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RUSI SURVEY: SDSR was a ‘lost opportunity’ according to two-thirds of defence and security community

The Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) was a lost opportunity for a radical reassessment of the UK's position in the world, according to 68% of the defence and security community surveyed by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

'The Defence and Security Review Survey', asked 2,015 people from the defence and security community whether they agreed or disagreed to ten key statements covering the outcome of the defence review, future capabilities, national security and, the UK's position in the world.

The ten statements were:

  1. The SDSR was a lost opportunity for a more radical reassessment of the UK's role in the world.

    68% (1363 respondents) agreed with the statement, 26% (517 respondents) and 6% (135 respondents) were undecided.
  2. The Government was right to make defence part of a wider review of national security.

    94% (1901) agreed, 4% (83) disagreed and 2% (31) were undecided.
  3. The SDSR has maintained an appropriate balance between ground, air and sea capabilities.

    32% (658) agreed, 50% (992) disagreed and 18% (365) didn't know.
  4. The SDSR has eliminated the inherited over commitment in the defence programme.

    23% agreed (455), 53% disagreed (1079) and 24% (481) didn't know.
  5. The SDSR provides a welcome opportunity for deepening UK-France defence co-operation.

    45% (917) agreed, 31% (623) disagreed and 24% (475) didn't know.
  6. After the SDSR, the US will take the UK less seriously in terms of military capability.

    58% (1171) agreed, 30% (608) disagreed and 12% (236) didn't know.

To view the survey results and associated analysis in full, please visit http://www.rusi.org/downloads/assets/SDSR_SURVEY_FINAL.pdf

Commenting on the survey findings Professor Michael Clarke, Director of RUSI, said:

"These responses seem to reveal a mixture of relief and disappointment; relief that the expected cuts were not higher than 8%, and disappointment that the exercise has not really settled any of the defence arguments. The SDSR may have concluded, but the process goes on and it will still be painful and divisive as it does so. The respondents to the survey seem to anticipate that. They evidently think that the perennial problems still have to be tackled; forces that are still over-committed; the need to get Afghanistan right before anything else can be seriously adjusted, the debate over maritime and ground-based strategies partly reflected in the carrier discussions, the right balance of forces and, for all of our respondents, the effect the SDSR will have on our defence relations with the US and France.

There is a difference between fielding forces that are efficient and cost-effective, and forces that are also strategically significant. This survey reveals some deep concerns among our respondents that the UK may be pursuing the former to the detriment of the latter. If so, this will have wider implications for the UK's role on the world stage. Underlying some of the concerns revealed in this survey, is the question of how near the threshold of 'minimal strategic significance' the SDSR has left UK forces."

Commenting on the SDSR as a whole, Professor Malcolm Chalmers said:

"Despite complaints that the SDSR had been unduly rushed, postponing the final decisions until later this year would probably have left the MoD with a worse settlement. It was compelling evidence of the damaging effects of steeper cuts - along with the need to maintain Afghanistan related spending - that allowed the MoD to secure a significantly better settlement than first anticipated."

In April 2010, RUSI conducted a similar online survey, gauging the opinions of 2,024 respondents from RUSI's defence and security community ahead of the General Election. 88% of the respondents to 'The British Defence and Security Election Survey' said that the UK needed a radical reassessment of its position in the world. Reacting to the latest survey findings, Professor Clarke said:

"No fewer than 68% of our respondents are now of the opinion that the SDSR has been a lost opportunity, at least for the time being. The expectations surrounding the SDSR - the fact that it has been coming for over two years, the pre-planning exercises, the anticipation of swingeing cuts in expenditure - all created a momentum in favour of radical agendas which the Review has only partially adopted. The National Security Strategy is certainly radical in its implications, but the SDSR has seen a major structural shift in resources that many respondents either welcomed or feared."

 To view the survey results and associated analysis in full, please visit http://www.rusi.org/downloads/assets/SDSR_SURVEY_FINAL.pdf