6 Conclusions |
213. During our inquiry we sought to establish
whether the new national security thinking and structures, under
the leadership of the National Security Council, had led to a
more coherent and well defined security policy in terms of the
ends of the National Security Strategy and the ways and means
set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review. We agree
with the Government that the operation in Afghanistan was the
top priority during the development of the NSS and SDSR. Operations
in Libya must also be prioritised.
214. We welcome the establishment of the National
Security Council and the commitment to an updated NSS and SDSR
every five years. The changing character of the threats facing
the nation required a more collective response from Government.
The previous culture of departmental-silos and turf wars needed
reform. However more reform is still required, such as the development
of the role of the National Security Adviser, the capacity of
the National Security Council Secretariat and greater use of interdepartmental
budgeting arrangements. The National Security Council must also
ensure that the UK's Armed Forces and the general public are seized
of the aims and objectives of its security policy and increased
engagement by the Government is essential to achieve this. The
National Security Council should develop a uniform vocabulary
for strategic thinking across Government. Strategy is understood
in many different ways across Government and the military and
too often the message and intent becomes blurred.
215. The latest National Security Strategy
is an improvement on earlier versions but we have major concerns
regarding the realism of its statement of the UK's position in
the world and its influence. There is a clear contradiction in
the short to medium term between the NSC's statement "that
Britain's national interest requires the rejection of any notion
of the shrinkage of UK influence in the world" and the Government's
overriding strategic aim of reducing the UK's budget deficit.
Despite the stated intention of rejecting any notion of the shrinkage
of influence, our witnesses have forcefully told us that the UK's
global influence is shrinking. Future National Security Strategies
must have as their starting point a policy baseline that is a
realistic understanding of the world and the UK's role and status
in it. That said, the UK has demonstrated, and continues to do
so across the world, that it has a major role to play in global
216. The UK's national ambition must be matched
and constrained by a realistic assessment of the resources available
to achieve it. The adaptable posture advocated in the current
National Security Strategy is a good starting point, but must
not become a hostage to fortune requiring the UK to participate
in the resolution of every global security challenge. This policy
baseline must be available at an early stage to ensure that the
correct decisions are made in the subsequent Strategic Defence
and Security Review in terms of force structures and capability
and platform decisions.
217. We acknowledge that it was necessary
to undertake the SDSR alongside the CSR. This resulted in a better
financial settlement for the MoD than might have been realised
if the two processes had been separated. However, given the speed
of the review we are not convinced that the best use was made
of experts from outside the Department.
218. Our Report outlines some major concerns
regarding the capability decisions made in the current Strategic
Defence and Security Review. The starting point for capability
decisions in future SDSRs should continue to be a consideration
of what "sovereign" capabilities are required. The SDSR
identified seven military tasks and the Defence Planning Assumptions
that underpin them. However it does not set out how capability
decisions such as those on Carrier strike and Nimrod MRA4 ensure
that the Armed Forces are able to undertake the military tasks.
In addition, the measures to be taken to cover the risks that
capability gaps engender need to be developedit is not
sufficient to rely on old and new alliances, although these are
valuable. When capability gaps occur, concrete plans should be
developed to regenerate the capability, including the necessary
skills amongst Service personnel. We hope that the plans to redevelop
the carrier and carrier strike capability might serve as a model
for the future.
219. The biggest challenge arising from the
SDSR and the next SDSR is the realisation of Future Force 2020.
We have serious concerns about whether it will be achieved, particularly
as the provision of necessary resources is only a Government aspiration,
not Government policy. Given the uniqueness of MoD procurement
we regard it as essential that the MoD has more certainty in its
long-term planning and recommend that ten-year budgeting be introduced.
This would also give the MoD greater confidence in the decisions
it takes in future SDSRs. However, as part of this, the MoD must
reform, and ensure substantially improved transparency and control
over its finance and budgetary practices. Without this it is extremely
difficult for the MoD to argue for additional resources. While
we welcome the Government's new initiatives on value for money
such as the Major Projects Review Board, we are not confident
that given the reductions in the MoD budget and the continual
reassessment and uncertainty in forward financial planning the
UK Armed Forces will be able to reach Future Force 2020.
220. The SDSR was unfinished business. It
has been supplemented by a three month review and by further reports
on the structure and senior management of the MoD, on the balance
of Regular and Reserve Forces, on equipment, support, and technology
for UK defence and security and the basing review. In the light
of these changes it appears to us that despite statements to the
contrary the SDSR has to all intent and purpose been re-opened
and it has been done without the re-opening of the Comprehensive
Spending Review. We will monitor events to ensure a coherent plan
providing UK national security.
221. Finally, we repeat our admiration for
the Armed Forces and the civilians who support them. We must ensure
that the implementation of the current SDSR and future SDSRs does
not fail them.