Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Demos report on National Security for the 21st Century

Demos's report on National Security for the 21st Century (pdf, 669 KB) was published just before Christmas. (Thanks to Bruce Schneier for the link) It has some radical suggestions for changing the UK's approach to security threats. From the executive summary and recommendations:

"The British government lacks a clear and coherent view of the nature
and priority of risks1 to the United Kingdom.
The national security architecture is flawed in its design. The
government remains structured around functions and services with
separate budgets for defence, foreign affairs, intelligence and
development. Whitehall departments, intelligence agencies and the
police forces that make up the security architecture have changed very
little in the past two decades, despite the end of the Cold War and the
attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.
This model of government may have suited the security
environment of the Cold War when the UK faced a threat to its
national survival but the complex and uncertain security
environment demands a fundamental review of how government is
organised. This is especially true if government is to respond to
‘wicked’ problems, issues that are unbounded in time, scope and
resources. The common, unifying, external threat of nuclear war has
been replaced by a plethora of security challenges such as trafficking
and organised crime, international terrorism, energy security,
pandemics and illegal immigration. They are dangers that are present,
but not clear.
The government remains faced with a set of problems it cannot
solve on its own. In order to respond to the new security paradigm,
the UK’s security architecture must adapt, not just in terms of
processes and structures but in the mindsets of ministers and civil
servants. At the same time, it must develop close relationships with its
‘strategic partners’, the private sector and the wider public, which
raises further challenges of transparency, information sharing and
This pamphlet sets out a definition of and an approach to ‘national
security’, a concept understood by some as an abstract notion relating
to the ‘condition of the state’, and referred to in security and
intelligence legislation. It argues that the concept of national security
can serve a more vital role, as a principle for organising government.
The pamphlet draws on reforms and innovations from governments
elsewhere in Europe and the United States and suggests some radical
and innovative ideas on which to shape the future of the national
security architecture.
Its core argument is that while the UK government has been able
to ‘muddle through’ by creating new units within departments, merge
teams and allocate more resources for agencies to expand, the present
and future security environment urgently demands a more integrated
and strategic approach. Tinkering with the machinery will continue
to pay short-term dividends but it will only ever achieve marginal
improvements. Long-term success must be based on a more inclusive,
open and holistic approach to national security...
Part 2 of the pamphlet outlines how the government can transform
itself in response to the challenges identified in the pamphlet. The
changes revolve around three essential principles of adaptation in
 the need for a holistic approach to national security, based
on systems thinking, which allows individuals, agencies
and departments to take a much broader perspective than
normal; this includes seeing overall structures, patterns
and cycles in systems, rather than identifying only specific
events or policy options
 the creation of an open and transparent national security
architecture for ministers, civil servants and the
government’s strategic partners – the private sector and
the wider public
 a transformation of the national security architecture
based on the principles of public value, an intellectual
framework for reform in government that, although still
in its infancy, has huge potential for changing the way in
which the government measures its performance and
maintains the trust and confidence of society...


National security strategy
1. A national security strategy has the potential to
transform the way government approaches issues
of national security but the development of a strategy
must be comprehensive and supported across the
political spectrum,within Whitehall and by the
2. While the publication of a national security strategy is
welcome the government should go further and create a
national security secretariat, based in the Cabinet Office
and subsuming the Overseas and Defence Secretariat,
Civil Contingencies Secretariat and parts of the Security
and Intelligence Secretariat.
3. In collaboration with the prime minister and cabinet the
national security secretariat should identify three to five
most serious and immediate priorities for UK national
security. These might be serious and organised crime,
counter-proliferation, counter-terrorism and energy

System reform
4. The government should create networks across
Whitehall on issues such as ‘governance and rule of law’,
‘trade and diplomacy’, ‘climate change’ and ‘security
sector reform’. This will require changed departmental
structures based more heavily on teams and projects,
which are able to call on expertise from outside. These
networks will be the responsibility of a senior civil
servant, accountable to both a minister and Parliament.
5. Clarification of ministerial roles on issues of national
security is needed. At present too many key policy areas
or departmental units in government have little or no
ministerial leadership. This is not a call for a new
ministerial post in the Cabinet Office on security but
rather a plea for better ministerial oversight on a range of
policy areas such as security sector reform and conflict
prevention and on units that fall between departments
such as the new Stabilisation Unit.
6. Public value must become the intellectual framework for
public services and national security.
7. A national training centre should be created for the
intelligence agencies and law enforcement.
8. Based on the current IT programme SCOPE, the
government should go further and create a similar
system of information-sharing software based on the
successful Intellipedia in the US.

Accountability and oversight
9. The post of ‘spokesperson on national security’ should
be created and based in a new national security
10. The government should make public an annual threat
11. A quadripartite parliamentary select committee on
national security should be created – bringing together
existing select committees that focus on UK national
interests, security and defence policy. The government
must allocate more resources to parliamentary select
committees including a panel of national security experts
National Security for the Twenty-first Century
who can be called on to undertake investigations in
specialist areas.
12. The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) should
not become a parliamentary select committee. Instead the
ISC should be strengthened by recruiting a team of
independent investigators while more resources should
be provided for the ISC secretariat."

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