New inquiry: Deterrence in the 21st century

23 July 2013

The Defence Committee today announces a new inquiry into the deterrence in the 21st century.
This inquiry is the fourth of a series which have evolved from our inquiry Towards the next Defence and Security Review. These cover a number of significant strands which the Committee believe would benefit from further Defence Committee consideration.

The context in which deterrence must operate has changed in recent years with the diminution in some former threats and the emergence of new ones, but in its widest sense the concept of deterrence remains as important as ever. The Committee will examine:

The concept of deterrence

  • Definitions
  • Where deterrence sits in the continuum stretching from influence to intervention

The climate in which deterrence must operate and how it has changed

The targets of deterrence

  • Is every threat potentially deterrable?

The different levels of deterrence, when each might be appropriate, and the likely efficacy of each

  • nuclear deterrence
  • deterrence though conventional forces
  • the link between the two
  • The significance of Ballistic Missile Deterrence
  • deterrence by protection of potential targets
  • The cyber dimension

The importance of credibility

  • The sufficiency of the means
  • The sufficiency of the will and of the ways in which it is expressed
  • Communication of the message, including to the target

How the UK Armed Forces currently contribute to deterrence and how this contribution can be improved

How deterrence can be expected to change in future

The Committee would welcome written evidence to the inquiry. This should be sent to the Clerk of the Defence Committee by Friday 27 September 2013.

Submission of written evidence should:

  • If possible, be provided electronically in MS Word or Rich Text format by e-mail to  If submitted by e-mail or e-mail attachment, a letter should also be sent validating the e-mail. The letterhead should contain your full postal address and contact details. If you have any queries on the submission of evidence contact Ian Thomson, Committee Specialist, tel: 020 7219 6951, email: .
  • Begin with a one page summary if it is longer than six pages
  • Have numbered paragraphs
  • Avoid the use of colour or expensive-to-print material.

Submissions can also be sent by post to Defence Committee, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.

Individuals and organisations interested in submitting written evidence to the Committee may find the Commons: Guide for Witnesses particularly useful.

Please also note that:

  • Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within written evidence, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included. If a number of published documents are sent to accompany written evidence, these should be listed in the covering email.
  • Written evidence submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organization submitting it is specifically authorised.
  • Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.
  • It would be helpful, for Data Protection purposes, if individuals wishing to submit written evidence send their contact details separately in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
  • Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.

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