As the threat changes so must we. The Integrated Review will ensure our Armed Forces are fit for the future
Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth: the next decade will bring 'unprecedented' levels of investment in defence with new ships and missiles for the Royal Navy, writes Lady Goldie | Alamy
By transforming defence we will guarantee that resilience remains our watchword in the years ahead
There are few places outside of the military where you’ll find as much defence expertise and experience as in the House of Lords. Our benches are graced with former defence secretaries, former defence ministers, former chiefs of defence staff, former First Sea Lords and former Air Chief Marshals. Facing them at the despatch box as a current defence minister is a formidable experience but we are all agreed on the evolving nature of the threats we’re facing. Our recently published Integrated Review paints a stark picture of what’s at stake.
A resurgent Russia and the rise of China, coupled with globalisation and technological proliferation, are challenging western security and paving the way for global competition over our trade, values and interests. Gone is the notion that our western edge will always win the day. Today cheap tech gives our enemies more options. Gone too is the idea that our competitors only wage war in open, large-scale conflicts. Today our adversaries target our weak spots below the threshold of conflict. Instead of a static state of peace and war we find ourselves living in an era of constant competition.
Our recently published Integrated Operating Concept sets out a new, modernised approach for defence, with an additional £24bn invested since the start of this government. It will see our Armed Forces operating on both sides of the threshold of armed conflict, forward deployed and constantly campaigning.
At home our mission to protect will extend to the very fingertips of the union, from the RAF’s P8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft in North East Scotland to the Royal Navy’s helicopters in Cornwall.
Instead of a static state of peace and war we find ourselves living in an era of constant competition
Abroad, we will maintain our global leadership. As Europe’s biggest defence spender, we will lead the development of new thinking and new capabilities. Nato will remain our most important alliance, as will our enduring relationships with the US, Germany and France. We will continue strengthening other partnerships within the Joint Expeditionary Forces and the Northern group while deepening work in Africa, Indo Pacific and the Middle East.
With the boost in defence spending, the next decade will bring unprecedented levels of investment in defence with new ships and missiles for the Royal Navy, developing new fighter aircraft and sensors for the RAF and a more deployed and better protected Army.
We will invest in the ‘digital backbone’ required to integrate all our forces and capabilities, making the whole force greater than the sum of its parts.
Meanwhile, to get the best possible kit we are upgrading our partnerships with industry. We will publish a Defence and Security Industrial Strategy, improving our procurement, and setting out how central defence spending is for UK innovation, prosperity and the union. During the next four years, we will invest more than £6.6bn in R&D and spend over £210bn on equipment and support over the decade.
But our Armed Forces’ greatest capability has always been our people. That’s why we will increase their training – giving them the skills to adapt to cyber and other domains. We will look after their families at home – spending at least £480m over four years on wrap around childcare, as well as establishing more flexible working practices and improving accommodation. We will fully embrace the Reserve Forces, creating a single, flexible workforce, making the most of the talents of every part of our society.
As the threat changes so must we. But, over the past year and a half, remarkable resilience has been the defining quality of our brave men and women. By transforming defence we will guarantee that resilience remains our watchword in the years ahead. My distinguished colleagues in the Lords would expect nothing less.
Lady Goldie is a Conservative peer and defence minister