Rome '08 Workshop

Crisis Management 

Air Chief Marshal Sir Anthony Bagnall GBE KCB FRAeS

Former UK Vice Chief of Defense Staff 

Sir Anthony Bagnall

Prior to my retirement in 2005, I was the U.K. Vice Chief of Defense from 2001 until that time. In that position, I was closely involved with the aftermath of September 11 and the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns. I would like to start my presentation by making a few general remarks. 


First, we have not yet talked about one key word, which is money. In my view and experience, the availability of resources and money has been a key factor and, to some extent, has driven policy. Certainly it has driven policy in my own country. 

Second, I would like to touch on political will. Over the years there has been strong U.K. access to the U.S. for historic reasons. The strength of U.K. access to the EU and Europe, however, is a very interesting question, because our prime minister, Gordon Brown, has a stronger European linkage in his mind than perhaps some of his predecessors had. 

Then there is the question of events. In my 41 years of experience in the Royal Air Force, events drove the response. In some cases, such as the foot and mouth crisis, the firemen’s strike, and other national events, there were choices to be made. Do we have enough manpower? Do we have enough resources? How do we deal with the events? In other cases—September 11 is a very good example of a time when something had to be done—we did indeed start off with a coalition of the willing, but then built from there into a stronger operation. The difficulty arises with things like equipment programs: It takes many years to buy new aircraft, new ships, and new tanks. Therefore, flexibility has to be built into those platforms. 


Let me now touch on some of the challenges we face in preparing for particular events and for all operations. 

Nature/Scale of the event. The first challenge involves the nature and scale of the happening or event that we are responding to. 

Timeline. Does something have to be done today or do we have months or weeks for force generation to deal with the equipment fit on our aircraft or on our ships and to put urgent operational requirements in place? 

Political will. At what point does a nation say, “This event is in my backyard” or “Because of our membership in this alliance we have got to respond to it”? How far across the world, in what nations, does something have to be done? And how does this tie in with the aspirations of the NGO participants who have a much wider global reach? 

Peacetime structures. In 1996 in the U.K. we set up a Permanent Joint Headquarters. I sat in on a particular meeting in which two of the service chiefs said, “Over my dead body will we have a single joint headquarters; it will never work.” The fact is that it has worked, and several other nations have looked at what the U.K. has done and said, “This is not a bad idea, let’s do something similar.” 

There is also the question of the strength of the peacetime structures, where you invest your scarce resources. One lesson we learned in the U.K. is that you do not invest money in attachés around the world to work with the diplomatic staffs at your peril. We did not have much attaché presence in some countries in and around Afghanistan. We had to parachute them in and they did a pretty good job at building relationships. I would like to pay tribute to the diplomatic staffs in the Foreign Office and in the Department for International Development (DFID) for the way they worked together on the ground. 

Coalition. Who is in the coalition? Is it a coalition of the willing? 

Media and public support. Is public opinion supporting a particular operation? There has been significant apathy in the U.K. regarding our operations in Iraq, yet much greater public support for the Afghanistan operation, where something has to be done for the good of that nation. 

Intelligence. How much should we invest in intelligence gathering? With whom do we share our intelligence? I believe we got a lot better at intelligence gathering after September 11. Before that time, some intelligence sharing was taking place bilaterally. But in 2003, the U.K. set up a Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) where people from the various agencies responsible for dealing with terrorism work in the same room 24 hours a day and seven days a week. They are there to alert people when there is a need. 

Managing after a conflict. How do we deal with conflict aftermath? The U.K. has put an awful lot of time, effort, and money into how to deal with the aftermath in Iraq once the war is won, no matter how long that war goes on. I think we have all seen the difficulty we had in the U.K. getting people to take a common approach in terms of time, energy, drive, and money, and how to improve on that. It is sad to hear that we are still worrying about electricity and about other basic things in Iraq despite the time we have had to deal with this as a nation. 


I would now like to talk about the EU and NATO headquarters. I personally have no difficulty with the idea of a single headquarters to deal with NATO matters and with attaching an EU planning cell to it. I do have questions for our ministers, however, about a separate, stand-alone EU headquarters: How big would it be? What would its role be? Would it just do planning? Where would its resources—ships, tanks, airplanes, people—come from? How would it conflict with planning to respond to a crisis that almost certainly would be going on in NATO headquarters and in national capitals? How many staff cars would it have? How many drivers? How many national support elements would be attached to it? What would the cost be? Those are my concerns here, not the ideology of it, because we need to have some mechanism for joining in a far more intimate manner EU and NATO planning efforts. 

The other realities that must be dealt with include: 

Different cultures. There are differing cultures within nations, with some nations more upfront than other nations. 

Urgent operational requirements. How many ships, tanks, and airplanes are fully equipped for operating in the heat of the desert (the temperature in Kuwait can be over 40 degrees Celsius)? High temperatures need cooling devices, and weapons rest to deal with the heat. In the U.K. we have dealt with NBC training and cold-weather suits, for the climate that we are used to, so it took us a while to get ready. There are also other hugely important things like body armor. How much money do you spend on body armor? How many sets do you need? Do you have a set for every man and woman who may go to war or do you have a set for those who are most likely to go to war? This was a huge political issue in the U.K. during my time as the vice chief. It did not represent a lot of money but it was something we had not given enough attention to at an early stage. I know that such lessons have been well taken abroad by the nations already. 

Reserves. How many reserves do we need? What skill sets do they have? What is their readiness? 

Peacetime readiness/Force structures. How many of your forces are at very high readiness? What is the cost of that? How many are back here at a month’s readiness? What is the training bill that goes with readiness? 

Rules of engagement. Different nations have different national priorities. Let me talk about just one example, the matching of dropping bombs from airplanes to potential targets and collateral damage. What is an acceptable degree of collateral damage when you are fighting a war? Is it the risk that no one will be killed other than the enemy? Is it the risk that 10 people may die if you hit the train on the bridge? There are clear guidelines and clear directions on this in the U.K. and they are never broken. 

Manpower. What level of manpower do you have in peacetime? In the U.K. we have cut back in the army, navy, and air force over the years and rightly so, because, during World War II, it took about a thousand bombers to bomb Dresden with 10 people on each Lancaster. Today, the same effect can be achieved in a conventional operation with one or two platforms with standoff weapons from a great distance. 

Role of civilians and the military. Is the peacetime force structure large enough? How do we deal with time away from home? What are the pressures on the families? 


There is a huge, crucial need in my view for peacetime training with the NGOs—with those headquarters wherever they are within the national capitals. It is also essential to get the top people involved in those training events. In the U.K.’s case, we were fortunate: The prime minister held certain types of exercise and we played down the chain. When the chiefs of staff met in London every day, the battle rhythm started at about 6:30, going through chiefs of staff meetings with all the players we needed and who were joining up around the table. Exercises are important, be they virtual or live. 

The final point I would like to make is that all this needs to be joined up by good information, by common data, by common understanding, and, above all, by intraoperability. 

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