Defence Research and Parliamentary Scrutiny

October 10, 2005 - nr.16
Summary

On 11 July 2000 the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) was asked to produce an advisory report on the scope for granting a wish expressed by the House of Representatives. The House wanted to create a capacity for conducting research into defence issues in the broadest sense of the word, as set out in a motion tabled by Mr M. Zijlstra and Ms N.G. van ‘t Riet. (The request for advice is enclosed as Annexe I.) This motion was tabled during the debate that took place in the House of Representatives on 14 February 2000 on the 2000 Defence White Paper (the Zijlstra and van ‘t Riet motion is reproduced immediately after the request for advice).

In preparing the report, the AIV first obtained information on the support provided to parliament, notably in relation to defence issues, in a number of countries with which the Netherlands maintains close or relatively close relations. (This information is included as Annexe II.) The research institutes cited in the request for an advisory report (i.e. the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’, the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research and the Society and Armed Forces Institute) were then asked a number of questions about their relations with parliament and the research which they perform on its behalf. Interviews were also conducted with the members of the House of Representatives who submitted the motion in question, i.e. Mr Zijlstra (for the Labour Party (PvdA)) and Ms van ‘t Riet (for Democrats ’66 (D66)), and with the president (Ms J. van Nieuwenhoven) and secretary general (Mr W.H. de Beaufort) of the House of Representatives. The AIV also interviewed, at his own request, the chair of the PvdA’s Defence Committee, Mr H.J. van den Bergh, under whose chairmanship the latter committee published a discussion paper entitled ‘Een plan voor de krijgsmacht’ (‘A plan for the armed forces’). One of the recommendations made in this paper was that more research should be conducted into defence issues. The information which the AIV gleaned from both the written documents and the personal interviews proved to be of great value, and the AIV is extremely grateful to all those concerned for their readiness to share their knowledge and experience with the Council.

The AIV finalised this report on 27 November 2000. The report was prepared by the Defence Research Capacity Committee, which was made up of Professor R.F.M. Lubbers (chair of the AIV), Mr A.L. ter Beek (chair of the Peace and Security Committee) and Professor G. van Benthem van den Bergh (vice-chair of the Peace and Security Committee). In the light of the subject matter of the report, the latter two members acted as an interface between the Defence Research Capacity Committee and the Peace and Security Committee, which discussed the matter of defence research capacity at two meetings held on 3 October and 14 November 2000. The head of staff of the AIV, Mr F. van Beuningen, acted as secretary of the Defence Research Capacity Committee.

Advice request

Ministry of Defence Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Our ref. D 2000002239

Date 11 July 2000

 

Subject

Request for advisory report pursuant to motion tabled by Mr Zijlstra and Ms van ‘t Riet

 

Dear Professor Lubbers,

During the debate on 14 February on the Defence White Paper, two members of the House of Representatives (Mr Zijlstra for the Labour Party and Ms van ‘t Riet for Democrats ‘66) tabled a motion asking the government to investigate the opportunities for creating a capacity for conducting research into defence issues in the broadest sense of the word, and to report to the House on the results of its investigation (see enclosure). The motion was passed unanimously on 22 February.

In a discussion paper published last year in connection with the Defence White Paper, the Labour Party argued in favour of the creation of a ‘Dutch Institute for Defence Research’ whose mission would be to ‘undertake research, independently and on behalf of bodies such as the House of Representatives, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, into aspects of defence policy, both individually and in conjunction with other policy areas’. The paper listed the following potential research topics:

– the modern armed forces in the light of new political challenges;

– management issues against the background of political objectives;

– the value and desirability of certain weapon systems and proposed purchases of defence equipment;

– optimising the contribution made by the Dutch armed forces to NATO and European alliances;

– cooperation between the armed services;

– improving the quality of Dutch military personnel;

– Dutch society and the military ethos.

There is already a wide range of research institutes and advisory bodies for defence issues. Not only can the government make use of the knowledge and experience of the civil servants employed by the relevant ministries, it also has access to the expertise of advisory bodies and research institutes such as the Advisory Council on International Affairsthe Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’, the Society and Armed Forces Institute and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research. In addition, the government has gained considerable experience with the employment of external consultants on an ad-hoc basis. Engaging the services of external advisors has a number of obvious advantages, the main ones being their flexibility and the absence of any facilities that need to be staffed and funded on a permanent basis.

In the light of the above, we are interested in establishing whether there are any gaps in the present system of research institutes and advisory bodies, and if so, what sort of gaps these might be. There is also the question of the positioning of these bodies and of an independent research institute (for example, in relation to the ministries concerned and parliament) and, in connection with this, their funding. Another point of concern is whether it would be possible to recruit a sufficient number of impartial, properly qualified people to staff a genuinely authoritative institute that would be capable of commanding the respect of the ministries concerned. A comparison with the situation abroad could generate interesting information in this respect.

We have decided to ask the AIV to publish an interim report on the motion tabled by Mr

Zijlstra and Ms van ‘t Riet. The impartiality and expertise of the Council are guarantees of an authoritative opinion on this issue that could provide a basis for putting the motion into effect. As far as the government is concerned, consultations with the House of Representatives on this point could be resumed shortly after the summer recess. We would therefore be grateful if the Council would report to us as soon as possible, and in any event by 1 October at the latest.

Against this background, we should like to ask the Council to assess the opportunities available for granting the wish expressed by the House of Representatives, as set out in the motion tabled by Mr Zijlstra and Ms van ‘t Riet. We request the Council in any event to discuss the relationship between the proposed new institute and existing research institutes and advisory bodies, and also to examine the question of the resources (in terms of staff, funding and other aspects) that a decision to create such an institute would require.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

MINISTER OF DEFENCE

(signed)

F.H.G. de Grave

 

 

THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

(signed)

J.J. van Aartsen

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