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The Strategic Defence Review

Introduction by the Representative of the Minister of National Defence for the Strategic Defence Review 2016.


Although in the past the Ministry of National Defence conducted reviews and created many documents of "strategic" status, those were based on unrealistic assessments of the Polish security environment and on superficial methodologies. Erroneous assumptions resulted in inadequate recommendations, and the net result was not optimising the state’s defence requirements.

Taking the decision to start the Strategic Defence Review in the middle of 2016, the leadership of the Ministry understood that it needed a comprehensive and fresh look at existing Polish defence capabilities. The history of our country proves that we simply cannot afford to make strategic mistakes.

We set clear goals from the beginning of the drafting process. Firstly, we needed to create a vision of the Polish Armed Forces that could meet current and future threats in light of available resources. Secondly, we determined precise methods of putting this vision into practice. Lastly, we created solid foundations for the development of future defence policy that is based on data analysis and a rational decision-making process.

Taking into account the assumptions and methodology used, it must be said that the Strategic Defence Review of 2016 was one of the most innovative projects in the history of the Ministry. Initiating the SDR, we realized it would not only be a difficult task to accomplish in a content-related sense, but it would also pose a huge organisational challenge. In support of our mission, we created the SDR Team composed of five research teams. The research areas for them were set by the Minister of National Defence:

Research Team 1 – Security environment of Poland;
Research Team 2 – National defence command and control subsystem;
Research Team 3 – Polish Armed Forces’ operational capabilities;
Research Team 4 – Non-military defence preparations;
Research Team 5 – Defence planning process.

The teams were composed of military and civilian personnel with broad experience and diverse specialisation and educational backgrounds. Being aware of the vast range of topics, we invited experts from other ministries (e.g. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration and Ministry of Development), The National Security Bureau, governmental research centres (e.g. Institute for Western Studies (IZ), Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW), Polish Institute for International Affairs (PISM), and special services. We also used support from academic experts and non-governmental research centres. In addition, we tapped into the knowledge and experience of many representatives of reputable institutions from Allied countries. Thus, the SDR process became an additional tool for the intensification of bilateral relations. We assumed that the openness towards diverse opinions and solutions could only benefit our work.

The task of every research team was to develop conclusions and recommendations based on expert opinions in each given research area, both in the diagnostic, as well as prognostic sense. Those assessments were then analysed and used to draw conclusions and recommendations.

The analysis of the Polish security environment conducted by Research Team 1, and the scenarios of potential future developments derived from it, played a key role in the whole SDR process. The findings of Team 1 constituted the basis for further works of the remaining teams.

The scenario and Delphi methods employed allowed the team members to answer the main question: what are the current and future defence needs of Poland and what should be done to fulfil them?

The benefits of this rational approach are best seen in the works of Research Team 3. Its experts dealt not only with the analysis of current operational capabilities, but also with formulating an optimal model of the Polish Armed Forces in the perspective of 2032. The proposed courses of action underwent comprehensive verification with a series of war-games and simulations, including those related to financial costs.

The ultimately adopted model is optimal. It will allow Poland to enhance our role in NATO and to serve as the unifying force of all Allied activities on the eastern flank. We want to build-up capabilities to create effective deterrence. In the worst case scenario, Poland will be ready to conduct an effective defensive operation, including fending off irregular hostile military attacks, whilst concomitantly providing significant contributions to collective defence. We also took into
account the obligation of the Polish Armed Forces to participate constructively in operations abroad, which constitutes a significant element of Allied operations. However, this will be accomplished without distorting the general direction of the development of our armed forces and our proposed equipment acquisition planning process.

In the accepted vision of the armed forces, we break with the false dilemma of choosing between quality and quantity. Proper equipment, training and organisation play a significant role to be sure, but still the most important factor is the saturation of the battlefield. In recent years, the deep reductions of the Polish Armed Forces personnel had not been preceded by careful deliberations to ensure that all possible eventualities could be addressed. The development of our armed forces should be based on a thorough analysis of defence needs, and not on mindless imitation of intellectual fashions.

The Strategic Defence Review of 2016 also provides guidelines for the changes in the command and control of the Polish Armed Forces. The analyses conducted by Research Team 2 confirmed the need for immediate reform at the highest echelons. Similarly as in the case of the desired model of the future Polish Armed Forces, we concluded that theoretical deliberations alone are not sufficient, and realistic simulations should corroborate our proposals. The task was accomplished in a two-tier verification process consisting of a strategic war-game and the “ZIMA-17” command post exercise, the largest and most ambitious endeavour of this kind in several years. With respect to the command and control, we present general guidelines, which should become the basis for key decisions in the near future.

Research Team 4 dealt with a difficult issue of assessing the condition of non-military defence preparations – the area which had been seriously neglected in recent decades. The restoration of capabilities in this field is necessary and will require close cooperation of the Ministry of National Defence with other ministries and local authorities. The team was also charged with issues regarding armaments policy. Its recommendations will be included by the experts currently working on developing a National Armaments Policy.

The analyses confirmed our convictions that by acting in a thoughtful manner, we can develop foundations for being the initiator of regional cooperation, an important voice in NATO, and – if need arises – the successful defender of our borders. We realize that the effort put into the SDR 2016 will be in vain if we do not perpetuate the culture of critical thinking and management by objectives. Research Team 5 prepared a set of recommendations designed to put the defence planning process in a more orderly manner by means of its systematisation and simplification. We believe that the objectives of national defence can be better accomplished by a modern organisation following a well-thought-out strategy.

The specific results of the Review cannot be released to the public. This document presents therefore thegeneral conclusions of our analyses and the vision of the Polish defence. The document is divided into two main parts. The first part identifies challenges we are likely to face by 2032. It describes the main assumptions stemming from the analysis of the strategic location of Poland. The second part proposes the directions of changes we should adopt in order to tackle those challenges. Although the changes touch on different areas of military activity, they form one cohesive vision.

The Council of Ministers, by the powers vested in it by the Constitution, “performs the general oversight of all the issues pertaining to the national defence”. Defence issues should be, however, treated in the context of broadly-defined national security. We believe the results of SDR 2016 will be a valuable contribution to the Strategic National Security Review announced by the National Security Bureau. The opportunity to direct the process of the Strategic Defence Review on behalf of the Minister of National Defence, Antoni Macierewicz, was an honourand a challenge. The SDR team accomplished a great job, and its effects in form of specific recommendations are already being put into practice. I hope that "The Defence Concept of the Republic of Poland" will be of interest to you. Enjoy the read.

Tomasz Szatkowski, the Representative of the Minister
of National Defence for the Strategic Defence Review,
Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of National Defence