YPFP London: Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope's Speech

Posted on November 25, 2012

A few weeks ago YPFP London members had the privilege to listen to a talk by First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope at HMS PRESIDENT as part of our Distinguished Speakers Series. Below you can find his speech in full. 





Thank you Briony for your introduction and it is a pleasure L & G to be addressing such an esteemed and interesting gathering.

I’m delighted we’ve been able to hold this event at HMS PRESIDENT, the biggest Royal Naval Reserve Unit in the country.

It was the key maritime Forward Operating Base for Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee River Pageant, as well as for maritime security of the Olympics and Paralympics, the largest peacetime operation since WWII, with some 18,000 Service personnel.

* * *

Apocryphally, the distinguished Lord Hailsham, a former Lord Chancellor, once boarded a train in London, but soon discovered that he had lost his ticket.

The conductor recognised him and said: “Don’t worry about it sir.  I’m sure, when you find it, you’ll send it in.”

An anxious Lord Hailsham replied: “Young man, the question is not, ‘where is my ticket?’, but rather, without it, ‘how am I supposed to know where I’m going?’”!

Where our future security environment ‘is going’, and our response, in terms of what maritime power can bring, is my subject this evening.


[National Security Strategy Themes]

When it comes to “where our country’s security strategy is going”, the National Security Strategy is our ticket, and as First Sea Lord I’m keeping firm hold of it, for a number of reasons.

First, it recognises that our future security environment is one in which the threats are many, varied and uncertain.

Second, it endorses the enduring requirement to protect our nation’s interests in terms of prosperity and security, and to uphold our values in terms of justice and freedom around the world.

Third, it underscores the benefit of a “whole of Government” approach to how Britain projects its influence, and that in our networked world we are more effective when we bring together dot gov, dot org and dot com.

Fourth, it advocates a shift from intervention to prevention and, as the Secretary of State for Defence puts it, ‘from Campaigns to Contingency’.

And perhaps most importantly, the NSS recognises that, especially in these straitened times, security and prosperity are two sides of the same national interest coin.


[Utility of Maritime Power]

So what value can maritime power (the use of the sea to influence events on land) bring to that national interest coin?

Today, we project our influence through a complex counterpoint of the instruments of national power – diplomatic, economic and military.

From a naval perspective, this ranges from, on the one hand, providing as the Strategic Defence and Security Review puts it, “the ultimate insurance policy in this age of uncertainty”……in the form of the submarine-based Continuous At Sea Deterrent, now in its 44th year……

……to, on the other hand, supporting the peaceable aims of the Antarctic Treaty System……through the deployment of HMS PROTECTOR our Ice Patrol Ship, currently in the South Atlantic for the Austral Summer.

Indeed, around the world there are, out there right now, nearly 7000 loyal, courageous and professional sailors and marines……either preparing to deploy or deployed on operations.

In Afghanistan, our valiant Royal Marines and Aircrew, as well as Bomb Disposal, Logistic and Medical personnel, are, together with our sister Services, Coalition Forces and the ANSF, making significant contributions to the security effort.

Meanwhile around our home waters the Royal Navy is providing fishery protection and coastal maritime security, whilst in the Indian Ocean we are working with other navies to counter piracy and maritime terrorism, and in the Middle East region (the world’s maritime centre of gravity) we are preventing the arteries of global trade from hardening.

After all, in a world in which a third of global GDP moves across our oceans, our national and global economies need safe seas.

When describing the value that maritime power brings, I could happily go on, but the point I really want to make is not simply one about the breadth of tasking, rather it is one about persistency of presence, the value of being on the beat 24/7.

It means that what the nearly 7000 sailors and marines are tasked to do today, is typical of the work they are tasked to do every day, so they’re not garrisoned in Naval Bases, but out there being used, day in day out, to deliver the national strategy.


[Smart Power]

And from this rapid sweep across the operational horizon, there are I believe a couple of wider points worth making.

In particular, maritime power’s contribution to smart power

Smart power, the ability to employ both soft and hard power assets more effectively…...with all the levers of national power to produce more enduring outcomes, is especially relevant in an age of austerity.  And is precisely what the Royal Navy is doing today.

Without the maritime power that we uniquely provide, not one of the activities I’ve just described, nor their accompanying effects……


·            of international reassurance

·            of capacity building

·            of collaboration

·            of promoting collective security

·            of deterrence

not one of these effects that we seek to leverage, would be accomplished.

Indeed, it is this capacity for maritime power to deliver effect, in more nuanced ways, that makes it, I believe, the epitome of smart power

All too often the military is associated with providing an effect in terms of delivering a high-end war-fighting ‘last resort’, but it’s arguably as much about providing a more nuanced ‘first resort’, especially in its support to wider cross-Government strategies and upstream conflict prevention.

And because the delivery of smart power places a premium on prevention, the ultimate prize in our National Security Strategy, exercising smart power has a number of implications for navies, not least for the RN in terms of contributing to International Defence Engagement, which I’ll touch on a little later.


[At Sea]

The first implication that exercising smart power has for navies is, most obviously, that navies need to be forward deployed, at sea, just as 70% of our available ships and submarines are today, working with other nations’ navies.

Only by having that persistent presence in regions of interest, can navies deliver maritime power, that ‘effect from the sea’, with the greatest expression:


·            by maintaining confidence in sea trade upon which we depend;

·            by building trust with an ever-widening circle of international partners;

·            by bringing reassurance to fragile states;

·            by preventing the consequences of illegal activity reaching our shores;

·            and by deterring potential aggressors from challenging our national interests.


In my view, “the more one deploys, the less one needs to be kinetic.”


[At Readiness]

But it’s not just about being ‘at sea’, it’s also about being ‘at readiness’, the second implication, if navies are to make a meaningful contribution to smart power.

It’s about having the capabilities to respond swiftly, and right across the ‘spectrum of uncertainty’, as world events last year served to remind us.

Consider for example, one of the key innovations that came out of the SDSR, the Response Force Task Group, otherwise known as the RFTG.  It proved highly successful in achieving effective influence across the Maghreb, as well as simultaneously splitting and undertaking national contingent tasking east of Suez.

The RFTG is a highly capable quick-reaction force…...consisting of ships, aircraft and marines, and as such is suited to a wide range of Defence tasks:


·            from maritime strike to disaster relief

·            and from amphibious operations to civilian evacuation.


Indeed this year, the same Task Group provided security for the Games, here on the Thames and off the South Coast.

And as I speak, the Task Group is now in the Mediterranean with amphibious forces embarked, forward deployed, providing contingency whilst developing the Combined Anglo-French Joint Expeditionary Force.

In many ways, the RFTG is the cornerstone of the “Adaptable Britain” security posture articulated in the SDSR.

Which is why we can look forward to the RFTG becoming all the more capable, as our Carrier Strike capability comes on line in just 6 years time?

And with its return, our ability to influence events ashore, whether by promoting stability, deterring aggression, or providing options for military intervention, will become correspondingly more effective.

* * *

Now I cannot imagine that such an audience as this needs reminding of the utility of air power from the sea…..nor of just how compelling an expression it is of our nation’s outward-looking character.

However, when it comes to the utility of air power from the sea, for the UK, the year 1989 is instructive.

I say that, not because it was the year the Berlin Wall came down, but because it was the only year between 1945 and 2010, that the UK did not deploy her Carriers in support of her national interests.

To put it simply, countries that aspire to strategic international influence have aircraft carriers…..and countries that have them, use them.

To my mind, admittedly influenced by Carrier command during Sierra Leone in 2000, now all too many years ago, air power from the sea was an important part of our national story last century, and it will continue to be a vital part of our national story this century.

* * *

But to return for a moment to this broader notion, that exercising smart power places a premium on prevention, which in turn demands navies to be ‘at readiness’.

There are two aspects to being ‘at readiness’.  The first is straightforward, .it is about speed of response.  The second aspect concerns this ‘spectrum of tasking’.

Indeed, our ability to be ‘smart’, is a function of the recognition given to matching the ‘spectrum of capabilities’ we require, with the ‘spectrum of uncertainty’ we confront.

After all, smart power is only as effective as the range of hard and soft options it has at its disposal.

Clearly this includes the employment of all the levers of national power, but within the military sphere, and the maritime component specifically, it’s about providing the greatest range of capabilities.

Constabulary capabilities absolutely, by which I mean preventing piracy, maritime terrorism, drug smuggling and human trafficking, not to mention protecting our fish stocks, but high-end warfighting too.

And of course, if you can do the latter, you can by implication do the former.

It goes without saying, but I will, that if your deployed units are capable only of providing constabulary tasks…...then when a more robust response in the region is required, a prompt, timely reaction simply is not possible.

That is why we’re investing in highly capable Type 45 Destroyers, three of which have been on deployment this year.  And that is why we’re maximising the versatility of the Type 26 Global Combat Ship, which will become the mainstay of the Royal Navy into the 2060s.

Ultimately, though, effective prevention is about credible deterrence.

Of course we need to be able to respond to the ‘most likely’, but given the National Security Strategy’s observation that “the risk picture is likely to become increasingly diverse”, we must also be able to respond to the ‘most dangerous’.

The trick is to ensure that smart power has the capacity to be an effective influence across both.  And so it makes sense therefore that, if you want to keep your options open, you have to invest in those capabilities which offer options.


[Value of Integration]

Whilst maritime power offers such ‘options’, in my view, what makes it an important component of smart power, is its ability to integrate.

At one level, maritime power already integrates much of the cross-Government agenda, by contributing to our nation’s security and prosperity in a number of ways

·            first, meeting the Serious Organised Crime Agency’s requests in the area of counter-narcotics,

·            second, maintaining confidence in maritime insurance;

·            third, by protecting our energy security, indeed, by 2020 about two-thirds of oil and gas consumed by the UK will arrive by sea;

·            and fourth, through understanding the consequences of climate change, which as the High North (the Arctic) becomes more accessible, so the map of global maritime trade will be redrawn.

Indeed, with maritime issues crossing at least 8 Government Departments (FCO, DFiD, Cabinet Office, Treasury, Home Office, DECC, BIS, DfT and the Marine Management Organisation), there’s not much that maritime power doesn’t actually touch, to the extent that cross-Whitehall maritime policy development is now managed by the Maritime Security Oversight Group.

* * *

And, at another level, maritime power integrates nations, because our shared global commons, drives shared common purpose.

As a result, interoperability comes naturally to maritime forces


·            just think of the 16-nation maritime element off Libya last year,

·            or in the Middle East region, the 27 nations in the Combined Maritime Force, including countries with whom we have not regularly engaged, such as Japan and South Korea.

·            or the 11-nation annual exercise, Saharan Express, with 7 West African countries, contributing to the development of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea,

·            and how, maritime information and activity is co-ordinated both nationally and internationally, by the UK’s National Maritime Information Centre at Northwood in North West London.

The bottom line though is this, the instinctive capacity of maritime forces to integrate, maximises their utility and their employment, and they offer real opportunities for us to be smarter.



L & G, to conclude.  In a world that, for economic and security reasons is beginning to ‘look seaward’ again…...in terms of threats, opportunities and interests, I hope that you would agree that a maritime perspective, with its ability to integrate…...brings welcome value, especially in these straitened times, to the national interest coin.

As does the wide utility of maritime forces to maritime power’s breadth of expression, which can make a telling contribution to the delivery of smart power, especially in terms of capacity building and upstream prevention.  To which being ‘at sea’ and being ‘at readiness’ are vital features.

But while Defence is about preventing wars, we can only do so if we can win them, and that means we must retain the capability to operate, nationally and multinationally, right across the ‘spectrum of uncertainty’.

Doing so gives utility, utility gives choice, and choice gives confidence, the confidence L & G to engage with our complex and uncertain world.

Thank you and I look forward to your questions.