Update: The integrated defence and security review

6 minute read
19 January 2021

The Government launched the Integrated Review ("the Review") in September 2019 to review all aspects of international and national security policy, such as ideology, defence, diplomacy, reputation, finance, trade policy, military power and national resilience. The Review will be far broader than previous iterations of it, and indeed has been heralded as the most significant of its kind since the Cold War. Its aim is to lead to a deep and far-ranging programme of reform.

Unfortunately due to COVID-19 the Review's complete findings have been delayed to Spring 2021 and we need to wait a bit longer to learn of the changes that will follow and the direction of travel for defence and security. In this article, we thought it worth checking in to see if there have been any developments since the Review was announced in September 2020 and what we might expect to see in the Spring. Let's remind ourselves of the Government's initiative for the Integrated Review:

  • define the Government's ambition for the UK's role in the world and the long-term strategic aims for our national security and foreign policy;
  • set out the way in which the UK will be a problem-solving and burden-sharing nation; and
  • set a strong direction for recovery from COVID-19, at home and overseas, so that together we can "build back better".

What are the outcomes so far?

Whilst the review is likely to conclude in the Spring, the first outcome has already been announced.

The Government has increased defence spending by £24.1 billion over the next four years, an increase of £16.5 billion from their manifesto commitment. This increase means that the UK will be investing more in their defence industry than any other European country or NATO ally, except for the US. It is the most significant increase in defence funding since the end of the Cold War.

On 11 December 2020, speaking at the RUSI Conference, the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that "defence is one of Britain's greatest exports - not just British-made equipment but British know-how and values. It is also one of the biggest innovators and employers across the whole of the United Kingdom." He went on to say that "some tough choices will still have to be made. But those choices will allow us to invest in new domains, new equipment and new ways of working" and that he wants to see "a culture in defence that innovates more, embraces diversity, and allows more specialism to flourish."

What will the money be spent on?

The Government intends to invest the money in a number of different ways, including the creation of a National Cyber Force, a new Space Command and the establishment of a new centre dedicated to Artificial Intelligence.

The Space Operations Centre will be based at the RAF headquarters in High Wycombe, with its aim to launch British satellites and the UK's first rocket in 2022. Major military powers around the world are rapidly showing an interest in space and the technological advancements that will accompany such investment.

The National Cyber Force is already operating against terrorists, organised crime groups and hostile states. It aims to defend the UK from cyberattacks and undertake offensive cyber operations, encouraging greater visibility and coherence to offensive cyber.

The money will also be used to modernise the armed forces, with more money invested in advancing technologies. The ease of information transfer and rapid technological advancements means that warfare and politics has evolved significantly in the last twenty years.

What will the impact be?

The investment comes at a time when the world is dramatically changing, with the continuing impacts of COVID-19, the UK's exit from the European Union and the election of a new President in the US. It is intended to have long term impacts, with aims to strengthen the UK's global influence and encourage development of new technologies.

Investment in military research and development is necessary to master the new technologies now used in modern day warfare. The final review is likely to include commitments to investment in armed drones and upgrading of the Trident nuclear weapon system, with cuts to the size of the British army and its use of rarely deployed tanks.

Not only is the intention to safeguard current jobs but to create an estimated 10,000 additional jobs every year over the next four years. It is an opportunity to create highly skilled jobs in the UK, which should encourage exports and generate prosperity. The Government is keen to rebuild the economy following COVID-19 by promoting sustainable jobs and industries.

It is also hoped that the impacts will be felt outside the defence industry, with the technological impacts likely having an effect on aerospace and autonomous vehicles.

In conclusion

The Government aims to encourage technological advancement and strengthen the UK's position globally at a time of great uncertainty and upheaval. Their hope is that investment now will lead to a more sustainable, long term benefit of modernisation and job creation. The timing of the Review is perfect as the UK looks to put in place a route map to recovery out of the global crisis. The time is now to reassess and revisit old ways of doing things and to innovate and change. We all know that out of change can come opportunities and improvements.

We wait with interest to read the Government's complete response to the Integrated Review in a few months' time.

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