The Strategic Defence and Security Review and the National Security Strategy - Defence Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1.  The last Strategic Defence Review (SDR) was held in 1998. Our predecessor Committee analysed the outcome of the Review in several reports.[1] The previous Government began preparing for the next SDR by producing a Green Paper outlining the relevant issues in February 2010.[2] Between publication of the Green Paper and the General Election, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) followed a twin track approach. The first involved a range of preparatory studies of issues flowing from the Green Paper and in the second, in parallel with these studies, the MoD sought to engage the expertise of the wider defence academic and specialist community. The Department also worked on developing modelling and costing techniques, reviewing its strategic planning process and methodology to put in place a streamlined system to support the review and its implementation, and conducted studies to understand the financial and industrial consequences of making changes, particularly to the equipment programme.[3]

2.  Following the General Election, the new coalition Government changed the scope of the SDR to embrace broader national and international security concerns, and to involve other Government departments. The Government also established a National Security Council (NSC) chaired by the Prime Minister and responsible for all strategic issues of national security. The NSC led on the development of a new National Security Strategy (NSS). It was also responsible for steering the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), under the direction of the Prime Minister, and the MoD was but one of a number of significant players in this process.[4] In addition, the Prime Minister appointed Sir Peter Ricketts KCMG, a former Foreign Office Permanent Secretary, to the newly created post of National Security Adviser.

3.  On 15 September 2010, we published a Report on the processes followed in the development of the SDSR.[5] The Government's response to the Report was published on 6 December 2010.[6] In addition, we held one-off evidence sessions on matters relevant to the SDSR with representatives from defence industries and with academics on 8 September and 15 September 2010.[7]

4.  The National Security Strategy was published on 18 October 2010. The conclusions of the SDSR were published as a White Paper on 19 October, when the Prime Minister also made a statement to the House of Commons. The Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) was published on 20 October. After publication of these documents, we considered it important that we looked at the outcomes of the SDSR within the wider context of the NSS.

5.  We announced our inquiry on 13 January 2011 with the following terms of reference:

The Committee will examine whether the Government's decisions truly fulfil the stated intention of the SDSR as "set[ting] out the ways and means to deliver the ends set out in the National Security Strategy". The inquiry will also inform future inquiries looking at individual areas in more detail.

The Committee was particularly interested in establishing:

  • how the NSS and SDSR related to each other as strategic and coherent documents and what added value the establishment of the National Security Council had brought to strategic defence and security policy;
  • the role of the Ministry of Defence, including the Defence Reform Unit, and other Government departments, the National Security Council, the Armed Forces and other agencies in the development and implementation of the NSS and SDSR, including areas that stretch across Government such as the UK's increased role in conflict prevention;
  • what capability gaps would emerge due to the SDSR, including how these were assessed as part of the development of the strategies and what impact this might have on the UK's defence planning assumptions and the ability to adapt to changing threats or unforeseen occurrences;
  • whether the prescriptions of the SDSR would allow the MoD to balance its budget and make the required efficiency savings;
  • whether a funding gap still remained, how significant was it and how would it impact on defence capability;
  • how the implementation and success of the NSS and SDSR would be measured;
  • the success of the Government in communicating the outcomes of the NSS and SDSR to the Armed Forces and the UK public, particularly in relation to current and future operations; and
  • the timing of future SDSRs and the ability to plan for the medium to long term, and the process for renewing and updating the NSS, including the regeneration of lost capabilities.

6.  We received 65 pieces of written evidence and held seven oral evidence sessions, commencing on 16 February 2011and ending on 22 June. We are grateful to all those who have submitted evidence to this inquiry. We are also grateful for the assistance of our Specialist Advisers during this inquiry.[8] We also discussed the outcomes of the NSS and SDSR with UK Armed Forces during our visit to Afghanistan in January 2011 and with senior US politicians, officials and military personnel during our visit to the USA in April 2011.

7.  During our inquiry we have looked at whether the establishment of the National Security Council has given a more strategic and coherent focus to national security issues. We were particularly keen to examine whether this was demonstrated in the outcomes of the National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review. We have also examined whether the SDSR and NSS relate to each other and together form a coherent narrative on the national security challenges facing the UK and the means of meeting them. The availability of MoD resources to implement the SDSR was examined in this context.

8.  At the outset, we wish to pay tribute to the UK Armed Forces and associated civilian staff. They have continued to serve their country with distinction and dedication, especially operationally in Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere, during an unsettling period of a major defence review and the major reform and restructuring of the Ministry of Defence.

1   For example see: Defence Committee, Eighth Report of Session 1997-98, The Strategic Defence Review, HC 138; Defence Committee, First Report of Session 1998-99, The Strategic Defence Review: Territorial Army Restructuring, HC 70; Defence Committee, Seventh Report of Session 1998-99, The Strategic Defence Review : Defence Medical Services, HC 447. Back

2   Ministry of Defence, Adaptability and Partnership: Issues for the Strategic Defence Review, Cm 7794, February 2010 Back

3   Defence Committee, First Report of Session 2010-11, The Strategic Defence and Security Review, HC 345, Ev 14-15  Back

4   HC (2010-11) 345, para 4 and Ev 13 Back

5   HC (2010-11) 345 Back

6   Defence Committee, Fourth Special Report of Session 2010-11, The Strategic Defence and Security Review: Government response to the Committee's First Report of Session 2010-11, HC 638 Back

7   Defence Committee, The Strategic Defence and Security Review, Oral and Written Evidence, HC 451-i-ii Back

8   The Specialist Advisers' declarations of relevant interests are recorded in the Committee's Formal Minutes which are available on the Committee's website. Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 3 August 2011