Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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Towards the next Defence and Security Review: part one report

The capabilities of HM Forces should be determined not by budgetary constraints but by a fully-developed strategy which defines the position in the world that the UK wants to adopt, says the Defence Committee in its first in a series of reports intended to inform the next Defence and Security Review.

Chairman of the Committee, Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP says,

“As far as we can tell, the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review and the 2010 National Security Strategy were governed by the overriding strategic objective of reducing the UK’s budget deficit. We have found it difficult to divine any other genuinely strategic vision in either document.”

The report urges the government to produce a comprehensive national security strategy in the first place and let that document, along with the Comprehensive Spending Review, direct the next SDSR. The allocation of resources will be based on national spending priorities set to meet the nation’s security needs.

Chairman of the Committee, Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP says

“We believe that there is a persuasive case for a national strategy to be incorporated in the National Security Strategy, defining what position in the world the UK should adopt as the ends of the strategy and setting out the combination of hard and soft power that represent the ways and means of getting there.”

The Committee is concerned that there is a danger of defence becoming a matter of discretionary spending. Decisions about the expeditionary capability that the UK retains must be based on proper strategic decision making about the UK’s place in the world and not simply flow from the “horse-trading” that surrounds the CSR process.

The report points out the lack of understanding amongst the public of why we have Armed Forces . General sympathy and support for the Armed must not obscure a hard-headed understanding of what they are for. The process of producing the next Defence and Security Review, shaped by the next National Security Strategy, is the opportunity to engage the public in understanding the future of the Armed Forces.

The Committee has very real concerns about the focus that will be given to the number of asymmetric security threats to the UK, such as from terrorism or cyber attack. The Government must think more strategically about the resilience of the country’s critical infrastructure and recovery following an attack. This needs to inform the next NSS and DSR and an assessment must be made of the proportion of resources dedicated to these functions.

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