UK Defence and Security in an International Context: Developing Professionals
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Leeds
Unit of AssessmentHistory
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Political Science
Language, Communication and Culture: Other Language, Communication and Culture
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
Impact arises from the application of Leeds-based research to enhance professional awareness
and understanding of issues concerning contemporary UK defence and security within its broader
The principal beneficiaries are serving personnel of the UK armed forces and the Ministry of
Defence (MoD), as well as analysts, practitioners and future policy and strategy makers in the field
of defence and security. They benefit through the contribution of this research to their continuing
professional development; the promotion and pursuit of wider knowledge and understanding; and
the provision of expert advice.
The long-established research findings of Professor Spiers, and subsequently those of Dr Utley, in
contemporary defence and security questions, underpin the impact outlined above. The research
has been undertaken at the University of Leeds by Spiers, who has been the Professor of
Strategic Studies since 1993 and by Utley from 1994-2000 as a doctoral student and subsequently
as a Leverhulme Research Fellow, and from 2005 onwards as a Lecturer in International History.
This research centres on the analysis of UK defence and security concerns within the context of
international relations, taking into account the implications of relevant non-UK policies and
perspectives. Both Spiers and Utley focus upon changes evolving in the contemporary
international security environment, notably the challenges posed by new weapon systems and
non-state actors (2) and the opportunities for UK defence in exploiting new diplomatic and security
relationships (specifically the prospects for bilateral cooperation with France, from the 1998 St
Malo accords to the UK-French defence and security treaties of November 2010).
Spiers has set contemporary concerns about chemical and biological weapons within their
historical context, while reviewing the evolving potential of such weapons; their attractions for
certain states and non-state actors, including terrorists; their challenges for the armed services and
civil defence; and the limitations of multilateral agreements, protective kit and reliance upon
intelligence agencies (2, 3).
Utley's research has advocated a deeper understanding of French defence and security concerns,
moving away from rigid traditional conceptions of Gaullist `independence' and French
`exceptionalism' towards a fuller understanding of France's contemporary pragmatism and
preferences for multilateralism in response to current security challenges (5). This has had
particular consequences in relation to alleged French preferences for `European' over `Atlantic'
options; the perceived centrality for France of the partnership with Germany; previously tense
relations with the US and NATO; and challenges posed by French interests and commitments in
Africa (5) and the international campaign against terrorism since 11 September 2001 (4).
The value of the research and its contribution to professional debate has been commended
internationally. American reviewers regarded Spiers' latest book on chemical and biological
weapons (1) as `especially valuable in that it enables the reader to view the present dialogue in
historical context and not merely as an aberration stemming from post-9/11 concerns over public
safety'; it is also commended for `the care the author takes to distinguish media hype from
responsible scientific analysis' (Military Review, March-April 2011, pp. 98-9). Similarly it has been
observed of Utley's monograph (6) that her `extensive research' explains how `under Mitterrand
much disagreement underlaid the agreement on certain broad and often ill-defined principles'
(American Historical Review, vol. 107 (2002), p. 1306), such insights enhancing her analysis of
contemporary French defence policy and deployments (4), and the prospects for Franco-British
Spiers and Utley have contributed to the edited volumes of research-based papers delivered
before the Leeds residential courses (see section 4), which were entered in RAE 2001 and 2008
as well as in the current REF (4).
References to the research
1. Spiers, E. M., A History of Chemical and Biological Weapons (London: Reaktion Press,
2010). A Japanese edition of this work appeared in 2012. The book is described by one reviewer
as `more than just a history of these weapons, but also an important addition to the literature on the
types of threat we are likely to face in the future, and how they can and should be contained and
counteracted', Political Studies Review, vol. 10 (2012), p. 264. Another reviewer states that the
book `will be of interest to many, particularly academics and graduate students within the social
sciences, and career interagency and military professionals', Military Review (March-April 2011),
pp. 98-9. This book is listed in REF 2.
2. Spiers, E. M., `Chemical and biological terrorism and multilateral conventions' in I. Bellany
(ed.), Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction (London: Routledge, 2007), pp. 83-115. In a
work commissioned by the U.S. Institute of Peace, this 16,000-word chapter has over 100
references. Available on request.
3. Spiers, E. M., Weapons of Mass Destruction: Prospects for Proliferation (Basingstoke:
Macmillan, 2000). This research monograph was entered in RAE 2001. Available on request.
4. Utley, R. E., `At War with Al Qaeda — France and International Terrorism 2001-2011' in R.
E. Utley (ed.), 9/11: Ten Years After (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2012), pp. 45-64. This volume has been
described as `a timely book' that is `ambitious in its aims and broad in its terrain ... a useful source
for researchers and students in the fields of security studies and international relations', LSE
Review of Books, 25 October 2012. The book is listed in REF2.
5. Utley, R. E., `The Case for Coalition: Motivation and Prospects. French Military Intervention
in the 1990s,' Strategic and Combat Studies Institute, Occasional Paper No. 41 (2001). Available
6. Utley, R. E., The French Defence Debate: Consensus and Continuity in the Mitterrand Era
(London: Macmillan 2000). This monograph was reviewed as `superbly researched' by a US
specialist in French defence and security, Journal of Cold War Studies, Winter 2002, pp. 115-7,
while a prominent UK defence analyst concurred that the book was both `carefully researched and
well-written ... trace[d] with infinite care', International Affairs (winter 2002), pp. 702-3. Available on
Details of the impact
(i) The professional development of an annual cohort of over twenty members of the UK
armed forces, across all ranks and services, including personnel about to deploy overseas.
This activity occurred in a series of annual residential courses at Leeds on themes in international
relations. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) contracted the University to deliver these courses on
a four-yearly basis since 1995 (A). Spiers and Utley devised the course programmes, invited
speakers from academic and practitioner backgrounds (including serving and retired senior military
personnel; defence analysts; and members of the diplomatic service), hosted the courses, and
delivered research-based papers before them.
The courses facilitated a broader appreciation of contemporary themes by reflecting the research
interests of Spiers and Utley in interstate relations and counter-terrorism since 9/11 (4) and the
continuing challenge of chemical warfare (1 and 2). For the course attendees, the impact occurred
from enhancing their understanding through continuing professional development. Annual
feedback from beneficiaries evaluated the courses as `excellent', providing a `completely different
viewpoint to the standard military focus on capability and threat', allowing `a much broader and
deeper understanding of the history and context of a region that has dominated British foreign
policy', imparting information `that drastically improved my knowledge', and giving `an excellent
strategic and academic context to my more specific work at the operational and tactical levels'.
Courses were commended for having `greatly assisted in my professional development' and
proved `vital in my career enhancement.' (B)
The MoD was an additional beneficiary, renewing contracts for these courses since they
`consistently' met the `rigorous and highly competitive' criteria required in providing `valuable
academic understanding in the area of International Relations to members of the Armed Forces'.
(ii) Establishing a network of specialists, principally from outside the academy, with
interests in UK-French defence and security.
Spiers and Utley convened, and delivered papers before, a symposium in Leeds (28-9 June 2011)
entitled `Beyond Entente: UK-French Defence and Security Relations in the Contemporary World'.
Based upon Utley's research in French defence and security initiatives under President Sarkozy
(4), it attracted the French military attaché as well as French and British participants from
international think-tanks (including the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) and
Chatham House), the UK diplomatic service, the UK military, and consultancy firms, so
disseminating research findings beyond the academy.
As representatives of SCS Ltd (a defence and security contractor) observed, the event enriched a
`mutually supporting relationship that has existed for over 10 years' between Spiers/Utley and
SCS, by serving as `a catalyst for the creation of an enduring network embracing representatives
from international think tanks, other academic institutions and industry as well as senior serving
and former defence practitioners'. (D) Spiers and Utley extended the reach and significance of this
network by hosting a subsequent roundtable of participants from think-tanks and defence
contractors in London with the new French defence attaché (8 November 2012). Utley then
accepted invitations from IISS (F) and NATO to address a workshop in Brussels (27 November
2012) (E); to share her research expertise with British and French delegations in NATO (9-10
January 2013); and to participate in the third Franco-British Council annual conference on Franco-British defence cooperation (15-16 May 2013). An IISS representative commended Utley's `very
useful contribution' to the November meetings, setting `current developments in a historical
perspective' (F), and reflecting her research on the evolution of multilateral frameworks of French
defence (4 and 5). Her contribution was incorporated in an IISS policy paper that informed the
subsequent dialogue between IISS and NATO's Parliamentary Assembly. (F)
(iii) The professional development of 100 senior military officers and diplomats at a Decision
Game for the Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS), 9-12 July 2012.
After the Leeds symposium, SCS invited Spiers and Utley (G) on a consultancy basis to
participate in the annual RCDS Decision Game, testing the 90 members of the college in their
strategic analysis, decision-making and media interaction. Spiers and Utley mentored groups,
advised on the development of international crisis scenarios, and delivered the end-game critique
before the assembled college, one third of whom were international officers.
As the first occasion that SCS had engaged academic participants, the managing director
commented that the mentoring of Spiers and Utley was `of the highest order and the groups
concerned gained the benefit of your depth of knowledge', so serving `to further enhance the
corporate reputation of SCS in the international marketplace'. (H) For SCS, the `body of research'
of Spiers and Utley `was particularly pertinent to some of the scenario events with Dr Utley being
exceptionally well-placed to offer insight into the issues underpinning the French defence debate
and Professor Spiers poised to assist the players in the analysis of their country's vulnerability to
chemical and biological attack'. Their `key strategic insights constituted a new dimension of the
final analysis of decision-making throughout the game'. (I)
Consequently, the reach of this impact activity encompasses beneficiaries including serving
military personnel, the MoD, think-tank and commercial consultants, as well as high-level
practitioners and policy makers through the RCDS Decision Game. This impact has significance by
enhancing the professional development of armed service personnel, and by its value for think-tanks and consultants as well as future leaders and top advisers, through the expertise
disseminated and professional advice given.
Sources to corroborate the impact
A. UK Ministry of Defence contract renewal CTLBC/939/3 over four years from 1 September
2009 to 31 August 2013. Available on request.
B. Feedback from residential course delegates on the benefit of the proceedings for their
continuing professional development (2008-13). Available on request.
C. Written corroboration from University Liaison Officer, Ministry of Defence, 23 May 2013.
Available on request.
D. Feedback on the value of the symposium `Beyond Entente,' (28-9 June 2011) from
commercial consultancy participants. Available on request.
E. The International Institute for Strategic Studies, `Smart Defence and Specialisation:
Assured Access to Defence', workshop organised in collaboration with the Public Diplomacy
Division, NATO (Brussels, Tuesday 27 November 2012) [programme details and resultant policy
paper]. Available on request.
F. Written corroboration from the Director of Editorial and Co-director of Defence and Military
Analysis Programme, International Institute for Strategic Studies, 23 May 2013. Available on
G. Invitation from commercial consultancy participants [22 February 2012] to Spiers and Utley
to contribute to the Royal College of Defence Studies' Decision Game. Available on request.
H. Written corroboration from the Managing Director, SCS Ltd on the role of Spiers and Utley
at the Decision Game of the Royal College of Defence Studies (9-12 July 2012). Available on
I. Written corroboration from SCS participants at the Decision Game of the Royal College of
Defence Studies (9-12 July 2012). Available on request.