Royal Navy Strategic Studies Centre

The Royal Navy's hub for academic and intellectual engagement

Established in December 2019, the Royal Navy Strategic Studies Centre (RNSSC) serves as the 'think tank' for the Service. By harnessing internal and external intellect and progressive thought, we work to guide and strengthen future decision making and shape the fleet of today and tomorrow.

Our role is to inform, not to decide, and we do just that. We don’t provide the ‘staff answer’, we provide something different – an independent, challenging perspective, always based in academic rigour. If success can be said to be measured in demand, then I am pleased to say that we are not short of work.

Dr Kevin Rowlands, Captain – Head of the RNSSC

Our Mission

We will inform policy and strategy decisions by:

  • Appraising the Royal Navy on contemporary thought
  • Instilling a philosophy of critical thinking and challenge
  • Harnessing the intellectual capital of our people

Our Vision

To strengthen the conceptual component of fighting power.

Our work

smiling hms montrose rating with colleagues in background

Our work 

The RNSSC works simultaneously on many different topics, including long-term critical thinking, quick-turnaround reactive analysis, and ‘red teaming’ of emerging ideas and concepts.

Our main customer is the Navy’s senior leadership who are looking for products, presentations, and events to inform the Royal Navy’s strategy and policy development.

However, no-one has a monopoly on good ideas and much of what we do is 'bottom up' with ideas generated from our wide network of horizon scanners and critical thinkers.

The Advisory Committee


The Advisory Committee

Our Advisory Committee, which is chaired by the Royal Navy’s Director of Strategy and Policy, brings together leading figures from related spheres. Providing expertise in support of the Centre's direction of work, their diligent and ongoing efforts maximise the effectiveness and impact of our work.

The inaugural meeting was held on the 22nd March 2022 in the Admiralty Board Room in Whitehall.  It was an opportunity to introduce the Committee members to the RNSSC, our mission, structure and current work.

An in-depth conversation was held about direction, with the Committee able to offer their suggestions and advice for the future work of the Centre.

Short Form Work


Short Form Work 

We deliver multiple short-form reports. Most often two-sided think-pieces, these can be either responses to demand, or internally conceived notes on emerging topics of interest. The turnaround is fast and the output often sensitive and high priority.

Covering a vast range and breadth of subjects, examples of papers delivered recently include:

  • Female recruitment and retention
  • Comparison of different navies' approaches to capability development
  • The regional economics of the nuclear enterprise

Long Form Work


Long Form Work

Each term, the Centre sets a long form project or theme.

Future themes

  • The Royal Navy and the Indo-Asia Pacific
  • The Royal Navy and Economic Warfare
  • The Royal Navy and the High North
  • The Royal Navy and Space

Past themes

  • Impact and Analysis of the 2021 Integrated Review
  • The Royal Navy in NATO
  • The Royal Navy and the Impact of Climate Change

Red Teamed Papers


Red Teamed Papers 

Another important aspect of the Centre is our 'critical friend' role to the Navy and wider Defence. This is 'Red Teaming', and involves the examination of draft concepts, policies or strategic papers in order to improve them, or previously published documents to better understand their implications.

Recent activity has included:

  • The Royal Navy Strategy
  • The House of Commons Defence Committee Report 'We're Going to Need a Bigger Navy'
  • The Royal Navy Prosperity Campaign
  • The Royal Navy Climate Change Strategy
  • UK Defence Doctrine

Monthly Digest


Monthly Digest

We publish a monthly digest of our work through the year, containing relevant articles, podcasts and contemporary information:

Please note, due to operational functions some information can only be accessed through secure channels.

Harnessing our intelligence

We work with many teams within the Service and wider MoD, with our offices co-located with the Naval Historical Branch underpinning our working ties.
Our internal strength goes even further than this, however.

The power of partnership

Previous events

RUSI Workshop

RUSI Workshop: Organisations as Complex Adaptive Systems

The RNSSC supported Hudson Fellow, Major General Ewen Murchison to be able to hold a workshop about improving organisations and how lessons can be applied to the MOD and Navy context.

Taking place in late March 2022, RUSI hosted in Westminster with academics dialling in from as far as Harvard, in the United States.

Fellows Welcome Event

Fellows Welcome Event

On Thursday 28th April 2022, the RNSSC welcomed its new Fellows to their offices in Portsmouth Naval Base, as well as virtually.

New and current 1SL Fellows, Future Maritime Strategists and Associate Fellows met to hear about upcoming work in the RNSSC which they would be getting involved in. It was also an opportunity to meet the network of expertise and experience of RNSSC Fellows, and to discuss the current challenges facing the Royal Navy.

DCDC Futures

Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) Futures:
Climate change and the future of military operations workshop

In April 2022, the RNSSC team participated in this workshop which was a MOD, academia and industry collaboration. It involved discussing how defence will tackle climate change and what needs to be in place to reach government Net Zero targets.

Centre Visiting Fellow, Dr Duncan Depledge, used the discussion to inform his report for the MOD’s central doctrine team, DCDC.

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