The cornerstones of the UK’s national security are being undermined as the Government fails to keep pace with challenges to the UK’s position as a global security actor amid fast-changing security threats, warns the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy (JCNSS).
In revisiting the UK’s national security strategy, the National Security Capability Review (NSCR) and the Modernising Defence Programme (MDP), the Joint Committee concludes that Government talks a better game than it plays on national security and urges that it’s now time for ministers to go back to first principles.
Chair of the Joint Committee, Margaret Beckett MP, said: “In our interim report on the NSCR last year, we found that the process didn’t do justice to the fundamental changes to the security environment in which the UK is operating, such as our relationship with the US and the EU. This follow-up inquiry has confirmed these conclusions and, if anything, the UK faces even starker challenges one year on. A reality check is urgently required.”
Defence funding model “broken”
The report on the NSCR and the MDP demonstrates that the defence funding model is “broken”. The latter raised more questions than it answered on the future of defence, leaving the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in a ‘holding pattern’ until the next Spending Review.
Policy and budgetary decisions have been left hanging for too long by the Government’s internal processes and funding models. It’s unclear when the next full review of the National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review will be held, or whether the Government intends for it to take place alongside a Spending Review.
The report concludes that it’s no solution to ‘fuse’ defence and security reviews as the NSCR attempted to do if every pound spent on one comes at the expense of the other. The Government has persistently failed to provide enough money to fund its ambitions for defence capabilities, while the MoD has struggled to manage its budget effectively.
The MoD must be supported by the Treasury in its efforts to harness new technology and innovation while maintaining sufficient numbers of soldiers, sailors, pilots and more conventional equipment. The UK’s long-term plan for defence, set in 2015, was never affordable within the budget allocated.
Members of the Parliamentary Committee recommend an increase in the defence budget.
Security landscape is changing
The report concludes that the national security landscape is changing more quickly than the current cycle of five-yearly reviews can accommodate, subsequently leaving the UK’s ability to respond to fast-changing and increasingly complex threats in doubt.
Beckett went on to comment: “If the Government wants to turn the ‘Global Britain’ concept into a meaningful strategy for a positive and self-assured role for the UK after its departure from the EU then it needs to be more honest about how it proposes to address these challenges. It must also back this up with the necessary funding and resources, and especially so for defence and diplomacy. This issue is too important to be sidelined by Brexit.”
The JCNSS calls on Boris Johsnon to prioritise the UK’s national security. It states: “Now is the time to start an honest conversation about the UK’s place on the global stage, the risks we are willing to take in relation to national security and the resource which Government is willing to commit to these ends.”