by Nigel Chamberlain / BASIC (London) –
BASIC Acquires ‘Confidential’ Document on Missile Defence
(September 9, 2003) — In a written statement to Parliament on 12 June, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced that he had signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding on missile defence with his US counterpart, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The MOU will:
* facilitate bilateral information exchanges on missile defence matters;
* establish a top-level management structure to oversee cooperative work; and
* prepare the way for fair opportunities to be given to UK industry to participate in the US programme.
He also said that further MOU would follow on the detailed arrangements for the upgrade of the Fylingdales radar and the setting up of specific UK/US technical cooperative programmes and added: “The details of these bilateral arrangements are confidential between the respective Governments at this stage.”
On 23 June, Conservative Defence Spokesperson Bernard Jenkin asked Geoff Hoon to place a copy of the MOU in the House of Commons Library. The Defence Secretary declined and said he was withholding the information in accordance with Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.
“We have acquired this ‘confidential’ document and, in accordance with the principle of open government so readily espoused by the Labour Party in opposition, we are making it available for parliamentary and public scrutiny,” said BASIC analyst Nigel Chamberlain.
In fact, the MOU doesn’t give much more detail than Geoff Hoon gave in his parliamentary statement. Why keep it secret? Because the Government plans to build the framework of trans-Atlantic military and industrial cooperation unimpeded by awkward questions about the advisability of proceeding with the whole missile defence project.
“Where now for the much-heralded public consultation on missile defence launched by a glossy document in December 2002, and then buried by Geoff Hoon’s announcement in February that the Government had agreed to the US request to upgrade Fylingdales radar station?” said Mr Chamberlain.
The U.S. DoD/U.K. MoD BMD MOU is available in PDF format on the BASIC website at:
EXTRACTS FROM THE MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ON BEHALF OF THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEFENCE OF THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN ISLAND CONCERNING BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENSE
SIGNED IN DUPLICATE IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE IN BRUSSELS THIS
12TH DAY OF JUNE, 2003 BY DONALD RUMSFELD AND GEOFFREY HOON.
1. Recognising the extensive nature of the changes in the United States of America’s Ballistic Missile Defense Program since the entry into effect on 6 December 1985 of the MOU between the U.S. and U.K. Governments relating to Cooperative Research for the Strategic Defense Initiative. (p3)
BASIC comment: This refers back to the efforts of the Reagan Administration to co-opt British research institutes and industry with offers of small contracts for SDI R&D.
2. The United Kingdom government supports these U.S. efforts and has welcomed assurances that the U.S. is prepared to extend coverage and make missile defense capabilities available to the U.K. ……. Should the U.K. desire and subject to determination of political and financial arrangements. (p4)
BASIC comment: While Geoff Hoon has indicated that no decision has been made about the UK deploying any missile defence systems, he has spoken very positively about the need for them and their potential benefits. However, no government decision should be forthcoming in advance of wider consultation of the political and military implications.
3. …. this MOU will also facilitate fair opportunities for U.K. and U.S. industries to participate in the U.S. BMDS Program. (p4)
BASIC comment: This refers to the setting up of the UK’s Missile Defence Centre (MDC) by Lord Back, Minister for Defence Procurement, which according to the FT (18 July) was the MoD’s “first concrete commitment to backing UK companies trying to participate in the US’s missile defence programme.” The MDC has £5 million backing from the government and will be matched by contributions from five British defence contractors (AMS, BAE Systems, INSYS, MBDA and Quintiq). Mr Hoon has previously indicated that no UK Government funding would be set aside for missile defence in advance of a political decision to proceed with its deployment. Will more follow this initial sum?
4. An Executive Steering Committee (ESC) will be established to oversee interfaces and collaborative efforts under this MOU. (p6) Each participant will contribute its equitable share of the full financial and non-financial costs, and will share equitably the benefits, across all activity conducted under this MOU. (p7)
BASIC comment: How much has the UK Government set aside for the implementation of the MOU by the ESC and related activities?
5. Each Participant recognize that successful cooperation depends on full and prompt exchange of information. (p8)
BASIC comment: A sound statement of intent that could well be adopted by the MoD in its dealings with Parliament and the British public.
6. Each Participant will take all lawful steps, which may include national classification, available to it to keep such information free from further disclosure. (p10) Except as authorised under this MOU, the recipient will not release the classified information to any government, national, organization, or other entity of a third party without the prior written consent of the originating Participant. (p12)
BASIC comment: As this fairly anodyne document has been ‘classified’ by Geoff Hoon, we can expect many more exemptions under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information in the UK’s dealings with the US on missile defence issues.
For further information and comment contact: Nigel Chamberlain on 020 7407 2977 or call BASIC’s offices in London Office(+44 (0)20 7407 2977) or Washington Office (+001 202 347 8340)