Professor Andrew Neal

Professor of International Security


The University of Edinburgh

School of Social and Political Science



20 November 2023


Dear members and staff of the Liaison Sub-Committee on Scrutiny of Strategic Thinking in Government,


Evidence submission: Scrutiny of Strategic Thinking in Government


I am writing to submit evidence because I run a project to collect and analyse all the top-level national security/defence strategy documents in the world. I have built the world’s largest collection, covering 126 countries (using the 249-country list of the ISO Country Code Standard, which includes dependencies and territories with contested sovereignty), with nearly 600 documents going back to the 1990s. I have also developed, with an IT consultant colleague, an AI-based semantic text analysis system that allows us to identify common themes, patterns and similarities between these documents. This represents a powerful tool for comparative security strategy analysis.


Having researched national security policymaking in the UK for all my academic career, I am of the view that comparison with the security policy making of other countries is limited except for comparison with key allies. This is a wasted opportunity, and symptomatic of a kind of British exceptionalism. The UK and its close allies do not possess a monopoly on strategic thinking, and some of the most interesting security strategy documents I have analysed come from countries that are often deemed unimportant strategically.


The UK government and select committees could improve their strategic thinking, and effective scrutiny thereof, by more systematically consulting the national security strategies of all other countries that publish them. I would be happy to help the committee, and any others, with any analytical queries of our dataset that would be helpful.



Yours faithfully,


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Andrew Neal

Professor of International Security