Indispensable allies: US, NATO and UK Defence relations Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Priorities for the NATO summit 2018

1.NATO has been the cornerstone of the security policy of Europe and the UK for nearly 70 years. It is one of the longest-lasting and most successful military alliances in history, primarily because it has anchored the military weight of the United States in Europe, and has therefore removed any prospect of smaller member states being isolated and overrun by aggressive neighbours. (Paragraph 8)

2.We strongly support the Government’s push to increase NATO readiness and military mobility. (Paragraph 17)

3.Interoperability is a force multiplier. There is no easy solution to the problems presented by the wide range of systems in use by NATO allies; but ensuring that different national forces can work together is vital in a crisis or conflict. Regular NATO exercising helps to identify and solve such issues and we expect to see UK Government support for an increased programme of exercises with all allies. (Paragraph 21)

4.We welcome UK support for the proposed new command structure and hope that this support will be demonstrated through rapidly assigning staff to the new commands. We deeply regret that the contraction in the size of the Royal Navy made it more difficult for the UK Government to bid to host the new Atlantic Command. (Paragraph 25)

5.We support the Government’s push to improve decision-making. Taking decisions at “the speed of relevance” is vital to ensure the Alliance’s deterrence posture. (Paragraph 29)

6.We accept the argument that percentage of GDP is not a perfect index of commitment to NATO and recognise that there is validity in additional measures, such as gauging capability, in providing an evidence-based approach to resourcing and investment. But we strongly believe there to be no other unclassified measure that is as easy to assess, to understand or to use as the basis for making comparisons. We support the Government’s commitment to exhort and encourage our allies to improve their capabilities and increase their defence spending; but we note that such exhortations would carry more weight if the UK led by example and invested more in Defence. (Paragraph 33)

Securing the North Atlantic

7.Following the decision to leave the European Union, the Government has consistently reiterated its desire to increase its commitment to NATO. In the North Atlantic, the UK could demonstrate both leadership and commitment. However, this requires an increase in capacity. We do not yet know what the outcomes of the Modernising Defence Programme (MDP) will be, but if the UK’s anti-submarine warfare capacity remains unchanged—or is even diminished further—then the UK will be failing both its citizens and its allies. (Paragraph 37)

8.The Government should demonstrate its commitment to securing the North Atlantic through a renewed focus on Anti-Submarine Warfare in the Modernising Defence Programme (MDP). (Paragraph 38)

UK readiness

9.Given the speed of modern warfare, 20 days to deploy a mechanised brigade and 90 days to deploy a division risk making the UK militarily irrelevant. We ask the Government for an update on the Army’s work on how to generate a follow-on division; and we request a time-line of the steps required to reconstitute such a force in the event of an emergency. (Paragraph 42)

10.We are encouraged by the fact that the Government is looking at readiness in the Modernising Defence Programme (MDP). However, withdrawal from Germany will not improve readiness—rather the reverse—and accordingly the Government should reconsider its decision to withdraw from Germany. In any event, we expect the MDP to address in detail the issues of basing some forces and pre-positioning some equipment in Germany. (Paragraph 43)

11.We are pleased that the Secretary of State is willing to look at options to establish a war reserve of equipment, and its likely impact upon UK readiness. The Government should set out its initial findings in its response to this Report. (Paragraph 44)

12.The UK should demonstrate its leadership position in NATO by working towards being able to deploy a mechanised brigade within 10 days. (Paragraph 45)

UK contributions to NATO

13.The UK Government should demonstrate leadership in NATO by ensuring that all of its allocated posts, including those within the new command structures, are filled within an appropriate amount of time. Furthermore, it should consider whether we could provide additional UK personnel to NATO in areas where shortfalls currently exist. (Paragraph 47)

The UK-US relationship

14.The UK Government needs to ensure that, in addition to its primary focus on engagement with the US Administration, it is also engaging with the US Congress, State Administrations and US civil society. The Government should consider how it can better engage with Congress, including by inviting relevant Congressional groups to visit the UK. (Paragraph 52)

15.The House of Commons Commission and the House of Lords Commission, as well as the FCO and MoD, should consider how they can further support UK Parliamentarians to engage with their Congressional counterparts. (Paragraph 53)

16.Military-to-military engagement between the UK and the US is one of the linchpins of the bilateral relationship. The UK’s interoperability with and alleged over-reliance on the US are clearly linked and there is a balance to be struck. The Secretary of State has said that the UK benefits to the tune of £3 billion a year from the UK-US defence relationship. This implies that both the UK Armed Forces and HM Treasury benefit from our close relationship with the US. However, that will continue to be true only while the UK military retains both the capacity and capability to maintain interoperability with the US military and to relieve US burdens. For this to be the case the UK Armed Forces must be funded appropriately. (Paragraph 63)

17.The Government should ensure that US views are carefully and seriously considered during the Modernising Defence Programme (MDP) process and are given due weight when making decisions, particularly around sustainment of capabilities, requirements for new capabilities and overall support for defence. (Paragraph 64)

18.The Government should give due consideration to the dollar dependency highlighted in the National Audit Office Equipment Plan report and the subsequent impact on the financial resourcing of the Equipment Plan over the period of its implementation. (Paragraph 65)

The US and UK in NATO

19.It is clear that the UK is a major contributor to NATO. However, given the geopolitical changes which have taken place since 2014, maintaining current levels of support is not enough. The UK must demonstrate an enhanced commitment to the Alliance if we wish to retain a leadership role within NATO. (Paragraph 69)

20.The US role in NATO is vital to the defence of Europe and US priorities for the forthcoming NATO summit are closely aligned to UK priorities. The Government ought to demonstrate its commitment to joint priorities by increasing the interoperability, readiness and mobility of UK Armed Forces. The Government also ought to set out how it intends to play a key role in the US-led Atlantic Command and how that Command will work together with the UK-led Maritime Command. (Paragraph 73)

21.Although secondary to the bilateral UK-US relationship, the UK’s role in NATO is important to the UK’s wider defence relations with the US and to the UK’s relationships with our other close allies and partners. We expect the Government to fulfil its promises to increase support to NATO after leaving the European Union. We also expect to see the UK encouraging appropriate further co-operation between NATO and the EU. (Paragraph 78)

22.We recommend that the Government should demonstrate, both in the Modernising Defence Programme and in its response to this Report how it is increasing UK support to NATO. (Paragraph 79)

23.We calculate that raising defence spending to 2.5% of GDP would result in a forecast spend of £50 billion per annum and raising it to 3% of GDP would take this to £60 billion per annum. A rise to 3% of GDP would see defence spending return to the level—in GDP percentage terms—that was last achieved in 1995. (Paragraph 84)

24.As the analysis in the Annex demonstrates, for each additional 0.5% of UK GDP spent on Defence, under a range of projected growth scenarios, about £10 billion annually would accrue to Defence. Applying the 80% guideline referred to above, we conclude that the Ministry of Defence would receive an extra £8 billion annually for its budget. Thus an increase to 2.5% of GDP to be spent on Defence would comfortably fill the ‘black hole’ in the existing MoD budget. To reverse the loss of capacity referred to by Secretary Mattis, however, a higher target is needed. Accordingly, we recommend that the Government work towards an eventual goal of raising defence spending to 3% of GDP—as it was in the mid-1990s. (Paragraph 85)

Published: 26 June 2018