully at our future equipment programme to see what might be in it that is very much a legacy system of the Cold War and perhaps of limited utility in the environment that we foresee facing us in the future and frankly I found very little that has not already been attended to. If I take your particular example, the Army is dedicated to introducing a Future Rapid Effect System in the latter part of this decade that is going to focus much more upon mobility, speed and precision than upon heaviness and armoured defence, which was the case up to now. So, they are completely on board and it remains one of their top priorities. So, I think we have made enormous progress. It is of course the case that we have a lot of legacy systems. That is inevitable. Systems are with us for decades, not just years, and it is only a relatively few years since the end of the Cold War. Inevitably, the Forces are having to do the job of today and tomorrow with, in some cases, equipment that was designed and procured to meet the needs of the Cold War, but I never cease to be amazed at the ingenuity of our people and I think they have shown that they do a fantastic job with all of that. From my perspective, my job is about ensuring that they are properly equipped in the future to be able to go out, win and come safely home again in the strategic environment that will pertain then and I think that we have got our plans right.

  171. I accept much of that. How does your organisation stay abreast of evolving threats and when do you reach a point where you say, for the sake of argument, "Things have changed drastically. We do not need Warriors any more. We have to change quickly. We have to generate infantry; we have to generate foot soldiers"? How is that process gone through?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) First of all, my organisation never says, "We need Warriors" or that we need any particular type of equipment. My organisation is about capability. So we need to look at the risks that are going to exist in the future and at Government policy, marry those two up and see what kind of equipment capability we are going to need to respond to the demands that will face us. For example, it is clear that given the Government policy and the likely future strategic environment, we need expeditionary forces that focus on speed, precision and self-protection. It is clear that we need to focus on information superiority and network centric capability to enable that. So, we look for a set of capabilities. The equipment solution is something for the Integrated Project Team within the DPA to come up with.

  172. Who decides about the changing of a requirement?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Changing the capability requirement?

  173. Yes, changing the capability requirement.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) We do.

  174. Can you briefly describe that process.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) We take the departmental strategic plan and we take the results of a great deal of force development which is done within the policy area and derives broad future capability requirements and then we narrow those down into rather more specific capabilities and, having, if you like, derived a picture of what we think our capability structure should look like in the future, we match it against what we have now and what we currently plan; we conduct our gap analysis in order that we know where the shortfalls are and indeed in some cases where the surpluses are and, from that, we derive our own strategic guidance which is, we need to shift investment from this particular capability into that particular capability. That is not to say that an area of capability that requires less attention is unimportant. As I said earlier, it may just be that we have concluded that we have done enough for the moment in that particular capability area and our focus must be elsewhere. So, it is always a question of prioritisation so that we can achieve the best results within the resources available.


  175. I know that the intelligence role is rather sensitive but where would the intelligence system, that is military intelligence and other intelligence, feed into your organisation? For example, tipping you off that somebody has developed a system which would negate what we are planning at the moment.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Intelligence in the widest sense is a key currency in our business. Obviously when we are looking at potential solutions to a capability requirement, then we need to narrow down the focus to see precisely what kind of opposition capabilities we might have to counter and those are worked through in a process of operational analysis drawing extensively upon intelligence sources and data.

  176. Would there be anybody inside your organisation who is liaising with defence intelligence?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) There are a number of people who do that and I have a very close relationship with them as well.

  177. It is not a question of what our adversaries are developing but what our allies are developing that they can sell to our potential adversaries, ie Exocets in the 1980s.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) We do not of course deal in adversaries any more after the Cold War because of the very uncertainty to which you refer. We do not have our eye on any particular nation or set of armed forces or set of capabilities, but we have to be prepared for a wide variety of potential threats and risks.

  178. What phrase do you use?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Risk.

  Chairman: That is a politically correct phrase to use. I can still think of a few adversaries.

Mr Cran

  179. I hate to cast up the words of your predecessor, but it has not escaped my notice that he did write an interesting article in this month's RUSI Journal and what he said—and I will quote it because you obviously do not have this in front of you—was that, in the Cold War, the key requirement was to secure capabilities to deter the Soviet threat. Delivering that equipment to budget and keeping to time was far less important. Now this imperative has gone. Timeliness is now seen as more important particularly to tap in rapidly developing civil technologies. Is that something which resonates with you?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Yes. I think it is more than just the change from the Cold War. It think it has to do with the rate of technological advance as well. During the Cold War, our primary aim was deterrence and, to an extent, deterrence was more about what was in the shop window than what was on the store shelves in the back. Since the Cold War, we have been employed on military operations extensively and we continue to be so. We send our young men and women to do difficult and dangerous things in often unpleasant circumstances and we have to give them the wherewithal for them to go out and win and come home safely. That means support as well as the shop window equipment. We cannot afford to be hollow because we would not succeed. The changing strategic environment has had a significant impact. Equally, the pace of technological advance and the sort of technological advance that is available relatively easily to, as the Chairman would say, potential adversaries has become quite widespread. The sort of asymmetric threats that we face are relatively easily available and we need to be able to respond to those. That presents us with a particular challenge. I do not know what sort of capabilities we are going to need in five or ten years' time. I make what I think is quite a good and well informed estimate of it but I do not have the perfect crystal ball and I am not going to get everything right, nobody is. So, there will be some things that crop up to which we will have to respond at relatively short notice. Therefore, we need short term agility in terms of delivering equipment capability. On the other hand, we still invest and will need to continue to invest in relatively expensive platforms and, given the expense of those platforms, we will need to have them in service for a very long time to get a return on our investment. We cannot simply afford to replace them every five years or so. So, there is a tension between platforms which remain in service for a very long time and the need for this shorter term agility. Is this an incompatibility? No. I would cite the example of Afghanistan where we were delivering close air support in all weathers in a fashion which we had not envisaged before using JDAM bombs, that is Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs, GPS-guided precision bombs, targeted by very small groups of people on the ground. This capability was being delivered from a platform called the B-52 which, the last time I checked the numbers, when it eventually disappears will have been around for about 80 years. So, there is not, in my view, an incompatibility with enduring platforms and short-term agility in terms of capability. We just have to think in those terms. We have to think in terms of how we can update and upgrade capability quickly and that is exactly what we are doing at the moment.

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