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Missing Links

by Brian Sims
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk UK

Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk UK

The Royal United Services Institute’s (RUSI) latest Briefing Paper warns of the risks engendered by any steep spending cuts across those UK departments and agencies directly responsible for tackling organised crime, managing migration flows and supporting diplomacy.

Were the 25% or 40% reductions now being considered by Her Majesty’s Treasury in these areas to take place, the “implications for national security could be considerable”. Indeed, defence and security Think Tank RUSI feels such cuts would cast doubts on the “credibility and coherence” of the Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) despite those assurances made on rising real terms budgets for both defence and aid.

Entitled ‘The Missing Links in SDSR Financing: Organised Crime, Migration and Diplomacy’ and authored by Professor Malcolm Chalmers (RUSI’s research director), the Briefing Paper argues that, ahead of the forthcoming SDSR, the Conservative Government has made commitments towards the UK’s “willingness to devote the resources necessary to remain a serious power on the international stage, backing its ambitions with increases in funding for both defence and development.”

However, if the SDSR were to be accompanied by steep reductions in spending on the diplomatic network, or by significant cuts in the resources available for combating organised crime, such moves could well risk undermining the wider coherence and credibility of the review.

The Government might then be open to the criticism that it was prepared to devote substantial resources to meeting international norms for defence and aid spending while at the same time cutting monies in areas more directly related to national security, foreign policy and prosperity objectives.

RUSI’s report highlights how the Government has “not been willing to match the budgetary protection for defence and official development assistance with similar commitments to other security-related departments” which, at least in part, also fall within the SDSR – specifically, the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The Briefing Paper starkly points out how “no budgetary protection has been provided around Home Office capabilities for tackling organised crime”. For example, the National Crime Agency’s £427 million budget is considered to be part of the Home Office’s baseline budget, while local police forces have seen their own budgets fall by 25% in real terms. Both play a huge role, of course, in tackling organised crime.

RUSI boldly estimates that an additional 2019-2020 allocation of £400 million would be required to provide real terms protection around the agencies with lead responsibility for combating organised crime, managing migration and conducting international diplomacy.

“Such protection would not be a magic bullet,” suggests RUSI, “but, alongside the much larger investments now being promised for defence, development and counter-terrorism, it would go a long way towards financing the three ‘missing links’ in security provision that could otherwise emerge as a result of the Spending Review.”

It’s certainly a compelling point of view.

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