New Report on UK National Security CouncilNovember 7, 2014
For connoisseurs of government organization the Institute for Government (IOG) have just put out a report on the functioning of the British National Security Council and National Security Advisor system since it was created in 2010. In general the IOG advocate a stronger centre to the UK governmental system and this is the lens that they look at the NSC through. They see that the role of the NSC/NSA has been coordination and implementation because that is what the ministers involved have wanted. As a result there has been no sign of the NSC doing anything to fill the ‘who does British strategy’ gap.
The report does a good job of putting the NSC in the context of previous coordinating mechanisms for ‘overseas and defence’ in the UK. The authors argue that the impact of the new system has been greatest in areas that didn’t have much coordination before but less in areas where there was more coordination – such as Afghanistan. The way the NSC has functioned though is a product of the commitment of the current prime minister to attend meetings and this may change if a new PM finds the system less useful.
One importance observation is the size of the NSC secretariat, it’s less than 200 organized into five directorates: Civil Contingencies, Foreign Affairs, Security and Intelligence, the Office for Cyber Security and Information Assurance and the UK Computer Emergence Response Team. Foreign Affairs has around 25 people hence the capacity to make policy is quite limited.