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29 January 2021
In September 2020 the government launched the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Foreign Policy and Development 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 and 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. This article provides an overview of the developments which have occurred since the review was announced in September 2020 and the expected findings.
The initiative behind the review was to:
While the review is likely to end in Spring 2021, 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 its manifesto commitment. This increase means that the United Kingdom will be investing more in its defence industry than any other European country or NATO ally, except for the United States. It is the most significant increase in defence funding since the end of the Cold War.
Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute Conference on 11 December 2020, 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".
The government intends to invest the money in numerous ways, including the creation of a National Cyber Force, a new Space Command and a new centre dedicated to AI.
The Space Operations Centre will be based at the Royal Air Force headquarters in High Wycombe, with its aim to launch British satellites and the United Kingdom's first rocket in 2022. Major military powers worldwide 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 United Kingdom 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 have evolved significantly in the past 20 years.
The investment comes at a time when the world is dramatically changing, with the continuing impacts of COVID-19, the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union and the election of a new US president. It is intended to have long-term impacts, with aims to strengthen the United Kingdom's global influence and encourage the development of new technologies.
Investment in military research and development is necessary to master the new technologies used in modern 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.
The intention is not only to safeguard current jobs but also 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 United Kingdom, 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 affecting aerospace and autonomous vehicles.
The government aims to encourage technological advancement and strengthen the United Kingdom's position globally at a time of great uncertainty and upheaval. Its 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 United Kingdom looks to implement 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.
For further information on this topic please contact Elizabeth Williams, Stephen Kenny or Helena Eyles at Gowling WLG by telephone (+44 207 379 0000) or email (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Gowling WLG website can be accessed at www.gowlingwlg.com.
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