From defence to national security culture

Its purpose is to integrate and coordinate the activities carried out by ministries, autonomous communities, and local entities
The Ministry of the Interior has had an initiative in place for decades to improve coexistence and school safety

PHOTO/Diario de Valladolid  -   The Ministry of the Interior has had an initiative in place for decades to improve coexistence and school safety

Spain's Integral Plan for National Security Culture is now a reality. In other words, it is already printed in the electronic characters of the Official State Bulletin (Boletín Oficial del Estado). Its raison d'être and broad outlines were made official in the middle of this week, although they were approved by the Council of Ministers on 25 May.

It has been published three and a half years after the publication of the National Security Strategy at the end of 2017, which already envisaged the drafting of a Comprehensive National Security Culture Plan. The aspiration of the director of the Department of National Security (DSN) of the Presidency of the Government, General Miguel Ángel Ballesteros, who knows very well what he has on his hands and the difficulties he faces, is to serve as a "catalyst" for the progressive implementation of an "inclusive, participatory and collaborative" national security culture.

Its purpose is to establish a sense of co-responsibility with respect to the importance of preserving the so-called National Security System, while improving its coordination and the effectiveness of State action. It seeks the participation of Spaniards through the "active" collaboration of public administration bodies and institutions, the private sector and civil society, in other words, the whole of Spain. So much so that the Integral Plan contains a total of 15 times the word "foment" and 10 times its synonym "promote", to which are added eight expressions with the verbs "encourage", "promote" and "support".

Las actividades de puertas abiertas en acuartelamientos militares dan a conocer las capacidades de las Fuerzas Armadas, instrumento clave de  la seguridad nacional. La imagen recoge una jornada en la base militar de Araca, en Vitoria
PHOTO/Army  - The open-door activities at military barracks raise awareness of the capabilities of the Armed Forces, a key instrument of national security. The image shows a day at the Araca military base in Vitoria

The aforementioned Plan aims to integrate all the initiatives and activities set in motion decades ago by the Ministries of Defence -with its Plan for the Promotion of Defence Culture- and the Interior, the latter through the Master Plan for Coexistence and Improvement of School Safety. It will include those undertaken by the Autonomous Communities, Provincial Councils and Town Councils, which are also developing actions to raise awareness of the role of their respective police forces and emergency services. It is an arduous task and not an easy one, because experience shows that a State that takes the co-governance model to its ultimate consequences is bound to encounter a thousand and one self-imposed obstacles.

The foundations of the Plan are based on four main areas of action. Firstly, at the level of training within the education system. It is intended to be included in the curriculum of Primary and Compulsory Secondary Education (ESO), in the Bachillerato and Higher University Education, as well as in Basic, Intermediate and Higher Vocational Training. Nothing more and nothing less.

El director del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional, Miguel Ángel Ballesteros, conoce muy bien lo que tiene entre manos. Con anterioridad fue responsable del Instituto Español de Estudios Estratégicos y se prodigó en la difusión de la cultura de seguridad nacional
PHOTO/Emeterio Suarez - The director of the Department of National Security, Miguel Ángel Ballesteros, knows very well what he is dealing with. Previously, he was head of the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies and was involved in the dissemination of national security culture
With the participation of all public administrations

The second major effort is in the area of public communication and outreach. The third is aimed at the active participation of the population and its organisations. There is a fourth, referred to as "external relevance", which aims to improve Spain's international image as a country of "integrity, security and commitment" to the maintenance of world peace and stability.

The Plan has its origins in the DSN, where the initial draft was developed. It has benefited from the contributions of a team of professionals from the academic, communication and business worlds. It has been submitted to the Ministries, the Autonomous Communities, Provincial Councils and City Councils of large cities, which have expressed their points of view and nuances.

Its writers have sought to establish what they call guiding principles. The first one cited is leadership. This crucial responsibility is assigned "to the entire Public Administration", for which a structure has been set up in which all Ministries and agencies of the General State Administration are part of.

La presencia de miembros de las Fuerzas y Cuerpos de Seguridad del Estado, autonómicos y locales en colegios e institutos son uno de los primeros eslabones del Plan Integral de Cultura de Seguridad Nacional
PHOTO/Maristas de Toledo - The presence of members of the State, regional and local Security Forces and Corps in schools and high schools is one of the first links in the Comprehensive National Security Culture Plan.

One of these is, of course, the Department of National Security. A prominent role is also given to the Joint Congress-Senate Commission on National Security, which is said to be an "essential" element for increasing the National Security culture of Spanish society as a whole. Another institution is the Sectoral Conference for National Security Affairs. This is a body for cooperation between the state and the Autonomous Communities, which is said to be "the forum for dialogue" on issues affecting the protection of citizens' rights, liberties and welfare, the defence of Spain and its international commitments.

The active participation of the administrations closest to the citizens, the local entities, is taken into account. And to complete the list, the so-called Integral Forum on National Security Culture will be created, which is intended to be "the space for public-private collaboration", within which joint and participatory activities will be promoted. In short, there will be many and varied conferences.

El Plan busca la participación activa de los españoles a través de las Administraciones Públicas, del sector privado y la sociedad civil. Las visitas a las bases aéreas, en este caso Alcantarilla, Murcia, atraen a miles de personas
PHOTO/Air Force - The Plan seeks the active participation of Spaniards through public administrations, the private sector and civil society. Visits to air bases, in this case Alcantarilla, Murcia, attract thousands of people.
A Plan awaiting financial resources

With such a complex structure, who is given the task of bringing the Plan to a successful conclusion? The Plan establishes the Inter-Ministerial Group for Monitoring and Evaluation of the Culture of National Security, which is described as "the main body responsible for the implementation, promotion, monitoring and evaluation of the lines of action set out in this Plan". But its tasks do not end there.

It is also assigned "the integration, synergy and promotion of all sectoral activities related to the culture of national security". In other words, it is competent in practically everything, without having previously determined the level of its members or which ministries, whether all 22 or just some of them, form part of the Group.

Las localidades con puerto de mar se benefician de visitas de barcos de guerra, cuyo potencial de interés para personas de todas las edades es innegable
PHOTO/ Port Authority of Almeria - Towns with a seaport benefit from visits by warships, whose potential interest for people of all ages is undeniable

What are the Plan's strengths and weaknesses? Its main weakness lies in the perceived intrinsic difficulty of implementing the big ideas on the table. The ambiguity of certain expressions, the lack of a visible leader and the voluntarism that underlies the application of resources that have yet to be specified are obstacles that may reach insurmountable heights in some areas.

From the point of view of strengths, it is already an achievement to have brought the Plan forward. It is clear that its promoters are willing to coordinate and bring together under a similar approach what has been developed separately to date by the Ministries of Defence and the Interior -the most active- and the local councils. It is clear that the weight of the drive behind the Comprehensive National Security Culture Plan falls on the Department of National Security, which is constituted as a permanent working body, with secretariat functions for the bodies and working groups that are activated.

Una de las manifestaciones de la corresponsabilidad ciudadana en materia de seguridad nacional son las juras de bandera, que se han extendido en localidades por toda la geografía española como, por ejemplo en Barbastro, Huesca.
PHOTO/Heraldo de Aragón - One of the manifestations of citizen co-responsibility in matters of national security are the oaths of allegiance, which have spread throughout Spain, for example in Barbastro, Huesca.

The Council of Ministers' agreement stresses that "increasing the culture of National Security is a priority action of the Spanish government". This assertion will have to be proven. If it is true, it is reasonable to think that the resources made available to the Plan will also be "priority". It is not specified whether the Plan will be limited to being the sum of the ministerial, regional and local plans that are already underway. Nor is it specified when it will take shape as such: will it already be included in the General State Budget for 2022?