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Modernising Defence Programme – Headline Conclusions

Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson has announced the MDP’s headline conclusions in a written ministerial statement.

On 19 July, the Defence Secretary made the first significant announcement on the Modernising Defence Programme (MDP) since the conclusion of the public consultation in April. techUK has summarised the three headline conclusions below, which the MOD intends to consider in further detail over the summer as part of the second stage of the MDP.

1. Our armed forces need to be ready and able to match the pace at which our adversaries now move:

  • Since SDSR 2015, the pace at which the UK’s adversaries can act against the nation has grown quickly
  • These hostile acts are disguised and hard to attribute, operating below the conventional threshold for what might be considered an ‘act of war’
  • The Armed Forces will need to be able to respond to threats from the ‘new’ warfare domains of space and cyber
  • To operate in the space domain, the MOD will publish a space strategy to guide future investment in satellites and other space capabilities
  • The MOD will continue to pursue an ‘integrated, collective approach to national security’ through a blended mix of hard and soft power, and will consider its ‘global defence network, to make sure we have the right military and civilian staff deployed around the world’
  • The UK needs to able to respond to future crises rapidly on its own terms, and the MDP will consider how best to rebalance training and equipment in the operational environments across the world where the UK is deployed
  • The MDP will review the UK’s overseas basing to improve interoperability with allies and partners, drawing on NATO’s readiness initiative
  • The MOD will build a ‘strategic net assessment capability’ which will examine all dimensions of competition and will assess how decisions taken by allies and adversaries may play out over the short, medium and long term
  • The MOD will also consider ‘a much more agile approach to the development of future equipment, with a clear focus on the increasing flexibility required to maintain strategic advantage’

2. A fighting force fit for the challenges of the 21st century:

  • The principles set out in Joint Force 2025 are right: ‘we want armed forces able to operate with agility and pace in the information age’, but the MOD may ‘need to accelerate elements of the programme to meet the most acute threats sooner’ and might ‘want to introduce new capabilities or equipment that provide significant advantage in the immediate term’
  • The MOD will also look to improve the resilience of Defence, to ensure the UK’s networks and systems are protected against hostile infiltration and cyber-attacks
  • To operate effectively in the information age, the MOD has stressed the need for information advantage, where future conflicts ‘will increasingly be won and lost based on who uses information technology most effectively: sensors, computing, communication, cyber and machine learning, artificial intelligence and autonomy’
  • Through the second stage of the MDP, the MOD will consider ‘how to ​enhance our ability to collect, analyse, disseminate and act very rapidly on the vast quantities of data that characterise the contemporary operating environment’
  • The MOD will look to modernise its approach to technology and innovation by taking a coordinated approach to technology and experimentation with greater central oversight – this will enable the department to pursue opportunities and novel ideas with a greater acceptance of higher levels of risk
  • To this end, the MOD intends to ‘invest in a series of “Spearhead” initiatives on key new technologies and increase our spending on innovation, science and technology’
  • To support this, the MOD will ‘publish a “Defence Technology Framework”, setting out the Department’s technology priorities so that we can focus efforts and guide strategy, investment and plans across defence as a whole’

3. Transforming the business of defence to deliver a robust, credible, modern and affordable force:

  • The MOD is examining the way it is organised and managed ‘with clearer responsibilities and accountabilities to deliver better value for money’
  • The MOD will look to exploit the approaches, processes and technologies with a proven track record of success outside of the Defence sector
  • The MOD will encourage a culture of experimentation, and will change its acquisition and commercial processes to ‘better support the rapid and incremental adoption of new and emerging technologies’
  • To create financial headroom for Defence modernisation, the MOD will consider how to drive efficiencies ‘by adopting ambitious, digitally-enabled business modernisation’
  • The MOD intends to adopt a more collaborative and demanding approach to its relationship with industry, ‘centred around an agreed set of productivity, efficiency, skills and innovation challenges’
  • The second stage of the MDP will also examine how Defence can further enhance the contribution of Defence to the UK’s overall prosperity, building on the recommendations set out in Philip Dunne MP’s independent report

Responding to the Modernising Defence Programme headline conclusions, techUK’s Head of Defence Programme Fred Sugden said:

“techUK welcomes the initial findings of the MDP and is particularly pleased to see the emphasis placed on delivering information advantage through the exploitation of new information technologies and capabilities. We also welcome the introduction of the Defence Technology Framework to provide clarity around the MOD’s technology priorities, and the commitment to reform acquisition and commercial processes to support the rapid adoption of emerging technologies, many of which are developed by techUK members. techUK has long supported the MOD in its drive to become a modern, digitally-enabled business, and stands ready to assist the MOD as it looks to achieve this through the MDP’s outputs.”  

You can read the full transcript of the ministerial statement on the MDP's headline conclusions by clicking here.


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