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.

 

Want to find out more about the work of the RNSSC? Read the 2021/2022 RN Strategic Studies Annual Report.

The Advisory Committee

Water

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

Submarine

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

Ras

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

F35

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

Lunchtime Lectures

The RNSSC is running a monthly lecture series on maritime strategy topics. 

Academic experts challenge our perceptions on the key problems faced by the Royal Navy today, and start to outline what might be faced in the future.

Recent lectures have included;

May: Dr Alessio Patalano, Kings College London, sharing his thoughts about ‘Has the war in Ukraine changed the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific?’

June: Dr Matthew Heaslip, Portsmouth University, speaking on ‘Between Red Dragon and American Eagle: What does the White Ensign mean to China after 100 years of the CCP?’

July: Dr Duncan Depledge, Loughborough University, presenting some of his work involving ‘Climate Change, Net Zero and the Future Character of Military Operations.’


Corbett 100 Conference

Head of the RNSSC, Captain Kevin Rowlands, was invited to speak at this Kings College London conference celebrating the 100-year anniversary of naval strategist, Sir Julian Corbett. 

Alongside Captain Rowlands, Commander Andrew Livsey, spoke on the RN’s maritime doctrine and it’s Corbettian influences. 


Kiel International Seapower Symposium

The RNSSC’s Fellowship Officer, Mary Thompson, attended the KISS22 Conference in Germany in mid-June. 

This was an opportunity to discuss what future maritime capabilities, workforce and technologies might need to look like to tackle what the world could look like in 2040.

 

Lithuanian Navy Conference

On 30th June the Head of the RNSSC, Captain Kevin Rowlands, travelled to Klaipėda for a few days to speak at the 30th Anniversary of the Lithuanian Navy’s Conference.

Indo-Pacific Workshop

As part of the RNSSC’s termly focus on the role of the Royal Navy in the Indo-Pacific, in July we have worked with a couple of different think-tanks to run workshops.

These two separate days with RUSI and IISS brought together RN personnel and civil servants and academic experts to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the Royal Navy operating and influencing in that region of the world.

 

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