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Trenchard Lecture: Translating Strategic Direction into Military Capability

27 February 2020

Translating Strategic Direction into Military Capability
27 February 2020, Royal Aeronautical Society
In the first Trenchard lecture of 2020 Air Commodore (ret’d) Andrew Curtis, will consider the factors relating to the translation of UK strategic direction into military capability.

Photograph of Air Council Meeting

TALK OUTLINE

Evidence from a range of countries suggests that the successful translation of government strategic direction into military capability in the form of equipment, trained personnel and in-service support, which actually meet the requirements of that direction, is not easily achieved. This trend is evident in the United Kingdom and its many and varied reasons are the focus of this lecture. Perhaps the most regularly cited reason for the strategy-to-capability gap is an inability by successive governments to procure equipment to agreed performance time and cost parameters. However, mismatches between strategic direction and military capability are hardly surprising. For the politician, accurately identifying, and then succinctly articulating, potential future threats and risks to the nation, from which strategic direction is derived, is inherently challenging. For the defence planner, gaining a thorough understanding of that direction, and then selecting and acquiring new military capability able successfully to counter predicted threats and mitigate those risks, is no simpler. The lecture considers the factors relating to the translation of UK strategic direction into military capability. In doing so, at the highest level, it seeks to answer the question ‘why does the UK have the military that it has?’ To date, academic research has provided only limited insights into the translation of strategic direction into military capability. This lecture addresses these gaps through an examination of UK decision making over what military capability to invest in and why, from the end of World War II to the present. Specifically, it concentrates on decisions taken below the political level, by the military officers and civil servants in the most senior positions within the MOD and at the very top of the UK armed forces. By doing so, it seeks to identify the factors that have shaped capability choices and determine why those choices have had the effect they have. The analysis draws on historical trends as a basis for evaluating the current quinquennial review process to assess whether the UK’s latest methodology to link strategic direction and the development and maintenance of military capability will fare any better than its predecessors. The subjects covered and conclusions proposed in this lecture are both extremely timely and relevant, given the increasing uncertainty and complexity of the contemporary strategic context and the new government’s commitment to undertake a strategic defence and security review in 2020.

Location

The lecture will be held at the Royal Aeronautical Society on Thursday 27 February 2020.

Please note this lecture will begin at 6pm (with Tea and Coffee provided from 5.30pm).

TICKETS

This lecture is free of charge however we do ask that you pre-book a free ticket as seats are limited. Booking is quick and easy:

Book Now for this free lecture

ABOUT ANDREW CURTIS

Andrew Curtis is an independent defence researcher who has recently completed his doctoral research on factors relating to the translation of strategic direction into military capability. His research interests stem from his 35-year career as a Royal Air Force logistics officer, from which he retired in 2019 in the rank of air commodore. His final appointment was programme director of the Defence Support Transformation Programme, the flagship transformation initiative of the MOD’s Modernising Defence Programme. During his career, he gained considerable operational experience through a variety of appointments, including: commander support in the NATO Headquarters at Kandahar Airfield in 2011-12; chief of staff of the Joint Task Force Headquarters in Malta that conducted the Libya Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation in 2011; commander of the UK military contribution following the Haiti earthquake of 2010; and chief of staff of the UK National Support Command in Afghanistan in 2005-06. Andrew is an Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute and has a Masters degree in defence studies from King’s College London


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