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Creating a safe and secure world, together

David Lockwood OBE, Chief Executive Officer, Babcock International | Babcock International

4 min read Partner content

The world is becoming increasingly turbulent – government and industry must work together to secure the UK’s future

The last thirty years have seen a time of relative peace for the UK, but this is now being threatened by the deteriorating geopolitical context, with mounting conflicts around the globe and attacks on critical national infrastructure.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two years ago, we have been forced to re-evaluate our defence priorities and equipment plans. This act of aggression has re-energised the debate on defence spending across Europe and the need for a strengthened NATO. It has also highlighted longstanding problems in the West’s production capacities.

Commentators have long stressed the dangers of a lack of urgency and forward planning in defence procurement, and it is generally accepted that we have been banking the peace dividend for too long. When the world was less turbulent, a lack of spending on defence was not the primary concern for Western countries faced with a multitude of pressing problems ranging from healthcare to education, and limited funds with which to solve them.

Now, conflict in Europe and rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific region have challenged this calculus for countries like the UK. The investment in defence over the last few years is welcome but is being used to plug historic gaps, and high inflation means money earmarked to develop new capabilities does not go as far as it once did. Furthermore, extended procurement processes and delays on capability choices risk current platforms ending their lives before their replacements are ready to be deployed.

It cannot be denied that defence procurement in the UK has faced challenges over the last couple of decades, with decisions delayed and industry and government working at cross purposes. This needs to change. We must build on the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy and recent Defence Command Papers to forge long-term partnerships between the Ministry of Defence and its key industrial partners to strengthen the defence enterprise.

No credible government would countenance not spending the money needed to keep its citizens safe. This money must be spent, and as much as possible should be directed towards investment and jobs in the UK.

Babcock, as a UK company, will always invest in the UK. Our sites span the country, from Scotland to the South West, and a significant number of our workforce currently live and work in the most deprived local authority areas in the UK. By providing high-value, well-paid jobs in these communities, we offer vital opportunities to British workers and help to spread prosperity across the entirety of the UK.

Indeed, our most important investment is our people. Almost half of Babcock’s 22,000 UK employees are skilled engineers and technicians, and we are proud to have over 1,000 apprentices who will be able to sustain those skills for decades to come.

Decisions taken today will impact the security of the nation long into the future. We see this most clearly through our critical work supporting the Continuous At Sea Deterrent. This integral part of the UK’s defence system provides us all with the ultimate protection, and we do not take the responsibility of our role as the government’s key naval nuclear support partner lightly. That is why we are delivering substantial upgrades to existing infrastructure and reimagining how naval nuclear support for the Royal Navy will be delivered. This is just one example of how investment today will help to secure the country for tomorrow.

The cost of investing now may be great, but the cost of not investing is far greater. Beyond national security, highly skilled and productive UK jobs and apprenticeships boost our economy, providing benefits well into the future. A reinvigoration of the industrial base will see investment flow into communities, supporting local economic growth, housing, education, and healthcare.

The entire Defence Enterprise – our services, government, and industry – must work together to realise these benefits. Together, we can create a safe and secure world.

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