THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL OF THE UNITED STATES
BRITAIN’S SECURITY CHALLENGES IN THE AGE OF AUSTERITY
WELCOME AND MODERATOR:
PRESIDENT AND CEO,
THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL
SIR DAVID RICHARDS,
CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE STAFF,
THURSDAY, JANUARY 6, 2010
Federal News Service
FREDERICK KEMPE: Hello, and happy New Year to everyone. What a great way to start the new year. I’m Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. And I’d like to welcome you to our first public event of the year, Commanders Series discussion with Britain’s chief of defence staff, General Sir David Richards.
This is the type of person for which we launched this series. People who have done real jobs – have done real dangerous jobs – people who have also had to apply their mind strategically to the most challenging issues of the day.
The London Times said of him that he is a seat-of-the-pants soldier. Quote: “He is no pen-pusher. He believes in troop surges and action and making things happen. He’s a field soldier beloved by his men, journalists, aid workers, and most importantly, the people on the ground.”
I’ll also add from The Times: “He is outspoken, honest, politically astute, chatty.” And a Sierra Leone journalist nicknamed him “Gabby” Richards.
There are many faces in the audience who have attended several, if not most, of our Commanders Series events in recent years. Welcome back. It’s one of our flagship series. We’ve had the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, Admiral Jim Stavridis; Supreme Allied Commander Transformation Stéphane Abrial – General Stéphane Abrial; U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Tim Keating; most recently, the chief of the British Royal Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton.
In all, we’ve hosted 16 senior military leaders from the United States and our friends and allies under the banner of this series. So we’re proud, General Richards, to add you to this list of impressive commanders.
None of this would be, of course, possible without the generous support of Saab North America and its president and CEO and a member of our board, Dan-Åke Enstedt. I’m sorry he couldn’t be here today, but I do want to thank another board member of ours, Ambassador Henrik Liljegren. Henrik, where are you? Henrik, thank you so much for your support of what has been one of our most successful ventures.
It’s of special importance to us because we advocate strong trans-Atlantic relations to tackle 21st-century global challenges. And the strongest security relationship historically has been that of the U.S. and the U.K.
Furthermore, the recent release of the U.K. Strategic Security and Defence Review – and with that, the Washington defense and security community has been very focused on it: outcomes and what it means for British defense policy. We are also pleased to be able to host you to talk about not only these issues, but some of these niggly, little budget issues that play a role here and there.
You earned your commission in the Royal Artillery in 1971. Since then, you’ve commanded units at all levels of the British Army, U.K. contingents of East Timor in 1999 and Sierra Leone in 2000 – tough and trying operations in difficult environments. Commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan 2006 and 2007, which is, I believe when we first ran across each other. And appointed commander in chief of U.K. land forces, 2008, and chief of the general staff in 2009. And you took up your current duties of late October of last year.
Just one last thing. Before you decided on a military career, we do some interesting research on people who spoke here – speak here. You were considering becoming a woodworker, a race-car driver or a journalist. So I think that defines a person with a wide range of interests. Also, you’re the first general we’ve had here who is also an admiral – of a yacht club – (laughter).
So General Richards, the ship is yours. Thank you for being with us today. (Applause.)
DAVID RICHARDS: Well, thank you very much, Fred. I didn’t – I said to the first sea lord when I’m, you know, discussing maritime affairs with him: Admiral, very good to see you. It’s not difficult, this business. I’m an admiral, too. And suddenly he smiles rather prophetically – doesn’t really like it – (laughter).
And also about the “Gabby” Richards – I don’t know if Christina Alonzo (ph), if that wasn’t her – but it was actually the case that in Sierra Leone, we had to use the media to get messages to London because the inconvenient bureaucrats – military and civilian – between me, the deployed commander and Tony Blair were preventing me from doing what I felt was right. So I did use the media a lot at that time, but I’m become more cautious – a little, anyway.
But anyway, thank you very much. And I have to say, having studied not very well international relations, deterrence, and things like that at university, I was aware even then of the Atlantic Council and its importance. And it’s a great treat for me to be here with you today. It’s very significant for me. I promise you.
And I think – I understand this is the 50th anniversary of the Atlantic Council. I hope I’m right in saying I’m not the first U.K. chief of the defence staff to speak here in the last 50 years, and I probably won’t be the last. And there’s a good reason for that. You don’t become the British CDS without a very healthy respect for this country and what we can achieve when we work together.
And I often – not so much today, but on previous visits – would go to Arlington and pay homage to Field Marshal Dill and that era of close cooperation. And it’s been something, and still is something of an ambition that we should rediscover that close affinity and understanding. And individuals, personalities really do matter.
And I had a – as it – as it happens, an extremely good lunch yesterday with Admiral Mullen – not good in the British sense that there was much wine, by the way. But it was a very good conversation. And I think that relationship between him and me now for a while is extremely important because it allows you to cut through a lot of bureaucracy in a way that is almost unique in its power.
If you don’t have that sort of a relationship, then invariably there is often going to be cause for confusion. And given the pace of events in the digital age, you just can’t afford that. So being able to pick up a phone, or today, look at people on a little screen is really, really important – knowing you actually know each other and have an empathy for each other.
During the course of my career, I’ve often served alongside the U.S. military, the most notably, as Fred said, when I was commanding the ISAF mission in 2006 and then (200)7. And I’ll come back to Afghanistan later.
But first of all, I wanted to talk about some of the changes in British defense and what they mean for our preeminent security and defense relationship with the United States, as well as our unique network of alliances and partnerships as a member of NATO and the European Union, and obviously as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
Now, as Fred said, during the course of 2010, we conducted a Strategic Defence and Security Review which resulted in the biggest changes for a decade to defense. We also signed, importantly, two defense treaties with France which are designed to make our armed forces more interoperable.
And these decisions were our own responses to the challenges facing all nations, a dynamic global threat environment and the need to increase – sorry, decrease the costs and increase the efficiency with which the government provides all services. And whereas it may not – may not be right to view security as a service, in that respect, I do include security to its population.
And these challenges have direct relevance for the United States and for the rest of NATO. Others will make their own judgments, but I’d like to explain why, briefly, we made ours.
The decisions taken in the SDSR were taken on the basis of what I considered to be actually an excellent analysis in the National Security Strategy. This looks beyond the immediate five years at the range of risks the nation – the nation faces.
Now actually, the National Security Strategy, or the NSS, has not been given as much prominence in the U.K. and, I think, over here as the SDSR. And I think it should be given more. It’s actually quite an impressive piece by a military and civilian team from several government departments.
And as the prime minister said, the defense review flows from strategic thinking about Britain’s place in the world, about the threats we face, and about how we can bring all of the government together to try to deal with that.
In military language, the NSS is what we might call our Commander’s Intent. It points to the themes that rightly sit at the heart of our national security, not just Afghanistan or the threat of nuclear proliferation, but also less-recognized issues – advances in technology, biological science, climate change, and social and demographic change are all taken into account, for example.
The National Security Strategy lists the threats facing the U.K., and it’s worth remembering the most pressing. They range from international terrorism, nuclear proliferation, sabotage, espionage, dissident Northern Irish groups still, threats to energy security through to natural hazards and a cyberattack on the economy.
Crucially, we judge that none of the threats we face is at a definitive tipping point. All are serious risks to our security, but none yet of such magnitude as to be the focus of all our national resources. And given this complex picture, the choices we make have to accommodate a wide spectrum of those threats.
And two other factors also came into play when determining our defense posture. Firstly, this government was determined that the U.K. should continue to play a leading role in the world. A reminder of the foreign secretary’s words that this is not a time for “strategic shrinkage.” In Britain, we have never shirked the international responsibilities conferred on us by our economic and military strength.
And secondly, the need to reduce Britain’s budget deficit – the top political priority of our coalition government. The economy is clearly part of the strategic context. Our economic strength underpins our military strength. The financial security of the nation must, therefore, be a primary consideration of any review.
If you need an example of a government failing to get this formula right, please just pause to recall the fate of the Soviet Union. Moscow’s attempt to match U.S. defense spending contributed to a bankrupt state, which led to its collapse.
And a plan is not a plan if it doesn’t take into account the resources available. It’s a wish list. And no general worth his salt would base his plan on wishful thinking. And clearly, the chiefs of staff did not go into the review lobbying for reductions in the defense budget. But the government has prioritized spending. And some departments, including defence, have fared undoubtedly better than others.
More importantly, along with the real-terms increase, the prime minister has spoken of post-2015: we have enough to take us towards a robust future force, which enables the U.K. to play a prominent role in international security affairs.
The government’s decision to keep our defense spending above 2 percent of GDP reflects its appreciation of the importance of our armed forces, and the importance we place in continuing to play a role around the world, including alongside U.S. forces.
Now, looking at the range of threats, the U.K’s resource and our ambitions, we concluded that 2010 was not a moment for strategic realignment. What was needed was a balanced strategy to deal with a wide range of diverse threats. And I’ve listed some of them.
That’s why we decided – or designed what we’ve called the adaptable force capable of conducting the full range of missions. Now, “adaptable” is just a word. But it encapsulates the vigilance, flexibility, resilience and agility we will seek to maintain. It also speaks to the determination both morally and physically to ensure that even when we may not know the future, we will structure our armed forces with the intellect and ability to meet it.
I’d like to emphasize that point, if I may. Critics have accused the government of failing to conduct a strategy-led review. This, in my judgment, couldn’t be further from the truth. The government has not drawn the same strategic conclusions, as some have lobbied for, not because there is a lack of strategic direction but the reverse: this review has maintained our strategic freedom of maneuver.
We could have reconfigured the capabilities of our armed forces towards the defense of Europe and our immediate environs, as some argued. But that choice was rejected. We could have reconfigured towards peacekeeping rather than warfighting. But that choice, too, was rejected. We could have reconfigured towards counterterrorism and domestic security. We rejected that choice.
But these options, and other scenarios, were rejected because they were not supported by the analyses underpinning the National Security Strategy and would not have enabled the U.K. to handle the range of threats we identified.
The adaptable posture retains the ability of the U.K. to act at distance, independently where required, and across all domains. It provides the capacity for prevention, for deterrence both conventional and nuclear, for coercion, and intervention. It is a rational extension of the National Security Strategy.
And my reading of the U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review is that the U.S. has taken a similar view of its own circumstances. And the NATO Strategic Concept is also based on the need to deal with a wider range of threats than before. Where we’ve gone further, perhaps, is in the changes to our force structure, to prepare ourselves to deal with a wider range of circumstances. And 12 years on from our – in our case, our last major defense review, that is, perhaps, no surprise.
I’d like to spend the next few minutes describing what we intend our future force to be capable of doing. We’ve targeted 10 years out the, as it’s called, the Future Force 2020. Now, our domestic newspaper headlines were dominated by stories of cuts. And to be sure, we had some difficult choices to make. And we expect our armed forces to be smaller in the future.
But we are planning to generate extremely capable armed forces, recognizing the changing character of conflict and the threats we face now and in the future.
The defence review charts a path of longer-term transformation. Future Force 2020 will be, if we get it half-right, a formidable and powerful organization jointly and within each service, linking service personnel with the other instruments of power – diplomacy, development and assistance – and ensuring interoperability with our allies and long-term strategic partners.
What was absolutely necessary to have in one’s armory even 10 years ago may well not be so vital in the future. And understanding this dynamic is absolutely essential. It was Liddell Hart who remarked, there’s only one thing more difficult than getting a new idea into the military mind, and that is getting an old one out.
If we stay as we are, we would not be successful in 2020 and beyond. And I’m absolutely convinced of it. We’ve turned the corner. And I would actually argue we have further to go in configuring for future warfare.
And if I were in the armed forces in 1930, I would have preferred to be fighting from an aircraft or a tank than from a horse. Those in the armed forces in 2020 and beyond will, I have no doubt, be grateful for our investment today in intelligence, cyberoperations, ISTAR and remote technology. It will be something of a quantum leap.
And Future Force 2020 will also maintain traditional, significant but high-tech – or more high-tech – fighting capabilities across all three services. The Typhoon, the Joint Strike Fighter and an updated strategic lift fleet are examples in the case of the Royal Air Force.
Carrier strike, Astute, Type 45 destroyers and soon after 2020, the Type 26 global combat ship for the Royal Navy. And the army will retain the manning, equipment and human skills that I believe will remain – stay important in modern warfare. And this will be complemented by the investment in education, which is vital to maximize our 21st-century capabilities and our ever-increasing ability to operate jointly with our allies.
My aim is for my successors not to face the challenges we face today with aging capabilities across all three services that are difficult to maintain. We will be able to generate, deploy and sustain indefinitely a brigade-size force configured for a full range of missions. And on a one-off basis, the U.K. will continue to be able to put a fully-formed division into the fight.
That is a substantial fighting force which few others can match. And we also concluded that we must retain the ability to command at theater level. With many of our forces leaving Germany, some argued that we should give up the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, for example. But that would mean a reduction in our ability to lead major NATO operations. That would be in neither Britain’s nor NATO’s interest. And we will continue to be able to command multinational operations at corps level.
Reflecting a different but very real threat, the SDSR also mandates the formation of a U.K. defense cyberoperations group. And this is going to continue to develop. All told, the U.K. is investing around an extra £1 billion in cyber across government.
And I’ve just actually come here today from an excellent visit to the NSA. The detailed structure of the cyberoperations group has yet to be determined, but it will be a fundamental part of our strategic operations and will be able to plug into other security organizations outside defense – most importantly, obviously, the GCHQ.
And we’re working very closely with the Department of Defense here to develop the cyberleg of the U.K.-U.S. defense relationship. Into this fast-moving digital age, information is a major part of conflict. In some respects, it has to be viewed as a weapon in its own right. Reflecting this in our organization training and tactics is our next task.
The review also concluded the U.K. should retain its nuclear deterrent based on the Trident submarine. We will make some programmatic changes, but the policy of continuous at-sea deterrence remains. In an uncertain world, the government saw no case for giving up our ultimate guarantor of U.K. sovereignty.
We went into the review aiming to remain a full-spectrum military updated for the longer term. And I’d contend that this is where we have come out.
Delivering the future force within available resources will not be easy. And now that the SDSR is complete, one of the big challenges for the MOD is what we’re calling the Defence Reform Review. We’re taking a very long, hard look at how we’re organized. It’s too early to say what the results will be, but this exercise is all about prioritizing resources, including to strategic planning and command structures.
And Future Force 2020 is only available with big savings in other parts of defense. The U.K., I know, is not alone in doing this. When resources are tight, it’s incumbent upon all of us to squeeze every last drop of military capability from the taxpayers’ money.
I know that an exercise like that has been underway in the USA for some months. I think it – Secretary Gates is reporting it this afternoon. And I look forward very much to hearing about the results.
Looking ahead, I actually expect defense reform to be a major challenge to both of our – and for our allies – both of us and our allies in the year ahead.
Now, soon after the review – and I mentioned this – it was published, the prime minister and President Sarkozy signed two defense treaties with France, one on jointly developing nuclear technologies, and another on wider defense cooperation. And these are ambitious documents.
And what we’re trying to do will make arguably NATO’s two most capable European nations much more interoperable. And our national defense program should become better aligned to deliver more capability for NATO in the round.
And I go in a few weeks’ time to see – I’ll spend the day with my French counterpart to maintain momentum in this activity. We’ve agreed to develop an ability to form a combined joint expeditionary force by the early 2020s, to develop the ability to deploy a U.K.-France integrated carrier strike group, to cooperate on developing technologies for the next generation of nuclear attack submarines, jointly work on the next generation of UAVs, and to cooperate on cybersecurity and counterterrorism.
In some ways, this new work is a big deal. But in other ways, an American audience should find it quite unremarkable. We do this type of cooperation – and far more – with the U.S. armed forces every day of the year. It’s because of the success of our arrangements with the U.S. that we recognize the potential in doing more with our closest neighbor.
And this has been an objective of both the U.K. and France at different times for many years. But the stars have aligned to make these treaties possible now. And it will take hard work on both sides of the English Channel, or should I learn to say, La Manche, to turn the ambition into reality.
But I’m confident that the next result – the net result – will be more defense capability for NATO than we would have without these treaties. And perhaps it’ll pave the way for others to take a look at what they can deliver collectively as well as individually.
Now, although the arrangements with France caught the imagination in the U.K., I’d like to remind this audience what our review said about the U.S. It describes the U.K.-U.S. relationship as deeply rooted, broadly based, strategically important, and mutually supported. In some ways, this sounds so obvious that it goes without saying. But it is important, and we don’t take the relationship for granted.
Both the U.K. and the U.S. know that it must continue to be updated for the times. That’s why within defense, we’re planning to do more, as I said, on cyber, more on CT and capacity-building, more on counterproliferation and arms control. And I personally would like to see how as part of a more integrated strategy, we should work more synergistically and aggressively to prevent future conflict – upstream operations, as some in Britain describe it, and phase-zero operations, as I know is the term that’s catching on here.
For all of these reasons, it’s essential that Force 2020 is compatible with similar force-development outcomes here in the United States.
Well finally, a few words on Afghanistan. Of course, one of the reasons people might take our future relationship with the U.S. a little bit for granted is because we obviously operate so closely together today. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Afghanistan.
As the prime minister said at the NATO summit in Lisbon in November, in Helmand, British troops and U.S. Marines working hand in hand, side by side, fighting incredibly effectively. I think the Americans respect and know that the British forces are forces capable of taking the fight to the enemy, of closing with the enemy – full combat, no caveat and equally as effective as any troops anywhere in the world.
Throughout the defense review, one thing was always clear: Afghanistan is and will remain the main effort for defense for as long as is necessary. All of the decisions we took were tested for their impact on Afghanistan. The review is about preparing for the future, but we must prioritize for today’s operations. It’s no good being ready for tomorrow if that risks losing the battles we’re fighting today.
So changes to our army’s structures will happen towards the end of the decade after the combat role in Afghanistan is over. And some equipment decisions were deferred for the same reason.
The government couldn’t have been clearer. Our mission in Afghanistan is vital for the short- and long-term national security of our country. Our force is there ultimately to keep our own public safe – safe from the consequences of failure in Afghanistan, safe from the violent extremists who would make the region their base and safe from the operations that terrorists would train for and plan from those havens.
Dozens of other governments have reached the same conclusion. That is together – why, together, we form a coalition of 49 countries – it was 36 only when I was com-ISAF – determined to bring stability to Afghanistan, to prevent it being used as a base for terrorists to attack us from.
I’ve been in Afghanistan twice in the last couple of months. The change from when I commanded there in 2006 could not be more apparent. Today in Helmand, Governor Mangal – the provincial governor – is driving around large parts of Helmand and officials are travelling alone to and from their districts. I took chai with local people in the heart of Nad Ali district, overlooking a busy road with people in traffic. In 2006 that would quite literally be unimaginable.
The right force levels with the right equipment across ISAF are now delivering, what we knew then, was the right strategy but seemed unattainable. The strategies you have seen, General Petraeus achieved so much by focusing on the people and a political settlement.
Though there remain significant challenges, we are under no illusions of that – of that fact. There is genuine cause for cautious optimism, which I think is good to use. We are now operating from a position of increasing strength while the position of the insurgency at the tactical level has begun to deteriorate. In Pakistan, safe havens are being squeezed by Pakistani security forces though we must all do more to understand, assist and incentivize the Pakistanis.
The insurgency is under unprecedented pressure and has lost significant ground in their southern heartland, including in the key population centers. We’ve been successfully targeting their bomb-making networks and their command structure. As their senior leadership is isolated, their training becoming deficient and their supplies disrupted.
The Afghan National Security Forces being developed by a good of friend of mine, like most of these senior American generals are, Bill Caldwell, have grown by over a third this year, far exceeding the agreed targets. They’re increasingly effective and beginning to lead operations, which along with the political outreach, is key for the plan for transition to homegrown security.
I am of course well aware that the U.S. has just conducted its annual review of the mission. I don’t intend to get involved in domestic-political debates but I would observe that we, in the U.K., share virtually all the same judgments. As agreed at the vital, I think, NATO conference in Lisbon and according to the wishes of the Afghan government, the ANSF will take the lead on security from the end of 2014. This is why, as Prime Minister David Cameron then, British troops will not be in combat roles from 2015.
Of course, we intend that the U.K. relationship with Afghanistan will continue for many years to come, including an enduring and highly supportive defense relationship. Issues that we have absolutely in common with the U.S. so it should come as no surprise that we have a common strategy. Actually, I’ve leapt a page there, which I’m sure is really important, so I mustn’t do that.
Let me quite clear by what I mean by some of that, this enduring relationship. With India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, peoples with whom we have a history longer, and in some ways actually more (formal ?) than with Kabul, we now have enduring partnerships as equals. We trade, we help train officials, exchange information and provide development assistance.
We plan to do the same in Afghanistan. British trainers and mentors will stay in Afghanistan and their efforts will continue alongside those, obviously, of aid workers and diplomats. And these diplomatic, defense and development relationships underpin our partnership and we look forward to deepening them over the years ahead.
Afghanistan will, I’m confident, contribute to the network of partners and allies that the U.K. has developed over the centuries and having a longer-term perspective, in this respect, is very important for us all. I expect that will also be true of the U.S., NATO and many of the other ISAF nations. As we say with many of our security issues, we have really important common interests with your country so it should come as no surprise that we have a common strategy.
Well, I hope has been made clear today, these common interests extend far beyond Afghanistan. As both of our strategic reviews have shown, our nations face the same threat picture and demand-shared solutions. Our shared perspective means that we will continue to approach the many challenges that threaten global stability in a similar way and the U.K.’s contribution to our shared security will be balanced against the economy constraints the nation is facing.
But be under no illusion, Britain’s armed forces continue to be the most robust, well-trained and effective allies the U.S. could hope for and we’ll continue to defend our shared interests over the coming decades. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for listening and I look forward to your questions. (Applause.)
MR. KEMPE: General Richards, that was great and a lot of the questions I had scribbled down here for myself got answered in the presentation. You have a hard departure at noon so we’ve got – we’ve got about 18 minutes or so – 20 minutes to take some questions and let me actually go straight to the audience. I know that Admiral Giambastiani, our former supreme allied commander transformation, vice chief joint – vice joint chiefs chairman – SACT – (laughter) – please, and if you can wait for a microphone.
Q: David, congratulations and condolences on your new job.
GEN. RICHARDS: Yeah. (Laughter.)
Q: But welcome to Washington, again, and it’s good to see you and thank you for taking on this very serious challenge at a tough time here in the U.K. and around the world economically. I don’t envy your task every day, but I also respect very much what you’ve done. Let me just ask a quick question. This is really more not at the strategic level, but with these force reductions and other things that are coming, where do you see U.K. exchange engagement, NATO staffing and the rest?
I don’t know if you’ve gotten into this but, you know, you have a very sizable amount of U.K. personnel working with U.S. forces, you know, today in the United States and forward deployed. Obviously, the combat formations are easy to discuss, but I’m talking about those day-to-day staff positions where we get such an integrated effort. Have you thought much about that and can you give us a few comments?
GEN. RICHARD: Yeah, well, Admiral G., as I know him and many of you do, was in charge of a very important course I attended. It was the guinea-pig non-American on your pinnacle course so I owe much of this to you I suspect. Commiseration, as someone said, the whole day – (chuckles) – when I got the job, so you’re opening point was a good one.
No, it’s a very, very important issue and indeed Mike Harwood (ph) who is here somewhere, I think, of (defense actually ?) and I were talking about it today because forced – we’re going to go through a period in the next five years, undoubtedly, as we reorientate towards what we call FORCE 2020. We’re going to go through a challenging time before we get, in particular, that 2015 real-terms uplift in defense spending.
Now, I being a very, very minor historian I’ve always rather admired what the German army in the 1920s. They kept the intellectual flame alive (that sought ?) and I included – that was sort of the things you were talking about – so that they have the capacity to grow again and look at what they did for goodwill – (chuckles) – by the late 1930s.
And I think that’s not a bad, sort of, crude model for us and therefore there may be a case for reducing, even further, force structure in order to keep those things going, which otherwise if we over – over focus on the frontline we will actually lose and we will probably never get that back so I’m very alert to the issue. It’s a very important one and we’re just going to have to find a way through it but we’re on the case.
MR. KEMPE: And Admiral Giambastiani, our heavy hitters from the board showed up for you, General Richards – General Wald, also.
Q: Thanks for being here. The question then – and I applaud on your inoperability efforts with France. I think it’s a good idea. But a little concern I would have and maybe an explanation is, how do you maintain the ability to decide to use the asset yourself if you’re going to go it alone, let’s say, as you point out?
GEN. RICHARDS: Well, at the moment it is a – it is not an integrate capability that would we’re looking at except, potentially, in the case of a carrier strike but there is a French aircraft carrier and there will be a British aircraft carrier. And for 70 to 75 percent of the time, maybe more if we get this right, we won’t have to borrow each other’s if you like.
There’s that period when one of them would invariably be in refit that we’ve still got to work through. And making sure the right conventions are in place to allow us to use it at what would be a critical time for us and vice versa is the sort of work that I’m getting down into the detail with my French counterpart, as I said, later this month. So again, we’re alert to the risk.
I think the – what we should tend to look in the case of counterstrike, we’ve got two aircraft carriers for the price of one, if we get this right, rather than over focusing on that 25-percent period when we’re going to have a problem. We’ve got to find a way through that. In other respects, other than that, it’s – there’s no pooling – sorry, there’s pooling of capability but there’s no replacement of each other’s capability.
And I actually – in the case of the Navy and the Air Force, they do a lot of this anyway. In the case of the Army, partly because of Afghanistan, we haven’t done a lot of it. We now need, as we gear up for that post-2015 period, we now need to get those procedures and processes in place to enable to do – actually, what we did, as many of us were Cold War warriors, we did it quite spontaneously and naturally but in the post-Cold War period, as we’ve (done-up ?) something, we’ve rather lost the knack of.
So I think that’s – that would be my response is one, (lease area ?) counterstrike – we’ve got some property that we’re – the rest is actually doing what we it to be doing anyway.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you. Ambassador Lilijegren (ph).
Q: Thanks. It’s a great privilege to be associated with the Atlantic Council and to sponsor this event. I listen to you, Sir David, at the National Public Radio this morning and I have the same impression now. What you are saying about Afghanistan is very encouraging. Being a Nordic, of course, I have my parochial interests, I noticed that the British secretary of defence was in Oslo in November last year and he said something which pleased the natives immensely. Namely that Britain would like to see some strategic partnership especially with Denmark and Norway and that would enhance both the national security of Great Britain and these countries. Could you expound on this? Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: And since we’re on Afghanistan, let me load a question on top of that. It was a relatively rosy picture and cautious optimism, obviously, but nevertheless, compared to some assessments, rosy. On top of Henrik’s question, what worries you? What part of this concerns you? We’ve just had an assassination in Pakistan. It’s pretty worrisome. You’ve talked a lot about Afghanistan but Pakistan is right there. As you look at the picture, even in an improved situation, what gives you the greatest concern?
GEN. RICHARDS: Okay. Well, I think, probably you started off by (Oslo ?) but actually your question is more about the Baltic nations and Scandinavia so I’ll come back to you. The secretary of state, having done a lot of work as a shadow secretary of state before he took over, had identified the High North for one of the better term as an area that – you know, we’re not talking about it becoming an area of conflict but one that we need to focus more on.
As if climate change results in the ice cap moving, for example, there’s the possibility of being able to go over the top of the world to go from A to B. All these things need is more mutual understanding and a better dialogue and the first thing that we identified we should do is have that dialogue from which whatever emerges, emerges. So that was a background to it and your nation is obviously central to that and probably more directly interested in it than others. And I think the secretary of state felt that he might have some catalytic role in generating understanding in debate.
He’s very proud of the fact that he’s the first British secretary of state for defence Norway, I think, in 23 years, which says a bit about our relationship with some very important nations. And as a keen yachtsman, as I’m an admiral, of the British imperial yacht club I’ve sailed – (laughter) – a lot up there and I share that view. So he was knocking on that door when I was talking to him about it.
On Afghanistan, I suppose people who really understand Afghanistan will immediately talk about Pakistan and then if they really, really understand it they will start talking about the region more widely. So I think that’s the first thing I’d say: You’ve got to place it in the context of the region, particularly Pakistan, obviously India is a factor in this and Iran and the ‘Stans and so on and so forth and I think for too long we looked at it in the – through a perspective that was over focused on Afghanistan itself.
So while I think that things aren’t going very well at the tactical level, they really are going well. I don’t want to, you know, be accused of looking at this through two raised-in spectacles. But having been involved for some time now, I am probably better qualified, with one or two exceptions in the U.S. armed forces, than anyone to tell you that things are much better on the ground. And people come and talk to you in a way that was never possible and certainly wasn’t the case unless it was in, particularly, in those secure environments.
And I remember Karl Eikenberry used to say, you’ve got to look at this through a one-year, two-year, three-year prism as opposed to a weekly one. Over one year, you don’t see anything different; I promise you, over five years, it’s a big difference. I only wish that the sort of resources that Dave Petraeus has got today were available to me in 2006 because, as he will be the first to acknowledge, the thinking hasn’t moved on. I mean, you can dress it up a bit. We really knew what was required.
Population-centric stuff – we call them Afghan development zones; today, they call them security bubbles – and we were going to link the Afghan development zones. All those things, we just could not physically do it. if only we had been able to do it. So there are some big, long-term lessons about how you do these things.
I think one of the risks of Afghanistan is that people will think you can’t do these things. I don’t actually buy that. I think, you know, the idea that we’ve rewritten history is complete rubbish. I think we will be required to do these things again in the future, and the key is that we learn the lessons and do them properly, quickly next time, rather than just think that’s not possible.
And sometimes, they were accused of being too, sort of, moral as a soldier, but I just can’t contemplate that we would allow a Rwanda to happen again. And it would be a great shame if we learnt the wrong lessons from what we have done in Afghanistan. Because we took a long time to get the formula right, I think we are now playing catchup, as I said in that interview today. But at the tactical level, we’re catching up very fast.
The real issue will be, can – and Dave Petraeus has said this repeatedly – can the nonmilitary dimensions of what we’re doing there now match what the military is starting to do? Things like governance and so on, a sense of justice. Clearly the Afghan government is an extremely important part of that. I think Ashraf Ghani is now – it’s great that he’s back there alongside President Karzai and my good friend Clare Lockhart, who knows more about this than me, is sitting over there.
MR. KEMPE: (Off mic.)
GEN. RICHARDS: Is he?
MR. KEMPE: (Inaudible, off mic) – for a long time – (inaudible, cross talk) –
GEN. RICHARDS: Well, I didn’t know that but I was saying the right thing.
MR. KEMPE: Absolutely.
GEN. RICHARDS: – as someone looking after – (inaudible). But I’ve got a huge, huge regard for him.
I would say that, you know, things aren’t quite as easy as, you know, one might think. And you might think that’s a bit glib. But in the case of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, I think they’ve got horrendous problems and we do need to empathize a bit more with them. It’s too easy to criticize.
I said rather cheekily at a joint press conference with David Cameron when I was there a few weeks ago when I was asked about this and he – the answer was whether he asked me to review. And I made this point, it’s very, very complex, and if you or President Karzai trying to balance all the pressures on you – which we don’t really understand, but if you think about it, are not that difficult to take – then you begin to realize how very difficult this is.
And I did have the cheek to say, indeed, even Mr. Cameron would have a problem being president of Afghanistan, succeeding – (laughter) – and he said, you’re right. And I think Pakistan is the same. Pakistan really worries me.
You know, it’s too easy for the nonmilitary and even some of the military should know better to say, actually, Pakistan could do more and should do more. Well, obviously, they should do more, in one sense. But I can tell you, having been over there a lot and having spoken to them, it’s one hell of a problem. To keep one man on the border requires two more people just ensuring he’s fed and resourced and his ammunition gets up, in the most inhospitable terrain, and then you’ve got to control your own base the whole time because the insurgents are now operating against them as much as they are against us.
So this is all doable but I would just suggest that we all need to be a little bit more understanding of the difficulties and the pressures on those two countries alone. And there is obviously more, too.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you. We’re down to the last four minutes, so I’m going to ask – I’ve seen two other people – three other people with questions, but if you can keep them to 30 seconds each, and no longer, then we’ll have a couple of minutes at the end for General Richards to either answer all of them or just cherry-pick one, depending on our time. Please? And identify yourself for General Richards, too, please.
Q: General, I’m Walter Staffner (ph). My background is foreign service. And by the way, I was RCDS 1979, which was a wonderful year.
You know that without the national guard and our reserves, it would not have been possible, really, to do the types of things that we’ve been able to accomplish in both Iraq and in Afghanistan. I wonder – my question is, I wonder how seriously you are working with the British equivalent of the National Guard, how are you using them and what kinds of resources you’re putting into them? Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: And very quickly, here. Thank you.
Q: Sunjin Choi. CDS, thank you so much. My question is really in regard to reducing the cost in efficiency. You mentioned the defense reform initiative. Do you anticipate – (inaudible) – will address real cost-cutting – (inaudible, audio interference) – will address cost-cutting addresses to increase efficiency and reduce cost? Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you for being so disciplined in your questions. And Hans Benedict, please, as the final question.
Q: Hans Binnendijk from the National Defense University. All 28 NATO nations are essentially going through what Britain just went through, what the United States just went through. And my question is, how can we be certain that at the end of 28 sets of force reductions and budget cuts we won’t have major gaps in the overall NATO capability? Much of this is being done at the national level without a lot of regard to what others are doing. How do we orchestrate this at the alliance level?
GEN. RICHARDS: A very good question. Well, on our equivalent – and it’s not exactly the equivalent of the National Guard; it’s a territorial Army and a naval and an Air Force equivalent.
It’s a very good point. We actually did take them out of the – (inaudible) – to a degree, and then they’re factored in, in the sort of overall approach. But the detail restructuring of the total army in particular, which is by far the biggest of our reserve forces, is going through a separate study at the moment, are, I think, there’s no doubt that what we aim for is a single, integrated force so that people – I mean, colloquially, we talk about “one army.” It actually wasn’t one army. There were two armies. And we want an integrated force where you can, more in the way you do, dial into reservists under certain conditions and within certain contracts for certain areas of activity.
I mean, in particular, I’m very keen on using civilian skills in a military context for upstream prevention activity, for example. Huge amount that we can do in that area. But it’s ongoing work and their importance and their potential value in terms of efficiency – they can be cheaper – is well-recognized.
The only thing I’d quickly say is that they aren’t appropriate for everything because some of what we’re doing today is extremely demanding in terms of training. There’s no way that a reservist can cope, or hope to cope, with those sort of areas.
And similarly, when you deploy on military operations today, we have a duty of care which a lawyer is constantly monitoring, which means we’ve got to put a hell of a lot of training effort into them. And that means, in some respects, it’s often actually cheaper to use a regular soldier than a territorial soldier. But we’re on the case and it isn’t straightforward. And the Duke of Westminster, no less, is watching me closely on it.
The defence reform unit aims to do everything, actually, that you hinted at in your question. I think it’s going to be a neat trick delivering the efficiencies that we have of that work.
My guidance – and this is way beyond me because the secretary of state himself and the prime minister, indeed, is taking interest in it, is that we must be genuinely radical. And how that translates into, you know, being able to tackle some very traditional structures are not yet certain. I mean, I’m up for it but we’ve got to make sure we don’t chuck the baby out with the bathwater in order to achieve it. But a lot is being placed on it. A lot of emphasis is being placed on it. And I have an idea that it’ll be a close-run thing to achieve a level of efficiencies – one, ensuring that we are properly ready for future activity.
I mean, for example, at the moment, we don’t have a Cyber Com. I’m very keen that we have our equivalent of Cyber Com. Where do you get the resources from that within an overall reducing envelope? That means we’ve got to dig deeper somewhere else. And there are other similar examples.
I think that’s a very good question, I must say. And it concerns me a lot. And It’s something that the chiefs of defense will be talking about in Brussels later this month. As I said earlier, I had a very good lunch with Admiral Mullen yesterday and we talked about it there. You could argue for the NATO perspective. We now have reached that point where we have to go into specialization. Well, I don’t see a great appetite yet for that amongst most of our nations’ political leaders. But it could be that we, the military, have to be very wise on this one and generous-hearted and force the pace because otherwise we’ll fall into the trap that you’ve rightly identified. But all I can tell you rather – (chuckles) – to my answers, is we’ve got the issue and as Admiral G said in your opening comments, Admiral, this is probably not a good time to be a chief of defense. (Laughter.)
MR. KEMPE: Well, that seems to be a nice note to close on. General Richards, this has been a terrific opportunity. It’s an honor to have you with us. We wish you the best in your assignment and we’ll support you however we can.
Thanks, also – we know it’s a tight schedule. You’re off to the Pentagon now and you’ve worked us into your schedule. It’s great for us at the Atlantic Council as well. Let me thank you for taking the time from – (inaudible, applause).
GEN. RICHARDS: Thanks, thanks. That was very kind – (inaudible, applause).