Theme: Several national security strategies which have been devised in Europe offer guidelines for Spain to develop one of its own.
Summary: Since 2007, national security strategies have been developed and made public in the Netherlands, the UK and Germany, and the last was that of France, in June 2008. They stem from modern states’ need to update the security model they have been providing for their societies, and their publication is novel because until now European governments had never committed to writing what they perceived their security problems to be. Some had White Papers on Defence or Home Affairs, but they had never yet decided to emulate the US tradition or the precedent of the European Security Strategy of 2003.
In Spain, in the course of 2008, the intention of devising such a strategy has been expressed by the Prime Minister in his swearing-in speech; by the Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba and by the Defence Minister, Carme Chacón, to the Defence Affairs Commission of Parliament on 30 June 2008. As Spain prepares to design a national security strategy, this ARI offers a possible roadmap to follow, based on previous experiences in Europe. The paper analyses the reasons that justify the adoption of such a strategy, the national security concepts that are defined, the bodies that are created to make such a strategy possible and the policy-creating procedure to be followed so that the Spanish process might benefit from the experience of others and move smoothly towards the country’s first national security strategy.
Analysis: Over the past two years, some of Spain’s allies, such as the US, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK and France, have devised national security strategies allowing them to re-organise the tools and procedures that governments’ can rely on to confront the new security risks facing their societies. The development of these strategies was made necessary by the need to undertake a structural reform of the concepts, functions and organizations connected with security, after attempts at partial adaptations proved unsuccessful.
Practically until the 1990s, a distinction was made as to the sources of risks: there were domestic ones which threatened the individual security of citizens and individual property, and external risks that placed the very survival of the State in jeopardy. This dichotomy led to a very clear separation between the external and domestic dimensions of security. The process of globalisation tested this division of functions by making borders more porous, as a result of which criminals quickly took advantage of the opportunities posed by free movement of capital, persons and merchandise, and by making states more dependent on each other. The combination of the internationalisation of security with the internalisation of defence began to blurr the distinction between domestic and external security, between defence and interior policy, between that which is public and that which is private. This created a linear security, a security continuum, in which new problems are incorporated (securitisation). As a result of this, insecurity shifted to a new, intermediate realm, somewhere between defence and citizen security, where new, hard-to-confront risks emerged, such as organised crime, illicit trafficking, proliferation, street gangs, ethnic conflicts and the crumbling of fragile states, among others.
In order to confront these new risks, partial adjustments of existing policies were attempted, but this was not enough. The defence authorities started to change their complex concepts of national defence; they opened up to more diplomatic aspects of international cooperation such as arms control, disarmament and international aid, while military aspects shifted to international peacekeeping missions. Interior Ministry officials woke up to the idea of international cooperation and created new security forums to discuss their interdependence on police, customs or intelligence issues. At times they have also turned to the armed forces and the intelligence services to back up the police at major sporting events and international summits or to stop illicit trafficking, while police forces have travelled abroad to provide assistance or stability.
The response to these changes has run into several structural problems. The first is one of knowledge, because these are recent phenomena and when it comes to combating them little is known about their causes, dynamics and effects; furthermore, they evolve quickly. The second problem is one of complexity because each phenomenon involves several dimensions of risk, which frequently interact with each other. With multi-dimensional risks such as pandemics, the smuggling of human beings or nuclear proliferation, it is hard to confront these problems with just one policy or through just one ministry. Taking international terrorism as an example, its strictly terrorist activities combine with other crimes such as proliferation, illegal immigration, drug trafficking, petty crime and money-laundering. Thus, a multi-dimensional response is needed so that efforts are not spread out too thinly. The third problem is one of resources because globalisation has also sapped the superiority and efficiency of the state’s traditional tools. Some of them, such as the armed forces, for instance, no longer serve to dissuade possible aggressors the way they did before, or are not enough to handle problems such as terrorism. States still have ways of responding to new risks but must use them in a different way and combine them so they are effective against new individual players, criminal organisations, street gangs, terrorist groups, insurgent movements, war lords and child soldiers or rogue states with the ability, means and will to defy with impunity the rule of law or the international order which governments must protect.
The realisation that the security of advanced societies has entered a new phase –one that is qualitatively different from the previous one and requires structural changes– has led those governments most concerned about security to consider a restructuring of their role in this situation. As the US did in 2002 and the EU in 2003, European governments with a greater strategic tradition have begun to think about the kind of security they must offer and get this down in writing so that all those involved know the scope of the new social contract between States and societies. In April 2007, the Netherlands published its national security strategy (Strategie nationale veiligheid). In March 2008, the UK released its first such strategy: The National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom: Security in an Interdependent World. In May 2008 in Germany, the CDU/CSU group in Parliament presented its Sicherheitsstrategie für Deutchland proposal, although it did not win the support necessary to become a full-blown national security strategy; in France, the so-called Défense et Sécurité National. Le livre blanc, did in June 2008.
National Security: Concepts and Strategies
These strategies lay out the respective governments’ vision of the risks and threats that their societies face and the way in which the authorities plan to provide security to the State and its citizens. The strategies contain, at the very least, a concept of national security, an assessment of the security problems that affect it, the tools available to the State and the measures that should be adopted. The strategies that have appeared each have their own specific features but they share common concepts and contents.
First of all, national security emerges as a higher-level concept that replaces others such as national defence or domestic security at the centre of the government’s attention. The goal of national security is for the State to protect its citizens from serious collective risks, whether they come from deliberate acts (international terrorism, organised crime, proliferation, international conflicts, weapons of mass destruction, aggression by other states…) or emergencies of a natural or human nature (pandemics, critical infrastructure, financial crises, raw materials, migration, ecological damage…). Protection no longer just includes the catalogue of public expression of risks (trends) as has been the case until now, but also phenomena (drivers) that cause or aggravate them (globalisation, climate change, competition for energy, poverty, unfair or bad governance, demographic risks…) and unlikely risks (wild cards, black swans, unknown unknowns, strategic surprises…) which can cause irreparable damage to advanced societies. National security now broadens the timeframe for government action because the authorities must not only respond to risks when they occur (reaction) but must also anticipate them and their causes (prevention) and overcome their effects (recovery).
European concepts of national security have common features: a comprehensive nature (encompassing all dimensions or risk), continuity of function (with no separation between the external and internal dimensions), time (extending protection from reaction to include prevention, anticipation and recovery) and management (ranging from coordination to integration). These concepts also coincide in the area of protection: population, society and territory, with some variations (in the case of France, there is a contribution to international security and republican values).
These national security strategies start from an analysis –done with varying degrees of thoroughness– of the risks that affect the concept of security over the long, mid and short term. The risks and interests that are affected do not vary much because these are societies in similar states of security. In the Netherlands, the vital interests to protect are territorial security (the risk of an attack, real or threatened, against Dutch territory, such as an attack with means of mass destruction), economic security (the risk of an interruption in commercial flows), ecological security (from an environmental disaster to contamination of the water supply), physical security (a dam bursting, or an epidemic) and political or social stability (because of social tensions). The analyses evaluate risks which, either on their own or in combination, are capable of hindering what the Finnish strategy refers to as ‘vital functions’. In the German strategy, the risks to prevent are terrorism, proliferation, conflicts in fragile states, threats to supplies of raw materials and the effects of climate change. Finland considers the following to be risk scenarios: serious disruption of critical infrastructure and economic activity, natural disasters, risks linked to migration and the use of armed force. The British strategy shares the first three risks that are in the German version, but then adds civil emergencies and risks sponsored by hostile states. France cites terrorism, proliferation, attacks on computer systems, espionage, major kinds of trafficking, epidemics and natural emergencies. The typology of risks is aggravated by some factors, or drivers, which act on them (among others, France mentions globalisation, non-state violence, conflicts that are ‘frozen’, and the decline of Western powers. The UK cites poverty, inequality, bad governance, the shortcomings of the international system and competition for energy (among other resources) and even less likely but more dangerous prospects (for instance, the end of the nuclear taboo, which has prevented nuclear attacks out of fear of the side effects).
Depending on the evaluation that is made, the strategies establish which responses to adopt: what needs to be done and the tools that must be applied. For example, and with regard to the risk of organised, international crime, the British national security strategy describes what is being done: the strategy applied to terrorism (Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Contest since 2006), the agencies created, one to confront organised crime and another for borders (Serious Organised Crime Agency and UK Border Agency, respectively) and what is going to be done in cooperation with agencies of other countries to help in the fight. Responsibilities can also be shared out among ministries and agencies. For instance in France, besides domestic security for people and individual property, the Interior Ministry is in charge of civil security, protection of the economic sector, crisis-management on French territory in coordination with regional authorities, control of all security forces including the Gendarmerie, and creating new bodies to provide information, planning and operations for centralising and integrating the Ministry’s functions. The strategies also note what areas of action are reserved to States and which are shared bilaterally or multilaterally with other States or with new private or sub-state entities.
All of the strategies state the relationship between ends and means. National security strategies cannot get into minute detail over what means are needed, but they do offer a general framework of the resources available for implementing the strategies. While the French strategy has set a budget limit of 2% of GDP for military defence and investment of €300-400 million for the Interior Ministry for the next five years, the British plan, for instance, calls for going from a budget of £2.5 million per year for intelligence and counter-terrorism operations up to £3.5 million in 2010/11. The Dutch plan has no specific budgetary outlay, but the strategy did devise a working programme to evaluate its needs. It also features measures to boost the availability of an investigative, technological and industrial base associated with national security, to develop mechanisms for integration among new entities with the goal of progressing in the inter-agency culture and to have centres and training programmes needed to provide knowledge and experts to the new security system.
The structure of the strategy can range from being quite simple, such as devising just the national security strategy, as the Dutch, British and Germans have done, to the most complex extreme, which is to formulate the strategy and develop one its dimensions –defence– as the French have done. There is no creation per se of a new strategy –that of security– but all other policies must adapt to the goals of the new meta-strategy in a process of adjusting tools, areas of responsibility and state resources to the new concept. In this way, the integration effect is achieved because the national security strategy serves to guide and orient the rest of the government’s strategies and policies. The national security strategy shapes the planning that is derived from it and avoids duplication, contradiction and holes in strategies and policies that existed from the outset, rather than resorting to coordination after-the-fact, as was done until now. The process of devising a security strategy is, in fact, a process of streamlining aimed at creating synergies and enhancing the coherence and efficiency of the various policies associated with security.
For this purpose, the strategies have set in motion a process of exhaustive review of policies, organisations and procedures in each of the diplomatic, military, police, civil protection and intelligence agencies, among others, that are involved in national security. The strategies also set out which bodies, rules or procedures should be created, eliminated or modified as a result of the structural changes imposed by national security strategies. Along with these accompanying measures, the strategies establish specific forecasts that are to be revised periodically. And the process is opened up to new political and social agents such as Parliament, society in general and experts in assessment and review, so that it is possible to achieve a culture focused on security.
Therefore, the new national security strategies go beyond merely temporary changes and generate a process of qualitative change that is sustained over time. The devising of such a strategy allows Governments to study various combinations and uses of the tools available to the State, streamlining their deployment, avoiding duplication and generating synergies and economies of scale.
The Process of Devising a National Security Strategy and the Bodies Necessary to Oversee it
The process is a special one in that national security strategies are a new product of advanced societies for which there is no prior experience to draw on, and because they reflect the willingness of Governments to exert leadership. In all precedents for this in Europe, processes were launched and led by Heads of Government without delegating any tasks to any ministry or subordinate agency. The mandate includes the person or persons in charge of devising the strategy; the people who take part in it, along with the goals of the strategy and deadline. In the Netherlands, the strategy was developed by the Government through a leadership committee and inter-ministerial working groups. The process was similar to that of the British model, in which the strategy was devised in the office of the Prime Minister. In Germany, the process was the result of a proposal by the UDC/CSU political parties. In France, the President opened the process up to participation by Parliament and created an independent commission made up of representatives of the government and civil society to carry out the task.
In the processes we have studied and compared, the bodies that took part in developing national security strategies answered to Heads of Government (staffs, senior officials) or included representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Interior, Finance, Health, Technology, Industry or other government agencies, civilian experts or government experts acting in a private capacity, and representatives of Parliament. The processes of developing the strategies did not experience major technical or political complications because at stake were issues of State on which there was a great degree of prior consensus. Another reason was that the strategies only define the broad outlines of national security, without going into the details that are developed later by the strategies themselves and the policies that stem from them. In these conditions, the time needed to devise a strategy is short, between six and 12 months.
The presentation of the strategy is the final part of the process, and its formalisation by Parliament or the Government is designed to showcase a policy of great social interest. Its written format shows the Government will for commitment with its people and ability to evaluate risks and security responses. The new format marks another step in the need for Governments to show accountability by confirming its goals in writing and distancing itself from oral ambiguity.
The most significant organisational change involved in these strategies is the creation of advisory and oversight bodies close to the President or Prime Minister. The act of coming up with a formal strategy means nothing, in and of itself, if there is no will to execute it. So heads of government are opting to set up bodies that strengthen their abilities for perception (vision), assessment (method), integrating and supervising (leadership) all the strategies and policies derived from the national security strategy that is in force. Until now, the management of the different aspects of national security was fragmented among various ministerial departments involving defence, diplomacy, intelligence, police, judges and other officials. Later, inter-ministerial coordination bodies were created and this trend spread from one country to another. The bodies emerged as joint centres for analysis of terrorism, organised crime or protection of critical infrastructure and Spain quickly created its own versions (National Centre for Counterterrorism Coordination, Centre for Intelligence on Organized Crime and the National Centre for Infrastructure Protection, respectively).
The new focus is that of integration because inter-ministerial coordination has been insufficient, and the new strategies have had to acknowledge the need for supra-ministerial formats, such as the Council for Defence and National Security in France, or the Committee for National Security, International Relations and Development in Britain. Such bodies host decision-making meetings of Government ministers along with the permanent secretariats tasked with devising a national security strategy and overseeing its implementation. The new bodies do not duplicate or renounce existing capabilities, but must assure their synergy through prior integration mechanisms. The bodies must provide guidelines for orienting strategies, goals and planning, and follow-up supervision bodies to make sure the strategies are coherent and efficient. National security councils are not inter-ministerial coordination bodies, but rather ones involved in supra-ministerial integration, so they answer directly to Heads of Government.
Lessons for Spain
The reasons we have discussed here should serve as advice for Spain –and even urge it– to have a national security strategy and a national security council within the office of the Prime Minister. Recent governments have confronted complex security problems such as international terrorism and massive immigration, which have overwhelmed the ministries concerned and forced the Government to mobilise resources and personnel at the local, regional, state, international, government and private levels.
Spain has no strategic culture, and until now it has not acted as a strategic player. For this reason Spanish governments have neither a tradition nor legal obligation to put down in writing the security goals and activities they plan to develop. Instead, each department lays out its own plans in oral testimony to the corresponding parliamentary commission, without a written backup that specifies evaluations, goals and strategies. Devising a national security strategy, which could be revised when circumstances warrant it, would serve as a framework for all the strategies that stem from it. It is in just this way that, from now on, the British or French strategies in defence, interior, civil protection or counter-terrorism will have to adapt to the countries’ new national security strategies.
Looking ahead to the future and engaging in analysis have not been strong points of the Spanish government, and not even the Prime Minister’s office has a department that could take charge of overall, permanent management of national security under the terms set by recent trends. In the absence of such a department, and in order to coordinate their execution or deal with problems of an inter-ministerial nature, the Government can convene spot meetings of some ministers or agencies, none of which specialise in inter-ministerial management. Inter-ministerial coordination has been attempted with government committees known as Comisiones Delegadas, the National Defence Council, the Foreign Policy Council and the Inter-ministerial Commission on International Cooperation. But none of them has the stature, structure or procedures needed to oversee an integrated national security policy in a permanent and efficient way. The Prime Minister also has specialised management tools: the Department of International Policy and Security (DPIS in Spanish) to advise him on his international agenda; and National Intelligence Centre satisfies specific needs. The Department of Infrastructure and Monitoring for Crisis Situations exists to back up the coordination of those other agencies. But none of them gives the Prime Minister the necessary ability to take the permanent lead in managing national security, both in its routine development as a government policy and in special times of complex crises.
In a speech to Parliament on 8 April 2008, before being sworn in for a second term in office, the Prime Minister announced plans to propose a national security strategy aimed at improving the safety of Spanish society. Meanwhile, the Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, in his address to a parliamentary commission on 27 May 2008, said that national security was the State’s first responsibility and described the new security risks posed by organised crime, international terrorism, illicit trafficking, weapons of mass destruction and environmental disasters. In order to meet new security needs, the Minister said the Government was preparing to devise a national security strategy, as the prime minister had first announced. Later, on 30 June 2008, in her first appearance before the parliamentary defence-affairs panel, the Defence Minister Carme Chacón also expressed a desire to come up with an overall national security and defence strategy in order to deal with new security challenges during the era of globalisation.
Once this generic desire has been expressed, the next step would be up to the Prime Minister, who, like his European counterparts, must state the goals, a timetable and the methodology for devising such a strategy. One lesson learned from other European countries is that the process must be led by the Prime Minister’s office because the process takes responsibility for security to the highest level of the executive branch. Officials at lower levels take part in the process, but there is no European precedent for delegating responsibilities to any of those levels because all of the strategies carry with them a redefinition of areas of responsibility and functions, and these cannot be redefined by the same bodies that are subject to such reforms.
None of the Ministries cited has its own strategy (the White Book of 2000 and the Strategic Revision of 2003 at the Defence Ministry were isolated exercises which were not later made systematic). So it seems logical to devise first a national security strategy that will shape strategies at the Ministries of the Interior, Foreign Affairs and Defence, and in cooperation and other areas. It will always be easier to integrate them at the outset than to coordinate and transform them afterward (the Dutch Government approved its national security strategy along with a working programme to develop it).
The process presents challenges and opportunities. National defence directives have been complaining about the need to create a culture of defence. This shortcoming can be attributed to other areas of security and in general to politics and questions concerning the role of the State. The loss of a sense of State is a side effect of the process of globalization which has forced States to transfer the exercise of some areas of jurisdiction to international and sub-State bodies. However, the new security situation forces the State to strengthen its role because neither international nor local organizations can offer people the protection that States can provide in the face of new threats, and as a result of this there is an enhancing of how people identify with the State. Systematic debate on national security among the government, political parties, social groups and experts provides a unique opportunity to encourage a culture of security.
Another opportunity and challenge is that of the streamlining of the security sector. Given this new circumstance of security in a new context, national security strategies represent an opportunity to rationalize responsibilities which had been distributed on the basis of risks and functions that were different from the current ones. The new European strategies encourage streamlining of areas of responsibility and functions of the various state, sub-state, public and private bodies, with the goal of integrating them to confront new risks. As acknowledged by the EU treaty that was approved in Lisbon, national security will continue to be the exclusive responsibility of States, but under the new division of labour, strategies will determine which areas of security are better handled at the bilateral or multi-lateral level. This explains the speed with which major European powers have unveiled their proposals to see if they are accepted in the next reviews of NATO’s Strategic Concept and the EU’s European Security Strategy.
Conclusions: The idea of devising a national security strategy is not a fad to be followed, but rather a need acknowledged by States as responsible as those mentioned here to change the way they guarantee the security of their territory and their people. Once a government recognises the need to prepare a security strategy and decides to do it, a formal process is launched. Its mandate need only show the determination of the Head of Government to get the job done, identify the person or persons physically entrusted with devising the strategy, and define the scope of participation and the contents which are desired for the strategy.
The Prime Minister and some Cabinet Ministers have expressed the will to devise a national security strategy. As of January 2009, the details of the process were not known. But in light of what is known about the strategies developed in the Netherlands, the UK, Germany and France, these provide valuable tips for a roadmap for Spain to follow suit. In accordance with the experience of these countries, the next step is for the Prime Minister to take the lead in the process of devising a national security strategy. He must also open up a constructive process on the new security model that is to be established, the broad outlines of the strategy, the system tasked with planning, devising and supervising them, and the redistribution of jurisdictions and responsibilities among all the forces and dimensions of the new security model.
In the end, the strategy must express the security concept that the Government wants to provide for Spain and its people, the risks that will be covered, the forces and policies that will be used, which responsibilities will be up to the State and which it wants to share with third parties, the kind of bodies needed for the strategy to be integrated and the resources allocated for all these changes. European practice also recommends looking ahead to changes that need to be made later: the main responsibilities, strategies, organisations, doctrines and legal norms that must be revised, and the method and people tasked with evaluating and revising them periodically.
Through this roadmap learned from Europe’s experiences or any other, Spain must end up with a national security strategy that will allow it to face changes in security in the new century. The new strategies do not skirt the sensitivity of an advanced society like Spain’s to the complex security risks of this day and age. But it is one thing to be sensitive and quite another to be vulnerable, and this is the main obligation which some European governments have assumed in writing.
Senior Analyst for Security and Defence, Elcano Royal Institute
 For a detailed evaluation of strategies and systems by sector, seeFélix Arteaga & Enrique Fojón (2007), El planeamiento de la política de defensa y seguridad en España, Instituto Gutiérrez Mellado, Madrid.