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Thu, 24 September 2020

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The Integrated Review must clarify the UK’s approach to security and our position on the world stage

The Integrated Review must clarify the UK’s approach to security and our position on the world stage

When it comes to the capabilities of our armed forces, it is vital that strategy dictates the resources made available and not the other way around, writes Tobias Ellwood MP | PA Images

4 min read

The defence committee urge the Government to provide greater transparency surrounding who is involved in the Integrated Review and how different aspects will be structured and sequenced.

Upon being elected chair of the defence committee, I proposed that the first order of business should be to establish an inquiry to support the Government’s ambition to conduct the “most radical reassessment of our place in the world since the end of the Cold War”.

Last week, the committee published our Report: “In Search of Strategy – the 2020 Integrated Review”, which identifies the first principles that this exercise must adhere to if it is to provide a sustainable and actionable framework for our security, defence, development and foreign policy for at least the next five years. 

It is clear to our committee that the review presents a welcome opportunity to clarify the UK’s approach to security and resilience, set a vision for the role that we want to play in the world and clearly detail the respective roles and responsibilities of different departments to achieve this aim.

Critically, the review must explain how Government will work as one - utilising the full range of our hard and soft power instruments in a joined-up way - to achieve our security and defence priorities.

Too often, previous reviews have lacked an honest assessment of our strengths and weaknesses, proposed unrealistic efficiencies to address underlying affordability issues in the defence budget and failed to deliver a strategic vision for our security, defence and foreign policy.

Given these failings, we have been frustrated by the lack of transparency surrounding who is involved in this review and how different aspects will be structured and sequenced.  

Capturing lessons learned and facilitating structured external engagement, is a prerequisite for ensuring that the review challenges assumptions at the heart of our security and defence policy.

We urge the Government to provide greater clarity about how a wide range of stakeholders can be involved at the earliest opportunity.

As we re-orient ourselves on the world stage, we need a sober assessment of our relationships with key allies, security and defence partnerships and multinational alliances.

In order to inform the future of our defence posture, the review must start from a robust assessment of the current and emerging threats to the UK. As well as considering the changing character of warfare, the drivers of instability, and the impact of new and emerging technologies, this aspect of the review must assess the capabilities and ambitions of both our adversaries and allies.

Covid-19 has demonstrated that the Western rules-based international order is vulnerable to the disruptive actions of States hostile to our way of life.

It is therefore paramount that the review considers the full range of economic, diplomatic and military activities of states such as Russia and China. Crucially, it must also consider how the domestic political dynamics may influence how these States will act abroad in the future.   

As we re-orient ourselves on the world stage, we need a sober assessment of our relationships with key allies, security and defence partnerships and multinational alliances.

Understanding who we expect to act with in the future may prove to be just as important as understanding who we may have to act against.

Our Armed Forces are required to fulfil a diverse range of domestic and international tasks. Playing a critical role in the UK’s response to COVID-19, supporting relief efforts in Beirut and providing aerial surveillance over the Channel are but three recent examples.

The review is an opportunity to ensure that their concept of operations realistically reflects what commitments are possible with the resources and capabilities available.

Against a backdrop of finite resources, the review will inevitably involve making hard choices.

Platform, weapon and personnel requirements should be informed by the review’s threat and risk assessment and evaluated against their contribution to the resilience, availability and adaptability of our Armed Forces. 

Intensifying geopolitical competition, growing instability in fragile States and increasing economic uncertainty have all presented pressing security and defence challenges during 2020.  

When it comes to the capabilities of our armed forces, it is vital that strategy dictates the resources made available and not the other way around.

Now the Government must read our report and take our recommendations into account when conducting their review.

It is an unpredictable future with plenty of unknowns for the UK’s position in the world, but this review is the first step to ensure that we are fully equipped for any future challenge that we face.

 

Tobias Ellwood is the Conservative MP for Bournemouth East and chair of the defence committee. 

Read the most recent article written by Tobias Ellwood MP - Britain's moral duty to end people trafficking

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