Parliamentary and Government Disconnect – Desire versus Reality – UK Coastal Security

Should the Royal Navy deploy within the UK littoral to support Home Office maritime security forces to protect us from terrorists and people smugglers as recommended by the Home Affairs Select Committee on 3rd August 2016?

Defence Synergia (DS) fully concurs and supports the proposal that UK Armed Forces must contribute to maritime, land and air security of the UK homeland as a contribution to the government’s Primary priority and responsibility – Homeland Defence. In this regard it is absolutely logical and right that the Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Marines (RM) (and RAF and Army as necessary) be part of the UK’s maritime coastal security Capability to supplement Home Office coastal security Forces and responsibilities as a ‘Military Aid to Civil Authorities (MACA)’ tasking.

As SDSR 2015 fact sheet states:

“We {MOD} will buy two new River Class Offshore Patrol Vessels to deliver a more modern and more capable fleet of up to six vessels. We will use these ships to support our destroyers and frigates in delivering routine tasks and to enhance our contribution to maritime security and fisheries protection.”

The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) report states:

Chapter 3 on the National Security Context describes threats to the UK which need to be countered: terrorism and extremism; impact of instability; migration; serious and organised crime; global health security issues with from global movement; etc.

Chapter 4 on National Security Objective 1, describes how MOD will protect our people at home, in our Overseas Territories and abroad, and protect our territory, economic security, infrastructure and way of life, using the full spectrum of our national power.

4.3 This is an integrated, cross-government effort, at home and overseas. For example, our domestic work is led by the Home Office, but also involves a wide range of other government and law enforcement agencies. Our security and intelligence agencies work closely together, and with law enforcement, military, industry and international partners, to protect our national security. Our diplomatic work led by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) builds effective, long-term partnerships overseas, which enable us better to disrupt threats to the UK and tackle them at source.

4.13 We will use all of our capabilities to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity, and our Armed Forces are ready to use force when required.

4.14 The Royal Air Force protects our airspace and is ready at all times to intercept rogue aircraft. The Royal Navy protects our waters, and deters terrorist and criminal activity. Our investment in Maritime Patrol Aircraft will significantly improve our ability to maintain our maritime security.

4.15 In 2011 we established the UK National Maritime Information Centre to coordinate information about our maritime security, nationally and with international partners. We will enhance joint working between law enforcement agencies and the Royal Navy to increase patrolling in our territorial waters. We will also improve aerial surveillance operations and information sharing across government.

Our borders

4.24 Legitimate passengers and goods must be able to travel without hindrance. But our borders are also a critical line of defence at which we can and do identify and disrupt threats to our security, including from terrorism and serious and organised crime.

B. Our Armed Forces

1 Royal Navy must be deployed in Channel to protect from terrorists and people smugglers
2 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/492800/20150118-SDSR_Factsheets_1_to_17_ver_13.pdf
3 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/478933/52309_Cm_9161_NSS_SD_Review_web_only.pdf

4.32 The essential role of our Armed Forces is to defend the UK so that we can live in peace.

Defence policy

4.37 To support the delivery of this strategy, our defence policy sets the Armed Forces eight missions. Routinely, they will:
• Defend and contribute to the security and resilience of the UK and Overseas Territories. This includes deterring attacks; defending our airspace, territorial waters and cyber space; countering terrorism at home and abroad; supporting the UK civil authorities in strengthening resilience; and protecting our people overseas.

The RN’s smaller vessels (15 x Mine Counter Measure Vessels (MCMV) and 22 x patrol vessels) need to be exploited to leverage best value for money as part of a coherent UK border/coastal defence/security Capability. Apart from the few specialised tasks the smaller RN vessels undertake (Gibraltar Squadron, submarine security), when not deployed abroad, what else should these vessels be used for, but enhance UK maritime security as other departments increase their Capabilities? When resources are scarce across all departments, the UK needs to ‘sweat the assets’ it has to gain maximum ‘bang for buck’ to deliver UK Homeland security.

Thus, it makes sense, and is already a stated SDSR task, to use the RN to support the Home Office to provide coastal and maritime security against organised crime gangs smuggling people, weapons, drugs, contraband, etc.

The six expensive, and currently alongside, Type 45 destroyers are insufficient and inappropriate for such roles and tasking. Future RN ship procurement should consider procuring a large fleet of smaller, faster, highly adaptable and configurable Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV)/Combat Patrol Vessels (CPV), similar to World War II Motor Torpedo Boats, etc. Such a flotilla could supplement Police, Border Force and Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) to properly protect our coast with an inter-operable fleet of littoral and open water capable ships. This could be the basis of a UK maritime security and defence industrial procurement strategy to innovate, sustain and invigorate the UK ship building industry.

Such a larger OPV/CPV fleet, with UAS support, would provide the UK with greater reach and greater flexibility to meet future emerging unconventional maritime and littoral threats.

The MOD could also consider transferring/loaning OPVs currently/imminently to be retired to the MCA or Border Force, or could perhaps jointly man them with crews from these UK maritime security agencies.

Coastal maritime security is an evermore important and critical task now that the UK is leaving the EU and will be under immigration invasion from the whole EU North Sea and channel coastline, Eire coastal ports across the Irish Sea, and the open land border with NI. A major consequence of BREXIT is that the UK needs to increase, maximise and harmonise UK security and military assets to protect our shores and borders.

If the RN can send ships to the Mediterranean to patrol the waters to stop immigrants and terrorists crossing from MENA and Turkey to EU, the RN/RM already have the skills, training, processes and resources for this task, so why not provide the same Capability and maritime security for the UK coast? This is an essential UK security task that provides valuable training, excellent use of resources, and adds operational value to UK maritime security whilst RN/RM personnel are ‘at home’.

Basing 1 x MCMV and/or 1 x OPV in major ports around the UK and assigning them stretches of coastline to patrol in support to the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA), Border Force, and Police, etc, would significantly enhance UK coastal security. The RM could also support port, harbour and coastal landing security. Such support would provide the RN and RM with more public engagement and visibility around the UK, not just a few major South coast ports. The Army and RAF Regiment, with appropriate law enforcement support, could also assist in securing UK borders and coastline as a Homeland Security task.

4 http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/the-equipment/ships#patrol-and-mine-hunters
5 Fishery Protection Squadron – HMS Mersey, HMS Tyne, HMS Severn – http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/operations/uk-home-waters/fishery-protection

Military aircraft and Unmanned Air System assets should provide the ‘eyes in the sky’ to cover the large sea and coastal areas so that the few UK maritime security surface assets can be better coordinated and vectored onto suspect vessels and provide a proper 24/7 capability.

This use of our Armed Forces for MACA to enhance maritime security shows the UK public how the military contributes to UK security when not deployed abroad – good PR, public engagement and recruiting activity.

Such a pan-government Maritime Security Force would rapidly deliver an urgently needed effective UK maritime security strategy – a coherent pan-government department cooperation and coordination Capability run from the UK National Maritime Information Centre (NMIC, perhaps renamed the UK Maritime Security Centre (MSC)), reporting to the National Security Centre (NCS).

Funding would need to be addressed, but is not a showstopper. DS recommends that, as a minimum, fuel, extra maintenance and any extra task-linked overhead costs (not manpower as these are already covered by MOD) for this support should be charged to the Home Office as any MACA task would be.

DS proposes:

1 – Home Office and MOD immediately liaise to generate a RN MCMV/OPV flotilla to support this urgent UK maritime security task for next 36 months (minimum unless an overseas emergency takes precedence): English Channel (Priority 1), Irish Sea (Priority 2), North Sea (Priority 3). If necessary, stop/limit lower priority RN overseas tasking.

2 – Embed appropriate law enforcement staff onboard RN vessels undertaking these duties and/or deploy multi-disciplined joint/lead crews across UK maritime security vessels. We already have fire, police, paramedic manned emergency response vehicles –
http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/joint-response-police-and-fire-vehicle-trial-in-northamptonshire-labelled-a-success-by-minister-1-7104339 .

3 – Rapidly evolve a Joint, Home Office-led, Maritime Security Centre, based on the NMIC, bringing together security risk oversight, tasking and resources coordination from UK Border Force, Maritime Coastguard Agency, Police, RN, etc, maritime security intelligence, forces and resources.

4 – rapidly develop a UK maritime security industrial strategy to harmonise and deploy common, modularly designed, and task configurable RN OPVs and similar sized HO maritime security vessels.

5 – Investigate where Army and RAF resources can support this immediate maritime security task, and other Homeland security tasks as part of the envisaged SDSR recommended improved MOD support to Homeland Resilience tasking.

6 – Update JDP 02 (Operations in the UK: The Defence Contribution to Resilience) to reflect more proactive MOD MACA support to OGDs across the security, resilience and emergency response activity spectrum.

In theory, and according to the 2014 UK National Strategy for Maritime Security (NSMS), what DS is proposing should already be happening or possible – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/310323/National_Strategy_for_Maritime_Security_2014.pdf.