In recent months there has been some confusion among the senior political and military leadership in Britain, and in the civil service, about the precise meaning of ‘strategy’ and its relationship to ‘policy’. Indeed, there has been anxiety in Parliament about the competence of the governmental system at large and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in particular to handle ‘strategy’, initiating questions with serious constitutional dimensions as well as security implications. ‘Strategy’ has a wide range of differing academic, historical and doctrinal meanings, of course. But efficient national security demands clear and agreed definitions to permit safe action.
To this end, the conference will assess three areas: (i) The correct role of the Chief of Defence Staff(CDS)/Permanent Under Secretary , Chiefs of Staff Committee in terms of forming national strategy and the roles of generals; (ii) the correct terminology of strategy in terms of Grand and Operational (not corporate), as discussed in the work initiated by CDS that has led to agreement at the top of the MoD that there are two distinct meanings of ‘strategy’ and how a robust NSS needs to be aware of, to understand thoroughly and to be shaped by these definitions; (iii) the proper place for policy and the respective roles of civilians and military officers in the department of state/strategic military headquarters. The purpose is to help to establish a better British way to make national strategy in the 21st century and the conference will discuss the MoD’s definitions with a view to helping to shape and improve the National Security Strategy (NSS) process and bureaucracy.
Three context setting ‘think pieces’ will be issued before the conference including Professor Gwyn Prins’ “The British way of strategy-making”. Other papers will reflect on ‘levels’ of strategy, its relationship with ‘policy’, and the related but separate issue of management strategy.
Session One - Grand Strategy for Britain in the 21st century
The first session will consider grand strategy for Britain in the 21st century. It will examine the role of geopolitical ‘givens’; the consequences of recognising the central shaping role of the unknown; how to protect and pursue our defined national interests; and the relationships between the instruments of power.
Session Two - The Proper Place of Policy
The second session will address the proper place of policy in two aspects – its relationship with grand strategy and how ministers should prudently choose when and how to use the Armed Forces. It will also look through a diplomat’s and a soldier’s eyes at what happens when the process is muddled.
Session Three – ‘Operational’ Strategy
The third session will explore the concept of ‘operational’ strategy as defined in the MoD’s work. It will focus on the crucial element of means - capabilities in the full sense that includes all the ‘Defence Lines of Development’ in particular the human aspects. It will consider how these may be damaged by lack of a clear and shared understanding of the meanings of strategy. The conference will conclude with a discussion session on the relationship between defence and economic strategies which will engage industry and the commercial sector.
Event manager: Sabrina Downey, +44 (0) 207 747 2622