National Security Strategies: The Italian Case

National Security Strategies: The Italian Case
Working Paper


Italy does not have a National Security Strategy (NSS) in the strict sense of the word, ie, a single governmental document for the medium-to-long term identifying the main security threats and response guidelines at a strategic level. Instead, it has several documents on the institutional responsibilities for the external (military) and internal (civil) dimensions of security.

By ‘external security’ is meant the assessment and countering of threats from the exterior, or those developed abroad before materialising at a national level. The military are traditionally in charge of this task. By ‘internal security’ is meant responding to interior risks and threats, both of an intentional or accidental nature. This study starts with the description of these two dimensions of national security, following the approach adopted at the institutional level, although from the perspective that in the present international scenario both should form part of a single strategy, in line with the current trend in several European and Western countries. Some of the proposals in this document are in accordance with this idea.

External Security

(1.1) The Main Official Documents Relating to the External Dimension of Security
It is appropriate to begin by considering some of the official documents relating to the external dimension of security and regarding defence and foreign policy. This is particularly useful not only to identify a middle-to-long term perspective for external security (which, as we shall see, has an impact on the life of citizens), but also because the Armed Services are, by law, obliged to cooperate in support of other administrations involved in the internal dimension of security.[2] This means that, apart from the Arma dei Carabinieri, which is entrusted with important law and order tasks, the other Services can be also called on to operate in situations where public security is at risk, alongside Civil Protection and other actors involved on these occasions.[3] The documents considered here take note of the changes in the international scenario, single out the new threats facing Italy and provide guidelines and strategic orientation on defence in order to adjust the military response. They can therefore be considered part of the more general National Security Strategy (NSS).

The Defence White Paper (2002, p. 1) has a political value. It ‘was born from the Government’s will to take stock of the situation of the Armed Services and, more generally, of the whole sector of defence with respect to the new geo-political framework outlined after […] September 11th […]’ (italics added). It is a document of over 600 pages whose first part studies the new international strategic scenario and which then goes on to accurately describe the condition of the military forces: from defence to missions, from economy to industry, from (military and civil) personnel to materials and infrastructure. The document also identifies the general guidelines to continue the transformation, already in progress, of the tool (balancing and/or reorganisation of personnel, means and materials, and of the defence budget) for the Armed Services to be more efficient and adapted to the post-cold war context. It does not pave the way for a single Armed Service or provide a response to specific threats in the middle-to-long term, although it does provide a necessary starting point for such an effort.

The Strategic Concept of the Chief of Defence Staff[4] (2005) is prepared by the Joint Staff of the highest military authority, reporting directly to the Minister of Defence. The Strategic Concept ‘delineates the conceptual reference frame for the planning, arrangement and employment of the Armed Services, as a concrete technical-military accomplishment of the politico-military guidelines included in ministerial directives’[5] (italics added). Such a document, with a multi-year scope, is meant to provide the Chiefs of military staff of the three Services, the General Commander of the Arma dei Carabinieri and the National Armaments Director (responsible for the technical, operative and industrial areas) with the conceptual references for the development of the military tool in accordance not only with the changes in the international strategic environment but also with the evolution of NATO and the ESDP. It is therefore a concrete step towards a NSS: it proposes short, middle and long term objectives and the operational capacities necessary to accomplish the missions entrusted, again at a general level and not for any single Service. Worth noting for its completeness is a document of 2005 by the Chief of Defence Staff –‘Investing in Security’– which, however, contains no added value in terms of middle-long term national strategy compared with the Strategic Concept.

The Nota Aggiuntiva allo Stato di Previsione della Difesa is the document prepared by the Minister of Defence for allocating, year by year, the financial resources assigned by the Government. The Nota Aggiuntiva for the year 2009,[6] like previous ones, is made up of two main parts covering: (1) the international general context in which all the Services operate, in accordance with the above-mentioned documents, but with a greater level of precision as regards the current year; and (2) Ministry missions and programmes, with expenditure provisions in accordance with the budget law for 2009. This latter part, moreover, contains a chapter devoted to the ‘Defence Function’, covering the three traditional Services, and another on the ‘Public Security Function’ covering the Arma dei Carabinieri. It is evidently not a document on middle-to-long term strategy but, on the basis of the economic and financial resources available in a certain year, is in a way a continuation –through the assignment of resources to programmes– of the broader view outlined in the above-mentioned documents. The Nota Aggiuntiva contains expenditure provisions for multi-year programmes, contingent upon the availability of resources on annual basis.

Finally, the Minister of Foreign Affairs commissioned a group of experts to explore challenges and opportunities with a horizon to 2020 for Italian foreign policy.[7] As a result, The Rapporto 2020, le scelte di politica estera (Report 2020, Choices of Foreign Policy) was published in 2008 and it has certainly had an appreciable effect because it is the first time that an official document envisages Italian interests, objectives and national priorities in foreign policy under a non-partisan and shared approach.[8] The Report, which is expected to be regularly updated,[9] aims at laying out a coherent and reasoned route for Italian foreign policy in the middle-term. It has an essentially thematic approach (energy security, economic and financial policy, world governance), with a chapter devoted to regional priorities and specific references to the Balkans and the Mediterranean. What is relevant to this document –even if foreign policy intersects but does not either fully contain a NSS or is fully contained in it– is the bipartisan effort to identify national interests in the middle-term, an approach which should be followed when creating an Italian NSS.

(1.2) External Threats and Implications for Internal Security
There are two reasons why it is appropriate to consider documents concerning defence: (1) national security includes the function of defence (or external security); and (2) defence actors, with their specific expertise and means, can be directly involved in internal security actions on national territory.

The first point has now been confirmed and is included in all of the Italian documents mentioned, and is shared by other European countries such as France, Germany and the UK (in their respective NSSs), and the EU itself (in the European Security Strategy,[10] ESS). As the Nota Aggiuntiva says (2009, I-3), the new international scenario ‘implies an extension of the traditional concept of defence now oriented towards the protection and safeguard of national interests while disclosing and expressing not only from a military point of view but also especially economic, social, financial and, more generally, geo-politic ones. Such an extension also embraces aspects which are generally connected to internal security’ [italics added]. The two dimensions are therefore closely connection, often indistinguishable from one another and therefore part of a single concept of national security.

As for the identification of threats, the defence documents (White Paper, 2001, p. 8) do not seem to identify a clear list, affirming instead that it is about risks which ‘base their own capacities not only on armaments, but rather on more diversified and sophisticated instruments’, ‘it is about a plurality of asymmetrical activities which, variously combined and articulated, configure those risks […], terrorism represents a catalyzing and multiplying factor [of]’.

The four fundamental missions of the Armed Services remain unchanged [italics added]:

  1. To defend the vital interests of the Nation against any possible aggression, with the aim of safeguarding the integrity of national territory –land, territorial waters and air space– as well as the security and integrity of lines of communication and the security of areas of national sovereignty and of Italian citizens residing abroad, from any possible threat.
  2. To safeguard the Euro-Atlantic area within the framework of the Nation’s strategic and/or vital interests, by contributing to the collective defence of NATO.
  3. To contribute to the management of international crises, by participating in crisis prevention and management operations with the goal of guaranteeing international peace, security, stability and legitimacy, as well as affirming fundamental human rights in the spirit of the United Nations Charter, within the framework of international organisations –above all NATO, the EU and the UN– and/or bi-and multi-lateral agreements, with particular regard to Europe’s capability to manage crises autonomously.
  4. To participate in the safeguarding of free institutions and carrying out specific tasks in the event of catastrophes and in other cases of extraordinary need and urgency.[11]
  5. Nevertheless, the Ministerial Directive [italics added] ‘indicates, as a common factor for the four delineated missions, the prior necessity to extend the action of the military tool to the most recent forms of asymmetric conflict, with particular regard to international terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction’.

It is interesting to remark that Report 2020 (2008:49) also points out a series of external threats, or better, [italics added] ‘from the perspective of Italy [points out] the priorities of an agenda for global security: […] fight against terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, environmental protection, energy security, crisis management, with their possible spill-over effects, the promotion of human rights and democratic values’. Such challenges entail a series of risks for Italy’s national interests and citizen security which materialise or can be materialised in many different ways –eg, terrorist attacks on national territory, piracy on important trade routes, transnational criminality, illicit trafficking in drugs, arms and human beings or clandestine immigration–. The latter is of particular concern to Italy, not only for geographical reasons but also for the lack of an immigration policy to handle the arrival of thousands of immigrants and refugees during the Balkan wars in the 1990s. Italy continues to be a preferential destination for those who come from or cross Eastern Europe and the southern shore of the Mediterranean. A report by the Joint Research Centre[12] on security highlights that Italian citizens perceive clandestine immigration as the most important threat to their own security, not only in occupational terms, but also as regards economic, social and criminality factors.

Report 2020 devotes a whole chapter to the internal and external dimension of energy security. Besides the development of a national and European energy policy for the protection of critical energy infrastructures and the diversification of sources, it also believes that it is necessary to engage in external action to maintain or create bilateral relations with supplier and transit countries, as well as to maintain the regional situation stable (Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, North Africa and the enlarged Middle East). In such a framework, it is necessary for Italy to contribute to the International Community to prevent and contain threats.

As regards the public security tasks carried out on national territory, since the year 2000 Italy’s Arma dei Carabinieri is an independent service (Law 78/2000), and in this respect the official documents determine the resources and directives for the accomplishment of military tasks. Such tasks can be developed both on Italian territory as well as abroad. As a police force, the Arma depends from the Ministry of Interior for the permanent development of judicial police and public security tasks. Finally, as anticipated, the other three ‘classic’ Services can also be called on to operate on national territory in a cooperative way in the event of ‘public danger circumstances and in other cases of extraordinary necessity and urgency’. The Government recently deployed soldiers in the streets of some cities even without such conditions having arisen.

(1.3) Multilateral Intervention Framework
As noted above, the protection of national security assumes a wider meaning and includes cooperation for stability and international security. Of course, such a concept is part of the responsibility of the greater international organisations Italy belongs to, particularly NATO, the EU and the UN.[13] It is also necessary to consider the engagements assumed after ad hoc bi/multi-lateral agreements, such as the US-led mission in Iraq which concluded for Italy in 2007. The military have been assigned new scenarios to operate in and new tasks to accomplish, without however abandoning the traditional task of defending the country’s institutions, territory, airspace and waters, which although downgraded to ‘possible threats’ have still not disappeared. The new types of mission abroad focus essentially on crisis prevention and management with activities (often of a civil nature even if developed by military personnel) connected to assistance and the training of military, police, judicial, border and custom forces, among others.

At the moment, Italy is engaged in 21 countries with 33 international missions, totalling around 8.832 troops deployed, according to ministerial sources.[14] The total commitment in terms of forces provided ranks Italy 9th among UN contributors, while it is ranked 4th for its contribution to EU and NATO missions (Nota Aggiuntiva 2009, p. IX).[15] As for the funding of international missions, Decree nr 209 (made into Law 24/2009) foresees an increase of funding for the missions in Afghanistan, probably after insistent demands by the Alliance (around €261 million for the first six months, compared with around €170 the previous year) and in Africa, probably due to the stronger European commitment in this area (€29 million, compared with around €8 million the previous year).

Throughout the post-cold war period, Italy has been balancing its support between its Atlantic and European initiatives. The high number of personnel and resources invested in international security mirrors Italy’s willingness to affirm its importance within the alliances it belongs to, actively engaging itself not only in the regions of its interest (Balkans, the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East), but also in more distant theatres. Italy understands that the commitment of third countries and organisations to deal with threats against Italy –such as terrorism– and their contribution to the stability of regions like the Balkans implies that, in exchange, Italy makes itself available elsewhere, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is easy to perceive that such engagements generate additional costs, not just in terms of personnel and materials (burdening both the defence balance and ad hoc funds authorised by Parliament) but also in terms of training, maintenance of the means and technological advances to keep up with its international partners (financed by the Ministry of Economy and Finance for research and development).

The decreasing trend in Ministry of Defence resources[16] –except for the year 2008– makes it even more urgent to adopt a middle-to-long term strategy to establish security and defence priorities as well as to determine Italy’s interests. It is necessary, in other words, to adopt shared criteria for the Government to decide whether and on what terms to participate in international engagements, and for the authorities to ensure coherence between the role Italy is to play and the resources that are realistically available. With regard to the lack of priorities and middle-to-long term strategic planning, there is a risk that because of contingent economic reasons, responsibilities that it should be necessary to assume will have to be renounced in order not to waste resources on missions for which there is only a limited interest. In this respect, Report 2020 can provide some ideas, identifying priority areas and themes for Italy’s external action. The document should, however, be read in combination with the European Security Strategy and the NATO Strategic Concept in order to ensure coherence with the European and transatlantic dimension, that Italy cannot leave aside.

(1.4) The Main Actors Involved
The following institutions contribute to Italy’s external security decision-making (as outlined in the White Paper and not in order of importance:

  • Head of State. According to the Constitution (art.87), the President of the Republic is Commander of the Armed Services and President of the Supreme Council of Defence and has the capacity to declare the state of war after deliberation by both Chambers of Parliament. The role of commander of the Armed Services has no executive power, but neither is it purely symbolic, since the President of the Republic maintains his fundamental function of guarantor of the Constitution in matters of political orientation and defence and security policy, and has increased relevance as head of the Supreme Council of Defence (which he chairs), following the reorganisation of the highest ranks of the defence structure.[17]
  • The Supreme Council of Defence. The Council, chaired by the President of the Republic and comprising the Prime Minister, the Ministers of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Interior, Economy and Finance, Productive Activities (and others according to necessity) and by the Chief of Defence Staff, examines general, technical and political problems, and takes fundamental decisions on matters of defence and national security. The Council is the place where timely information on the decisions taken by the Government is collected, even at times of crisis, so as to allow the President of the Republic to ensure their constitutionality. Recent decisions taken by the Council[18] demonstrate that it acknowledges the new ‘multidisciplinary’ dimension of security, even if it has not (yet?) evolved into a real part of its functions or responsibilities.
  • Parliament. Apart from its legislative function, Parliament has the task of orienting and controlling the Government’s activities, which it exercises through, first of all, the vote of confidence in the Government at the beginning of every legislature. Confidence can be verified (or revoked) through a no confidence motion (in the case of a parliamentary initiative) or a confidence question (if a governmental initiative). Other instruments for parliamentary direction are motions (debates in Congress followed by a Government directive) and resolutions (with which debates and discussions are concluded). Finally, as for information and control, Parliament has instruments such as interrogations (to which it is possible to answer orally or in writing), interpellations, inquiries and auditions. In security and defence, Parliament has a strong influence in approving the budget (including the Ministry of Defence’s) and in the refunding of international missions. In the past, when there has been a division of opinion in the country and among political parties (even if part of the same coalition) about missions and Italy’s role in them, the Government has been forced to pose the ‘confidence question’, putting in danger its very survival especially if endowed with a only minimal parliamentary majority. Moreover, when an international mission is to be launched, Parliament exercises its power by voting on the Government’s proposal (mandate, strength of the mission, etc), as it does with any other law regarding internal or external security.
  • The President of the Council of Ministers, or Prime Minister. According to the ex art. 95 of the Constitution and more specifically ex Law l.400/1988 and its subsequent modifications, the Prime Minister’s main competences in matters of security and defence are: to direct the government’s general policy, draw up the programme and establishing directives; to coordinate the activities of the individual Ministers involved in such policy; and to promote and stimulate the Government’s activity in fulfilling its programme. Even if the adoption of measures in security and defence is attributed to the Government as a whole, due to time constraints the principle of collegiality is tempered in favour of the Prime Minister (as confirmed by the Constitutional Court). It is therefore President of the Council who is in charge of general political responsibility, the coordination of the various ministries involved and the direction of the information services and internal and external national security action coordination. The Prime Minister has a supporting organisational structure in the Presidency of the Council.
  • Minister of Defence. The Minister has the task of carrying out the resolutions adopted by the Government, issuing directives and approving strategic and joint operational planning with the associated technical, financial and procurement programmes. The Minister also issues general directives to the Chief of Defence Staff on the relations of the Italian Armed Services with those of third countries and on the national position to be represented at the main military fora. He also establishes directives in matters of scientific research and political-administrative guidelines. All these dispositions, and others, are laid out in the ‘Ministerial Directives’ and their concrete implementation is in the Strategic Concept of the Chief of Defence Staff.
  • Chief of Defence Staff. At the top of the Armed Services’ chain of command, the Chief of Defence Staff’s responsibility, ‘based on the directives issued by the Minister”, is to plan, arrange and employ the Armed Services globally.[19] The single Armed Service Chiefs of Military Staff and the General Commander of the Arma dei Carabinieri, as well as the General Secretary and Director of Armaments, who are entrusted with the functioning and development of the technical and industrial dimension (an essential part of the defence compartment for the country to dispose of the means to accomplish its politics), depend directly from the Chief of Defence Staff.

This rapid description entails a series of considerations. First, the institutional actors defining the defence strategy are diverse, from general political figures down to those with more concrete and technical functions, along the whole political-military hierarchy. Moreover, some of the authors of the documents mentioned above are among them, including the Chief of Defence Staff for the Strategic Concept and the Minister of Defence for the White Paper and the Nota Aggiuntiva. The most general guidelines are, however, given by the Prime Minister (supported by the Presidency of the Council) who is the only one to have a general view of the activities of the various ministries and is the only one who can guarantee their coherence and coordination.

Internal Security

(2.1) Government Guidelines (Threats and Responses)
It is to internal security, starting from the higher level (strategic/political/institutional) that the third of the seven ‘missions’ of the current Government Programme refers:[20] (1) to ‘ensure more security and more justice’ and ‘strengthen the resources for security and social inclusion’; and (2) to ‘strengthen the resources for justice and ensure legal certainty’.

Point (1) aims to increase and rationalise resources for security, crime control and crime prevention (public order/public security tasks) and, also quantitatively, deals with illegal immigration and issues that are (questionably presented as) connected, particularly internal and international terrorism and the strict control over places used for fundamentalist preaching. For every mission and under-mission it is possible to identify some connected (strategic) actions that give an idea of the variety and sectoral nature of the legislative initiatives undertaken.[21]

Missions and actions replace the last Directive of the President of the Council of Ministers available (March 2007) on guidelines for the strategic programming and the arrangement of general Ministers’ Directives for the administrative activity and management for the year 2008.[22] Here the main guidelines for the country were identified in three interrelated objectives: growth, new welfare and security.

Security, in turn, is divided into internal and external security. The former includes: the fight against crime, ranging from micro-criminality to large-scale organised crime; the reinforcement of counterterrorism; the prevention of human trafficking and exploitation (especially of women and children).

Even if referred to the previous Government, and while awaiting the (imminent) publication of the new one,[23] it is interesting to note the trends that, as regards security, it has in common with the present Government, although the approach to immigration is different. Focusing on internal security, a selection is appropriate[24] as there is no official document specifically devoted to it.

To see how the Ministry implements the Government’s guidelines, it is useful to look at two documents, of which the second (drafted by the Ministry of Interior) is the implementation of the first (drafted by the Government).[25] The most recent general Directive issued by the Minister of the Interior is the General Directive for administrative activity and management for the year 2009.[26]

Table 1 shows (1) the Government’s priorities, (2) the Ministry’s and (3) the strategic objectives. To give an idea of how general priorities are implemented in practice a selection of extracts from ‘public order and security’ is provided [italics added]:

Table 1.

(1) Government priorities(2) Political priorities indicated by the Ministry for 2009(3) Strategic objectives
– More security, more justice […]To fulfil the programme aimed at coordinating and modernising the security system, in order to:- reinforcing the respect of legality, counter criminality and prevent terrorist threats;- ensure an effective response to the community’s demand for security, in close synergy with other territorial government levels.To consolidate the security system and establish an effective response to the community’s demand for security through action aimed at reinforcing legality and preventing and countering criminality, by:- Strengthening, in the framework of communitarian and international cooperation, of analysis and assessment of threats as well as of joint information connected with the purpose of countering interior and international terrorism.– Strengthening, in the framework of communitarian and international cooperation, operational and analytic instruments with the purpose of countering organised crime, both internally and internationally with particular regard to the mafia associations, clandestine immigration, trafficking of human beings, exploitation of women and minors and drug trafficking.- Strengthening cooperation initiatives with the EU and cooperation instruments with the States of origin and transit of immigrants, promoting technical assistance appropriate to guarantee the wider reciprocal collaboration with the purpose of countering clandestine immigration.– Responding to the community’s demand for security through improved instruments of cooperation with the other territorial levels of government for the development, in a coordinated form, of actions in questions of order, public security and urban security, as well as the implementation of projects of participated security, integrated security and proximity police with particular attention to the strengthening of prevention of widespread crimes.– The optimal valorisation of security operators and the rationalisation of resources in their employment also through the simplification of operational instruments, the integration of data banks, information systems and operational centres […]

The first part of Section 2 is devoted to ‘Reference framework and political priorities’ and highlights the following priorities:

  1. Implementing the draft programme aimed at coordination and security system modernisation: (1) enforcing the respect of legality, countering criminality and terrorist threat prevention; and (2) ensuring an effective response to the community’s demand for security, in close synergy with other territorial government levels.
  2. Implementing the strategies of joint intervention of the institutional components involved, to contribute to improve the management of phenomena like immigration and asylum and to combat clandestine immigration, also in the perspective of developing cohesion, social integration and the sharing of values and rights.
  3. Strengthen inter-institutional cooperation with new synergies and connexions, with the aim of improving social cohesion.
  4. Maintaining efficiency at maximum levels for civil defence and the prevention of risks.
  5. Simplifying and reorganising administration, linking the improvement of the quality of services and their optimal sizing to cost reductions and resource recovery, and leveraging on the operational integration made possible by digitalisation.

Finally, the second part of Section 2 deals with ‘Strategic objectives and action plans’. Here the objectives are outlined in a series of actions included in the ‘action plan of the strategic objective’ with the connected internal and external ministerial structures involved and the financial resources available.[27]

On several occasions reference is made to the ‘security system’, but no definition of it is presented. It can, however, be concluded, based on the text, that it includes the following areas: enforcement of legality, prevention of and opposition to organised internal and international crime, prevention of internal and international terrorist threats and the provision of an effective response to the community’s demand for security.

As for the action necessary to achieve this, the ‘strategic objectives’ highlight some of the elements that are required to develop the ‘security system’: enforcement of coordination at a national level (including local government and joint levels), as well as at EU and international levels; and administrative simplification and reorganisation to enable the integration of operational instruments for activities of joint threat analysis (informational connection of data bases, of informational systems and of operational centres). Regarding optimisation, it highlights the valorisation of security operators and the rationalisation of resources as well as maintaining at a maximum the efficiency of the national civil defence system and of the instruments of risk prevention and public rescue.

As regards the identification of threats, it is important to consider the document produced by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, the Report on Intelligence Policy for Security (2007), issued by the Information and Security Department. The index shows the areas considered[28] but the introduction highlights the areas of interest for internal security, covered mainly by the activities of the internal intelligence Agency (Agenzia informazioni e sicurezza interna, AISI)[29] [italics added]:

‘[…] Intelligence agencies (AISE – foreign intelligence; AISI – internal intelligence) under the co-ordination of the DIS (Information and Security Department) focus their attention on the following main threats and risks:
– major threats, i.e. imminent, potentially lethal threats – at home and abroad – affecting substantial numbers of Italian citizens (i.e. attacks on personnel of military missions abroad or civilians working in crisis areas; acts of jihadist terrorism; activities by national and transnational organised crime);
– potentially lethal risks, but considerably more limited than those under the previous category, ascribable to subversive terrorist groups, or arising from riots which can be kept under control by the law enforcement (i.e. actions by domestic extremist groups and by organised and violent football supporters);
– longer term threats with potentially disastrous consequences which can be posed by both States and organised terrorist groups (proliferation of weapons of mass destruction);
– risks to property (know-how, resources of the State or of the general public, economic interference, espionage, attacks on information systems).
[…] According to the above-mentioned set of risks and threats, the first risk factor to be considered is organised crime, with particular reference to the infiltration in vital local economic sectors and institutions. AISI’s activity is prominent in this context.
[…] As for the second major threat – attacks abroad and jihadist terrorism – three areas are regarded as particularly critical: North Africa (Maghreb), Afghanistan and Lebanon. These areas represent a top priority for AISE and AISI, according to their respective competences, in addition to other criticalities in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and South-East Asia.
[…] Though strongly cut down by anti-terrorist operations, domestic subversive groups have engaged in efforts to reorganise clandestine groups styled after the Red Brigades; Anarchist-insurrectionalism, too, has continued to show aggressive intentions.
[…] WMD proliferation is a longer term threat, but with potentially disastrous outcomes. The counter-proliferation branch of AISE, together with other ministerial departments, is actively engaged in monitoring its different aspects and developments.
[…] Last but not least, we will examine the category related to risks to private and public property, economic interference, espionage, attacks on information systems.
Most of the criticalities dealt with in the last report did not change. Here we will draw the attention on new aspects. In general, two priorities have emerged: the evolution of energy markets and their consequences on national security of energy supplies and the rise of economic crime.
[…] The main activities of AISE and AISI in countering the attacks against legal economy have been carried out in: money laundering, financing of terrorism, national and international economic crime. […]’.

At this point some other remarks are apposite: some of official documents selected here –both by the previous and the present governments– define the bounds of a (sectarian) definition of what ‘internal security’ is (identification of specific threats), as a phenomenon that is complex and capable of being interpreted differently, and especially so in terms of to how to implement it (identification of specific measures). The threats are presented only as general areas (inevitably perhaps, due to the comprehensiveness and rapid changes that characterise them) and the measures –while outlined– fail to have the sufficient clarity. But are the characteristics of these threats and measures compatible with a strategy, or with part of it, on a long-term basis?

Besides, the documents are partly unbalanced, with a greater bias towards the identification of threats, to the detriment of measures. That is certainly true as regards the Relation, whose aim is to report monitoring and progresses in AISI and AISE activities and therefore to support only indirectly the identification of responses. Nevertheless, the communality of threats (for example, with other Ministries, especially Defence, but also Foreign Affairs)[30] remains a necessary but insufficient condition for common responses.

The central role of the identification of threats and responses, at a permanent level of policy definition (basically long-term) and security policy coordination, is referable –as it has partly emerged and is partly going to emerge– to the President of the Council and the Council of Ministers. Now, based on the premise that –following one of the possible approaches– national defence is composed of civil defence (internal security) and military defence (external security),[31] –the next paragraph will deal with the main players involved in Italy in civil defence/internal security, both at the policy level –in a permanent and ‘precautionary’ way–[32] and at the crisis emergency (operational) management level.

(2.2) Main Players Involved in Internal Security/Civil Defence
Following the definition given by the Minister of the Interior[33] –outlined in Decree 300/1999–, Civil Defence ensures the continuity of Government action (the vital interests of the State) through the protection of the nation’s economic, productive and logistic (social) capacity and the reduction of the impact of crisis events on the population. Although this classic civil defence role has evolved through the years towards more complex scenarios (see below), today it still defines the essentials of an internal crisis decision structure.[34] Starting from the top of the political and institutional level –responsible for the identification of threats and responses–, there are the following national decision-making bodies:

  • President of the Council of Ministers.
  • Council of Ministers.
  • Strategic Political Committee (Comitato Politico Strategico, CPS, formed by the President of the Council of Ministers and Ministers of Defence, Foreign Affairs and the Interior). This is responsible for decisions (and coordination) on intervention. Participation in the sessions is also foreseen for the Undersecretary to the Presidency of the Council, the General Secretary of the Presidency of the Council and, in an advisory capacity, the Defence Chief of Military Staff and the General Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It meets exclusively during a state of crisis, and builds on the results of the pre-decisional phase obtained by the technical staff.[35]
  • The National Decisional Centre (Centro Decisionale Nazionale, CDN), is the support site of the Strategic Political Committee (and alternatively of the Council of Ministers), whose decisions it turns into concrete action. The decision room, control room and situation room are the modular elements working in close functional connection with the corresponding key points of the single Ministries and the information services. The activation of the National Decision Centre manages the consultations with Ministries and relevant state administrations, in accordance with the various competences specified by the law.

The natural crisis manager is therefore the Government working in confidence with the Parliament. There are also national coordination organs:

  • Political and Military Unit (Nucleo Politico Militare, NPM), comprising the representatives of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers (and the Undersecretary to the Presidency of the Council) and the representatives of the Ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs and the Interior (particularly those from the General Staff, the AISE and the AISI). The participation of ad hoc representatives from other Ministries and public and private boards[36] (as essential services suppliers) is also possible if necessary. It is a permanent organ, chaired by the General Secretary of the Presidency of the Council, or on delegation by the military adviser of the President of the Council of Ministers.[37] Under normal circumstances it also monitors and assesses situations of interest for the internal and external security of the nation with the purpose of prevention. At the collective meetings the participants provide the information they have available and all contribute in accordance with their competence to determine the course of action and propose operational measures to be adopted. In the event of a crisis the Political and Military Unit cooperates with the Strategic Political Committee on an advisory and consultative basis.

The Political and Military Unit avails itself of technical interdepartmental commissions. The supporting organ for the technical coordination of ‘civil defence’ activities is the Technical Interdepartmental Commission for Civil Defence (Commissione Interministeriale Tecnica per la Difesa Civile, CITDC) that meets within the Ministry of the Interior, who chairs it and supervises.[38] It was foreseen by the Crisis Management National Handbook (1980) and instituted by a Decree of the Minister of the Interior of 28 September 2001, chaired by the heads of the Fire Brigades, Public Rescue and Civil Protection Department and composed of the representatives of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, state administrations (Defence, Interior, Health and others, as needed), by the National Autonomous State Routes Board (Azienda Nazionale Autonoma delle Strade Statali, ANAS), the Superior Inspectorate of the Military Body of the Italian Red Cross, the Environmental Protection for Technical Services Agency (Agenzia per la protezione dell’ambiente e per i servizi tecnici, APAT) and can be joined by the representatives of other organs: National Board for Civil Aviation (Ente Nazionale per l’Aviazione Civile, ENAC), National Board for Flight Assistance (Ente Nazionale di Assistenza al Volo, ENAV), TrenitaliaPoste Italiane, etc. The CITDC, as coordination organ, supports the Military Political Unit and ensures the coordination of civil defence at a central level (of the central state administrations) while the Prefects ensure coordination at the peripheral level[39] and the operational phase is guaranteed by the Armed Services, Law Enforcement Forces, Civil Protection and other organs.

Going back to the areas covered by Civil Defence –which ensure the continuity of Government action and the state’s vital interests through the protection of the nation’s economic, productive, logistical and social capacity and the reduction of the impact of crisis events on the population– we had anticipated that such a classic role had evolved over the past few years towards more complex scenarios. The tasks of the CITDC range from the most traditional ones –as regards the population, the Chemical Biologic Nuclear and Radiological (CBRN) risk is internationally considered a problem pertaining to Civil Defence– to others so defined [italics added]: ‘[…] assess the emerging situations and plan the measures to be taken in the case of crisis. The Commission also evaluates other risk hypothesis, not directly referable to intentional actions, which can determine crisis situations for the continuity of the Government action as well as damages to the population and generally to the security of the country. It is in this perspective that the Commission and the [Fire brigades, Public Rescue and Civil Protection] Department elaborate themes connected to critical infrastructures and, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Health, the conditions of management of a crisis produced by serious epidemic diseases becoming widely spread’.

These two last areas insert themselves respectively into a functional definition of security which we will return to and in a renewed and widened vision of the traditional NBCR risks which we will talk about in the next paragraph.

(2.3) The CBRN Case
The CBRN sector is of absolute importance due to the various factors that enhance its risk –for instance, the increased potential availability of CBRN agents and of know-how for their conversion into weapons even by non-state actors, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the development of nuclear capacities in countries outside NATO–.

Here we consider selected and relevant parts of the theme to show an example of coordination mechanisms between the internal and external security systems. In 2001 the Presidency of the Council of Ministers prepared a national plan for defence against terrorist CBRN attacks, a classified document which identified threats, possible scenarios and possible countermeasures. The Plan was conceived as a general directive to support the preparation of subsequent plans and sector plans by the public and private administrations that provide essential services, and of the 103 Provincial plans established by the Prefects. The plans are submitted to periodical exercises to test their functionality and operational capacity.

It is interesting to note the fundamental role played, both at the planning and operational levels, by the Ministries of Defence, Interior and Health. This helps explain the interaction between the internal (civil, sanitary) and external (military) security systems.[40] In particular, the cooperative support of the Armed Services is included at various levels: strategic and operational planning,[41] decision-making,[42] training and exercises,[43] operational intervention where necessary[44] (supporting Fire Brigades, which depend from the Ministry of Interior and which are principally responsible for such types of intervention). Besides, coordination between the forces typically assigned to internal security and the forces normally assigned to external security can also be carried out going up towards the decisional, political and support organs, based on the above mentioned Strategic Political Committee, the Political and Military Unit and the CITDC.

Finally, to conclude with a short final reflection on the military role, it is important to make a distinction: the civil/military synergy is an added value,[45] but while the strategic military level is appropriately placed in the decision-making system, its operational use in internal security is desirable only for ‘emergencies’, with the aim of preventing the distortion of an instrument which follows specific training and motivational dynamics and has special equipment sustainability and balance requirements.[46]

(2.4) The Civil Protection Function
We shall now consider selected and relevant parts of the Civil Defence element primarily in order to clarify the central importance of the chain of command in the event of a crisis. The development of the structure in recent years has led to the availability of new instruments, but there are also problematic institutional overlaps.

Briefly, to indicate the possible differences between civil defence and civil protection in Italy it can be said that while civil defence concerns, as we have already seen, intentional acts, civil protection concerns safeguarding, rescuing and assisting the population and protecting and recovering goods in the event of natural as well as man-made calamities of an involuntary nature.

In Italy the two domains, contrary to the organisational models largely adopted abroad, depend on two different administrations: the Civil Protection Department in the Presidency of the Council at a central level –Fire Brigades, Public Rescue– and the Civil Defence Department in the Ministry of the Interior.[47]

However, civil defence also covers complex scenarios when it becomes involved in emergency situations unconnected to voluntary acts, therefore, in a certain sense, overlapping civil protection tasks.[48] Besides, the relevant events for civil protection include, by way of Law 996/1970, the concept of public calamity as a man-made event.[49] Moreover at the organisational level of the two functions, the framework is made more complex due to certain institutional aspects that, as regards civil protection, devolve some powers upon regions, provinces and municipalities that had hitherto pertained exclusively to the State.[50] In the case of CBRN risks, orders/decrees 3275/2003 and 3285/2003 of the President of the Council of Ministers appoint the Civil Protection Department chief as delegated Commissioner of the President of the Council of Ministers (with the exception of the powers of the Minister of the Interior) who is responsible for the coordination and implementation of the necessary countermeasures.

The duality between the Fire Department (part of the Ministry of the Interior) and the Civil Protection Department (part of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers) together with these factors can mean that, in emergency situations, the definition of the chain of command and of coordination at certain levels is not easy. A problem often solved by the government nominating an extraordinary commissioner either directly or through ad hoc legislation or by the use of an urgent decree, which to some extent bypasses the original mandates that might therefore be considered inadequate.

The civil protection system has taken on an increasing importance in recent years because of its closeness to the Presidency of the Council, flexibility, capillary presence, budget availability and a versatile command and control structure. A recently established ‘Italy’ situation room provides the theoretical possibility of handling contacts with other institutional actors, although not in cases of emergency –de facto a supremacy/technological comprehensiveness leads to an institutional centrality–,[51] so that in normal times there is a permanent presence of officers and officials of other administrations seconded to the Department.[52]

Besides, as we have seen, civil protection also reveals, in its interaction with civil defence, the system’s weaker points, such as the issuing of emergency decrees, and in general the preventive lack of clarity of some levels of the chain of command.[53] Such indefiniteness recomposes itself (only) at the top by the choice of the President of the Council of Ministers with political leadership (capacity and powers) both for civil defence emergencies and civil protection (exercised through the civil protection department). The importance of the chain of command is essential and should certainly be included in the elements which form a NSS for Italy, as explained in the next chapter.

Consideration of a Single National Security Strategy

Despite the existence of several documents, procedures and practices concerning the external and internal dimensions of security, it would be convenient to draw up a single document to describe a National Security Strategy (NSS) for Italy. Here are some elements to consider in the preparation of such a document.

(3.1) Convergence Between External (Military) and Internal (Civil) Dimensions of Security
From our analysis it emerges clearly that the internal (civil) and external (military) dimension of security present many overlapping areas in terms of actors, functions and means. The convergence between the concepts can be seen, both at a national and European level, in different domains: political and institutional (superimposition of the functions and regulations between different institutions), operational (deployment of civil and military personnel during the same missions, assignation of civil tasks to military personnel), and technological and industrial (technologies that in several cases give rise to an overlap in the security and defence market).

At a European level,[54] these trends are in full motion and generally accepted and pursued. But problems connected to the artificial separation of these two dimensions are now emerging; the full organisational development which should follow is, however, obstructed by the Union’s pillar structure, which foresees different tracks for political and decisional –as well as economic and financial– matters, depending on whether they are placed in the sphere of civil security or military defence. Having confirmed that Europe’s evolution towards a cross-pillar organisation essentially depends on the political and conceptual effort of the states, which will not happen in the short and medium term, it is natural to think that an approach which encourages such a convergence at a national level is the right starting point.

The main European countries,[55] like France, Germany and the UK, have recently adopted NSS in which the convergence between internal and external security is explicitly recognised, together with the necessity of developing relevant synergies between civil and military instruments. The French case is perhaps the most evident proof: the document title –Livre Blanc sur la Défense et la Sécurité Nationale– already points to a new perspective. The formal recognition of such an evolution and its explicit mention in official documents is followed by some consequences on the practical side. Among them, there is the adoption of a series of initiatives aimed at enforcing the coordination of the administrations involved (primarily the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Defence), the formation of interdepartmental tables to decide jointly on the policies deriving from the general document, the development of synergies at an operational level, as well as procedural and financial aspects. The French Livre Blanc foresees the formation of a Conseil de la Défense et de la Sécurité National to connect the various Ministers and security and defence experts, to be chaired by the President of the Republic. Germany is also moving towards interdepartmental coordination, both civil and military, although with thematic subdivisions (air security, counter-terrorism, etc).

Italy should first of all acknowledge these trends and model future considerations on them. In spite of such a delay, some elements of the Italian system are in line with this convergence, as for example in the sphere of some decisional and advisory organs which are specifically for internal security (Strategic Political Committee or Military Political Unit) or in the sphere of intelligence reorganisation, that is no longer based on the division between civil and military information services, but on a ‘geographical’ approach, where AISI deals with internal and AISE with external security. Some concrete steps can be also singled out at the technological and industrial level: in the space sector, particularly, Italy is a pioneer in the conception, development and use of a satellite system of Earth Observation with a dual-use character. The truth is, however, that the main reasons that pushed the Ministry of Defence and the Italian Space Agency to share the system are the lack of the necessary resources to separately develop similar systems, rather than in a strategic and conceptual far-sightedness. Whatever the reasons, the COSMO-SkyMed is an important step forward in the mental approach and an administrative, procedural and industrial socialisation which can be useful in the future.

By adopting NSS documents based on this approach, and having concrete initiatives to follow through with different plans, European countries not only ensure in the most effective way their own security, but also establish a basis for a shared strategic security culture which should be seen in the future also at a European level, especially with regard to the desired evolution of EU institutions.

(3.2) The International Dimension
The NSS should contain a series of elements (for example, threats, responses, strategic objectives) compatible with the commitments assumed by Italy in the European and Euro-Atlantic domain. The real communality of values and interests, which is at the basis of alliances and agreements, should make such a conclusion natural. For that reason, making a NSS coherent with the ESS is supposed to be easy, not only because of the rather general and certainly shared nature of the European document, but also because of its focus on the external dimension of security.

Many of the European states are also part of NATO and for this reason making the Italian NSS coherent with the new Strategic Concept of the Atlantic Alliance in preparation should not entail great difficulties. The new Strategic Concept will update, after 10 years (the last is dated 1999) the missions that the Alliance wants to give itself, more generally the unsolved matter of its raison d’être after the end of the cold war. It is possible that NATO will decide to extend its own functions as a security actor for current matters like terrorism, cyber security, environment and energy security. In this case it will also deal with shared challenges, endorsed at the European and national levels.

Belonging to NATO, more than to the EU, has influenced the national military tool: it guaranteed Italy the development of planning and conduct doctrines, shared with its allies, and a high level of interoperability of equipment and procedure (the best example is the net-centric transformation started in Italy) as well as a good level of joint and combined training. Defence policy, especially as regards methods, was also inspired by the defence ‘Ministerial directive 1999’ that was the first national attempt to fix the planning of the Armed Services on the basis of the ‘NATO Ministerial Guidance 1998’.

Italy, as an active EU and NATO member, is therefore being asked to take note of values, threats and objectives which are shared with its allies, as it has up to now in the preparation of the different institutional defence documents.

(3.3) Functional Security: A Concept
The blurry borders between the external and internal dimension of security, is one of the main components of the concept of functional security,[56] which also provides some useful elements for the definition of an Italian NSS.

Focusing on the human factor, it aims to ensure the efficient and effective continuity of the vital functions of modern societies, in the case of events which might cause their disruption. As to what is to be safeguarded, particular attention is given to infrastructures such as transport networks, energy and water supplies, banking and financial systems and cyberspace and telecommunications.[57] Moreover, as distances today are no longer determined by mere geographical factors, but also by the potential rapidity of connections (infrastructures), this makes a response to the system’s vulnerability and interconnections particularly urgent. As for the risks connected to such an interpretation of security, there is a juxtaposition between intentional, natural and accidental events in some cases of crisis-disruption protection and management, which can essentially be the same, be it in a ‘casual’ or a ‘caused’ emergency. It goes without saying that this aspect can be considered a favourable point for possible synergies.

Besides, it is undeniable that these salient points of the category, connected to critical infrastructure, are shared both in Europe and internationally (at the institutional and the research level)[58] and must be reckoned with to create a realistic NSS. The complex interweaving of systems of systems means that no state can consider itself immune from the functional disruptions of another State: security has a transnational nature.

And security also has a ‘transfunctional’ nature since the interruption of a function (for example, electricity) can lead to interruptions of functions of another kind (for example ICT, information and communication technology) and vice versa, in an interconnection of vulnerabilities.

Another advantage in such a conception is that it highlights the necessity of including the private sector in all of the phases of security management (from prevention to consequence management). It is clear that any initiative for critical infrastructure protection must involve the private sector: private boards are always to a greater extent owners/managers (of the control) of systems (eg, in the telecom sector), providers of goods and services and the focal points of research and innovative technologies for security. These reasons, together with the more traditional ones of budgetary limitations, make the development of adequate public-private partnerships necessary.

By the way, the nature of such threats, in a context of systems of systems –for which geographical, economic, bureaucratic, political –in a word functional– bounds no longer matter– implies a proliferation of authorities involved in security management. That is certainly evident at EU level if we think about the increase of the number of Agencies and on a national level [italics added]:

‘[…] national security lacks a centralisation of tasks and structures. There are at least about ten institutions and agencies that, in several ways and upon different titles, deal with the Italian Homeland Security: the Presidency of the Council, the Civil Protection Department, the National Authority for Security, the Ministry of Transports, the Ministry of the Interiors, the Health office, the Defence office, the Border and Custom Police, which refers to the Ministry of Economics and Finance, not to talk about the lots of local agencies. Unfortunately it is necessary to remark how in this scenario, overlaps and duplications are dangerous as never before. The fragmentation of accountability centres can, indeed dramatically reduce the efficiency and the well-timed intervention of responses to a terrorist threat and of the emergency intervention in case of attacks to our country. This normative complexity causes confusion within the institutional framework in which contrast and management responsibilities of a possible terrorist act must mature […]’.[59]

Such a proliferation calls into question traditional institutional competences, with further interactions and overlaps. All these must be recognised and then organised and managed.

(3.4) Institutional Improvements
There can be different ways of designing political and institutional coordination policies as a key point of security management. As regards to both what is already present in the institutional organisation and to proposals, it is likely that any reform hypothesis in Italy cannot leave aside the prominent role of the President of the Council/Presidency of the Council concerning both policy tasks (basically long-term) and emergency management tasks. Two examples highlight this.

The first has to do with a structure which is in some sense multipurpose, a National Security Council [italics added]:

‘[…] the achievement of such objectives overcomes the single reference offices’ capacities and calls for a global and continuative action by the Presidency of the Council. In recent what has long been discussed (without anything being done) is the institution of a National Security Council and/or a Council for International Economics. Even without getting to that, it would already be an important step forward if a strong and full-bodied Secretary of the Council of Ministers were instituted, directly connected to the President and his Undersecretary, with capacities for the programming and assessment of the governmental policies, to collect competencies which are now strewn here and there in various offices such as those of the Diplomatic advisor, the military advisor and the Executive Committee for Information and security services (in Italian, CESIS[60]), thereby enriching and connecting them more organically to the decision-making. Such an organism should therefore develop two key tasks: first, provide the Government with a middle term perspective which would encourage coherent decisions, second, control the correspondence between such initiatives and the resources which will have to be assigned to the interested offices, not just in the short term but also in the longer term (at least three years), so as to permit a more certain and effective planning. […]’.[61]

The second example has to do with the more specific –but just as vast– field of the CBRN threat, against which several institutions intervene at different governmental levels in various ways and under various titles. Also in this case the traditional institutional competences are called into question and the fragmentation of accountability can invalidate the effectiveness and efficiency of the response. Such complexity must be managed through a clear normative and institutional framework in charge of the CBRN threat. A framework which is today lacking because of the absence of a political and institutional strategy to be developed within a national security system reorganisation [italics added]:

‘[…] The hypothesis developed in research suggests a support structure to be headquartered in the Presidency of the Council of the Ministers, which would be the decision-making base at a national level, able permanently to draw upon the capabilities of the various administrations and competent agencies. […] a Council of the Ministers for Emergencies (Consiglio dei Ministri per le Emergenze, CME), composed of the Prime Minister and the Ministers of the Interior, Defence, Foreign Affairs and the Economy and Finance. The Prime Minister could invite to the meetings other Ministers, whose participation he/she considers useful depending on the nature of the event and the decisions to be taken. The multiplicity of agencies that could be involved in an emergency would result in a ‘call to arms’ of numerous central and local administrations, for which the decision-making at the general level or in particularly serious cases would be coordinated by the CME. Moreover, the Prime Minister would be flanked by an Undersecretary to the Prime Minister expressly delegated for the management of emergencies (Sottosegretario alla Presidenza del Consiglio delegato per la gestione delle Emergenze, SSE), who would support or, if need be, replace him / her. This would ensure that there is a strongly specialized figure in the Government able to provide the necessary continuity in management of interventions. At the executive level, an Interdepartmental Emergency Committee (Comitato Interministeriale per le Emergenze, CIE) could be set up, composed of representatives of the Ministers making up the CME and chaired by the SSE, with the support of the Chief of the Civil Protection Department. Depending on needs, even the SSE could invite representatives of other administrations to the meetings. The representatives should be appointed directly by the respective Ministers, regardless of their formal positions. It is crucial, in fact, that they be able to act with the authority that comes from being able to interface directly with the competent Minister and with the autonomy that derives from this. The CIE should meet and act in different forms, depending on the emergency, with regular meetings aimed at planning the necessary activities of prevention and training, including simulations, of all bodies potentially involved and acquiring an adequate level of experience in the management of emergencies. The new structure, which would take over command and control in the event of a CBRN emergency, would favour the permanent development of a common substrate of language, praxis, exchange of information, arrangements, technical-operational standards, training and exercises between agencies that have different histories and competences, and which would benefit the optimum functioning of the system. More generally, it would be a tool for planning and verifying government policies. […]’.[62]


This paper’s point of departure is Italy’s lack of an institutional document devoted to a NSS. It therefore goes on to consider some institutional documents –unclassified and available by 1 March 2009– about the external and internal dimensions of security that are relevant to identifying national security threats and establishing guidelines for the appropriate strategic responses.

From an analysis of these documents it is possible to identify some of the elements that, even if not exhaustive, should be inserted into a NSS for Italy. Here we report on some of these factors, particularly those that deal with both the external and internal dimensions of security. The convergence between the two dimensions of security should certainly be included in the NSS and such a synthesis should occur at both strategic (especially political and institutional) and other levels (technical and operational, financial, industrial…).

The two dimensions have, as we have said, reciprocal implications. The undefined border between the two areas calls into question the traditional divisions of competences between institutional actors belonging to one or the other, implying the need for legislative and procedural measures to enforce coordination at the institutional and political levels as well as at the technical and operational, giving rise to synergies that would otherwise be impossible.63

When seeking a reference point for such coordination, the political and institutional level is certainly vital for both dimensions to flow together in the NSS: the identification of threats and, above all, guidelines for response. Such individuation should be done jointly by the relevant administrations as a necessary but not sufficient condition to establish coordinated responses up to the technical and operational levels.

The leadership decisional structures presented in the proposal for an institutional improvement attempt to implement an accountability centralisation/principle of a single authority that is already evident from the centrality of the roles of the Prime Minister and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, both for internal security and –in a less direct way– for external security, and that is already present in existing structures.

Regarding the internal dimension of security, we have looked at the functioning of civil defence/internal security leadership. Looking at the rather technical and operational chain of command in the event of emergencies, it should be borne in mind that there is a strong potential in the Civil Protection Department due to its flexibility and its closeness to the Presidency of the Council and the direct relation with the President of the Council in the event of a crisis. If a NSS can go as far as individuating an ‘internal’ operational chain of command, the development of the department should aim at enhancing coordination between typically internal (civil, sanitary) and typically external (cooperative contribution of the Armed Services for emergencies and public dangers) security systems in the national territory.

The sense of such a coordination was confirmed by the recent reform of the intelligence service, which is no longer based on the distinction between civil and military information services but rather on a ‘geographical’ approach, in which AISI deals with internal intelligence and AISE with foreign intelligence while they both report to the President of the Council of Ministers. This confirms just how central it is for administrations within a country to exchange information.[64]

Along with the administrations, especially at the technical and operational levels, the private sector must also be involved, where relevant. The latter’s role will be necessary when considering the interpretation of threats. With regard to the centrality of citizen security, for example –a theme which is also recognised at the institutional level (ESS) and in EU policies (as in the research sector financed by the EU Commission)– it can be assumed that this is covered by the concept of functional security which aims to safeguard the key functions of modern societies. Here the direct reference to infrastructures and services requires the involvement of the private sector, which is not only the owner and/or manager of most of them and/or of their security, but more generally is in the front line of the research, development and production of (even dual) technologies.

At a strategic level, the individuation and prioritisation of threats and response guidelines[65] –to be further refined at the technical and operational levels– should be considered a ‘historical’ exercise: a NSS must therefore aim to have a middle-to-long term validity, evolving according to conditions and subject to systematic revision, but not be tied down by the alternation of governments. Hence, it must be a bipartisan document.

A future NSS should start from these essential requirements for the identification of national security interests which, concerning external security for instance, should be coherent with Italy’s membership of UN, NATO and the EU. As for the internal dimension, it should have a transnational nature because security is transnational and so must be its management.

The NSS should therefore be wide-ranging enough to provide the necessary flexibility for interpretations and implementations at the less strategic political and institutional levels and at the technical and operational levels –ie, it does not have to be in the nature of a doctrine– and sufficiently well defined to be an important reference in safeguarding national security interests, thereby differing from the partiality inherent to the different policies undertaken in the various sectors concerning national security.

Nevertheless, the question of what national security is remains open –as in the changeable use of the appeal to national security, for example to exercise a veto in international organisations in order to not apply EU common market rules–. Any attempt to understand it following verifiable criteria clashes with its changing character. The management of security is currently subject to changes and calls for a high-level, constant (apart from emergencies) and long-lasting political attention to face complex evolving scenarios to which a strategy and a national security system should be adapted.

Federica Di Camillo and Lucia Marta
Analysts at the Security and Defence Department, Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI), Rome


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[1] The authors would like to thank Rosa Rosanelli for her revision of the text and the translation.

[2] The Armed Services’ task is defined in law 331/2000 related to ‘Norms for the institution of the professional military service’: (1) the Armed Services are in the service of the Republic; (2) the organisation and activities of the Armed Services are consistent with articles 11 and 52 of the Constitution; (3) the priority task of the Armed Services is the defence of the State; (4) the Armed Services also have the task to operate for the achievement of peace and security, in accordance with the rules of International law and the decisions of International Organisations Italy is part of; and (5) the Armed Services contribute to safeguarding free institutions and carrying out specific tasks in circumstances of public danger and in other cases of extraordinary necessity and urgency’ (for the Italian text see

[3] It is important to highlight the Government’s decision in law 125/2008 to deploy the Armed Services in certain big cities to support the police after episodes of violence and petty criminality that upset public opinion, but in the absence of emergency situations or public danger. See note 54 for comment.

[4] The Strategic Concept of the Chief of Defence Staff was published in 2005, under Chief of Defence Staff Admiral G. Di Paola and Minister of Defence A. Martino. For further information on objectives and capacities, see p. 25 and ff.

[5] The last Ministerial Directive was issued in January 2009 and it essentially summarizes the contents of the two parts of the Nota Aggiuntiva. See Ministry of Defence (2009), General Directive for administrative activity and management for the year 2009 (Italian text:

[6] Ministry of Defence (2009), Nota Aggiuntiva allo Stato di Previsione della Difesa per l’anno 2009,

[7] The Group of Strategic Reflection that prepared the Rapporto 2020, le scelte di politica estera (2008) comprised diplomats, businessmen and experts in foreign policy, economics and defence, together with representatives from important national societies.

[8] The initiative to draw up Report 2020 had been taken during the Prodi Government, and despite its premature fall and the formation of a new executive of an opposite political alignment (the fourth Berlusconi Government, Polo delle Libertà) it was decided to continue with this work, acknowledging that vital and strategic national interests should not be subject to the alternation of power (which is relatively frequent in Italy).

[9] Comment expressed by experts (private meeting). See also Clementine Burnley (Joint Research Centre) et al. (2008), FORESEC Deliverable 2.2 – Country report on Italy.

[10] Council of the European Union (2003), European Security Strategy – A Secure Europe in a Better World,

[11] Strategic Concept (2005)and Ministerial Directive (2009), op.cit.

[12] Foresec Project (2008), Country Report on Italy, p. 13.

[13] For a more detailed and updated perspective of Italy’s engagement in foreign theatres seeà_internazionali_in_corso/. In addition to such missions, Italy contributes to different OSCE missions (electoral monitoring, training, disarmament, minority protection, gender matters and freedom of the media, to mention just a few).

[14] The Nota Aggiuntiva, reports a total figure of 7.750 troops deployed abroad but that source is generally less accurate than the Defence website, which is frequently updated.

[15] It should be noted that the Report 2020, less updated than the Nota Aggiuntiva, ranks Italy as the second-largest contributing country for EU missions.

[16] See G. Gasparini, L. Marta & V. Briani (2009), Data on Defence Economics and Industry,

[17] See Law 25/1997, concerning ‘Minister of Defence Attributions and reorganization of the Armed Services’ highest ranks and of the Defence Administration’.

[18] The latest Supreme Council of Defence was held on 29 January 2009. On the agenda were two main points: (1) assessment of the international situation and of the Armed Services’ engagement in international theatres; and (2) provisions to promote the rationalisation of the Armed Services in the three areas of personnel, operations and maintenance, and investments. On the latter point, a ‘Commission of high advice and study for the global redefinition of the system of national defence and security’ was set up and extended to other Administrations in a multidisciplinary effort. The next meeting of the Supreme Defence Council was set for 27 May 2009 (

[19] See

[20] (1) Re-launching development; (2) support family, to give young people a future; (3) ensure more security and justice; (4) modernising services to citizens (health, schools, universities, research, culture and environment); (5) the South; (6) federalism; (7) an extraordinary plan for public finance ( It is remarkable that there is no direct reference to Defence.




[24] Here we treat internal security considering that it falls within the possible interpretations of the concept of Homeland Security, overcoming a definition of security –tied exclusively to the traditional functions of public security and focused on the protection of public order– to include a wider scope, from counter terrorism to the management of events not provoked by aggressive intentions, like natural or technical disasters.

[25] It is immaterial that the new Directive on strategic guidelines of the President of the Council of Ministers is as yet unavailable, since we have at our disposal Government missions and actions and our focus is mainly on the interpretation given by the Minister of the Interior, which is already available.


[27] Too detailed to be conveniently treated here.

[28] (1) Internal subversion and extremism; (2) organised crime; (3) clandestine immigration; (4) international threats; (5) WMD proliferation; (6) crisis and interest area (Middle East–Balkan-Danube-Anatolia–Africa–Community of Independent States–Central Asia–South and East Asia–Latin America); (7) threats to national economic security; (8) counter-espionage; (9) military intelligence; (10) activities for protection of information security; and (11) activities aimed at the protection and security of the highest offices of Government (

[29] With the law 124/2007 (System of information for security of the Republic and new secret discipline) the Parliament approved a global reform of information policy for security. Organs, functions and tasks of the ‘System of information for security of the Republic’ have been reshaped, and now comprise the President of the Council of Ministers (who is responsible, in exclusivity, of functions of high direction and general responsibility of the policy of information for security), the inter-ministerial committee for the security of the Republic, the delegated Authority for the security of the Republic, the department of information for security, the information and external security Agency and the information and internal security agency. To be highlighted is the new distinction between internal and external information services, rather than between civil and military. The Reform establishes the exclusive nature of the functions attributed to the Information and Security Department (Dipartimento delle informazioni per la sicurezza, DIS), the foreign intelligence Agency (Agenzia informazioni e sicurezza esterna, AISE) and the internal intelligence Agency (Agenzia informazioni e sicurezza interna, AISI), foreseeing that these cannot be carried out by any other board, organism or office ( The AISI has the task of researching and gathering all of the necessary information to defend the Republic’s internal security, as well as the democratic institutions established by the Constitution, from any threat, subversive activity and criminal or terrorist aggression. The activities of information for security deployed in the national territory to protect Italy’s political, military, economic, scientific and industrial interests appertain to it. The AISI is responsible to the President of the Council of Ministers, and informs about its activities in a timely and continuous manner to the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defence, in matters touching their spheres of respective competence.

[30] See paragraph 2.2.

[31] Given that these two terms are close in meaning and that there is still a lack of a certain definition of internal security, even if, evidently, civil defence has a legal and institutional framework at a level that internal security lacks.

[32] Of course we cannot talk about structural and permanent involvement in policy for all of the components of the system. That could instead be applied to the Presidency of the Council as further confirmation of its centrality.

[33] Article 14 of the decree (requiring the approval of Parliament) 300/1999 (and following modifications) attributes to the Ministry of the Interior, as responsible for security and safety, the function of civil defence. This institutional mission continues with the Italian Presidential Decree 398/2001 the Central Direction for Civil Defence and Civil Protection policies in the Fire Brigades, Public Rescue and civil defence Department

[34] The technical and operational support organisation of the political leadership in the case of crisis was outlined in the ‘Crisis Management National Handbook′, a reserved document issued by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers in 1980


[36] On the role of the private sector see paragraph 4.3.

[37] Or –as established by the decree of 5 January 2004– by the Head of the Civil Protection Department.

[38] Through the Central Direction for Civil Defence and Civil Protection Policies, created in the Fire Brigades, Public rescue and Civil Defence Department with the Decree of the President of the Republic 398/2001.

[39] The territory is under the control of the former prefectures, currently known as Government territorial offices, which, through the Prefects, plan and coordinate the contributions of the various administrations in matters of civil defence in normal as well as emergency times. Some cooperation obligations between Government territorial offices and territorial and regional autonomies are required, together with health structures and services that are today (partly) privatised, like telecommunications.

[40] Such an approach shows more than other cases the activity that the Armed Services are called on to carry out in a cooperative way in case of public calamities or extraordinary necessity and urgency.

[41] Defence participated in the draft of the Plan at the strategic and operative level, as a member of the interdepartmental experts committee which developed it and stays active for technical consulting activities.

[42] As we have said, Defence is present in the Strategic Political Committee.

[43] The NBC Joint Defence School (1953) is active in the organisation of different kinds of courses and exercises –institutional (decision-making) and operational– for military personnel as well as for personnel from the civil administrations.

[44] Since Defence can provide specialised teams for detection as well as for decontamination and support for public order tasks, isolation and special transportation. This is subject to demand and compatibility with their own technical abilities as well as the availability of personnel and means.

[45] And appropriately achieved even if the exchange of lessons learned should be increased.

[46] See M. Nones (2008), ‘Emergenze’ civili e ruolo delle Forze Armate’, in Affarinternazionali, on-line review,

[47] Civil defence is a protected system (no devolution); civil protection is an open system (ie, can be subject to devolution).

[48] The name itself of the Central Direction for Civil Defence and Civil Protection Policies highlights the complexity of their competences.


[50] Law 225/92. ‘[…] can implicate the risk for the State of not being able to guarantee at all times the necessary coordination in occasion of crisis which attempts to the same security of the nation. […] which implied, among other things the devolution to Regions of the whole responsibility of Civil Protection and with it the one of most of the activities which combine for the achievement of the function (for example Health), without contextually assuring to the Civil Protection Department any effective coordination powers extended also to the many other agencies which deal with services and infrastructures which are fundamental for the protection of the citizens’ safety. As it happened for Health, the risk is the one of many civil protections, not homogeneous as much as to not be able to work harmoniously, both in the prevention phase and the intervention after events so destabilizing that they concretise, apart from a kind of civil protection, an out-and-out threat for the State […]’, F.P. Palmieri, ‘The Organisation of Civil Defence’, intervention on the occasion of the round table on Civil Defence Organisation of the Country, Facing International Terrorism, IASD, Rome, 6/IV/2004.

[51] From the technological point of view it must be highlighted that Italian civil protection is investing in Research and Technology in a series of national and European network-centric projects with research interoperability for its coordination needs. This responds to an operational requirement, but also to a political project, where control of technologies and information also means being at the centre of a still embryonic Italian Homeland Security.

[52] Components of the National service of civil protection: National Firemens Corps, Armed Services, State Police, Arma dei Carabinieri, Border and Customs Police, State Forest Rangers, Superior Institute for Protection and Environmental Research (ISPRA), National Research Council (CNR), National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, New Technologies, Energy and Environment Agency (ENEA), Italian Red Cross, National Corps for Alpine Rescue and Speleological (

[53] ‘[…] While on the one side the exigency of unifying the various intervention levels following an only strategic plan is strong and evident, on the other side the experience achieved in these years has generally been that of a division of competences and of responsibility lines […]’. See R. Alcaro, F. Chiesa & S. Silvestri (Eds.), Strategie di sicurezza e modelli di difesa a confronto: i casi di Gran Bretagna, Francia e Germania,Senate of the Republic, Rome, September 2008.

[54] For a detailed analysis of the convergence between security and defence at a European level, see L. Marta (2008), ‘Le nuove minacce’, Risk, nr 5, December 2008. Particularly to be noted are the trend towards the deployment of civil and military personnel in mixed European missions; the European Commission initiatives in the field of public procurements in the security and defence sectors –this last normally excluded by its competences–; and the even modest institutional novelties which would be introduced by the Lisbon Treaty for a major coordination between the first and second pillars.

[55] For a detailed analysis of the new national security strategies of France, Germany and the UK see Strategie di sicurezza e modelli di difesa a confrontoop. cit.

[56] For a further analysis see F. Di Camillo, Una nuova sicurezza per l’Unione europea: integrazione e coordinamento istituzionale, Centre for Federalism Studies, Turin, 2007,

[57] We could have the fundamental sectors of the economic development and the social system inserted: decisive orders of energy, transport and communications.

[58] At an institutional level it would be enough considering EU initiatives concerning European critical infrastructure protection which led to the adoption of the Directive 114/2008, that establishes a procedure for their determination and a common approach for the assessment of the need to improve their protection. They are defined as elements or systems (or as a part of these) which are essential for the maintenance of the society’s vital functions whose destruction would have a relevant impact on at least two member states. The sectors considered at the moment include energy and transport, but the possibility of including further sectors cannot be ruled out (the priority would be the Information and Communications Technology sector).

[59] P.F. Guarguaglini, ‘L’industria c’è: ma l’Europa non investe’, Liberal Risk, nr 4, June-September 2004.

[60] Now Information and Security Department (Dipartimento delle informazioni per la sicurezza, DIS), see footnote 37.

[61] S. Silvestri, ‘E’ il momento del rilancio’Affarinternazionali, on-line review, May 2006, See also M. Nones, S. Silvestri, R. Romano & A. de Guttry, L’organizzazione e l’architettura C3I per il vertice decisionale nazionale, CeMiSS Military Centre for Strategic Studies – Research, Rome, March 1995.

[62] M. Nones (Dir.), F. Di Camillo, M. Barbeschi & R. Mugavero, La minaccia NBCR: potenziali rischi e possibili risposte, CeMiSS Military Centre for Strategic Studies-Research, Rome, January 2008,

[63] This should also encourage the rationalisation of resources.

[64] ‘[…] The Madrid attack was like the September 11 attack in that government agencies failed to share information about an unfolding terrorist threat. Although the US government possessed little data directly relevant to the September 11 conspiracy, there is no question that Washington’s ability to perceive the plot – to ‘connect the dots’ – was impaired by a ‘wall’ between US law enforcement and intelligence agencies. This problem was rectified after the attacks. George W. Bush began daily meetings with his intelligence and law enforcement chiefs. Congress eliminated the statutory foundation of the “wall” by passing the US Patriot Act. The FBI, the CIA, the new Homeland Security department and many other federal agencies are now required to share all terrorism-related information with one another and with the White House. […]’, R.A. Falkenrath, ‘Europe’s Dangerous Complacency’, Financial Times, 13/VII/2004,

[65] Generally, a NSS should consider the possible deviation between the threats individuated at an institutional level (for example priority for international terrorism) and threats perceived by public opinion (for example priority for organised crime and worries about illegal immigration, a theme which is normally unusual for the external dimension of security). And it should also take into account the substance of threats apart from the empty name reference to categories which are too much comprehensive and often erroneously taken for granted in their content.