Dr Lee Willett
Position: Associate Fellow
Dr Lee Willett headed up RUSI's Maritime Studies from 2000 to 2013. He now serves as Associate Fellow. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Naval Sciences, Sweden, and a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Greenwich.
Looking at both the Royal Navy and other navies across the world, his current areas of focus include: policy, strategy, doctrine, acquisition, equipment capability and operational developments. At present, his major areas of research interest include:
- the contribution of the Royal Navy to British defence and security, with a focus on the Strategic Defence and Security Review and its implications for the Royal Navy
- global strategic developments in the use of the sea, and the resultant policy, capability and operational developments amongst major navies
- the role of maritime security operations, with a focus on the contributions of NATO, the European Union and the UN and on issues such as Somali piracy and Arctic security
- and the future of nuclear deterrence, including deterrence strategy, arms control and disarmament, and the UK debate surrounding the replacement of its independent strategic nuclear deterrent.
Dr Willett has given evidence to Parliamentary defence and security hearings: twice, in 2007, to the House of Commons Select Committee on Defence's enquiry into the UK's strategic nuclear deterrent; and, in 2010, to the House of Lords Foreign Affairs Sub-committee on European Security enquiry into the effectiveness the European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) Somali counter-piracy operation.
He also has lectured widely, teaching UK Ministry of Defence courses at University College, London and the University of Southampton, and a Master's defence and security course at the University of Hull. Dr Willett was previously a member of the publications Editorial Board for the Royal Australian Navy's Sea Power Centre-Australia (SPC-A).
Prior to joining RUSI, Dr Willett was Leverhulme Research Fellow at the Centre for Security Studies, University of Hull and was seconded to the Naval Staff Directorate in the Ministry of Defence as a Research Associate. He holds a BA in International Relations from Nottingham Trent University, and an MA in War Studies and a doctorate on Tomahawk's role in US-Soviet strategic arms control from the Department of War Studies, King's College London.
He has published widely, and is a regular commentator in the UK and international media on maritime, naval and nuclear aspects of defence and security. His most recent publications include:
RUSI articles and analysis by this author
Do Navies Need to Club Together to Secure the Seas?
31 May 2012
As navies around the world consider how to support increasing commitments with reduced resources, some are considering whether improved co-operation can offer better value in supporting national objectives.
Impact of the F-35B Decision: Time Now to Have Two Ships, Not One
11 May 2012
The UK Government's decision to opt for the F-35 B, vertical landing Joint Strike Fighter means that aircraft carriers will not be fitted with 'cats-and-traps' and will lose the strategic flexibility originally envisaged. To some degree, that loss can be offset by bringing two aircraft carriers into service.
'Cats and Traps': Launching the Carrier Debate in the Right Direction?
27 Apr 2012
Media debate on the UK's carrier programme is focusing on the jets, rather than the ships they land on. Central to this discussion is 'cats and traps', the launch and recovery system, which drives the choice of aircraft. Critics who say that this will cost too much overlook the long-term strategic value it will add.
Danger from Below
29 Mar 2012
Dr Lee Willett, RUSI’s head of maritime studies, considers whether the Royal Navy is in danger of relinquishing its global leadership status in the art of Anti-Submarine Warfare
The implications of Royal Navy personnel cuts
30 Sep 2011
On Friday 30 September 2011, the Royal Navy announced large personnel cuts as part of the UK's Strategic Defence and Security Review. Dr Lee Willett analyses the implications.
18 Mar 2011
RUSI's Lee Willett assesses the capabilities of HMS Bulwark and its potential to be deployed in humanitarian operations such as in Libya and Japan.
Shaping the international maritime discourse: the Royal Navy’s role
17 Feb 2010
The use of the sea remains fundamental to international security. At a time of increasing public spending constraints, what is the significance of naval force – and of the Royal Navy in particular – in supporting national and international defence and security.
National Crises and the Utility of Naval Power: The Haiti Case Study
16 Feb 2010
With the recent publication of a Ministry of Defence (MoD) Green Paper and an upcoming Strategic Defence Review (SDR), the debate over future UK defence reform has been fierce. The international response to the Haitian disaster has proven to be a case study in how important high-end naval assets can be to a wide range of UK national interests.
CVF: For the Nation, Not the Navy
3 Jul 2009
The UK’s Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF) programme has come under pressure in the media for cost increases and potential job cuts which may follow its completion. A recent think-tank report has questioned CVF’s future contribution and relevance to potential operations. These reports, however, neglect the demonstrated relevance of aircraft carriers in supporting a range of recent UK operations, and do not appear to appreciate the absolute value of carriers in fighting, and crucially deterring, conflict.
An `Awakening’ at Sea?: NATO and Maritime Security
7 Apr 2009
NATO's current maritime operations are important and effective, but their scope is limited by fickle political agendas. The Alliance needs to look beyond current flashpoints to future risks and develop a new maritime strategy.
Brown’s ‘Grand Global Bargain’ and Reducing UK Nuclear Weapons Levels
27 Mar 2009
In a major policy speech on nuclear issues, Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently suggested that Trident could be placed on the international negotiation table should there be a serious move towards multilateral disarmament. If such a gambit were to succeed, it would require something more than a leap of faith in trust.
Diving Down Below the Layer: Sinking UK Submarine Force Levels
31 Oct 2008
Lee Willett is the Head of the Maritime Studies Programme at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI). In this article, he examines the value of submarines and concludes that UK budgetary pressures are undermining the force levels required to achieve that value.
Time for Trust in Trident?
3 Apr 2007
March saw the unprecedented vote in Parliament on the Government’s proposal that Britain should remain a nuclear power by renewing its independent strategic deterrent.
The American Civil War
1 Jun 2005
The attempted secession from the Union by the Confederacy, and the resultant four-year Civil War, have proved to be fertile ground for debate on the origins of the war, the history of the campaigns and the roles of key figures therein.