11 December 2014 - 13 December 2014

Future military capabilites and their uses

Chair: General The Lord Richards GCB, CBE, DSO, DL

The final conference of 2014 found Ditchley examining what the balance of future military capabilities might look like, and how these capabilities might be used. Under enthusiastic chairmanship, and with a varied mix of civilian and military participation, we looked long and hard at the context and the threats, but spent rather less time on the hardware aspects. We also struggled at times to bring together different geographical perceptions of current military roles, for example between Europe and Asia – but that difference was in the end one of the interests of the conference for both sides.

Our basic starting question was whether the world had recently become a more dangerous place, justifying more defence capability. There was no consensus on this. Europeans were more likely to think so than Asians, but even they did not all agree. The strategic context was certainly less predictable, but this should not become an excuse for failure to look hard at current and future realities. So-called hybrid warfare was nothing new. For Europe, Russia and the Middle East/Islamic extremism posed major challenges, including for military planners, but the responses were by no means all military. We should be wary of looking at ‘terrorism’ too simplistically or seeing it as an existential threat. Better use of soft power was important but this group was not inclined to regard this as any kind of panacea. There was a long list of other global threats, but again it was not easy to identify from this the best kind of military response. We might want to retain expeditionary capability for forward defence purposes, but training others to defend themselves was a better use of resources.

In Asia, some countries were concerned about the threat from a rising China, and overall the picture was more obviously dominated by nation states and their interactions, with no local alliances, and little overall security architecture. We thought major conflict unlikely but the risks of accidents and miscalculations needed to be managed very carefully. Defence spending was rising in the region.

Overall, countries needed to look regularly at their security needs and their security strategy, from a whole of government perspective. Ideally, this process would move logically from the threats, to the capabilities needed to tackle them, to the resources required to produce these capabilities. But this was not what happened in practice, since existing capabilities and resource limitations inevitably shaped the debate from the beginning, and the result was always more muddled than was ideal. In implementing security reviews, government and industry needed to work together in partnership, with the aim of stability and predictability on both sides. Discipline in defining requirements – not changing them unless absolutely necessary – and setting realistic budgets was crucial.

We did not try to define which capabilities were most important, since this was inevitably context-specific, but recognised that few if any countries could now afford full spectrum capability, that high-end technology was not always the answer, and that in many ways people were more important than machines. Alliances, where they existed, could be very helpful in enabling shared capability, but the issues of specialisation and pooling remained difficult politically, especially for larger countries, and they might well prefer to go on shaving their own capabilities across the spectrum, despite the risks. We fully recognised the importance of remote capabilities and the cyber threat, but found it difficult to draw clear conclusions from them.

We particularly, but not only the Europeans, worried a lot about the difficulty of persuading politicians and the public of the need to maintain defence capability, particularly in the absence of direct and visible threats, and faced with growing needs in other areas of spending. Politicians needed to be convinced themselves, and to have a fully convincing narrative to make the case. The value of deterrence, both nuclear and conventional, was in danger of being lost from view, and should be re-emphasised. Politicians also needed to recognise that they could not maintain their foreign policy ambitions at the same level if their defence capability fell, and should focus on the risks of waking up too late to the realities when faced with a new major crisis.
A list of broad recommendations appears below.

The context
Much of our debate was devoted to analysis of where current and future threats really lay, and to what extent these threats needed military responses. One starting point was whether the world had become a more dangerous place in recent years and, if so, in what ways. Perceptions differed on this most basic of questions. It was argued on the one hand that strategic uncertainty had grown for policy-makers, especially those sitting in Europe. The old certainties of the Cold War were long gone, and the period when the US, as the sole superpower, could seem able to police the world was also behind us. Recent Russian behaviour in Ukraine had revived old fears, while the chaos in parts of the Middle East also posed a range of threats, from regional security through mass migration to terrorism on the streets. The rise of so-called hybrid warfare in both cases was a particular issue for military planners worrying about how best to respond to it. Cyber threats were obviously serious, but the best responses were less clear. The international scene looked more unpredictable than ever, while the ability to control events using multilateral mechanisms and rules-based approaches appeared more than ever doubtful.

Others were unimpressed by this reasoning. The Cold War might have been easy to understand, but it had been far more dangerous than anything we faced now. Combat deaths had fallen significantly in recent years, and wars between states were increasingly rare. Despite some serious internal conflicts, the world was overall a more peaceful place now, even if the west was relatively less powerful than it had once been. Hybrid or asymmetrical warfare was hardly new, whatever some analysts tried to argue. It was true that we faced a range of threats and that prioritising them was not always easy, but talk of strategic uncertainty or unpredictability was just a lazy refusal to identify and categorise the threats sensibly. The world had always been uncertain and unpredictable.

We also discussed how we now faced not so much different threats from the past but a proliferation of small problems requiring some kind of response, as well as issues which developed with bewildering speed and threatened to leave governments behind. Agility and flexibility were needed in dealing with such rapidly evolving multiple problems, but recognising that fact did not make it happen! Institutions had their own inertia, and defence institutions were certainly not immune to this.

It was clear that there was a difference between ‘western’ participants and others in their perceptions. In Asia, while threats from internal conflict and local insurgencies were hardly unknown, and terrorism was also a serious concern to some states, the main driver of military spending in most cases was the classic perceived threat from a neighbour or neighbours. Asia remained a primarily nation state environment. This was easier to understand and explain to politicians and publics than the usually more distant and indirect threats to European and North American countries. This did not mean that the case for defence spending necessarily made itself, but the context at least appeared more straightforward. Asia was also more confident about the future in general than the ‘west’, and so far at least felt less responsibility for fixing international problems, which helped to reduce anxiety about what was happening in the rest of the world.

Were some countries in Asia guilty of ‘free-riding’ on US and western willingness to try to keep the peace? There might be some truth in this, but countries like China were now at least more involved in UN peacekeeping and willing to join in coalition operations like anti-piracy. This could develop further in future.

The threats
From a western, particularly European, point of view, Russia had recently come to seem threatening once more, above all in the last year because of events in Ukraine. This was paradoxically not because she was more powerful, though she had been spending a lot more on defence in recent years. In fact Russia was declining economically and demographically, which made Russian leadership behaviour harder than ever to predict. We did not believe in a new Cold War or the return of the Soviet Union, but a Cold Peace could become the new reality, and current tests of western defence responses by Russia were worrying and dangerous. Asian participants were less inclined to see Russia as any kind of threat, and were also doubtful about western ways of handling Russia – they thought attempts to understand and discuss would be more profitable than policies which threatened or isolated Russia. The latter could all too easily be counterproductive. Nor did they see a serious chance of any kind of meaningful China-Russia alliance.

The other big threat from a western point of view was the rise of Islamic fundamentalism or extremism, currently seen in extreme form in Iraq and Syria. However, there were differing views on the seriousness and nature of this threat. Were we now engaged in a ‘hundred years’ war’ to defend our values, as some claimed, or was this a misunderstanding of what was actually going on, i.e. essentially a religious war between Sunni and Shia in which the west were mostly bystanders, unless we chose to thrust ourselves into the middle of the conflict? In either case, we faced the risk of contagion, and specifically terrorist acts on our streets, from extremists inspired by propaganda from the region, or from returning jihadists. That could not be ignored, and was bound to be seized on by politicians, and played up heavily by the media. But was such terrorism actually an existential threat to our democracies? We could not really agree on this point, and were indeed led into an argument about whether we were right to talk about terrorism as if it were some kind of movement or ideology, as opposed to a convenient shorthand for violent tactics used by those opposed to us who did not usually possess standard armies. It was also pointed out that, even if terrorism was sometimes given an exaggerated place in the list of threats we faced, this did not give rise to a lot of defence spending as such.

However we defined this threat, we also had to decide how far it needed a military response. We were all agreed that in the end the solution to a phenomenon like ISIL could not be purely military. Convincing political and religious counter-narratives would be required. Islam would have to deal itself with its crisis of co-existence with the modern world. But in the meantime it was hard to see how some form of military element in the response could be avoided, whether through air power and other remote means of containing ISIL (which did have an army), or training local forces to confront them on the ground. No-one favoured going back to an overt western, boots on the ground, response, in the wake of interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. These had created as many problems as they had solved, from a terrorist point of view as well as many others, even if the problem had not been the initial military interventions, which had been successful in both cases, but the nation-building phases which had followed. It was not at all clear that we had really learned the lessons from these efforts, even now.

Was better use of soft power the answer to some of our current problems? Most participants were doubtful, while not decrying the value of soft power. One problem was that it could not be used quickly, unlike military means. It was also often not under the control of the government. But there could certainly be better integration of soft and hard power, and in particular better ‘soft use of hard power’.

Looking forward, there were many other identifiable future threats, such as:

  • Demography in all its aspects
  • Climate change, and the increasing risk of disasters and extreme weather events
  • Continuing rapid urbanisation
  • WMD proliferation
  • Food and energy crises
  • Ungoverned spaces
  • Mass migration
  • Pandemics

However, it was less clear what conclusions defence policy makers should draw from lists of this kind. In most of them, the primary response would not be military, and it would be hard if not impossible to imagine that any one country, however large, could tackle them in isolation.  In any case, we should not pretend that we could predict the future in any meaningful way – we had failed to anticipate both of the main current threats we faced in Europe. And we had to be ready to deal with ‘black swans’ which would certainly take us by surprise.

We discussed the value of armed forces helping civilian powers when faced with increasing natural or manmade disasters, whether at home or abroad. The advantage of the military was that they could be deployed quickly and in force, and could bring a disciplined ‘battle rhythm’ to such problems. There would always be circumstances in which they would be indispensable, and many countries, particularly in Asia, deliberately regarded them in this light. This was also invaluable in building political and public support for spending on the armed forces, which should not be underestimated. It was pointed out on the other side of the argument that the military were not really properly trained for many of these tasks, and that, even if the military were a valuable last resort, it was better to try to build effective civilian systems which could both avert such disasters, and deal with them when they happened, than to assume that the armed forces should be the answer.

Looking at threats in the Asian context, it was clear that many countries regarded the rise of China as a threat, particularly where there were unresolved territorial issues, even though China often said that its rise was peaceful and threatened no-one. We were relatively optimistic that, despite recent tensions in some locations, the risk of outright war in east Asia was relatively low, particularly now that some key dialogues had been resumed and management measures such as hotlines put in place. But it was still striking that there was no security architecture worthy of the name in Asia, and that the only alliance of significance was between the US, an outside power in some respects, and individual Asian countries. There was some discussion of whether the US rebalancing contributed to Asian security by reassuring its allies and friends, or exacerbated the risks by appearing provocative to China, but that was a debate beyond the scope of this conference (as was the state of security in South Asia). Overall, we thought that there were opportunities in the present immature state of Asian security, as well as obvious risks.

We touched on the question of whether, in the absence of effective multilateral mechanisms and a strong UN, old-fashioned concepts of the balance of power and spheres of influence for large countries might prove to be a more stable arrangement than what we had now. The balance of opinion was probably against this, but it had some notable supporters, particularly among military participants.

Convincing the public about defence provision
We spent a lot of time discussing the need for, and difficulty of, convincing political decision-makers and voters of the need to continue to spend money on defence, and indeed increase it, at a time when many other needs were also pressing, and when the cost of defence equipment seemed to be on an inexorable upward trajectory. This was seen as more of a problem in Europe (and Canada) than in Asia or the US, but nearly all defence establishments faced similar problems, except where there was a very obvious direct military threat from a neighbour, a country was engaged in a long-term programme of building its armed forces to reflect a new status in the world, as in the case of China, or in some dictatorships. Many participants, not only military ones, worried that leaders were complacent about the gap between their ambition and their rhetoric, and the defence reality behind them, and would only wake up when it was too late, and they were faced with a crisis they could not control.

Western countries where social welfare provisions were generous faced particular problems in putting together a compelling narrative for defence spending, in the absence of clear and direct military threats the public could understand, and against the background of highly expensive recent military interventions which were seen as mostly unsuccessful. Some of these perceptions might be at least partly wrong, as was argued to be the case over Afghanistan – and it was worth repeating that the purely military part of these operations had been successful. It was interesting that, unlike after Vietnam, there had not been a backlash against the military themselves.

Nevertheless the problem was real: politicians in general were simply not making the necessary case, and were not inclined to do so. The simple argument that, in an uncertain and unpredictable world, significant defence forces were needed as a basic insurance policy against the unexpected did not seem to be enough. Many politicians seemed to share some of the public’s view that they could not really see for now where the armed forces would actually be used, except for overseas wars of choice which they were reluctant to support; and they might in some cases not be entirely persuaded that the large sums of money already devoted to defence were being well spent. In countries which already had nuclear capability, this could lead to undue complacency about conventional forces, or a budgetary squeeze on such forces.

We had no magic solution to this. Some argued that nothing would change in the absence of a really major alarm call in the shape of some new easily recognisable military emergency. Others wondered what more  impetus politicians in Europe needed, given the new threats which had emerged in the last year in the Russian and Middle East contexts. One particularly difficult issue was defining unconventional or asymmetric threats and the response to them. Too simplistic a military approach would not be convincing. Too complicated a narrative would simply lead to greater muddle. Another special problem in Europe was the existence of the US security blanket, which inevitably fed complacency. However, that might not last for ever, particularly as US defence spending also came under pressure and Asia loomed ever larger in US minds. European countries really did need to show themselves to be serious about their own defence.

Were defence spending targets like NATO’s 2% of GDP useful? Most seemed to think so, as a crude measure, a way of trying to keep governments up to some minimum mark, and a symbol of seriousness, even if what you got out of your spending in terms of capability was always more important than what money was spent.

Fashioning an effective response
For many countries, this started with the need to define a security strategy. In today’s circumstances, most thought this had to be more than a narrow defence strategy, and to include elements such as diplomacy, intelligence, policing, trade and investment and other soft power tools. Such a whole-of-government approach might come at the expense of clarity of exposition and conclusion, but could not be avoided. This also meant reviews of strategy had to be led centrally and not by the defence establishment themselves. Ideally such reviews should start from the threats (and opportunities), move onto the capabilities required to meet such threats, and then look at the financial and other resources needed. In practice this almost never happened. Reviews did not start with a blank sheet of paper, and resources and existing capabilities were bound to be drivers in shaping responses from the beginning.
This was not necessarily unreasonable – the ability to project power was inevitably a function of broader economic health and wealth. On the other hand, such an approach had to have limits where real and direct threats had to be addressed.

We noted that most military planning, at least in Europe, was capability-based. This was logical in many ways, but there were arguments for going back to threat-based or impact-based approaches. We did not have time to explore this in more detail.

Regular security reviews, for example every 5-7 years, were a good way of ensuring that national needs and policies were looked at systematically and thoroughly. They could have the disadvantage of becoming pro-forma, or putting bureaucracies into perpetual review cycles, at the expense of more productive work. But the need to look at future scenarios, confront the gaps between capability and ambition, and force real choices between priorities, made some such exercise indispensable in a fast-changing international context. They were also excellent opportunities to define where the military could make a real difference alone, and where they needed to operate with others, or even stand aside if others could deliver more effectively, e.g. the police or intelligence services in counter-terrorism policy. Too much focus on military capability could obviously be dangerous if it led to issues being seen too much through this prism (if you have a big hammer every problem can come to look like a nail).

How should the defence industry fit into such a picture? The risks of an unsatisfactory and antagonistic relationship between supply companies and governments were always high. The chances of defence procurements where there were no cost or time overruns, or arguments about the success or failure of a particular project, were close to zero. The key had to be partnership at every stage, and a joint drive to achieve the maximum stability and predictability for both sides of the relationship. Governments had the prime responsibility to provide stable defence requirements, a stable and realistic budget (including room for inevitable contingencies), and a stable and professional procurement organisation. This meant high levels of discipline in thinking through requirements at the beginning; not changing requirements and specifications constantly over the life of a project, even where this was a long period, since the incremental costs of change quickly became unaffordable; and not insisting on expensive uniqueness unless absolutely necessary.

Industry for its part had to be prepared to share pain as well as gain, and to take its fair share of the risks in any project. If things went awry, as they often would, the automatic readiness to discuss this at an early stage and find mutually acceptable solutions was a better way forward than reliance on contract penalties, though the latter might sometimes be inevitable. All this implied a sophisticated and constant dialogue at every stage between the military, the government/procurement executive, and industry.

This picture was not universally accepted. Agility and flexibility had to be watchwords when the environment was changing so fast, and ten-year procurement planning cycles looked impossibly long in this day and age. The private sector did not operate in this way in any other domain – product cycles were often closer to six months, and improvements in technology made things cheaper, not more expensive. New apps were appearing all the time, but not for defence. There was a risk that defence was stuck in an old-fashioned way of doing things when the rest of the world was moving at a quite different pace.

One risk we identified was that the effort to keep costs under control, avoid disasters, and keep developments incremental, would end by stifling innovation and creativity. This needed to be watched carefully.

So what capabilities will we need?
A lot clearly depended on what was meant by ‘we’ in this question. Different countries would inevitably have different requirements, and there were major differences of threat perception and approach between, say, countries in Europe and those in Asia. The discussion therefore never really got into the details of hardware and software requirements. Nevertheless there were interesting exchanges and some broad conclusions which had more or less universal application.

The first point was the recognition that very few countries, if any – perhaps not even the US in future - could afford to have full spectrum capability as their objective. This needed to be accepted by military planners and politicians alike, in order to allow the necessary frank discussion about priorities. It needed to be accompanied by recognition that far from all problems in the world had military solutions, and that there were problems which we might have to accept in the end that we could do nothing about – as a completely hypothetical example, a Boko Haram take-over of Nigeria.

A second broad point was the need to recognise that high-end technology was not the solution to all military problems, quite apart from often proving unaffordable. We heard for example of the inappropriate use of extremely expensive and highly equipped modern naval vessels to chase pirates in skiffs, or illegal immigrants, and of the imaginative solution in one Asian country of using alternatives such as an old container ship, and an oil platform as a maritime base. Using $2 million missiles to kill individual terrorists also seemed poor use of resources.

A related third point emphasised by many speakers was the importance of human capital versus equipment. At the end of the day, it was the availability of well-trained and well-motivated people which made the biggest difference, and the gaps left by their absence which were the hardest to fill, once key capabilities had been lost. This was not just about IT geeks or special forces but also, for example, translators and interrogators.

Against that background, countries or alliances serious about their own defence needed to retain enough high end capability to deter, and if necessary take on, other countries who might come to threaten them with high-end conflict. This was equally true in Europe, given the renewed concern about Russia, and in Asia. Even in low-end conflict situations, there could be a need for high-end capabilities, such as precision weapons, and for the ability to deal with a new generation of anti-access/area denial technologies. ‘Fighting your way in’ would become the norm.

We thought that deterrence was not discussed or promoted enough by politicians, when it was in fact at the heart of the case for most defence spending. We did not discuss this in detail, whether nuclear or conventional, but our assumption was that both kinds of deterrence would continue to be extremely important. We also assumed that nuclear proliferation was likely to go on, despite our efforts, and that the aim of global zero for nuclear weapons was likely to continue to recede into the distant future. More planning and analysis was no doubt needed of how to respond to attacks from nuclear-armed countries without risking nuclear escalation, e.g. Russia in Ukraine, or another Mumbai-style attack in India. The risks of the development of a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons also needed to be factored in.

Concern was expressed that in some countries like France or the UK, while government determination to retain nuclear weapons had not diminished significantly, the public case was no longer being made with any real conviction or constancy. This might over time lead to diminished public support. Many in both countries already believed that such weapons were unusable and therefore of little value, as well as being potentially unaffordable.

Chemical and biological weapons were also briefly touched on. The assumption was that capabilities in this area would continue to be relatively easy to acquire, given dual use technologies, and that some countries and some non-state actors might remain keen to acquire them to deter attacks from more powerful adversaries or even to attack them. This threat needed to be borne in mind.

To what extent should forces be structured to be able to engage in expeditionary warfare of the kind we had seen in Iraq and Afghanistan? We had no ready answer to this question. There was little appetite to repeat these overall experiences, but equally little confidence that similar situations might not arise in future, at least for those countries which retained interventionist instincts, or might acquire such instincts in future. It was also true that the distinction between homeland defence and expeditionary intervention was not clear-cut. Forward defence was a valid concept today, as in the past.

However, there was also a strong view that we should be focussing a lot more on training the forces of local actors to take any necessary military action on the ground, and providing essential mentoring and support, rather than envisaging direct intervention with our own boots. Helping others to help themselves was a key way forward, in defence as in development or humanitarian relief. Defence diplomacy had become a neglected skill, which was a big mistake. We could no doubt try in future to do better in understanding local dynamics, but the uncomfortable reality was that outside forces had little real hope of the local understanding necessary to avoid becoming quickly part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.

If few countries could now contemplate full spectrum capability, what did this mean for the importance of alliances, and for specialisation, pooling and sharing? This was another area where we heard wide differences of view. Some participants argued that the obvious logic, for example for European countries, even large ones like the UK and France, was to move towards specialisation and sharing of capabilities within NATO, and in some cases joint procurement projects. Indeed this was happening to some extent, and had been for some time. Given budget cuts, we really had no other choice, and should now face up to this fully. Dependence on others was already a reality, for example when we bought third-party equipment with end use limitations, and should no longer be any kind of taboo. There were very few scenarios where we would want to be operating when our key allies would not. We should be very grateful to NATO for offering us the chance to share capabilities – and politicians should do a lot more to talk up the value the Alliance in this sense.

Others pointed out the clear political limits of this kind of approach. It was very hard, especially for large countries, to accept that they should be dependent on another country for some vital piece of capability, and to believe in their hearts that it would always be available when needed, including for some purely national purpose. Joint procurement projects were always more difficult and more expensive, and often failed. Interoperability, and more readiness to buy each other’s products in key areas rather than developing them together, were more productive ways forward in practice. Small countries too could find it hard to accept a high degree of reliance on others, and would also in some cases struggle to be able to offer a realistic bit of high-end specialisation themselves. So it was unrealistic to assume that specialisation could be taken very far, despite the cost pressures and obvious theoretical advantages. In practice, large countries in Europe had chosen to cut horizontally not vertically, even where this meant that they were shaving key capabilities to the bone, and were likely to go on doing so – they preferred the actual decline in capability this meant to the acceptance of lack of independence that the opposite would mean. It was not clear that this would change in future, even if the gap between aspiration and reality was now yawningly wide. Military leaders might argue that ‘mass mattered’ but politicians did not seem to be listening.

We did not discuss in detail how far remote weaponry could transform military options in future, though it was argued by some that the ability to wage large-scale war covertly did change things fundamentally. We were all aware of the increasing importance and availability of remote weaponry, but few seemed to believe that they would render redundant much of the rest of military capability (did vested military interest play a part in this view?). We had also hardly yet explored all the legal, moral and ethical dilemmas posed by such weapons.

We also touched on space, and what might happen if it became a venue for conflict, but again without drawing any clear conclusions.

Similarly, while the cyber threat was much invoked, we did not go too far into what this might mean for future armed forces. In some ways the biggest threat was to key civilian infrastructure, but it was easier to see how vulnerable such infrastructure was than to assess how great the threat of attack really was, or to know how to counter it. In any case much of the issue was not about military capability as such. Several interesting questions were posed. At what point should a cyber-attack be seen as an act of aggression or war, for example triggering NATO’s Article V, assuming that its origins could be quickly discovered (which might be a big assumption)? How far could nuclear or conventional weapons be seen as an effective deterrent to cyber-attack, or did the deterrence need to be in the same field, in other words the ability to do the same back, only worse? Were most armed forces still looking at cyber capabilities through the wrong lens, i.e. the ability to strengthen the effects of traditional military activities, rather than the capacity to do completely different things? We had no good answers to these questions but at least thought that countries needed to look at cyber in a fully integrated way.

One question raised insistently by some participants was our increasingly total dependence on some key technologies like GPS. Were we not mad not to find ways of giving ourselves more resilience and redundancy? No-one had an answer.

On the question of asymmetric or hybrid warfare, while most participants thought it was nothing new, there was a strong view that we were not dealing with it very well; and that states needed to get better at it themselves, or risk losing out to others more ruthless than themselves in using all tools simultaneously. For example, old Cold War skills in information warfare needed to be revived.

As usual in Ditchley conferences, we did not have neat answers to the large cross-cutting questions we were discussing, but a few directions of travel could nevertheless be distilled:

  • Regular, whole-of-government security reviews are vital, but should not become pro-forma.
  • The exact nature of future threats cannot easily be predicted, if at all, and a sufficient degree of adaptability must be built in, but taking refuge in vague talk of strategic uncertainty is equally not good enough.
  • Military planning should be ‘reality-based’, not founded on wishful thinking, and look at realistic scenarios to force choices between competing priorities.
  • Full spectrum capability is an illusion for the vast majority of countries, perhaps even including the US in the future. This needs to be faced up to openly.
  • Against this background, countries need to decide honestly what their fundamental national defence needs are, and (if they are in an alliance) what they can contribute to the collective.
  • This means taking painful decisions about what capabilities will not be available in future.
  • Effective defence procurement requires stable, realistic and predictable budgets and requirements, a professional purchasing organisation, and an effective partnership with industry.
  • New high-end technology is important but not the solution to all problems. Off the shelf solutions should be sought where possible.
  • The ability to regenerate capability if the context changes is particularly important.
  • People are at least as important as technology, and can take longer to ‘regenerate’ than equipment. Preserving skills is therefore crucial.
  • Politicians need to make the case for the continuing importance of deterrence, and for spending to keep their country safe, but need a fully convincing narrative to do so, not just vague talk of unpredictability.
  • Alliances can be extremely cost-effective and useful, and need more public promotion.
  • The issues of specialisation and sharing within an alliance need to be addressed honestly. Constant shaving away at national capability across the spectrum is ultimately self-defeating.
  • European countries cannot go on indefinitely depending on the US security blanket, which is wearing increasingly thin.
  • Training others to help themselves and deal with their own regional security threats is in many cases a better use of resources, and more likely to be effective, than direct military intervention.
  • Helping the civilian authorities with emergencies or humanitarian tasks can be an important extra argument for defence capability, and is a real bonus, but is not the primary role of armed forces.

Much of the above is more applicable to the Euro-Atlantic than the Asian context. We were reminded that the European scene in particular has strong resemblances in some respects to that of thirty or forty years ago, even if the Cold War is over, while the Asian picture has been completely transformed. Any hopes that the defence scene might be taken over by a new dose of strict logic and clarity were punctured by the suggestion that defence planning, at least in much of Europe, had always been characterised by muddling through, and that this was highly likely to continue. This was no doubt realistic, but if we are going to continue to suffer from declining budgets in Europe, the scope for muddling through also declines, the gap between rhetoric and reality grows, and the need for hard choices increases. The question in many minds was whether politicians (whose accidental absence from the conference was much regretted) were really ready for that, or preferred to delude themselves that their foreign policy ambitions could be unchanged even as defence capability reduced.

This Note reflects the Director’s personal impressions of the conference. No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.


CHAIR: General The Lord Richards GCB, CBE, DSO, DL
Senior Adviser, International Institute for Strategic Studies; Chairman, Equilibrium-Global. Formerly: Chief of the Defence Staff (2010-13); Commander-in-Chief, Land Forces (2008-09); Commander, Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (2005-07); Commander, NATO International Security and Assistance Force, Afghanistan (2006-07); Assistant Chief of the General Staff, Ministry of Defence, London (2002-05); Commander Joint Task Force Sierra Leone (2000) and East Timor (1999). A Governor of The Ditchley Foundation.

Professor Michael Evans 
General Sir Francis Hassett Chair of Military Studies, Australian Defence College, Canberra; Adjunct Senior Fellow, New Zealand Defence Force Command and Staff College; Professor, School of Humanities, Deakin University; Member, International Institute for Strategic Studies. Formerly: Head, Land Warfare Studies Centre, Royal Military College, Duntroon (2002-06); Land Headquarters, Sydney; Directorate of Army Research and Analysis, Army Headquarters, Canberra; Sir Alfred Beit Fellow, Department of War Studies, King's College, University of London.

Professor Antonio Rocha PhD 
Professor of International Relations, University of Brasília; Director, Pandiá Calógeras Institute, Ministry of Defence of Brazil. Formerly: Chief of Staff, National Fund for the Development of Education; Senior Civil Advisor for Defence Affairs to the Presidency Secretariat for Strategic Affairs; Director, Brazilian Studies Center, Haiti; Director, Department of Cooperation, Ministry of Defence.

Mr Richard Fadden 
Deputy Minister, Department of National Defence (2013-). Formerly: Director, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (2009-13); Deputy Minister, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (2006-09); Deputy Minister, Natural Resources Canada (2005-06); President, Canadian Food Inspection Agency (2002-05); Deputy Clerk and Counsel, Privy Council Office (2000-02); Security and Intelligence Coordinator (2001-02); Government of Canada: Department of External Affairs, Office of the Auditor General of Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Treasury Board Secretariat.
General Raymond Henault (Retd) CMM, MSC, MSM, CD
President, Conference of Defence Associations Institute, Ottawa. Formerly: Chairman, NATO Military Committee, NATO HQ Brussels (2005-08); Chief of the Defence Staff, Canada (2001-05); Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, Canada (1998-2001); Assistant Chief of the Air Staff, Canada (1997-98); Chief of Staff Operations, Air Command HQ, Winnipeg, Canada (1996-97); Commander, 10 Tactical Air Group (Tactical Helicopters) (1995-96).
Mr Frank Lamie 
Lawyer, Gowling LaFleur Henderson LLP, Toronto; Major, Canadian Army (Primary Reserve); Board of Directors, Toronto Children’s Breakfast Club.
Ms Jill Sinclair 
Department of National Defence (2008-): Executive Director, External Engagement and Partnerships, Canadian Defence Academy (2014-). Formerly: Assistant Deputy Minister (Policy); Department of External Affairs (1981-2008): Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Foreign and Defence Policy, Privy Council Office (2006-08); Canada's Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (2003-06); Director General, International Security Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs (2001-03).

Mr Alexis Morel 
Director of Strategic Affairs, Thales Group. Formerly: Special Advisor for Strategic and Defense Issues, Policy Planning Staff, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Advisor for Strategic and Security Affairs to the President of France (2011-12); Political Counselor for Strategic Affairs, Embassy of France, Washington, DC (2009-11); Advisor to Bureau for South and Central Asia, US Department of State (2008-09); Directorate for Strategic and Security Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2005-08).

Dr Christian Mölling 
Program Director, European Defence Monitoring, and Program Director a.i., Security in Northern Europe, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). Formerly: Visiting Fellow: RUSI, London; FRS, Paris, ISS, Paris; Research Fellow: CSS, Zurich; IFSH, Hamburg.
Vice Admiral Joachim Rühle 
Head, Personnel Department, Federal Ministry of Defence (MOD) (2014-). Formerly: Director, Defence Plans and Policy (2012-14); Director, Knowledge Management Directorate, JFC HQ, Naples (2010-12); Chief of Joint Military Personnel Division, MOD, Bonn (2008-10); Section Chief 1, Armed Forces General Staff, Planning Division, MOD, Bonn (2005-08); Commander, Implementation Staff, Naval Task Flotilla 2 and Commander, Task Group SEF 2005, Fleet Command, Glücksberg (2004-05).

Brigadier Rumel Dahiya (Retd) 
Deputy Director General, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi (2010-); Coordinator, Military Affairs Centre; Managing Editor, Journal of Defence Studies. Formerly: Indian Army: Defence Attaché to Turkey, Syria and Lebanon; Military Operations Directorate; Net Assessment Directorate, Integrated Defence Staff.
Dr Manoj Joshi 
Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. Formerly: Advisory Board Member, National Security Council; Member, Task Force on National Security; Visiting Fellow, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University; Political Editor, The Times of India; Editor (Views), Hindustan Times, Defence Editor, India Today; National Affairs Editor, Mail Today; Washington Correspondent, The Financial Express; Special Correspondent, The Hindu; Academic Fellow, American Studies Research Centre, Hyderabad.
General Ashok Mehta (Retd)
Anchor, Defence Watch, Doordarshan (public service broadcaster). Formerly: Indian Army (1957-91); General Officer Commanding, Indian Peace Keeping Forces South, Sri Lanka; Founder Member, Defence Planning Staff (now Integrated Defence Staff), Chiefs of Staff Committee; Consulting Editor, Indian Defence Review; Member, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses; Director, Security and Political Risk Analysis.

Captain (Navy) Keizo Kitagawa MA
Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (1993-): Defence Attaché, Embassy of Japan, London (2013-). Formerly: Fellow, National Institute for Defense Studies (2011-12); Commanding Officer, JS Matsuyuki (DD-130) (2010-11); International Policy Desk Officer, Plans and Policy Division, Maritime Staff Office (2007-10); Executive Officer, JS Mineyuki (DD-124) (2004-05).
Mr Bonji Ohara 
Research Fellow, Tokyo Foundation (2013-). Formerly: Analyst, Jane's (2011-13); Research Fellow, National Institute for Defense Studies (2010); Maritime Self-Defence Force (1985-2010): Chief, Intelligence Section, Maritime Staff Office, Ministry of Defence (2006-08); Naval Attaché, Beijing (2003-06); Executive Officer then Commanding Officer, 21st Flight Squadron (2008-10).
Vice Admiral Ahmad Kamarulzaman 
Deputy Chief of Navy, Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) (1977-); Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Malaysia. Formerly: Chief of Staff, Malaysian Armed Forces; Joint Force Commander; RMN Fleet Commander; Commander Naval Region 2; Assistant Chief of Staff (Plan and Operations).

Wing General Jesus Pablo Franco Martinez 
Military and Air Attaché, Embassy of Mexico to the United Kingdom.

Mr Timo Koster 
Director, Defence Policy and Capabilities Directorate, NATO, Brussels (2012-). Formerly: Defense Advisor, Permanent Representation of the Netherlands to NATO, Brussels (2008-12); Deputy Chief of Mission, Royal Netherlands Embassy, Athens (2003-08); Project Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs The Hague (2002-03).

Senior Colonel Zhou Bo 
Military Service of the People's Republic of China (1979-): Director, Center for International Security Cooperation, Foreign Affairs Office, Ministry of National Defence of the People's Republic of China; Commentator for CCTV-NEWS; Contributor, China Daily and China US Focus. Formerly: Chinese Defense Attaché to the Republic of Namibia; Deputy Director General of General Planning, Bureau of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of National Defense of China; Deputy Director General, West Asia and Africa Bureau; Staff Officer, various positions, Foreign Affairs Office, Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China; Visiting Fellow, Land Warfare Studies Centre, Australian Army (1999); Guangzhou Air Force Regional Command.

Dr Greg Mills 
Director, The Brenthurst Foundation, Parktown, South Africa (2005-). Formerly: National Director (1996-2005), Director of Studies (1994-96), South African Institute of International Affairs.

Brigadier General Mehmet Disli 
DCOS of Project Management Division, Turkish General Staff HQ. Formerly: Commander, Infantry Brigade; Chief of Staff, Corps; Commander, Motorized Infantry Regiment; Chief of Staff, Motorised Infantry Brigade; Graduate, US National Defence University.

Brigadier Ben Barry OBE (Retd)  (UK)
Senior Fellow for Land Warfare, International Institute for Strategic Studies. Formerly: British Army: Head of MOD Streamlining; Director General Staff; Director, Force Development; Commander, NATO brigade, Bosnia.
The Rt Hon. Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman KCMG CBE FBA FKC
Vice Principal (Strategy and Development) and Professor of War Studies, King's College London (1982-). A Governor of the Ditchley Foundation.
Mr Bernard Gray 
Chief of Defence Materiel, Ministry of Defence (2011-). Formerly: Special Adviser to Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (1997-99); Defence Correspondent, Financial Times (1994-97). A Governor of The Ditchley Foundation.
Air Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier KCB CBE DFC
Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Military Capability), Ministry of Defence.
Mr Peter Jones 
HM Diplomatic Service: Director, Defence and International Security, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (2014-). Formerly: High Commissioner in Ghana (2011-14); Director, Migration (2009-11).
Ms Sarah Kenny 
Managing Director - Maritime, QinetiQ Haslar.
Rear Admiral John Kingwell 
Royal Navy (1984-): Director, Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, Ministry of Defence, Shrivenham (2013-). Formerly: Ministry of Defence: Lt Cdr in Navy Operations; Military Assistant to Vice Chief of the Defence Staff and to Second Permanent Under Secretary; Directorate of Naval Resources and Plans; Head, Finance and Military Capability (Navy); Commands, Royal Naval University Unit, Sussex University, and its attached patrol vessel HMS Pursuer; Frigate, HMS Argyll; Commander, HMS Albion; Commander, United Kingdom Task Group.
Mr Julian Miller CB 
Deputy National Security Advisor, Defence and Nuclear, Cabinet Office. Formerly: Director, Strategy and Resources, Ministry of Defence; Chief of Assessments Staff, Cabinet Office.
Sir Richard Mottram GCB 
Chairman, Amey plc; Member, International Advisory Board, GardaWorld; Visiting Professor, London School of Economics. Formerly: Permanent Secretary, UK Civil Service (1992-2007), including Intelligence, Security and Resilience; Chairman Joint Intelligence Committee, Cabinet Office (2005-07); Ministry of Defence (MOD) (1995-98); Deputy Under Secretary (Policy), MOD (1989-92). A Governor of Te Ditchley Foundation.
Mr Richard Norton-Taylor 
Award winning Journalist and Playwright. Formerly: European and Security Editor, The Guardian; Member, Advisory Council, Royal United Services Institute; Board Member, Liberty (The National Council for Civil Liberties).
Sir Kevin Tebbit KCB CMG 
Visiting Professor, Kings College London; Senior Associate Fellow, Royal United Services Institute; Non-Executive Director, Smiths Group PLC; Director and adviser to other engineering and technology companies. Formerly: Chairman, Finmeccanica UK (2007-12); Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence (1998-2005); Director, GCHQ (1998); Deputy Under Secretary Defence and Intelligence, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (1997-98); postings to Washington, DC; NATO, Brussels; Ankara. A Governor of the Ditchley Foundation.
Mr Ian Wallace 
Visiting Fellow for Cybersecurity, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC. Formerly: Counsellor, Defence Policy and Nuclear, British Embassy, Washington, DC (2009-13); Fellow, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University; Ministry of Defence, UK: Policy Adviser to Deputy Commander, Multi-National Force, Iraq (Baghdad, 2007-08); Deputy Director, Capability Scrutiny; Chief Policy Adviser, Multi-National Division South East, Iraq (Basra, 2005); Assistant Director, Defence Resources and Plans; Head of Policy, Permanent Joint HQ (2002-03); Policy Adviser to Commander, Multi-National Brigade Centre, Kosovo (2001-02); Assistant Private Secretary to Defence Secretary (2000-01).
Mr John Weston CBE 
Chairman: MB Aerospace, Torotrack (manufacturer of continuously variable automotive transmissions), Fibercore (manufacturer of specialist fibre optic cables), Accesso (systems company in innovative queuing devices, booking and payment systems). Formerly: Chair, software, design engineering and on-line learning companies; CEO, BAE Systems. A Governor and a Member of the Business Committee, The Ditchley Foundation.
Ms Caroline Wyatt 
Religious Affairs Correspondent, BBC.
Mr Paul Wyatt 
Head, Defence Strategy and Priorities, Ministry of Defence: (2014-).

Professor Eliot Cohen 
Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University. Formerly: US Government. Most recent appointment: Counselor of the US Department of State (2007-08).
Lieutenant General John W. Nicholson Jr 
Commander, NATO Allied Land Command, Izmir, Turkey (2014-).
Ensign Samuel Oat-Judge 
Fulbright Scholar, University of Exeter; Master's Candidate in Applied Security Strategy. Formerly: United States Naval Academy, Class of 2014.