Spring 2011 Issue 12
“50th anniversary of the War Studies
Department, Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst
by another key agency, usually from within the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
“We have enjoyed equal partnerships with the Chief of the General Staff, the First Sea Lord, the Director General of Science and Technology, among others,” explains Prof Christopher Elliott, director of doctrine and strategic analysis for General Dynamics UK. “However, in these conferences, we are looking for a dialogue, not a party line. If our partner wishes to put forward a particular view, we will find someone who does not agree with them. It’s a process of hypothesis and antithesis hopefully leading to some sort of thesis.”
Unique perspective Another unique element to the Whither Warfare approach is the participation of its ‘greybeards’, senior commentators whose role is to observe, comment and have the last word.
“These are people who understand the issues,” says Elliott. “They have worked at the very top but are currently outside the chain of command – a recently retired service chief or four-star is an ideal person. But we have also had senior civil
servants, people of the calibre of Lord May, president of the Royal Society, and we’re about to welcome Sir Max Hastings. These people listen and contribute during the conference and then they have the last say – an hour at the end when they can put over their conclusions. It means the conference is not summed up by the principle sponsor – the MoD, say, or Chief of the General Staff. The last thoughts of the conference come from intelligent, experienced people who pull together the threads of the argument and say what they really think.”
The senior commentators fulfil another very important role – speaking up for what Elliott calls “the middle-rank engine room”. This is an element within the armed forces that can often see problems clearly but whose voice is not always heard. And at the Whither Warfare events, the commentators are able to be their champions, putting forward ideas and opinions that those at more senior levels can’t express, simply because of their positions.
Senior levels With attendees from very senior levels of the MoD, academia and the defence industry – including General
> General Dynamics UK Research Foundation
The General Dynamics UK Research Foundation was created as a forum for debate about important issues concerning the UK defence community, and is part of the Company’s commitment to research and development in the UK. It’s led by Prof Christopher Elliott, who retired from the Army with the rank of major general, at which point he was acting as the Army’s ‘professor’, responsible for doctrine and development. Also involved is a doctrine expert, Nick Beswick, and Louise Roderick, who does all the administration.
The Foundation acts as a focal point for General Dynamics UK’s analysis of evolving concepts and doctrine and the implications for equipment requirements, and for the provision of end-user context for R&D activities. The Whither Warfare series of seminars is one of the Foundation’s key activities. It also supports a number of other activities, including: the maintenance of a knowledgebase of UK, US and NATO publications; a series of events at Reading University on strategy, warfare and military technology; and work with the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on conferences.
For more information about the Smallpeice Trust, visit: www.smallpeicetrust.org.uk
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