Rostoucí komplexnost bezpečnostního prostředí vede v současné praxi k oživení systémových teorií. V zemích střední Evropy je přitom s pojmem bezpečnostní systém operováno ve strategických dokumentech již řadu let. Článek proto na základě analýzy dokumentů a legislativy České republiky a Polska zkoumá vývoj chápání bezpečnostního systému těchto zemí v čase a jeho vztah k pojetí systémových teorií i k praxi.


Článek byl podpořen grantem Specifického výzkumu Univerzity Karlovy v Praze, Fakulty sociálních věd č. SVV-2017-260-462.

Klíčová slova

Bezpečnostní systém; strategie; Česká Republika; Polsko; teorie systémů.


The growing complexity of the security environment, together with the growing interconnection between its external and internal dimensions, [1] has recently revived systems theories in many areas. The system approach might prove relevant especially in the uncertain times when the EU security faces backdrop of several key processes as analysed, e.g., by Balabán. [2]

Although no unified definition of a security system exists, the notion has been used in the strategic documents of the Central European countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) already for many years, referring to a state-guaranteed and managed network of institutions and processes, which serve to ensure security of the state, society and its citizens. The usage of this term in the official documents is quite region-specific. Indeed, national security strategies of such countries as, e.g., the United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden or Germany - despite sharing common security environment - do not use the notion of security system. The French White Paper on Defence and National Security [3] refers to the term security system consistently, yet, this is applied to the international environment only.

The recent literature analysing security strategies in the Central European region concentrates mainly on geostrategic aspects, [4] security sector (and particularly defence sector) reform [5] and specific topics accentuated in the documents, such as cooperation, international partnership and development. [6] From the relatively scarce literature on the Czech and Polish security systems, Spustek and Paluch [7] provide elaborated diagrams of the current Polish security system’s structure, yet only from a managerial perspective. Rašek and Krulík [8] are the closest to the topic discussed here, referring to an “open and dynamically evolving system” in their historical analysis of the Czech security system. [9]

It can be assumed that the choice to view national security as a system already suggests taking a very specific and comprehensive perspective. While a holistic or complex approach is quite common in the present-day security thinking, we are intrigued by the established reference to the system in both countries. Hence, we subject the idea of a security system presented in the strategic documents to scrutiny. Our research question is: How do the national concepts of security system used in Central Europe relate to the theoretical understanding of systems provided by the systems theory and what are the implications for security policy-making? To answer the research question, we examine the understanding of security system and its evolution in Poland and the Czech Republic as the countries, which actively use the term in their strategic documents.

Methodologically, we employ qualitative document analysis as the most suitable procedure for reviewing and evaluating official documents, [10] treating these as “social facts.” [11] This is appropriate for an interpretative approach, the aim of which is not a casual explanation but the understanding of a given phenomenon. [12] Our analysis consisted of an iterative process of skimming, reading and interpreting the documents through the lens of the systems theory. In line with the standard procedure, [13] the analysis combined content and thematic analysis. Our findings were triangulated [14] with information gained through participation in various expert seminars organised in Prague, Warsaw and Poznan between 2012 and 2015 as well as with academic literature on the subject.

The selection of the Czech and Polish cases is based on the fact that the term security system is systematically applied in their official documents. To avoid “biased selectivity” [15] which could result from the comparison of the latest strategies only, we primarily focus on all national security and military/defence strategies published in the two countries after 1990.

We start by briefly outlining the main general systems theories. Secondly, we compare the understanding of the notion of security system, as well as the development of its understanding in time. Thirdly, we look at how the idea of security system is translated into practice in the two countries. Finally, we conclude with the discussion and implications stemming from the comparison.


Already the mere notion of the security system strongly resonates with system theories and approaches as developed in the 1950s [16] and recently revived. [17] For this reason, we deem it necessary in our analysis to start from the basic overview of the system thinking, which we wish to link to the extant utilization of security system later on.

Although not all system approaches are applicable here, such as e.g. the systems analysis, [18] some more general systems theories (or, in fact, general system models) do accommodate our need to provide conceptual clarification of the nature of a security system. In his General Systems Theory, Boulding [19] suggests an arrangement of nine different levels of theoretical discourse as applicable to different phases of analysis as well as to different fields of science. The author starts from (1) the level of the static structure, or framework analysis, which provides a necessary basis of organised knowledge in any field of science. He then continues with (2) the level of the simple dynamic system and (3) the cybernetic system, or control mechanism, which - unlike its predecessor - tends to any given equilibrium within certain limits. [20] In the open system, also referred to as the self-maintaining structure, which constitutes the next level (4), throughput of material and energy is important. [21] Although this view of a system is still quite mechanistic, it can be argued that it possesses the basic attributes, which can be associated with a security system, i.e., it is not only the structure and/or relatively trivial determinants that describe the system, but also the input and output of material and energy, which can be thought of in this particular case as, e.g., budget, manpower, etc.

Boulding follows with (5) the genetic-societal level, of which the division of labour among parts of the system is the main characteristic. The next stages are then the (6) so-called animal level and (7) human level. The former is characterised by an increase in the intake of information in comparison with the previous levels and by behaviour in response to knowledge and not any more in response to mere impulses; the latter level, then, being above all distinguished by the ability of self-reflection. [22]

A truly organic view [23] is reached at the next (8) level of social organisations, where communication links different elements. The systems at this level are characterised by a set of roles tied together through communication and based on specific values. [24] In contrast with the mechanistic view, which was pointed out previously, this understanding could also be representative of a security system, yet, in rather Luhmannian [25] terms. In such a security system, feedbacks at different levels and communication (both vertical and horizontal) can evolve.

The ultimate (9) level of transcendental systems, as proposed by Boulding, is then rather irrelevant for our purpose as even the author himself does not propose any viable analysis at this level. [26] Although Boulding associates many of the proposed levels with specific areas (e.g., the second level of a simple dynamic system with a clockwork, the genetic-societal level with plants, etc.). Nevertheless, it can be maintained (in line with the argument of the author himself) that all these levels can be understood as levels of development or sophistication of any given system under analysis (or of the understanding thereof).

In sum, it can be said that information and communication are crucial according to Boulding [27] to characterise a more sophisticated (or organic) system. At a lower level of sophistication (as with mechanistic systems), only the structure and the throughput of energy and material are decisive. Similarly, in other attempts to draft a general systems theory, e.g., Overton [28] stresses the importance of structure, within which laws apply to the system as such, not only to its particular elements. Within the structure, the aspect of interdependence of the parts of the system is underlined as being constitutive for a system. [29]

Whereas the idea of clear-cut systems designed according to first order cybernetics was dominant during the Cold War and especially in the 1950s and 1960s, the present-day systems theories (which have exhibited a large revival over the last decade) build mostly on complexity science. As such, the focus is not on the structure and functions of the system as it was the case in the general systems theories above. Instead, the qualities and capabilities of a system (such as resilience or adaptability) got into the forefront. [30] Hand in hand with this, the widening of security sector includes the elements of such fields as the public health, environmental protection or emergency response. [31] While this characteristic also applies to the security systems of the Czech Republic and Poland, it can be maintained that - for the purposes of our paper - the original general conceptualizations of systems as provided by the general science-encompassing models above are more suitable for an initial analysis. Indeed, without the knowledge of the systems’ structure and functioning, any analysis of their qualities is unthinkable.


Here, we look at the key strategic documents as adopted after the countries’ democratic transition in 1989 and trace the evolution of the concept of a security system. We expect that the introduction of system thinking (or the use of the term security system) appeared in reaction to the processes of the widening of security and that it further developed based on the growing complexity of the security environment.


In the period between 1990 and 1992, characterised by the Defence Doctrine of 1990, the influence of cold war thinking in security issues was prevailing. External (defence) issues clearly dominated, while the non-military (internal) structures and issues were perceived through the prism of support for the defence effort. [32] The term national defence system was used and could be understood as a narrow form of a national security system, which (as a concept) was not extant at that time.

The next period, more than ten years long, from 1992 to 2003, was marked by a gradual recognition of non-military threats in the security environment. This started already with the documents Assumptions of Polish Security Policy and the Security Policy and Defence Strategy of the Republic of Poland [33] and was still reflected in a similar way in 2000, when the Security Strategy of the Republic of Poland and the Defence Strategy were enacted. [34] Not only were the non-military threats recognised, but also such functions of security policy were identified as political stability, economic security, protection of natural environment, population’s protection from natural disasters, energy issues, etc. The external military dimension has, however, remained crucial in the official security thinking. Security policy was still executed through the National Defence System with only vague prescription of wider, non-military security functions. [35]

An intention to understand security in a more comprehensive way was implied for the first time by the National Security Strategy of the Republic of Poland [36] in 2003. For the first time, the notion of national security (as opposed to defence) was included in title of the document. The importance of internal threats and challenges was clearly recognised and the need for cooperation and coordinated actions of the state apparatus in the sphere of security was articulated. Despite the title, however, the emphasis on external military security issues remained strong, with the role of other sectors being understood as rather supplemental to the main, military one. The State Defence System was thus still dominant, yet aspirations to create a more comprehensive crisis response system were included. [37]

The last and most recent period of conceptualization of the security system in Poland started with the adoption of the National Security Strategy [38] in 2007, which for the first time clearly outlined the concept of a security system, articulating the need for integrating the operation of various subsystems and institutions with responsibilities in the sphere of national security. The term national security system has been used and developed in the official documents ever since, namely in the Defence Strategy of 2009, [39] Strategy for Development of National Security System 2022, [40] National Security White Paper [41] of 2013 and in the latest National Security Strategy [42] of 2014. It has been acknowledged that the national security has a comprehensive and interdisciplinary character. As opposed to the previous documents, the external, internal, military and non-military threats and issues were equally considered here. The State Defence System ceased to play the key role and is - together with the Crisis Management System - now understood as an element of the National Security System.

The security system was understood here as composed of legislative, executive and judicial authorities, including the President, Parliament, or central bodies of government administration. [43] Other important elements of the security system included the armed forces and institutions obliged to prevent and counter armed threats, provide public security or conduct rescue operations and protection of population; local governments; and other legal entities including legal persons in the arms industry. [44]

The strategy also outlined the basic organisational structure of the national security system, distinguishing the Guidance Subsystem (Parliament, President, Council of Ministers, command bodies of the Armed Forces, etc.) and the Executive Subsystems. These executive subsystems are quite numerous (21 in total) and cover virtually every aspect of state policy touching upon the national security matters. [45]

The Guidance Subsystem was introduced, with special role ascribed to the Parliament, President of the Republic and to the Council of Ministers. The primary objective thereof is to ensure the continuity of decision-making directed to the maintaining of national security, thus resembling the sixth and higher levels of Boulding’s [46] categorization. [47]

The Executive Subsystems are then composed of forces and means controlled by cabinet ministers, central administration bodies, regional governors, [48] local government authorities and other entities responsible for the execution of national security tasks. [49] The Defence Strategy [50] can be understood as an executive strategy for the defence sector, dealing with the organisation of the State Defence System.

Currently, the main points of reference for the Polish security policy are provided by the following documents: National Security Strategy of 2014, Strategy for Development of National Security System 2022 (SDNSS 2022) and National Security White Paper. The SDNSS 2022 promised to offer a better understanding of the national security system. In 2009, the Council of Ministers adopted (as a part of the new approach to strategic planning) a plan, which aimed to consolidate the strategic documents used for programming long-term state policies. The SDNSS 2022 is supposed to complement two higher level strategic documents at the same time: the long-term national development strategy Poland 2030: The Third Wave of Modernity and the National Security Strategy. This dual link positions the SDNSS 2022 as both an element of integrated strategic planning and a subordinate strategy for implementation of the National Security Strategy.

The SDNSS 2022 includes numerous references to the need for a comprehensive approach to national security. The development of an integrated security system has been established as one of five operational goals. [51] However, the scope of the document is limited to the sphere of external and military security. Issues of internal and non-military security have been shifted to other sectoral strategies of national development, e.g., economic (including energy), civil (citizen), social and ecological security are included in separate strategies, such as the Energy Security and Environment Strategy, Strategy for Social Capital Development, etc. Consequently, the SDNSS 2022 concerns primarily only three sectors of state administration: foreign affairs, national defence and special services. [52]

While the definition of the security system, present in the national security strategies of 2007 and 2014, is the same in the SDNSS 2022, the introduction to the latter document states that the national security system is “the entirety of forces, means and resources allocated by the state to execution of tasks in the sphere of security.” [53] A new category of state security support systems has been introduced. These are supposed to supplement the executive subsystems and include critical infrastructure protection, strategic reserves system, as well as supplementary operational systems, such as border protection, flood protection, personal data protection and confidential information protection systems. [54]

The SDNSS 2022, for the first time, provides a clear understanding of how an integrated security system should be built and contains directives for its implementation. It provides the level of detail concerning the structure and functioning, which was lacking in the National Security Strategy of 2007.

The SDNSS 2022 is aimed at the external/military security sector, whereas other issues are dealt with in other sectoral strategies. Thus, it perpetuates a state in which - despite official declarations on comprehensive approach to national security - the actual responsibility for security provision is dispersed and divided between different sectors of state administration. Although guidance at the supra-departmental political level remains, in line with the National Security Strategy of 2007, in the hands of the President and Council of Ministers, coordination and integration of the whole security system is marked as lacking. [55] Quite realistically, an evolutionary approach is proposed, according to which the - now separate - State Defence System and Crisis Management System would be gradually coordinated, synchronised and perhaps eventually integrated. [56]

The National Security White Paper of 2013 [57] (BKBN 2013) is a product of the Strategic National Security Review initiated by President Komorowski in 2010. One of the key recommendations here is the development and improvement of the security system. [58] Substantial attention is given to the structure and operation of the Guidance Subsystem, yet mostly from an organisational view, not mentioning the links within the structure. It is supposed to have a unitary structure at the central, regional, district and municipality levels. Executive Subsystems have been divided into Operational (institutions and forces directly responsible for national-security missions) and Support Subsystem (entities relevant for national security provision but also performing basic functions outside the national security sphere). Operational Subsystem is composed of the defence system (including foreign service, armed forces, military special services and defence industry) and protective systems (justice, special services, bodies protecting public security and order, rescue and population protection services, crisis management elements, border services and other institutions responsible for public security). Support Subsystem involves social (institutions and systems dealing with such issues as the protection of national heritage, education for security, science, research and development in security sphere, countering demographic threats, health in service of security and media in the national security system) and economic (institutions and systems responsible for such areas as the financial security, energy security, critical infrastructure security, strategic reserves and natural environment protection) subsystems. [59] It can be argued that the borderlines between defence and protective subsystems have been drawn along the departmental divisions where the former concerns primarily the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of National Defence; the latter especially the Ministry of Interior. Overall, however, the White Paper’s understanding of security system is compatible with the one of the SDNSS 2022.

The National Security Strategy of 2014 has been developed using the recommendations for the 2013 White Paper. It adopts the definition and structure of the national security system proposed in the preceding document. The first two strategic goals identified in the Strategy relate to the integrated national security system in terms of maintenance and demonstration of preparedness, and its improvement, especially of the guidance elements, including ensuring necessary resources and capabilities. [60]

The 2014 document also lays down a so-called preparatory strategy. [61] It recognises the diversity of the current challenges the security system needs to meet, stressing a comprehensive reaction to emerging problems and transformation of the system “in order to monitor and forecast potential threats, quickly and adequately react to them and develop capabilities to remove the effects of crisis situations.” [62] This integral and constant self-adjustment, also in response to forecasted threats, shifts the understanding of security system to a qualitatively higher level of system thinking than that of an open system.

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, neither the term security system nor defence system were used in the first half of the 1990s. Despite the absence of this system perspective, however, security started to be understood relatively broadly already soon after the country’s [63] democratic transition. The first document of such kind, the Military Doctrine, [64] was marked by the democratic transition and the related re-structuring of armed forces with the aim to build a defence-oriented army under democratic supervision. Although no notion of a system appeared here, the document did employ a broader vision of security, including also its other (i.e. non-military) aspects. This holds true both externally and internally. Externally, the country declared its preparedness to send its armed forces abroad to both non-combat and combat operations of the UN as well as in case of environmental or other natural catastrophes. Internally, the (then used) term of civil defence was understood as an integral part of the state defence and involved protection of population against natural, industrial or environmental disasters during peacetime. [65]

Despite its title, the Czech White Book on Defence [66] of 1995 focused extensively on security policy in general. A wide range of factors were listed as being part of security policy, such as political and diplomatic factors, but also technological, economic, environmental, cultural and moral ones. [67] Also, among the principles of the Czech security policy, such issues as international crime prevention and cooperation in humanitarian issues and in the protection of the environment were listed. [68] Even the military part of the White Book counted with non-military threats, such as disasters or mass migration. [69] Although much attention was devoted to the transformation of the army, also other issues, especially arms control, peace operations under the U.N. and civil protection [70] were addressed in the White Book. In the subsequent National Defence Strategy, [71] no qualitative shift was made. The focus was on creating a complex defence system, yet the concept of the system was not further elaborated. The document, however, was understood as supra-departmental, touching upon other spheres then the military one, [72] thus, it had a certain system quality in itself.

The document, which reacted completely to the changed security environment and introduced the term security system in the Czech Republic, was the Security Strategy of 1999. [73] The document came into being in the context of devastating floods of 1997 and the main focus of the whole strategy was on non-military threats (floods, economy, terrorism, migration, etc.), acknowledging only a low probability of a military attack. The document reacted to this changed security environment with the introduction of a comprehensive security system, which would be able to react to all kinds of threats - both military and non-military ones. [74]

The Security Strategy of 1999 defined basic elements of the security system. These were constitutional institutions and actors, i.e., the President of the Republic, the Parliament and the Government, followed by the National Security Council and its working bodies. In case of a crisis, departmental division of responsibilities was set with the coordinating role played by the Ministry of Interior (during non-military crises) or the Ministry of Defence (during a military threat to the state). The document did not elaborate much on the structure of the security system. Except for the basic managing elements mentioned above, it did not seek to identify other elements of the system.

The design of the security system in the Security Strategy of 1999 took into consideration internal and external factors. For the internal factors, especially the economic possibilities of the country were acknowledged to play an important role. As for the external factors, it was especially the immediate environment being shaped by the country’s participation in international security organisations. The strategy drafted quite carefully the support (or inputs) needed for the security system to be functional. This support was divided into:

  1. legislative (legislative delimitating of the parts of the security system, their function and the links between them);
  2. economic (preparedness and provisions to ensure operation of the national economy during a crisis situation);
  3. financial (ensuring financial resources necessary for the security system as a whole and for its individual parts);
  4. logistic (infrastructure necessary for the operation of the security system, including a communication system);
  5. medical (ensuring medical aid during crisis situations, storing capacities for medical material, etc.);
  6. informational (played especially by the intelligence: ensuring information necessary for risk identification and prevention, including the creation of an integrated information system);
  7. and industrial (keeping adequate level of defence industry, supporting research and development in this area as well as cooperating with the NATO and the (then) Western European Union). [75]

Further documents of the same year, such as the Military Strategy, [76] did not explicitly refer to the new concept of the security system as proposed in the Security Strategy. Yet, in line with the Security Strategy, the document concentrated on different roles of the army in managing military and non-military crises, having only a supportive role in the latter ones. [77]

The next Security Strategy of 2001 [78] kept using the term security system, stating that strengthening of the whole-national system of crisis management was one of the key interests of the Czech Republic. In many respects, the security system was viewed in the same way as in the previous Security Strategy. This time, however, not much attention was paid to the necessary inputs. Instead, the document was somewhat clearer about the elements constituting the security system and their functions. The overall responsibility for functioning of the security system was endowed to the Government. The basic elements were listed in the same way as in the preceding strategy (i.e., the President, Parliament, Government, etc.). This time, however, also operational elements were included, namely the armed forces, armed security forces, rescue brigades and emergency services. The obligation was stated, too, for the state bodies, self-administration, legal and natural persons to participate at the ensuring of security of the country. Emphasis was put on coordinated activity of individual elements of the system while maintaining their individual operational ability at the same time. [79]

The following Military Strategies [80] (2002, 2004, 2008) then accepted the existence of a broader security system, where the army functions as one of the elements. Within this security system, the armed forces could operate both individually and collectively - assisting other bodies of the security system. In addition to this, the following Defence Strategies of 2012 and 2017 [81] and the White Book on Defence [82] explicitly referred to the extant security system and treated the defence system as one of its sub-systems.

The Security Strategy of 2003 [83] already stated that the security system of the country was functional. It treated the security system as an institutional tool for security policymaking and realization with the main function to manage and coordinate the activities of individual, hierarchically organised elements of the system. The strategy acknowledged the embeddedness of the security system in the NATO, EU and other international institutions. [84]

Again, the main focus was on the elements of the security system - this time not only enumerating them but also delimiting their competencies. Responsibilities and competencies were thus clearly stated for all basic elements of the security system. The Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence were joined by the Ministry of Agriculture to deal with spreading infections and the Ministry of Health to deal with public health issues. Regarding the executive part of the system, the earlier mentioned bodies, such as army or rescue services, were expanded also with the municipal police. More importantly, also private security services and volunteer organisations as well as individual volunteers were acknowledged to play an important role in the security system, thus adding an important democratic and participatory dimension. [85]

So far, the most current concept of the Czech security system has been provided by the Security Strategy of 2011. [86] This does not differ much from what was stated by the previous strategies; only the definition has somewhat broadened to include further areas. The security system is now understood as complex and hierarchically organised, "interconnecting the political, military, internal security and civil protection, economic, financial, legislative, legal and social levels.” [87] The elements of the structure are listed similarly as in the Strategy of 2001, but an explicit distinction between policy and operational level is not made here.

This view of security system remained virtually untouched by the updated version of Security Strategy of 2015. [88] The reasons for the update stemmed predominantly from the changes in the European security environment, the latest strategy revised the list of threats and security interests of the country. The only change concerning the understanding of the security system concerned the newly expressed need to continually “adapt to the current situation in the Czech Republic and in the world.” [89]

The Concepts of the Security System Compared

Strategic documents of both Poland and the Czech Republic work with the term security system. However, both countries - despite taking the systems perspective - understand the notion somewhat differently. While in the Czech Republic, this system is characterised as an “institutional tool for security policy making and realization,” [90] in Poland the term is used in a more operative way: as a system, which “has to be organised and equipped in such a way so as to enable rapid and effective action under all circumstances and in reaction to any type of threat and crises.” [91]

Although the notion of a system as such was not present in the Czech strategic documents until late 1990s, the security thinking in the country took on a relatively broad perspective from the very beginning. Both internally and externally, the security policy was meant to deal with non-military threats, such as natural and industrial disasters or international crime. Humanitarian issues and the protection of the environment were also included already in the first half of the 1990s.

In Poland, on the other hand, the notion of a system was present in the strategic documents as early as in 1990. Yet, it referred exclusively to the National Defence System, with the security policy being heavily military-centred and still reflecting the Cold War thinking. This somewhat changed over time, when also non-military threats became recognized and the understanding of security carefully widened in the course of the 1990s.

When the notion of a comprehensive security system appeared in the Czech strategic documents for the first time in 1999, the attention was paid especially to the limiting/ facilitating factors influencing the system and to the inputs and support, which should ensure that the security system was functional. This perspective thus resembles mostly an open system where especially throughputs of material/energy are defining features. The introduction of the term security system in Poland took place later (in 2007) and focused on integration of various subsystems as well as on the structure, defining managing (guidance) and executive elements. In the Czech case, on the other hand, not much attention was devoted to the structure of the system as such, this being reduced to an enumeration of basic elements from the legislature and executive.

Over time, the Czech concept of the security system focused less on the inputs and conditions for the security system to operate and more on the structure of the system. Various elements and their competencies were listed, thus also shifting one level up on the imaginary Boulding’s [92] scale from a process-oriented approach within an open system to a system characterised by division of labour and functions among its different parts. In both cases, adaptation appeared as a desired quality of the security system in the latest strategies of 2014 and 2015.

In general, the understanding of the security system in the strategic documents of both countries tends to be both broad and relatively vague. The Czech concept has been gradually more specific about the structure and especially about the elements, which should constitute the security system. The Polish one, on the other hand, tends to highlight the division between the guidance and executive subsystems, while the latter are understood relatively broadly, yet with somewhat dominant role of the army/defence compared to the other elements. This imbalance is lacking in the Czech case, which understands different sub-systems of the security system as equal.


Having discussed the understanding of the security system, it is worth examining whether the concept of security system also translates into practice. The answer lies in the legal framework and politico-institutional relations within the system.


The notion of national security system is well developed in Poland. [93] However, the legal basis for national security is still fragmented and dispersed in many separate legal acts. The authors of the Strategy for Development of National Security System admit that “in legal sense, the national security system does not constitute an independently functioning state structure.” [94] In practice, two integrated systems exist: the State Defence System (responsible for external military security) and the Crisis Management System (dealing with internal, generally non-military threats). [95]

Moreover, the division of central executive power between the President and the Council of Ministers is a source of serious challenges. Both executive authorities have important prerogatives in the field of security. To cite the most fundamental one of them, article 126, point 2 of the Constitution states that: “The President of the Republic shall (…) safeguard the sovereignty and security of the state as well as the inviolability and integrity of its territory.” [96] At the same time, article 146 entrusts the Council of Ministers with special responsibility to “ensure the internal security (and) external security of the state.” [97] In effect, this creates a double-headed structure of national security guidance opening up the space for potential rivalry between the President and the Prime Minister. Negative effects thereof were evidenced in the period of cohabitation between President Lech Kaczyński and Prime Minister Donald Tusk (from opposing political parties) in the period 2007-2010.

At lower levels of the structure, the government administration is clearly divided along departmental lines. This is logical and natural for such structures. However, in Poland the borders between different departments tend to be ring-fenced with jealous protection of their own resources, distinct organisational cultures and insufficient coordination. [98] Hence, the necessary interaction among different sub-systems is lacking, making the security system into a hierarchical structure only.

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, a comprehensive description of a security system does not exist. Its elements and their functions are described individually in the legislation. There are critical comments on the fragmentation and complexity of the current legal framework, which does not enable easy orientation. This has emerged due to uneven history and path dependency in formation of the relevant laws [99] and has not been surpassed.

Unlike in Poland, in the Czech Republic the Constitution does not elaborate much on security-related issues. It only recognises the state of war as the instrument of the highest emergency and defines the legislative (parliament) and executive (government) powers’ role in declaring the state of war. The difference between the two countries also exists with respect to another important Czech legal act, namely the Constitutional Act on Security, [100] as a similar one does not exist in Poland. This act represents the most important constitutional instrument for security policy and security system. It defines the components (protected interests and values) of the national security and outlines the competences of state administration bodies and the role of the National Security Council.

Regarding the security system as such, all basic elements are defined sufficiently and the line ministries have both legislative and organisational prerequisites for the creation of their respective strategic documents. [101] Also the executive elements of the system (i.e. armed forces, rescue services, etc.) are considered functional and able to fulfil their tasks. [102] Despite this well-functioning of the individual elements of the security system, one of the main weaknesses is the low level of interconnectedness among these elements. Although some sub-systems (especially the Integrated Rescue System) [103] can serve as an example of a well-functioning system based on communication and coordination, this does not hold true for the security system as a whole. Similar to Poland, the problem of coordination at the central administration level is still prevalent, coupled with a lacking long-term orientation, such as, e.g., the long-term strategy Poland 2030.


The article sought to address the question of how the national concepts of security system used in the Czech and Polish strategic documents relate to the theoretical understanding provided by the systems theories. In the understanding of security system in the strategic documents, there has been a shift over time towards a qualitatively higher level of system thinking in both countries – from mechanistic view to a more organic one. In the Czech case, adaptation as a necessary ability of the system was recently added. The Polish understanding then currently envisages not only flexibility, but also implies an integral knowledge intake and self-adjustment based on forecasting.

However, it still needs to be noted that the concern with structure (the enumeration of elements and their roles) and its delimitation remains the dominant feature in the strategic documents in both the Czech Republic and Poland. So far, we can conclude that the security systems in both countries can be thought of as rather mechanistic ones, being mostly defined through their structure and throughputs of material and energy. The interdependence as a general characteristic of a system is not entirely applicable to the security systems under study, also due to the problematic linkages and communication between different sub-parts of these systems.

Overall, it can be stated that in both countries the general idea of a security system does not translate neatly into the legislation, which is both in the Czech Republic and in Poland criticised as fragmented and difficult to orientate in. In both countries, too, the entire structure of the security system is somewhat fuzzy, not being clear enough on what still constitutes the system and what does not. This, in fact, should not necessarily constitute a problem, if there were clear mechanisms in place of including other (otherwise marginal) elements when necessary.

Differences between the two countries do, however, exist. While in the Czech Republic the security system is generally perceived as in place and functional (especially with respect to its particular elements), in Poland, the system is still more in the making with both the structure and the competences yet to be agreed upon and clarified.

Interestingly, security systems in both countries continue to be viewed as hierarchically organised and very complex at the same time. This increasing complexity makes them rather difficult to delimit, especially concerning the outer parts of the systems.

The broadening in function of security systems traced in security strategies might not be in the long term with the hierarchical understanding of the systems’ organisation, especially when different subsystems are organised differently. Already in the present practice, insufficient coordination among rather siloed subsystems was indicated as one of the main challenges the security systems in both countries are facing.

Thus, with the view of increasing complexity of both the environment and the security systems themselves, the understanding of these systems should shift further towards an organic view of the system. This should be characterised by feedbacks at different levels and evolved communication ensuring high level of interconnectedness on top of the ability of self-reflection and adjustment.

[1] MANNERS, Ian. European Union ‘normative power’ and the security challenge. European security, 2006, 15.4: 405-421.

[2] BALABÁN, Miloš. The Limits, Dilemmas and Challenges of European Security in Uncertain Times. Central European Journal of International Security Studies: CEJISS, 2016, 10.1: 88-109.

[3] The French White Paper on Defence and National Security [online]. Odile Jacob, Paris 2008 [cited 2017-03-28]. Available from:

[4] KUTĚJ, Libor, et al. Nová polská bezpečnostní strategie. Obrana a strategie, 2015, 1: 47-62.

[5] VARGA, Gergely, et al. Security sector reform: Hungarian experiences in the defense sector. International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs, 2011, 03: 29-42; PILEGAARD, Jess. Defence reforms in central Europe. European Security, 2003, 12.2: 122-135.

[6] OLIMID, Anca Parmena. Targeting Security Topics Usage in National Security Strategies: Core Strategic Concepts and Security Policies in Central and Eastern Europe. Revista de Stiinte Politice, 2017, 54: 24.

[7] SPUSTEK, Henryk; PALUCH, Alicja. Struktura systemu bezpieczenstwa narodowego Polski. Scientific Papers of Silesian University of Technology. Organization & Management Series, 2017, 100: 427-439.

[8] RAŠEK, Antonín, KRULÍK, Vladimír. Bezpečnostní systém: optimalizace, nebo nová koncepce? BALABÁN, Miloš, et al. Bezpečnostní systém ČR: problémy a výzvy. Charles University in Prague, Karolinum Press, 2015, pp. 82-117.

[9] Ibid, p. 91

[10] BOWEN, Glenn A. Document analysis as a qualitative research method. Qualitative research journal, 2009, 9.2: 27-40, pp. 27-29.

[11] See ATKINSON, Paul; COFFEY, Amanda. Analysing documentary realities. Qualitative research, 2004, 56-75, p. 47.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid, p. 32.

[14] DENZIN, Norman K. Sociological methods: Critical reflections and the logic of naturalistic inquiry. Sociological methods: A sourcebook, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978, pp. 1-29.

[15] YIN, Robert K. Case study research: Design and methods. 2d ed. Applied Social Methods Research Series. 1994, p. 80.

[16] See e.g. VON BERTALANFFY, Ludwig. An outline of general system theory. The British Journal for the Philosophy of science, 1950, 1.2: 134-156.

[17] See e.g. MESJASZ, Czeslaw. Risk, Threat, Danger, Vulnerability, etc.: Prediction and Anticipation of Systemic Disturbances in Security Theory [online]. ISA 49th Annual Convention 2008 [cited 2016-11-28]. Available from

WALKER, Jeremy; COOPER, Melinda. Genealogies of resilience: From systems ecology to the political economy of crisis adaptation. Security dialogue, 2011, 42.2: 143-160.

[18] DROR, Yehezkel. Systems Analysis for Development Administration: Some Problems and Requisites [online]. RAND CORP SANTA MONICA CA, 1969 [cited 2016-09-20]. Available from:

[19] BOULDING, Kenneth E. General systems theory—the skeleton of science. Management science, 1956, 2.3: 197-208.

[20] Ibid, pp. 202-203

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid, pp. 204-205

[23] VON BERTALANFFY, ref. 17

[24] BOULDING, ref. 20, pp. 204-205

[25] LUHMANN, Niklas. Communication and social order: risk: a sociological theory. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1993, p.115.

[26] BOULDING, ref. 20, p. 205

[27] Ibid, p. 201

[28] OVERTON, WILLIS F. General systems, structure and development. RIEGEL, Klaus F.; ROSENWALD, George C. (eds) Structure and transformation: Developmental aspects, New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc, 1975, pp. 61-81.

[29] Ibid, pp. 70-74.

[30] WALKER, COOPER, ref. 18

[31] Ibid, p. 16

[32] KITLER, Waldemar. Bezpieczenstwo narodowe RP: podstawowe kategorie, uwarunkowania, system. Warszawa: Akademia Obrony Narodowej, 2011, pp. 280-294.

[33] Założenia Polskiej Polityki Bezpieczeństwa oraz Polityka bezpieczeństwa i strategia obronna Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej [online]. President of the Republic of Poland, Warsaw 1992 [cited 2016-09-18]. Available from:

[34] KOZIEJ, Stanisław. Strategia Bezpieczeństwa i Obronności Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej po wstąpieniu do NATO [online]. Warsaw/Ursynów, 2008 [cited 2016-09-15]. Available from:

[35] KITLER, ref. 33

[36] Strategia Bezpieczeństwa Narodowego Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej [online]. National Security Office, Warsaw 2003[cited 2016-05-10]. Available from:

[37] Ibid.

[38] Strategia Bezpieczeństwa Narodowego RP [online]. National Security Office, Warsaw 2007 [cited 2015-07-15]. Available from:

[39] Strategia Obronności Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej [online]. Ministry of Defence, Warsaw 2009 [cited 2016-07-17]. Available from:

[40] Strategia rozwoju systemu bezpieczeństwa narodowego RP 2022 [online]. Ministry of Defence, Warsaw 2013 [cited 2016-07-17]. Available from:

[41] Biała Księga Bezpieczeństwa Narodowego [online]. Ministry of Defence, Warsaw 2013 [cited 2016-07-17]. Available from:

[42] Strategia Bezpieczeństwa Narodowego RP [online]. President of the Republic of Poland, Warsaw 2014 [cited 2016-07-17]. Available from:

[43] Strategia Bezpieczeństwa Narodowego RP, ref. 39, p. 21

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] BOULDING, ref. 20

[47] See section on theories above.

[48] I.e., regional representatives of the central government.

[49] Strategia Bezpieczeństwa Narodowego RP, ref. 39, p. 23

[50] Strategia Obronności Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, ref. 40

[51] Goal no. 5 “Creation of conditions for development of an integrated national security system”

[52] Strategia rozwoju systemu bezpieczeństwa narodowego RP 2022, ref. 41, p. 4

[53] Ibid, p. 3

[54] Ibid, p. 14

[55] Ibid, pp. 21-37

[56] Ibid.

[57] Biała Księga, ref. 42

[58] Ibid.

[59] Ibid, pp. 36-233

[60] Strategia Bezpieczeństwa Narodowego, ref. 43, p. 11

[61] I.e., rules and ways of maintenance and transformation of the national security system.

[62] Strategia Bezpieczeństwa Narodowego, ref. 43, p. 43

[63] Note: then the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic

[64] Vojenská doktrína ČSFR [online]. Prague 1991 [cited 2016-09-10]. Available from:

[65] Ibid.

[66] Bílá kniha o obraně ČR [online]. Ministry of Defence, Prague 1995 [cited 2016-09-10]. Available from:

[67] Ibid, p. 6

[68] Ibid, p. 8

[69] Ibid, p. 17

[70] i.e. a new term for the former civil defence, yet still under the Ministry of Defence.

[71] Národní obranná strategie ČR [online]. Ministry of Defence, Prague 1997 [cited 2016-09-15]. Available from:

[72] Ibid.

[73] Bezpečnostní strategie ČR [online]. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prague 1999 [cited 2016-09-10]. Available from:

[74] Ibid.

[75] Ibid, pp. 14-15

[76] Vojenská strategie ČR [online]. Ministry of Defence, Prague 1999 [cited 2016-09-12]. Available from:

[77] Ibid.

[78] Bezpečnostní strategie ČR [online]. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prague 2001 [cited 2016-09-12]. Available from:

[79] Ibid.

[80] Vojenská strategie ČR [online]. Ministry of Defence, Prague 2002 [cited 2016-09-12]. Available from: Vojenská strategie ČR [online]. Ministry of Defence, Prague 2004 [cited 2016-09-12]. Available from: Vojenská strategie ČR [online]. Ministry of Defence, Prague 2008 [cited 2016-09-12]. Available from:

[81] Obranná strategie České republiky [online]. Ministry of Defence, Prague 2012 [cited 2016-09-12]. Available from: Obranná strategie České republiky [online]. Ministry of Defence, Prague 2017 [cited 2017-03-12]. Available from:

[82] Bílá kniha o obraně [online]. Ministry of Defence, Prague 2011 [cited 2016-09-12]. Available from:

[83] Bezpečnostní strategie ČR [online]. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prague 2003 [cited 2016-09-12]. Available from:

[84] Ibid.

[85] Ibid.

[86] Bezpečnostní strategie ČR [online]. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prague 2011 [cited 2016-10-12]. Available from:

[87] Ibid, p. 20.

[88] Bezpečnostní strategie ČR [online]. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prague 2015 [cited 2016-10-12]. Available from:

[89] Ibid, pp. 6, 25.

[90] Ibid.

[91] Strategia Bezpieczeństwa Narodowego, ref. 43.

[92] BOULDING, ref. 20

[93] KITLER, ref. 33

[94] Strategia rozwoju systemu bezpieczeństwa narodowego RP 2022, ref. 42, p. 14

[95] Ibid, pp. 14-15

[96] Konstytucja Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej [online]. Warsaw 1997 [cited 2016-10-12]. Available from:

[97] Ibid.

[98] KITLER, ref. 33

[99] MAN, Vlastislav: Ústavní úprava zajišťování bezpečnosti České Republiky. In BALABÁN, Miloš, STEJSKAL, Libor (eds.): Kapitoly o bezpečnosti. Praha: Karolinum 2010, p. 74.

[100] 110/1998 Coll.

[101] RAŠEK, Antonín. Suverenita, celistvost, politická nezávislost - tvorba strategických bezpečnostních dokumentů, Vojenské rozhledy, 18 (50), nr. 1, 2009, pp. 3-22.

[102] SPÁČIL, Lubomír. Bezpečnostní systém ČR a krizový management. Vojenské rozhledy, 2(39), 1998, pp. 28-41.

[103] I.e., a coordination platform dealing with non-military emergencies.

Title in English:


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Obrana a strategie


University of Defence


ISSN 1214-6463 (print) and ISSN 1802-7199 (on- line)




Volume 17, Number 2 (December 2017)







Published online:


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