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Transforming to Effects-Based Operations: Lessons from the United Kingdom Experience

Authored by Dr. Andrew M. Dorman. | January 2008

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SUMMARY

Outside the United States, the United Kingdom (UK) has led the way in seeking to transform its military forces to meet the new strategic context in which it finds itself. Like so many of its counterparts, it has sought to do this within a defense budget that has continued to decline as a percentage of gross domestic product. This has meant a series of changes to the traditional approach to defense that have gone much further than the United States and many of its European counterparts. In essence, for good or ill, the UK has pushed ahead with changes to areas such as the use of contractors, both at home and on the battlefield; acquisition reform involving leasing and Public-Private Partnerships; the disposal of surplus defense real estate; and the role of sponsored reserves. As the same time, a considerable amount of attention has been given to how operations are conducted. As part of this process, the UK?s Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces have officially sought to adopt an effects-based approach to operations within the context of an overall ?comprehensive approach? that brings together the various organs of government.

For the United States, the UK?s approach to military operations is important for a number of reasons. First, the UK frequently engages in a variety of similar type operations from which there are lessons that may be applicable to the United States either now or in the future, such as counterinsurgency in Northern Ireland or nation-building in Sierra Leone. Moreover, a number of authors have argued that there is a distinctly ?British way in warfare? which is particularly suited to such unconventional operations. Second, since the United Kingdom is one of the United States? closest allies, the UK armed forces are frequently engaged in operations in partnership with the United States. These have ranged recently from the Balkans to Afghanistan to Iraq. In fact, the only noticeable time the British were not involved in a U.S.-led operation since the end of the Cold War was in Somalia. The vast majority of these operations have involved sizable British commitments and a close integration of the British military in all the stages from planning through to nation-building. Interest in future British policy was most recently evident in the debate surrounding the transition of power from Prime Minister Tony Blair to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Third, the UK is a member of various military alliances, coalitions, and partnerships which place it in a strong position to influence how others conduct operations. These include the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); the European Union (EU); America, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (ABCA); the Five Power Pact in the Pacific; and the Commonwealth. In the case of NATO, it was General David Richards, the commander of the largely British Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) headquarters, who deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 and oversaw the expansion of NATO?s role, including, for the first time since the end of World War II, leading a significant U.S. contingent.

This monograph therefore seeks to examine the extent to which the UK has transitioned to effects-based operations to ascertain (1) areas where the U.S. Army could draw lessons from UK policies; (2) areas where the U.S. Army and the British Ministry of Defence could develop integrated or complementary approaches and doctrines towards transformation for future alliance/coalition operations; and (3) implications for the U.S. Army for working with the UK.

This monograph has been subdivided into four parts. Section 1 undertakes a review of the evolution of British defense policy since the end of the Cold War and evaluates the degree to which it has adopted an effects-based approach. Section 2 examines the British operational experience since the end of the Cold War, including an analysis of the lessons learned and its experiences in working with allies. Section 3 analyses the UK?s capability development through its doctrine and acquisition strategies. Finally, Section 4 evaluates the implications of these findings for the U.S. Army and makes 17 main recommendations.

INTRODUCTION

Outside America, the United Kingdom (UK) has led the way in seeking to transform its military forces to meet the new strategic context in which it finds itself.1 Like so many of its counterparts, it has sought to do this within a defense budget that has continued to decline as a percentage of gross domestic product.2 This has meant a series of changes to the traditional approach to defense that have gone much further than those of the United States and many of its European counterparts. In essence, for good or ill, the UK has pushed ahead with changes to areas such as the use of contractors, both at home and on the battlefield, acquisition reform involving leasing and Public-Private Partnerships, the disposal of surplus defense real estate and the role of sponsored reserves.3 At the same time, a considerable amount of attention has been given to how operations are conducted. As part of this process, the UK?s Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces have officially sought to adopt an effects-based approach to operations within the context of an overall ?Comprehensive Approach? that brings together the various organs of government.4

For the United States, the UK?s approach to military operations is important for a number of reasons. First, the UK frequently engages in a variety of similar type operations from which there are lessons that may be applicable to the United States either now or in the future, such as counterinsurgency in Northern Ireland or nation-building in Sierra Leone. Moreover, a number of authors have argued that there is a distinctly ?British Way in Warfare? that is particularly suited to such unconventional operations.5

Second, as one of the closest U.S. allies, the UK?s armed forces are frequently engaged in operations in partnership with the United States. These have ranged recently from the Balkans to Afghanistan to Iraq. In fact, the only noticeable time the British were not involved in a U.S.-led operation since the end of the Cold War was in Somalia. The vast majority of these operations have involved sizeable British commitments and a close integration of the British military in all the stages from planning to nation-building. Interest in future British policy was most recently evident in the debate surrounding the transition of power from Prime Minister Tony Blair to Gordon Brown.

Third, the UK is a member of various military alliances, coalitions, and partnerships that place it in a strong position to influence how others conduct operations. These include the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union (EU), and the Five Power Pact in the Pacific and the Commonwealth (America, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, or ABCA). In the case of NATO, it was British commander General David Richards who led the largely British Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) headquarters that deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 and oversaw the expansion of NATO?s role, including, for the first time since the end of World War II, leading a significant U.S. contingent.

This monograph therefore seeks to examine the extent to which the UK has transitioned to effects-based operations to ascertain: (a) Areas where the U.S. Army could draw lessons from UK policies; (b) Areas where the U.S. Army and the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) could develop integrated or complementary approaches and doctrines towards transformation for future alliance/coalition operations; and, (c) Implications for the U.S. Army for working with the UK.

This monograph has been subdivided into four parts. Section 1 undertakes a review of the evolution of British defense policy since the end of the Cold War and evaluates the degree to which it has adopted an effects-based approach. Section 2 examines the British operational experience since the end of the Cold War, including an analysis of the lessons learned and its experiences of working with allies. Section 3 analyses the UK?s capability development through its doctrine and acquisition strategies. Finally, section 4 evaluates the implications of these findings for the U.S. Army and makes a number of recommendations.

ENDNOTES

1. For the latest United Kingdom thinking on this, see Global Strategic Trends 2007-2036, London: Development, Concepts and Doctrine Center, 2007, www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/5CB29DC4-9B4A-4DFD-B363-3282BE255CE7/0/strat_trends_23jan07.pdf; Tony Blair, Our Nation?s Future?Defence, Speech made January 12, 2007, Plymouth, www.pm.gov.uk/output/Page10735.asp.

2. See Table D-4 on Defense Spending, Allied Contributions to the Common Defense, 2004, Washington DC: Department of Defense, 2004, p. D-5, www.defenselink.mil/pubs/allied_contrib2004/ allied2004.pdf; see also Defence Statistics, 2006, London: MoD, 2006, www.dasa.mod.uk/natstats/ukds/2006/pdflist.html.

3. See Matthew Uttley, ?Contractors on Deployed Military Operations: United Kingdom Policy and Doctrine,? Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College,

2005, www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB624.pdf;

Matthew Uttley, ?Contracting-Out and Market-Testing in the UK Defence Sector: Theory, Evidence and Issues,? Public Money & Management, 1993; Matthew R. H. Uttley, ?Private contractors on deployed operations: the United Kingdom experience,? Defence Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2, Summer 2004, pp. 145-165; Keith Hartley, ?The Economics of Military Outsourcing,? Defence Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2, Summer 2004, pp. 199-206.

4. ?Joint Service Publication 777-Network Enabled Capability,? MoD, www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/CorporatePublications/Reports/O therPublications/NE C/ Jsp777NetworkEnabledCapability.htm; ?The Comprehensive Approach,? Joint Discussion Note 4/05, www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/BEE 7F0A4-C1DA-45F8-9FDC-7FBD25750EE3/0/dcdc21_jdn4_05. pdf.

5. See Colin McInnes, ?The British Army?s New Way in Warfare: A Doctrinal Misstep?? Defense and Security Analysis, Vol. 23, No. 2, June 2007, pp. 127-141; B. Holden Reid, ?Introduction: Is There a British Military ?Philosophy?? in Major General J. J. G. Mackenzie and B. Holden Reid, eds., Central Region Vs. Out of Area: Future Commitments, London: Tri-Service, 1990, p. 1; Michael Howard, ?The British Way in Warfare: A Reappraisal,? in Michael Howard, ed., The Causes of Wars, London, Counterpoint, 1983, pp. 189-207; David French, The British Way in Warfare, 1688-2000, London: Unwin Hyman, 1990; Lawrence Freedman, ?Alliance and the British Way in Warfare,? Review of International Studies, Vol. 21, No. 2, 1995, pp.145-158; See also special edition of Defense and Security Analysis, Vol. 23, No. 2, June 2007.