Wednesday, 20 October 2021
Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
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Strategic Defence Review

By Bill Rammel MP, Minister for the Armed Forces

The first duty of government is to keep its people safe. Our National Security Strategy, updated earlier this year, sets out the threats we face. It shows how far the threats have evolved, and why an agile, cross-government response is required.

9/11 was a catalyst for change. Those images of planes flying into the twin towers are seared on our consciousness. On 7th July 2005, 52 innocent people were killed and 700 injured on the London underground and bus network by suicide bombers. This time the terrorists were British citizens working with Al Qaeda.

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By Dr Jeffrey Bradford

Today saw the release of The Ministry of Defence (MoD) Defence Plan including the Government's expenditure plan for 2008-2012 (Cm 7385). The document reflects the outcome of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review where all Government departments make their bid for resources based on needs and performance. A senior group of Ministers arbitrate over these competing demands to determine ultimately who gets what. For the Ministry of Defence, there are a number of interesting nuances in the Defence Plan which illustrate the evolving defence priorities of the Brown adminstration:

Defence Policy (Pages 18-19)
* The Defence Plan suggests a much greater focus on Africa, no reference to America's Global War on Terror (GWOT) and in terms of current commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan "Support work to deliver a downtrend in the number of conflicts globally"

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Former UK CGS General Sir Mike Jackson, tempted to play a little fantasy defence spending, came out solidly in favour of retaining the carriers, vital to preserving the UK's operational independence.

Speaking at the House of Commons as the guest of the All Party Group on Transatlantic and International Security and the Henry Jackson Society on 28th April, the General stressed that he would like to keep all the sweets in the sweetshop, but, if really pressed, saw the retention of the carriers and the renewal of the nuclear deterrent as indispensable to the defence of the realm.

If cuts are unavoidable, the first out the door may be the air power. 232 Eurofighters – which do not operate from carriers. So we purchase the Joint Strike Fighter, which does, giving us over 400 fast jets. These may represent capabilities whose worth is disproportionate to their expense; ditto our submarines.

The General says that we are making strategic airlift work, with the exception of the C-17, and questions the retention of the DC10 and Tristar, vintage 1962. They are becomingly increasingly, and increasingly expensively, unreliable.

Financially squeezed, US defence spending and procurement is trimmed to deal with today's counterinsurgency requirements at the expense of planning for future conventional conflicts.

The UK, whose long term strategic interests historically coincide with those of its North American ally, has not matched commitments with resources. In the economic crisis defence spending has been bumped to the bottom of the pile. What are the implications of short term responses to immediate crises at the expense of long range planning, and what can be done to balance often contradictory requirements in the face of an unpredictable and ominous future?

The General largely avoids overt prescription, but asserts that the 1998 Strategic Defence Review still underpins defence planning assumptions posited on a world now fundamentally altered by the events of the last decade.

A new administration could and ought to conduct a new SDR to weigh up the new realities and balance our defence spending accordingly. (Speaking today Opposition Leader David Cameron, seen briefly at a defence event yesterday, the parliamentary Welcome Home for the Royal Air Force, said we must "review all commitments across the piece" and while there were good cases for defence spending, in the age of austerity we must "live within our means for the longer term".)

Critical of the current procurement processes (but enthusiastic about Urgent Operational Requirements), the General observes that multinational projects tend to cost twice as long and cost twice as much. If we do not buy British, our industrial and skills base will not be maintained.

This might cost around 50% more than buying abroad; but the excess should not be paid through the defence budget, but through Business and Enterprise.

After all, the General points out, defence of the realm is the first and fundamental duty of any government; but the propping up of British industry is also the job of government – not of defence.


In a speech to the Royal United Services Institute in London this morning Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox has said that the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) will make a clean break from the thinking of the past and will be 'ruthless and without sentiment'.

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By Great North News Services staff reporters. Additional material by Nick Watts.

Fourteen years ago, the late lamented Tony Blair (Who he? Ed) told the UK Defence Forum to "think the unthinkable". Over the years we've done a bit of that – who can forget our papers on Vanguard submarines; Project Horizon; and scrap the RAF. (See the archives at if you do.) But as everyone is having their two penn'orth, we thought we'd parade a few of our ideas which are guaranteed to raise a few hackles. If we're wrong, use the comment facility to tell us why!

1. Do away with a deterrent based on sea-launched ICBMs. Instead, the next generation should be more limited but more widely dispersed, in the form of nuclear tipped cruise missiles (Tomahawk or Sea Shadow – that's a longer range variant of SCALP Navale developed in conjunction with the French, and thus incidentally ITAR free) Order 3 more Astutes instead of a new class of boomers.

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Delivering an Army Relevant for 21st Century Challenges


Driven by globalisation, the world is rapidly and irreversibly changing.  So too is the character of conflict: the Cold War is emphatically in the past.  However, Defence has not changed apace.  It must therefore transform in order to remain relevant and thus continue to secure UK national interests.  The Army has conducted a detailed study, drawing on lessons from contemporary operations and the deductions from Defence's thorough examination of the Future Character of Conflict.  Based on this, we have designed a relevant, adaptable and cost effective Future Force, which will continue to evolve as the demands of operations change over time and is designed to meet future threats and challenges.  This work is known as Transformational Army Structures (TAS).  The key word is transformational; the Army will continue to evolve.

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by Rt Hon Bob Ainsworth MP

Secretary of State for Defence

The Armed Forces are an essential element of our national security. They provide the ultimate defence against direct threats to the UK and its Overseas Territories. They tackle threats to our national security overseas by helping to address conflict, instability and crises across the globe.

The Government's current priority for the Armed Forces is to ensure they have the equipment and support they need for operations in Afghanistan. We have approved over £2.2bn from the Reserve for Urgent Operational Requirements in Afghanistan. Overall spending from the Reserve, above costs met from the MoD budget, was over £2.6bn in the last financial year.

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