The policy presence on the JIC has been increased in recent years. The posts of Director General (Defence and Intelligence) in the FCO and Policy Director in the MOD are members and it is desirable that they should remain so that the JIC can be well-informed about the policy interests of those departments.
The Intelligence Co-ordinator, the Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Adviser and the head of the Cabinet Office Defence and Overseas Secretariat have also been members, and in fact all have chaired the JIC at various times. The posts of Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Adviser and Head of the Defence and Overseas Secretariat have now been combined into a single post which is held at Permanent Secretary level. So, now, is the post of Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator.
These are two of the leading policy advisers in the field covered by the JIC. Nevertheless, since we have been assured by all witnesses that the tradition of the JIC has prevented policy imperatives from dominating objective assessment in the JIC’s deliberations, we recommend no change in the JIC’s membership on this account.
That brings us to the Chairmanship. We welcome the fact that the Chairmanship is now a single, independent post, not combined with other posts as sometimes in the past. Nevertheless, without any implied criticism of the present or past Chairmen, it seems wrong in principle that the Chairman of the JIC should be outranked not only by the heads of the agencies but also by two other heavyweight Permanent Secretaries on his Committee. Lord Franks stressed the need for the Chairman to be both full-time and independent. We see a strong case for the post of Chairman of the JIC being held by someone with experience of dealing with Ministers in a very senior role, and who is demonstrably beyond influence, and thus probably in his last post.
THE ASSESSMENTS STAFF
We have noted in Chapters 2, 3 and 5 the skill and objectivity of the Assessments Staff. But we are conscious that the resources of the Assessments Staff are very slight in relation to those of the collecting agencies. Moreover, for the most part the Assessments Staff is made up of officials from departments on short-term secondments. When the Assessments Staff were set up in 1968, it was envisaged that they would have a permanent staff but the shortage of opportunities for advancement has made that impracticable.
The Assessments Staff do a remarkable job, given their limited role, in pulling together objective assessments. But they have limited scope for employing formal techniques of challenge. These would clearly not be appropriate in every case but might well be desirable for major issues when the ‘prevailing wisdom’ risks becoming too conventional. Their limited role also means that much of the task of assessing the influence of informants’ circumstances on the nature and quality of their reporting falls to the intelligence agencies, and is vulnerable to agencies championing their own sources.
The cost of the Assessments Staff is minimal in relation to the amounts the nation spends on the collection of intelligence. It is a false economy to skimp on the machinery through