Skip to main content

Call for evidence

National security machinery

Because of the concerns we have highlighted in our recent Biosecurity and national security report, and the urgency of the need to establish effective national security structures to prepare for further future emergencies, we have decided to begin an inquiry into the national security machinery. Aspects we intend to examine include:

  • How well the National Security Council and/or Cabinet Office ensures that preparedness plans are resourced and exercised, and how their lessons are learned/implemented;
  • How the NSC maintains its centrality in the policy-making process, sets ministerial direction and oversees implementation of national security decisions;
  • The appropriate role and remit of the National Security Adviser, including the NSA’s required interaction with the NSC, COBR and ministers;
  • The interaction of the NSC and COBR systems;
  • The role of key Government departments and agencies in national security policy-making;
  • The collection, use and analysis of data across national security relevant departments, and the mechanism for the NSC collecting evidence to aid its decision-making;
  • The coherence of the NSC committee structures, as reshaped in this Parliament and further revised to address Covid;
  • How well funding/resources are linked to national security decisions; and
  • How well the ‘Fusion Doctrine’ is embedded, learning the lessons from Covid.

Once the Integrated Review is published, we intend also to examine the involvement of the NSC and NSA in shaping the Review, including machinery-of-government changes and their role in matching the provisional findings of the Integrated Review with Spending Review priorities.

We welcome written submissions initially by 15 February on these issues. We intend to call for further submissions once the Integrated Review is published.

Background

The machinery of national security is being examined in the Government’s ‘Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development & Foreign Policy’. When it launched the Integrated Review, it indicated that it would consider reforms to Whitehall that could facilitate “integrated policy-making and operational planning across departments and agencies In its subsequent Call-for-evidence in August 2020, it asked “how should the UK change its governance of international policy and national security” and “how should UK systems and capabilities be reformed to improve the development and delivery of national strategy”.[2] Also in August 2020, Lord Maude was asked to review the efficiency and effectiveness of the Cabinet Office and its ‘centre of government’ functions.

In October 2020, we wrote to the Prime Minister with provisional lessons from our Biosecurity inquiry, urging the Government to set out how the central national security machinery will be reformed and improved, and explain how the organisational lessons of the Covid pandemic have been learned for the UK’s crisis and resilience management structures.[4] In our recent Biosecurity and national security report, we also saw a need for a stronger direction from the centre of Government.[5]

In November 2020, the Government announced a multi-year financial settlement for the MoD, single-year spending plans for other departments, and some new initiatives on space, cyber and AI, all of which were presumably informed by broader security policy priorities. But the Integrated Review itself remains unpublished.[6]

 

[1] Notes for the Queen’s Speech 2019 (p141)

[2] Call for evidence, August 2020

[3] Financial Times, Government launches review of Cabinet Office, 20 August 2020

[4] JCNSS letter to PM, 29 October 2020

[5] https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/4035/documents/40449/default/

[6] https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2020-11-19/debates/CA347B2B-EE02-40DF-B5CE-1E8FAA07139E/IntegratedReview

Start