Examination of witness(Questions 140-159)|
GCB OBE ADC
WEDNESDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2002
140. Some of these exercises have been cut at
very short notice. Some of the people have been deployed kit ready
and some of the logistics of that operation has taken place and
then the plug is pulled and there is then no real thinking about
how they are going to reschedule those exercises. Some of these
exercises appear to be terminated for good.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) They are and of course
we are not in control of events which sometimes cause them to
be stopped. The current 19,000 people who are standing by to do
duties for the firemen is a good example of the many activities
that have been stopped in order to release these people to be
available. Each of the services have their own criteria for measuring
readiness and measuring fitness to fight. They report on those
levels through their Single Service Boards to the Chiefs of Staff
on the Defence Management Board as to where there are shortfalls
and, at the front line level, Commanders in Chief are constantly
reassessing where people are falling behind the power curve in
being fit to fight and we are looking for chances at the first
opportunity to bring them up to standard.
141. Do you think then that the political wish
list of our active involvement is now putting so much pressure
on the Armed Forces that training is undoubtedly suffering and
that that in turn is causing a retention problem where people
are becoming dissatisfied with the fact that they are on one deployment
and are then due to come home and then, within hours of being
told that they are on their way home, that has been cancelled
and they are moved off somewhere else? Do you think that that
is having a very debilitating effect? Do you think politicians
are taking enough note of what service people are actually saying
about what is happening at the present time?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I think they are. The
Chiefs' advice is listened to very carefully by the Secretary
of State when a new requirement comes up as to whether this will
be unbalanced but, in the last year, there have been circumstances
which have been impossible politically not to actually deliver:
the firemen's strike is one example and Afghanistan to a certain
extent is another. As to the pressure of driving people out from
retention, on the whole, my impression is that, yes, retention
is not as good as it should be and I freely acknowledge that.
In fact, it is an area that we need to keep on working at. Interestingly
enough, I find that if you say to people who are leaving the service,
whether they are officers or other ranks, "Why are you going?"
generally speaking they say, "I have had a fantastic time
for the last five, six or seven years. I am now aged 29"
or whatever it is, late 20s/early 30s, "and I want to go
and try something else. I look back on a very happy time. I have
been thoroughly professionally satisfied but actually I want to
go and try something else." That is not uncommon across society
as a whole; people tend to do something for about five to ten
years and then go and do something else, particularly when they
have developed families and have domestic interests which are
not necessarily compatible with long periods of separation. I
do not think they are leaving because they are unhappy, they are
leaving because there are new pressures which they want to accommodate.
142. Were you unhappy that the New Chapter really
did not tackle that issue clearly enough?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I do not think that the
New Chapter was designed to be a root and branch survey of all
that we do in Defence. It was a new chapter and the key word is
"chapter". We had the Defence review after September
11th, the 1998 Strategic Defence Review, and decided by and large
that what was in there was broadly sensible. There was some immature
thinking if you like, immature in the sense that it had not been
fully matured, on terrorism and really the New Chapter was designed
to look at this new global threat which is now apparent to us
following 11 September. It was not going back to all the activities
we do in Defence and reviewing all those, so I would not have
expected to see the New Chapter dealing with such things as people
issues and so on.
143. Just on that point, Admiral, when we had
the Secretary of State before us prior to the New Chapter coming
out, in response to a question that I asked him, he actually said
that part of the preparation for the New Chapter would be a review
of all existing commitments. We had Mr Simon Webb before us a
couple of weeks ago and I asked a question in terms of the extent
of that review and that decision has been taken in terms of things
in light of the New Chapter. What has actually happened in terms
of that review? Have we actually taken some decisions in light
of the events of 11 September that we should not be doing certain
things, or is it the fact that the MoD have just had an increase
in the budget and think, "Christ, the heat is off" in
terms of ensuring not only that we are getting value for money
in what we are spending but also possibly still continuing doing
the same things we were doing before 11 September?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) No. I think that there
are things that we started to do emerging from our work on the
New Chapter. One of the things which the New Chapter looked at
was to balance between what we should do overseas and what we
should on the homeland front. For example, on the homeland front,
you will know that we have looked to see how we can use our reserves
to help us in the new environment in supporting the civil authorities
in a terrorist type of situation. Other activities emerging from
the New Chapter really will take slightly longer to put in place,
but we are actually engaged in looking at what equipment is required
to give us this greater agility to be able to deal with the sort
of fleeting threat that we identified in part of the terrorist
modus operandi and, in particular, to speed up the process
where between a sensor or a device detecting something going on,
that information getting back to the person who has to make a
decision as to what to do about it and then that decision being
transmitted to the vehicle for dealing with the problem, which
sometimes acts as a sort of sensor-to-decision-maker-shooter cycle
which is sometimes called network centric. We are very busy looking
at these sort of detector elements at the moment to see what kit
will be required, but that is not going to come in overnight.
144. Are there any areas where it has been decided
that we want to move away from something that we have been doing
to actually put concentration on what you are talking about?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) We are working on that
as well at the moment because, even since 1998, there has been
a further evolution on our appreciation of the strategic context
and, certainly during the course of the next year or the next
few months perhaps, we will be looking to see whether there are
some legacy systems which may or may not be appropriate for where
we see our primary effort being placed in the future and there
will be a balancing, if you like, going on
145. Is there a timescale on that process?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I think the Secretary
of State has said that he would wish to put a White Paper out
by the summer of next year so, at the very latest, one would expect
to see these ideas captured in that White Paper.
146. If our Armed Forces are overstretched,
I would say grossly overstretched, so that small operations have
repercussions on what remains not just for training but probably
other elements within the Ministry of Defence, what will the consequences
be and this is potentially a difficult question for you to answer,
Admiral? Is it 19,000 troops who have been taken out perhaps to
act as firemen. Now, 19,000 out of just over 100,000, if you throw
in the Navy as wellhow is our ability to mount even a small
operation going to be affected? Are they going to come from those
elements within the Armed Forces such as the Royal Navy and we
hear of ships being unable to operate temporarily because their
crews are fighting fires. I am not trying to ask you any stupid
questions but I am just wondering, if you take out 21,000, what
the consequences will be.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) The consequences are already
serious as far as I am concerned. It is 19,000 out of closer to
200,000 with the Army and the Air Force. Those people have been
taken out already; they have been busy since September training
to do the jobs that they may be called upon to do in knowing how
to work these green goddess fire-engines or learning how to become
breathing apparatus wearers and so on. So, I have effectively
lost those people as of two months ago and, to find those people,
we have had to strip out frontline units and the Navy have provided
about 3,000 or 4,000 and the Army 12,000 and 6,000 organisational
people as well, so ships are alongside without their crews because
they are busy standing by doing fire-fighting. Likewise, the Air
Force and the Army have had to take people from operational units
and the situation at the moment is such that if there were an
operation, a medium sort of operation, going on, we would have
great difficult in coping with that. A small operation, we do
have reserves to do that.
147. Without seeking to lead you into an area
that might be delicate, if a strike takes placewe all hope
it does not take placeand if it lasts as long as the last
strike, will this put severe constraints on the Government's ability
to make decisions that otherwise it would take or not take should
there not have been a strike?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) We are trying to balance
our efforts such that certainly for a couple of months or so,
we can cope with other eventualities but, if this runs on into
next year or well into next year, this will cause us extreme difficulty.
148. After the Gulf War, we suddenly had manoeuvre
warfare introduced as a mantra which was introduced to the British
forces as if it were something new, now we hear that the Americans
are looking at fire rather than manoeuvrethey are trying
to rebalance their thinkingand they have come up with the
concept of a network centric warfare philosophy whereas Britain
is looking at a network centric capability. What is the difference
between the two?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) You need the capability
to deliver the philosophy and I do not think there is any difference
between the two. The Americans will have a network centric capability
which will deliver a philosophy which is, as I have already described
... It sounds a little bit jargonish but it is really to have
a sharper process of passing information around and to be able
to take action on something very, very fast as soon as you detect
149. There has been some criticism of this as
I am sure you are aware and, looking at Jane's Defence Weekly,
it talks about responsiveness reach, resistance, survivability,
interoperbility, affordability, etc. Group Captain Anderson, who
I gather is the Deputy Director of Equipment Capability in the
MoD, makes it clear in his statement that the United Kingdom will
not be able to afford anything as all-embracing as this. Is the
British contribution going to be half-hearted following definitely
in the wake of what America can deliver?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) It certainly will not
be half-hearted and we certainly do not have the sort of budget
that would allow us to do probably as much as our United States
friends, but what is going to be very important to do is to make
sure that what we do get is inter-operable with the United States
and indeed with our other potential coalition partners. We will
be using such money as we have to improve our capability in this
particular area and a lot of the effort will be devoted to making
sure that we remain inter-operable with our allies.
150. You referred earlier on to fleeting targets
and striking of these. You will recall the fuss that went on at
the lack of adequate strike against Serb armed forces in Kosovo
which could be argued were also fleeting targets. Are we not behind
the curve on this? Should we not have been looking at attacking
these sort of targets some several years ago?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) Maybe we should have done
but that is what we are doing at the moment. 11 September has
focused our effort on the non-state actor which is what produces
the fleeting target and that is where our efforts are going into
trying to do better what we cannot do at the moment.
151. We have touched on equipment programmes
already, but what equipment are we going to sacrifice in order
to produce more equipment for this style of ...?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) Firstly, as I said, we
have been given more money in the spending round to see how we
can modernise ourselves in this particular aspect. It is too early
for me to say what we are going to do in addition to that in terms
of rebalancing what is no longer relevant or no longer necessary
against the strategic context in which we are working. That process
is going on at the moment. It is too early for me to make any
sort of comment about what sort of equipments might or might not
be hung onto.
152. I suspect your answer to my next question
will be the same with regard to the training demands. If we do
not know how equipment is going to be balanced, how is training
going to be balanced?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) The training will follow
on once we understand exactly what we need and we should make
sure that the right regimes are put in place to make sure that
people can use it properly.
153. The Secretary of State, when he launched
the New Chapter, talked about the benefits of network centric
capabilitya new buzz word for usand he gave a long
quote which said that everyone should work together and be involved
instead of one after the other. At the end of the quote, he said
that old decision-making structures, whilst providing safeguards
which we must always find a way to keep, will be too cumbersome
and too slow in the years ahead. So, they envisaged a change of
speed and direction in the chain of command. Can you just describe
the principal changes in the doctrine particularly in respect
of the chain of command which you expect to flow from this increased
network centric capability.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) It is the speed at which
things will happen rather than necessarily a change in the structure
themselves. We will have to have sharper understanding of what
our rules of engagement might be, which means that we have to
get the legal processes properly sorted out and use some really
quite clever forward thinking about what sort of action we think
we might be required to take and make sure that we are legally
clear to do it. That would help out with the process. As I said
also, getting the information back to whoever the decision-maker
is, whether it is the Commander on the ground or whether it is
back to PJHQ in Northwood or whether it is back to the Ministry
of Defence for Secretary of State clearance or whatever. That
process is moderately cumbersome and we really need to improve
our communication and the way we actually pass information, which
is all part of using this sort of windows capability in a sense
really and then getting the message out again to whatever the
vehicle is that is going to actually deliver the strike against
some sort of target. It is a process of speed rather than actually
changing the structures.
154. How would we develop these new ways and
how would they be tested because it is a new way of thinking and
a new way of delivering the information?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) To a certain extent, some
of these structures are in place already and it will go very much
hand-in-hand with the work we are doing on what the Army sometimes
call digitisation of battle space, in other words you can see
the realtime picture all the time which will allow the decision-making
process to be that much faster. How will we test it? We will do
exercises to test it.
155. Exercise after exercise. The other thing
that worries us is speed and the increased speed in making decisions
and the chain of command being shorn and the new information coming
in and the time between sensor-to-shooter is reducing all the
time. How can we be sure that our philosophy is correct and that
we are doing things the right way when the technology is making
things move so much more quickly?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) We have an organisation
called our Doctrine Centre which will be providing advice on how
doctrinally we want to use all this equipment which will be going
alongside the policy side as well. So, as our policy has now been
set, so we will now start developing our doctrines which will
match the equipment which we will have in order to actually execute
156. Is there a difference between the American
way of shortening this timeand the sensor-to-shooter is
a very critical point in thisbecause they have a different
philosophy of approach than we would have? We have said in the
past, rightly or wrongly, that the British tend to check back
to make sure that things are correct whereas the Americans are
more likely to go ahead and do it because it is more beneficial
to strike first and think afterwards. Is there a difference in
philosophy or are we just being a little romantic in thinking
that we are much more superior in our decision-making?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) We do not think we are
superior in our decision-making. Technically we will be working
similarly, along sort of similar lines. So far as the decision-making
process and the authority for action to be taken is concerned,
we very much hope to be working to compatible rules of engagement,
which is what it comes down to.
157. Is there inter-operability between us and
the Americans over this difficult field?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) That is what we are working
on. The Americans are a long way ahead of us at the moment and
a long way ahead of our allies as well and we have to try and
make sure that we stay in touch with them otherwise we are not
going to operate together.
158. Presumably we are the only other country
that can be linked in with the Americans as closely and that the
other allies are somewhat distant from that.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) The Americans are very
conscious of the fact that they need to pay attention to what
I would call backward inter-operability. In other words, they
have to be looking over their shoulders the whole time to make
sure that people are there because I am quite certain that our
United States allies would not wish to be in a coalition framework
for any activities they undertake and you can only have a coalition
which is effective if you can actually talk amongst each other.
159. Yesterday we visited an RAF base and, when
we were talking to some of the people who do the reconnaissance
work there, they talked about some of the information they were
getting and feeding and that strategic decisions were now becoming
blurred towards tactical decisions. It raises the issue that we
might get to the situation where we have too much information,
particularly where we get to a point where it is coming right
back here to the centre and these tactical decisions start to
be made in too much detail. Is that a concern?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) This is the President
telling the soldier in the trench to do something.