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Defence plans no longer address new threats

24 March 2015

The Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) and the plans to develop the Future Force 2020 no longer reflect the new threats to peace around the world, says the Defence Committee in its report: "Re-thinking Defence to Meet New Threats".

For the first time in twenty years, an advanced military state has challenged the borders of European nations, and the security challenges in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia have increased dramatically in scale and complexity. Serious instability persists in Darfur, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Pakistan. Three million people have been displaced and two hundred thousand killed in Syria. These represent just some of the security challenges.

The Committee believes that the UK cannot afford to ignore these challenges and retreat to isolation. Global peace and security is of immense importance to the world, and to the UK itself. The UK occupies a key leadership role in international organisations, and still has the capacity to play a deeply constructive role in preserving and restoring security.

The 2010 SDSR was primarily designed in the light of the UK’s presence in Afghanistan (a mission, in which the UK deployed fewer than 10,000 troops as part of a 100,000 strong, US-dominated coalition). Future Force 2020 planned to deal with one problem at a time by deploying 6,600 troops on a decade-long enduring stabilisation operation in a single country. Now, there is a requirement to support stability in a dozen different theatres simultaneously, and to engage with both unconventional and conventional threats.

Chairman of the Defence Committee, Rory Stewart MP says

"The SDSR and Future Force 2020 were based on the fundamental assumption that British Forces should be structured to deploy a single Brigade formation to a single key theatre such as Afghanistan and sustain it there. But now we can see that we might be needed in a dozen different theatres, concurrently, confronting terrorism or lightly-armed paramilitaries, in one setting, and heavily-armed formed units of an advanced military nation, in another. More advanced military threats, and multiple concurrent threats both require a fundamental rethinking of our strategy and our force structure."

Four major tasks to bring UK Defence into line

  1. The UK must rebuild its conventional capacities reduced since the Cold War. The requirements are many, including Maritime Surveillance, Nuclear, Biological, Chemical and Radiological warfare training, developing a Ballistic Missile Defence capability, an enhanced Navy and Air Force, a comprehensive carrier strike capability, and full manoeuvre warfare capacity. This will involve demonstrating a conventional and nuclear capacity and determination to deter any further threats to the European order.
  2. The UK must also work to really build the strength and closeness of its partnerships in coalition. The UK's Defence will depend greatly on retaining the trust and commitment of the US and France to mutual defence.
  3. The UK must develop new capabilities to respond to the threat from ‘next-generation’ or asymmetric (also described as ambiguous) warfare—in particular threats from cyber attack, information operations, and the use of Special Forces to support subversion.
  4. The UK must simultaneously develop the capacity to respond to an expanding series of challenges outside Europe—terrorism, brutal authoritarian regimes (killing their own citizens), extremist groups holding large territories as pseudo-states, state collapse, civil war, and state fragility. It needs to do so concurrently, and with limited resources, and this too may require more imaginative deployments and force structures.

Chairman of the Defence Committee, Rory Stewart MP says

"We need to continue to commit to 2% of GDP to enhance the NATO alliance and retain US involvement in Europe. But this will still mean we have to make tough choices about what to do and, perhaps equally importantly, what not to do. This will require immense discipline and imagination. But it is vital to rethink the fundamental assumptions of our Defence planning, if we are to help arrest the descent into chaos, which threatens to spread from the Western Mediterranean to the Black Sea."

Further information