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IPPR - SDSR: Shared Destinies, Shared Responsibilities

A year ago ippr’s independent, cross-party Commission on National Security in the 21st Century, co-chaired by Lord George Robertson and Lord Paddy Ashdown, and including former Chief of the Defence Staff, Lord Charles Guthrie, and former intelligence chief Sir David Omand, offered a blueprint for UK security strategy fit for the post-recession world. Its two reports – Shared Destinies and Shared Responsibilities – argued radical change was necessary. This week the Coalition government publishes its new National Security Strategy (NSS) and its Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). The question is: has government risen to the challenge?

Some of the ippr Commission’s recommendations have been adopted, including

  • a more fundamental and wider-ranging SDSR, incorporating but going beyond defence
  • a National Security Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, to join up security thinking at the highest level of government.

But in other areas the ippr Commission’s expert recommendations are yet to be acted upon.

On defence, the Commission argued:

  • in current financial circumstances, UK full-spectrum conventional military capability is no longer an option: we need to specialise in some capabilities and reduce our profile in others
  • the aircraft carrier programme (£5bn), the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter procurement (approximately £10bn) and the Type-45 Destroyers (£6bn) need to be re-thought for both necessity and scale
  • at the same time, we need to invest in both high-end technology and in the quality of our trained service personnel. New investment is needed in hi-tech command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability, and in special forces for both overseas operations and readiness to deal with a Mumbai-style domestic terrorist attack
  • Trident renewal should be included in the SDSR.

More widely, in the 21st century, the ippr Commission argued that no country, no matter how powerful, can provide for security on its own and a key theme of any review must therefore be enhancing what we can do with others. The Commission argued that:

  • over-reliance on the US is complacent, and going it alone is unrealistic: the only way to strengthen NATO is to strengthen its European pillar
  • enhanced European cooperation on security is what the US also now wants to see.

This means pursuing a major increase in inter-state European defence collaboration, not to develop a European army, but to allow those states that want to deepen defence cooperation to move at a faster pace.

Beyond defence, the Commission also called for:

  • a Single Security Budget joining up security-relevant spending across Whitehall, to ensure that we both know what we are spending as a whole and that we are targeting that resource ruthlessly at the most pressing threats
  • a stronger emphasis on conflict prevention to save both money and lives, instead of waiting for conflicts to break out before we act
  • strengthened protection against pandemics and bio-terrorism through the creation of a Global Compact for Infectious Diseases, a pressing concern for a country like the UK that is a global hub for people movement
  • increased strategic gas storage – the equivalent of stockpiling drugs to cope with an influenza outbreak – to enhance energy security.

Notes to editors

The interim report (Shared Destinies) and the final report (Shared Responsibilities) of the ippr Commission on National Security in the 21st Century are both available on

The members of the ippr Commission on National Security in the 21st Century were:

  • Lord Paddy Ashdown, Co-Chair, former leader of the Liberal Democrat Party and former High Representative for Bosnia
  • Lord George Robertson, Co-Chair, former Secretary of State for Defence and former Secretary General of NATO
  • Dr Ian Kearns, former Deputy Chair, ippr
  • Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former Director of the Ditchley Foundation and former British Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Sir David Omand, former security and intelligence coordinator in the Cabinet Office and former Permanent Secretary in the Home Office
  • Lord Charles Guthrie, former Chief of the Defence Staff
  • Lord Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge
  • Sir Chris Fox, former Chief Constable of Northamptonshire and former President of the Association of Chief Police Officers
  • Professor Michael Clarke, Director, Royal United Services Institute, and Professor of Defence Studies at King’s College London
  • Professor Tariq Modood, Director of the Leverhulme Programme on Migration and Citizenship, Bristol University
  • Constanze Stelzenmüller, Director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund
  • Professor Jim Norton, former chief executive of the Radio Communications Agency and now at the Institute of Directors
  • Ian Taylor, former Chair of the Conservative Party Policy Task-force on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, former Conservative MP for Esher and Walton and former minister for Science and Technology at the Department of Trade and Industry.

Dr Ian Kearns and other members of the Commission are available for comment on the government’s proposals once they are released.


Tim Finch, Director of Communications, ippr: +44 (0)20 7470 6106 / +44 (0) 7595 920899 /