Beyond 2 per cent: A preliminary report on the Modernising Defence Programme Contents

3Observations and expectations

55.In this chapter we make some observations from the evidence that we have received in the course of the inquiry, as well as from aspects of other areas of our recent work that are relevant to the Modernising Defence Programme. These are neither exhaustive, nor a list of requirements that we would expect to be met instantaneously or simultaneously, but a collection of headline themes which we would expect to be explored in the MDP, given the range of tasks and challenges that Defence currently faces.

Capability and force structure

56.In oral evidence in February, the Secretary of State agreed that re-emergence of state-based threats would have repercussions in terms of force structure and readiness.108 We offer our observations on areas within the scope of the MDP that we see as priorities.


57.The most serious maritime issue which has been recognised by Ministers, and in the evidence we have taken, is the need for greater anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capacity. The Defence Secretary has described how Russian submarine activity in the North Atlantic has increased tenfold in recent years.109 The outgoing Chief of the Defence Staff has recognised the threat this poses to the sea lines of communication across the Atlantic and to vital undersea communication cables.110 The UK lies close to the main transit routes that the Russian submarine force can use to project power into the Atlantic from its bases in the Arctic and High North, a region that is seeing increasing military activity.111 Hostile submarine operations also have the potential to endanger the security of the nuclear deterrent.112 ASW is a complex and resource-intensive exercise, and the world-leading capability which the UK maintained in the Cold War has been substantially reduced. Many of those who submitted written evidence argued that the Royal Navy’s numbers of attack submarines and ASW frigates were far too low. This problem has been compounded by the late arrival into service and low availability of the highly capable Astute class, which has caused a temporary reduction in the number of attack submarines. Particular concern was expressed about the probability that the forthcoming class of Type 31e frigates may have only minimal ASW capability.113 As the Royal Navy is currently finding in mine clearance capability, the use of unmanned systems or manned-unmanned teaming may be the future of ASW.114

58.With the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers shortly coming into service, generation of a carrier group will become a priority task for the Royal Navy. In 2017 the Public Accounts Committee was told that a sovereign carrier group at the ‘maximum level’ of deployment would require two air defence destroyers and two ASW frigates, along with an attack submarine and attached support shipping.115 Generating such a force for any length of time is likely to put considerable strain on the Royal Navy, given the current size of the Fleet.116 The carriers are likely to be operating within larger allied groups in the future, but we disagree with the National Security Adviser that we should proceed on the basis this is inevitable.117 Operating aircraft carriers without the sovereign ability to protect them is complacent at best and potentially dangerous at worst. The UK should be able to sustain this capacity without recourse to other states.

59.We have recently reported on the continuing relevance and requirement for amphibious capability, concluding that the disposal of amphibious assault ships—reportedly being considered under the NSCR—was “militarily illiterate”.118 Written evidence to this inquiry has largely supported these conclusions.119 The Royal Navy will at some point in the next decade need to consider replacing the amphibious assault ships which are due go out of service in the early 2030s. A landing helicopter dock (LHD) design, combining the ability to operate landing craft and aircraft, should be considered.

60.The recent military action taken in April against chemical weapons targets in Syria demonstrated the wider range of missile options available to the United States and French Navies for use against land targets. By contrast, the Royal Navy has only the option of submarine-launched Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM)—an option that was not used. The UK and France have entered into an agreement to produce a Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon which will expand the Royal Navy’s missile capability, but this is not due to enter service until the 2030s.120 Harpoon, the Royal Navy’s principal heavy anti-ship missile, was due to be taken out of service in 2018, but this has been deferred until at least 2020.121 Consideration should be given to extending TLAM capability to the surface fleet, ahead of development of the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon System, which will not be in service until the 2030s. The Harpoon anti-ship missile has also wisely been kept in service beyond 2018, but a decision about its future into the 2020s is still needed.

61.On wider commitments, the Government has signalled an intention to establish a more substantial presence ‘East of Suez’.122 There will be a continual presence of Royal Navy vessels in the Asia-Pacific region this year123 and the Defence Secretary recently announced a more substantial permanent presence in the Gulf, where the Royal Navy’s still world-class mine countermeasures vessels are highly valued by our Middle Eastern allies and, in particular, by the US Navy.124 The growing ambition which the UK has outside of the Euro-Atlantic area will be a largely maritime-led endeavour. This needs to be backed up with sufficient resources to make a strategically significant contribution to our allies in the region. Without this, the Royal Navy may struggle to meet these new commitments in addition to an already onerous series of standing tasks.


62.The generation of the warfighting division should continue to be the central aim of the British Army. As our predecessors pointed out in their April 2017 report, SDSR 2015 and the Army, it is critical that the Army has a full strength of trained Regulars and Reservists to achieve this.125 To this end, the target strength of the Regular Army should not be reduced below 82,000 personnel. The report also underlined the importance of the necessary regeneration and reconstitution structures being put in place for the Army Reserve to support the division, with a view to generating a second, follow-on division.126 There was little detail on the steps that had been taken towards this in the Government Response to the report.127 The indication from the Chief of the General Staff, in his speech in January, that full-scale Reserve mobilisation exercises will take place in 2019 is a necessary first move; but further evidence of progress on reconstitution is necessary.128

63.A second matter addressed in the April 2017 report was the ability of land forces to reinforce continental Europe rapidly—in particular, the ability to reinforce Poland and the Baltic States where British soldiers, alongside those of many other NATO partners, are deployed as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence.129 A number of physical, logistical and regulatory challenges still exist to the swift movement of military units across the continent. Both NATO130 and the EU131 have launched initiatives to improve military mobility across continental Europe. The UK needs to take a full role in the NATO and EU initiatives that are underway to address military movement and logistics. Even with the relevant infrastructure and permissions in place, the Army needs to look to its ability to transport personnel and equipment, including armour and heavy weapons. The 2010 SDSR confirmed that the Army would be withdrawn from Germany to the UK.132 General Carter indicated in oral evidence to us in June 2016 that this decision may be revisited and the Army may seek to retain assets in Germany.133 This was repeated in his January 2018 speech.134 A clear decision on forward basing is needed in the MDP.

64.There are serious deficiencies in the quantities of armour, armoured vehicles and artillery available to the British Army. The 2010 SDSR reduced the numbers of Challenger 2 main battle tanks (MBTs) by 40% and heavy artillery by 35%.135 The Army now possesses 227 Challenger 2 MBTs,136 a reduction of 89 from 2010,137 and the number of front line armoured regiments equipped with them is being reduced from three to two. Challenger is facing a number of obsolescence issues which are being addressed by a £700 million life-extension programme.138 The Warrior armoured fighting vehicle is also going through a life-extension programme at a cost of an estimated £1.3 billion.139 Reports emerging from the NSCR suggested that the number of Warriors due to be upgraded would be substantially reduced.140 The Army is procuring the next generation of Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV), a procurement taking place outside of the MDP. We took evidence on this process in April and, at that time, the MoD was not in a position to provide detailed figures on how much each vehicle would cost. A failure to manage costs could put further strain on an equipment programme already under enormous pressure.141

65.Justin Bronk, Research Fellow for Airpower and Technology at RUSI, told us in oral evidence:

NATO’s firepower is approximately 80% air-delivered, which makes it very vulnerable to infrastructure and airspace denial, and also quite dependent on communications links not being disrupted. We don’t tend to try to drop bombs if we can’t talk to the person who is going to be nearby on the ground. The Russians put an enormous amount of emphasis on artillery. They have put a lot of effort into modernising and making sure that all their artillery—whether 152mm or 203mm—is self-propelled, and in increasing the range and rapid deployability and survivability of those systems in order to out-shoot NATO.142

Written evidence has highlighted some of the deficiencies which limit the Army’s firepower, citing a lack of vehicle-mounted anti-tank weapons, the potential ineffectiveness of anti-tank weapons to defeat modern active protection systems on enemy armoured vehicles, a lack of precision in tube artillery, the need for modernisation of rocket artillery to improve range and precision, and a lack of self-propelled artillery, all of which leave the Army, as currently configured, at serious risk of being outgunned by its Russian counterpart.143 A decision on the Army’s Future Indirect Fire System, which would address some of these requirements, is due as part of the MDP.144

66.Air defence is a further requirement against state adversaries, and one which we have noted as a deficiency in previous reports. The April 2017 report noted the deficiency in ground-based air defence for the warfighting division. The Army has only two Regular and one Reserve air defence regiments. Rapier, the outgoing area air defence system, is being replaced by the Sky Sabre system, but only in the Falkland Islands. The principal air defence weapon left available to the warfighting division is the Starstreak high velocity missile, which is short-ranged and does not provide wide area coverage. A layered air defence system is a basic requirement in the face of an adversary like Russia and a solution should be found to protect the warfighting division. This is a major weakness in the Army’s current Order of Battle and should be addressed as a matter of high priority.145

67.General Carter has underlined the importance of the need for the Army to bring into service its next generation of tactical communications and information system. As the General stated, these systems are essential for command, control and communications purposes. Not only do they need to be fully integrated in UK units, but they must have the ability to be ‘extrovert’ so that allies are able to plug into them to share data securely and co-ordinate manoeuvre and fire control.146


68.We have recently reported on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme.147 In that report, we accepted assurances from the MoD and from the manufacturer Lockheed Martin that a number of reported developmental problems were being addressed and we look forward to being kept updated on them. We reiterate our view that the MoD’s refusal to disclose cost estimates for the F-35 to Parliament is unacceptable and risks undermining public confidence in the programme. As well as providing greater clarity on this matter, the Department should also use the MDP as an opportunity to make clear whether it remains its policy to buy the intended complement of 138 aircraft and what mix of variants it now envisages purchasing for the remainder.148

69.A key component of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations, mentioned above in the maritime section, is the airborne ASW capability delivered by maritime patrol aircraft (MPA). The UK is re-establishing its long-range MPA capability with the purchase of nine Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft from the United States. We have received detailed written evidence from former RAF officers with extensive experience of ASW operations who argue that the intended aircraft and crew provision for the MPA force is too low to fulfil the range of tasks under its responsibility. Unrealistic assumptions have been made about the ability of NATO allies to contribute to MPA provision and that at least 16 aircraft and a higher crewing requirement is needed to attain the necessary coverage.149

70.The UK has no substantial missile defence capability.150 The 2015 SDSR recognised the threat from state and non-state actors acquiring increasingly sophisticated missile technology. Commitments were made to invest in a ground-based ballistic missile defence (BMD) radar system to enhance NATO’s BMD Network, and to investigate the potential of Type 45 destroyers taking on a BMD role.151 Answers to written questions152 have indicated that these capabilities are still in their early developmental stages. The Department should make clear in the MDP its proposed way forward on BMD, including on both radars and potential interceptors, whether in a UK or combined NATO context. In addition, the Department should consider how it will address the need for point defence—including against cruise missiles—at key installations in the UK, not least the principal RAF airbases.

71.The Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) capability provided by the RAF’s E-3D Sentry fleet has been allowed to decline. The 2015 SDSR committed the RAF to keeping the fleet in service until 2035,153 but the E-3D aircraft are no longer maintained and upgraded to the required avionics standards, and flying hours in recent years have been substantially reduced. AWACS provide airborne surveillance and battle management capability over extended range, crucial in a complex airspace contested by peer adversaries. Recent reports indicate that a replacement for Sentry is being considered as part of the MDP.154 The full range of available options including (but not confined to) an upgrade of the E-3D Sentry aircraft, should be considered by the RAF to restore its AWACS capability.

72.The ability of aircraft to penetrate sophisticated enemy air defence systems must be addressed. The RAF’s principal anti-radar suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD) weapon, designed to target and neutralise enemy air defence systems, was abandoned in 2013.155 The advanced capability of the F-35 may compensate for this, but the safety of the non-stealth aircraft also still in service—such as Typhoon—must also be considered.

73.At the oral evidence session of 21 February the Secretary of State announced that the MoD has begun work on a Combat Air Strategy. Its aim is :

to ensure that the UK maintains the ability to operate both independently and as part of international coalitions. It will set out the UK’s future requirements in this important area and seek to secure an enduring and strategic relationship with UK industry, so that it can deliver our future requirements while becoming increasingly affordable, sustainable and internationally competitive.156

The Combat Air Strategy is a valuable opportunity to consider how UK design, development and manufacturing expertise in combat air, from programmes such as Tornado and Typhoon, can continue to contribute to future combat air capability. It is also an opportunity to reduce the reliance on off-the-shelf purchases from overseas when domestic or collaborative alternatives are available.

Cyber and electronic warfare

74.The 2015 SDSR announced that the Government would be spending £1.9 billion over five years on improving cyber capabilities.157 Defence has responded through the Defence Cyber Programme158 with the creation of the Joint Forces Cyber Group, and the Joint Cyber Reserve Force in 2013159 and more recently the Cyber Security Operations Centre and the Defence Cyber School.160 Lockheed Martin mentioned that the MoD’s Cyber Vulnerability Investigations programme, is too focused on identifying cyber risks and that there should be more focus on neutralising them.161 Another submission observed that there is a need for more focus on deployable cyber capabilities.162

75.A number of written submissions also considered that there is need for greater investment in electronic warfare (EW) capabilities to defend against more sophisticated threats.163 One submission considered that investment in cyber had not been matched by resources being put into exploitation of the wider electromagnetic spectrum, which might be utilised by adversaries to get around the UK’s advanced cyber capabilities.164 In his January 2018 speech General Carter described how Russia used EW in Ukraine to direct artillery bombardment, and to distort GPS signals across much of Scandinavia during the Zapad exercise in 2017.165 Justin Bronk of RUSI told us that Russia possesses “very strong jamming capabilities—broad-brush jamming—across the whole electromagnetic spectrum”. He also noted that “Russian forces can’t compete with Western command-and-control-heavy, network-centric warfare, if Western systems are working as intended. Therefore, they do not intend to fight us with our systems operational”. Russian forces down to the tactical level are trained to be able to continue operating even with modern command, communications and navigation systems disabled.166 UK Defence needs to develop similar flexibility to counter over-reliance on technology in operations. General Carter spoke of the need for greater focus on “reversionary skills” such as night navigation and map reading, and General Sir Gordon Messenger, the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff recently said in an interview: “assume that your networks are going to be taken down and have a different way of doing things.”167


76.In May 2018 the MoD announced it would be launching a Defence Space Strategy,168 as suggested by one witness in written evidence.169 In a recent speech, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, the Chief of the Air Staff discussed the challenges being faced in the domain—an increasing reliance on space and satellite technology, an increasingly congested space environment and a growing number of threats.170. Russia and China have for example been developing anti-satellite missile technology and are believed to be investing in a wider range of counter-space capabilities.171 UK Defence is heavily reliant on space-based technology for communications, navigation and surveillance purposes172 and the new challenges in space must be reflected in the next generation of capability, including the design of the Skynet 6 military communications satellite. Use of low-cost microsatellites, such as the recently launched Carbonite-2 should also continue to be pursued.173 These represent key opportunities for Defence to support the world-class UK space industrial sector. Suggestions that have been made in written evidence on further exploitation of space capability include exploration of the delivery of cyber payloads from space and whether assets such as the ground-based BMD radar system mentioned in paragraph 70 above may have secondary capacity in providing space situational awareness.174

Information advantage

77.In his January 2018 speech, General Carter explained the impact of the Russian approach to information warfare and how it has been incorporated into military operations.175 Other senior military figures have reinforced these points and presented ideas about how Defence should respond. The Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff176 and the Chief of Defence Intelligence177 have discussed the emerging concept of ‘information advantage’, looking at how military advantage can be gained by harnessing emerging technology to collect and assess information at unprecedented speed from a wide range of open and closed sources.

78.The challenge for the Armed Forces is to integrate the principles and capabilities associated with information advantage into existing structures. The Army has formed 77 Brigade to bring together expertise in information operations from across the Services. There is also an emerging Army ‘information manoeuvre division’.178 Since 2017, the Royal Navy has been conducting its annual INFORMATION WARRIOR exercises to explore how information advantage might be implemented in the maritime domain.179 This development should continue, with close co-operation between the Services and other parts of Government involved in information collection and assessment.180 With the future introduction of platforms with advanced sensory systems, such as the F-35 and the Ajax armoured vehicle, the necessary infrastructure will have to be in place to securely transfer, process and analyse large quantities of data that these platforms will collect.181

War Reserves

79.The long lead times to manufacture modern military platforms (for instance a Eurofighter Typhoon takes up to four years to build) means that in any conflict without extended warning, the UK would have to fight, at least in the early stages of a war, with equipment currently in service or that which could be either rapidly manufactured (such as missiles) or reconstituted in time of crisis. To this end, the Department should give serious consideration as part of the MDP to how it might in future retain surplus equipment platforms as a war reserve (as both Russia and the US often do) rather than disposing of them cheaply to other countries or even destroying them altogether. Having war reserves of this kind, can add to the conventional deterrent effect of our Armed Forces.

80.The above represents our observations on the areas of capability we would expect to be addressed in the MDP. We ask that each section above is individually addressed by the Department in its response at the conclusion of the MDP.

Recruitment and retention

81.The NSCR acknowledges that all three Services are facing recruitment and retention challenges.182 The latest quarterly personnel statistics show an overall personnel deficit of 6% across the Armed Forces, a shortfall of over 8,800.183 Both the Army and the RAF are running deficits of over 6%. There was an overall decrease of over 2,000 personnel across the Services in the 12 months to April 2018. Over the same period, in both the Regular and Reserve Forces, fewer people joined and more people left the Armed Forces than in the preceding year.

82.A recent report by the National Audit Office has shown that all three Services are experiencing particular difficulties in retaining personnel in specialist military trades. The NAO found that there were 102 ‘pinch points’184 across the Services, and that only six of the 102 pinch points were expected to be resolved within five years. The largest category of shortfall is in engineering trades, with shortages in intelligence analysts, pilots and logistics specialists following closely behind.185

83.The NAO’s report also presented data on the performance of the Service Commands against their recruitment targets, showing that all three Commands had failed to meet those targets over the preceding three years. Army recruitment has performed particularly poorly, showing a deficit of 31% in 2016/17. A substantial factor in this is the woeful performance of Capita, which entered into a partnership agreement on recruitment services with the Army in 2012. The long delay in implementing the programme has been compounded by the failure of the ICT system put in place by Capita to manage the recruitment process across all three Services.186

84.Our predecessor Committee in the last Parliament published two reports on the legal pursuit and persecution of serving and former Service personnel for alleged historic allegations arising from Iraq187 and Northern Ireland—a process known as ‘Lawfare’.188 These matters are substantially unresolved and we will continue to fight for the protections that former and serving personnel deserve. In the meantime, the continuing legal pursuit of veterans and serving personnel cannot be anything less than the strongest disincentive for individuals to join the Armed Forces.

85.Trained manpower is a constituent of military capability. Even at historically low levels of establishment, the Armed Forces are struggling to meet their recruitment targets. The reasons for this are diverse, and are not exclusive to the UK. It is clear, though, that negative perceptions of shrinking mass, capability and role of the Armed Forces do nothing to maintainlet alone improverecruitment and retention. The MDP gives the Government an opportunity to reverse the perception of decline and present a career in the Armed Forces as a purposeful and dynamic professional choice.

86.The repeated failures of Capita have affected recruitment across all three Services, and have done particularly serious damage to Army recruitment. If the service provided does not significantly improve very soon, the Department should implement its contingency plans and take recruitment back into its own hands. The Department’s attitude on this issue, of hoping year on year, rather like Mr Micawber, that something will turn up, is simply no longer credible or acceptable.

87.However, even if there were no issues involving particular firms, a more fundamental task would still remain. In addition to improving significantly the efficiency of its recruitment process, the Department must provide evidence that the offer to service personnel is sufficient both to recruit and retain.

88.The continuing pursuit of former and serving personnel in the course of investigations relating to historic allegations is an outrageous injustice to the personnel concerned. We will continue to put pressure on the Government to bring an end to this as a matter of urgency. The powerful and ongoing disincentive this provides to anyone considering a military career is one of the compelling reasons why the Government should do so. We unequivocally condemn the Government’s backsliding on its firm commitment, when responding to our report on ‘lawfare’ against Northern Ireland veterans, to include the option of a Statute of Limitations in its current consultation on so-called ‘legacy issues’.

89.Accordingly, we have just announced a further and wider inquiry into the pursuit of UK veterans many years after the conflicts in which they were engaged have come to an end. We intend to hold Ministers firmly to account for the fate of our veterans facing legal persecution, long after the event and in the absence of new evidence. Ministers must honour their obligation to our Service veterans.

Business and commercial relations

90.An early point made in written evidence predicted that a decline in mass and capability of the Armed Forces will be matched by a decline in the size and skillset of the domestic industrial base to the point that capabilities can no longer be domestically produced. This depletes our sovereign manufacturing base and results in reliance on overseas suppliers, with serious consequences for both national security and prosperity.189

91.A recurring theme is the need for the Department to engage more directly with ‘non-traditional’ suppliers who may not have sector experience, if it is to effectively manage the emergence of new technology. As one submission stated: “The pace of advancement in these technologies, as well as their relatively low cost, is driven by demand factors from sectors outside of defence.”190 Evidence has identified the existence of procurement and contractual practices which reinforce the perception that the defence supplier base is too difficult to enter, and that despite the principles laid down in the Defence Industrial Policy Refresh,191 there is still a problem with access and visibility amongst SMEs. The advantages associated with early engagement with industry, in advance of procurements, to allow industry expertise to contribute to setting requirements and specifications, should also be more readily seized by the Department. Witnesses suggested greater use of secondments, co-location and embedded personnel to improve engagement.192

92.Lack of engagement was also considered to be a contributing factor to the wider issue of the Department needing knowledgeable and experienced staff to manage commercial relationships. Evidence indicated that the sector is highly competitive, and it is a constant challenge to retain skilled staff.193 This is only likely to get worse, with the pressure to reduce the Department’s civilian headcount. It becomes a challenge in this environment for the Department to retain institutional expertise and sustain itself as an intelligent customer. A way of compensating for this is to seek independent advice and assurance from a wider range of sources.194

93.Witnesses criticised the Department’s general procurement practice of habitually awarding contracts to suppliers offering the lowest price for the minimum level of technical compliance, often leading to a later realisation that the full requirement is not deliverable at that cost.195 The ‘whole life’ cost of programmes in terms of ongoing support and equipment replacement is often not considered.196 ADS Group also argues that the MoD’s definition of value for money in its competitive tendering criteria does not properly reflect the wider contribution of the defence sector to the UK’s prosperity:

The UK defence sector makes a significant contribution to the national prosperity. In 2016 alone, the UK defence sector generated £23bn turnover and supported 142,000 direct jobs, including over 4,000 apprentices. Furthermore, the sector has witnessed productivity growth of 29% between 2010 and 2015, compared to just 2% across the rest of the UK economy. The domestic market and the IP generated onshore drives UK defence exports—both goods and services—which in turn generate the significant gross value-added contribution of the defence industry to the wider economy.

The Scottish Government also highlighted the contribution of the defence sector in Scotland.197 ADS argued that such contributions should be formally recognised in tendering assessment criteria.198

94.A second aspect of the MoD’s general practice which witnesses criticised is the habit of intentionally introducing delay into equipment programmes to make ends meet in annual budgets, often leading to far larger costs in the long term and causing substantial disruption to suppliers.199 The Secretary of State recognised the negative effects of this practice in oral evidence.200 In a separate speech, the Permanent Secretary identified the “curse” of contract adjustment as being one of the Department’s priorities in the commercial strand of the MDP.201

95.It is important for the Department to demonstrate through the MDP that it will be a responsible owner of any new financial settlement that emerges, and it should be commended for incorporating a review of its own practices and relationships with industry into the MDP. We have received a number of detailed submissions from defence industry representatives highlighting some specific recommendations which the Department should consider, to improve its approach in these areas, and we expect them to be considered.

96.The challenge for the Department, which has re-examined its commercial and procurement approach to these matters on several occasions over the past 20 years, is to demonstrate how what emerges from the MDP is distinct from the succession of new policies, strategies, reports and ‘refreshes’ which have previously been produced. There have been many successes and innovative reforms during this period, but there are clearly a number of pervasive issues which continue to exist. The Department needs to demonstrate that it understands what has gone wrong and how the lessons learned will form the basis of its future policy.

NATO and alliances

97.In oral evidence on 22 May, the Defence Secretary confirmed that two of the UK’s main priorities at the NATO Summit in July would be command structure reform and ensuring that the burden of defence expenditure and capability is shared more evenly across the Alliance.202 NATO is seeking to create new command structures to improve maritime security in the North Atlantic and to facilitate faster movement of military units across Europe.203 These two objectives are of direct strategic significance to the UK and we should be seeking to maximise the scope of the proposed new structures. On burden sharing, the UK is one of eight Member States who will meet the NATO requirement to spend at least 2% of GDP on Defence in the forthcoming year. The NATO Secretary General has said that 15 Members now have plans to meet the guideline by the target date of 2024.204 This still leaves 14 Members who have not made firm indications of how they will meet the commitment.

98.Alongside NATO, the UK is party to a number of multilateral organisations and agreements that have associated defence and security aspects, including the UN, the EU, the Five Power Defence Arrangements, the Lancaster House Treaties and the Joint Expeditionary Force. In addition, the UK sustains a continual cycle of joint exercises, training events and other international defence engagement commitments. The UK will be taking part in 25 major exercises in 2018, including the dispatch of substantial contingents to NATO’s Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE in Norway and Exercise SAIF SAREEA 3 in Oman.205 However, in the last financial year, several exercises, including joint exercises planned with international partners, were cancelled as a cost-cutting measure.206

99.NATO remains the cornerstone of the UK’s defence policy and the conclusions which emerge from the MDP will send a strong message to our allies on how the UK is reacting to developing threats. At the forthcoming NATO Summit, the Government should seek to maximise the scope of the new command structures, as the focus of the two proposed Joint Force Commands relates directly to the UK’s principal strategic interests. The Government should take a robust approach to burden-sharing across the Alliance and should be seeking to hold other member states to the commitments entered into in 2014. We also observe that burden-sharing is not just about providing cash, but providing capability. Expenditure should not be the sole measure of commitment.

100.The range of international defence relationships that the UK enjoys reflects a continuing global role and allows the Services to train alongside the armed forces of allies and partners. Nonetheless, these obligations will be increasingly difficult to uphold with an under-resourced Joint Force, and the cancellations in joint training we have seen recently will undermine these relationships. The MDP must focus on sustaining a force structure that lives up to the wide range of international defence and security relationships.

Defence expenditure

101.The Government places a great deal of significance on the UK meeting NATO’s 2% GDP commitment on defence expenditure, but as our predecessor Committee said in its examination of the issue in the last Parliament, 2% is a measure of minimum political commitment, rather than military capability, and it does not necessarily follow that meeting this target creates a sufficient level of expenditure to keep the country safe.207 It should be recalled that the 2% figure has its origins in 2006 when the threat of state-on-state conflict was considered to be low.208 Throughout the Cold War years of the 1980s, we spent between 4.3% and 5.1% of GDP on Defence; and even in 1995–96 we were still spending fully 3% on keeping our country safe.

102.A growing consensus of opinion now exists that current defence expenditure is too low and needs to increase substantially. This position has cross-party support in both Houses of Parliament,209 including from the Secretary of State’s predecessor, Rt Hon Sir Michael Fallon MP, who has called for a target of 2.5% of GDP to be reached by the end of the present Parliament.210 Unusually, an increase in spending has been directly advocated by a serving Defence Ministers: Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP, the Minister for Defence People and Veterans, stating during the debate on the Defence Estimates in February 2018 that “Two per cent, is just not enough”.211 Mr Ellwood subsequently said that a level of expenditure “north of 2.5%” was necessary to meet the challenges Defence is facing.212 Senior serving military figures including the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff,213 the Chief of the General Staff,214 and the Chief of the Air Staff,215 have made a strong case for more resources, as have several former military chiefs.216

103.We and our predecessors repeatedly emphasised the inadequacy of the United Kingdom’s level of defence expenditureplacing our views firmly on the record, both in this and in the previous Parliament. We do so again here. Defence spending is far too low. On the Government’s calculation (which includes certain items, like war pensions, which we used not to count), the UK is narrowly exceeding the 2% target; but it is still facing a range of financial challenges. The Government now needs to apply the resources that are necessary to keep this country safe, and must begin moving the level of defence expenditure back towards 3% of GDP, as it was in the mid-1990s.

108 Oral evidence taken on 21 February 2018, HC 814, Q53; Plymouth City Council (MDP0021)

111 Gabriele Molinelli (MDP0004); Oxford Research Group (MDP0019); The Scottish Government (MDP0023). The Defence Sub-Committee has been conducting an inquiry into Defence in the Arctic and High North which is due to report shortly.

112 Russians ‘are spying on Trident subs’, Daily Mail, 8 October 2015

113 Dr Jie Sheng Li (MDP0001); Gabriele Molinelli (MDP0004); Dr David Blagden (MDP0009); Human Security Centre (MDP0020); DefenceSynergia (MDP0029); Graham Edmonds (MDP0030). See also our predecessor Committee’s report into the size and capacity of the Surface Fleet - Defence Committee, Restoring the Fleet: Naval Procurement and the National Shipbuilding Strategy, Third Report of Session 2016–17, HC 221

114 Ministry of Defence, ‘Royal Navy gets first unmanned minesweeping system’, 5 May 2018. Manned-unmanned teaming involves using a combination of manned and unmanned platforms. Lockheed Martin UK (MDP0025); General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (MDP0013)

115 Public Accounts Committee, Oral evidence taken on 11 October 2017, HC 394, Q18

116 Air Vice-Marshal (Retd) Andrew L Roberts (MDP0011); Dr David Blagden (MDP0009)

118 Defence Committee, Sunset for the Royal Marines? The Royal Marines and UK amphibious capability, Third Report of Session 2017–19, HC 622, para 13

119 Commander (Retd) N D MacCartan-Ward (MDP0007); Oxford Research Group (MDP0019); Plymouth City Council (MDP0021); The Scottish Government (MDP0023)

120 Ministry of Defence, ‘UK and France strengthen defence cooperation with new weapon system agreement’, 28 March 2017. See also James Rogers (MDP0028). On 23 May 2018 we launched an inquiry with the National Defence and Armed Forces Committee of the French National Assembly into the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon system.

121 ‘DSEI 2017: ‘UK defers Harpoon retirement’, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 14 September 2017; Gabriele Molinelli (MDP0004); Dr David Blagden (MDP0009)

122 Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Foreign Secretary speech: “Britain is back East of Suez”’, 9 December 2016

123 Ministry of Defence, ‘Royal Navy ships fulfil international duty in Asia Pacific’, 11 April 2018. See also Oxford Research Group (MDP0019)

125 Defence Committee, SDSR 2015 and the Army, Eighth Report of Session 2016–17, HC 108, para 89

126 Defence Committee, SDSR 2015 and the Army, Eighth Report of Session 2016–17, HC 108, para 66

127 Defence Committee, SDSR 2015 and the Army: Government Response to the Committee’s Eighth Report of Session 2016–17, First Special Report of Session of 2017–19, HC 311, para 8

129 Defence Committee, SDSR 2015 and the Army, Eighth Report of Session 2016–17, HC 108, para 40. See also Oxford Research Group (MDP0019); James Rogers (MDP0028)

130 ‘Germany chooses Ulm for new proposed NATO logistics command’, Reuters, 20 March 2018. A new NATO Joint Support Enabling Command has been proposed to facilitate movement across Europe.

131 ‘Action Plan on military mobility: EU takes steps towards a Defence Union’, European Commission, 28 March 2018. The EU produced an Action Plan on Military Mobility in March 2018. Military mobility is also a central part of the Permanent Structured Co-operation on Defence (PESCO) structure that was activated in December 2017.

136 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Equipment and Formations 2017, 6 July 2017, Table 5

137 Defence Committee, SDSR 2015 and the Army, Eighth Report of Session 2016–17, HC 108, para 133

138 Human Security Centre (MDP0020)

139 Defence Committee, SDSR 2015 and the Army, Eighth Report of Session 2016–17, HC 108, para 135

140British Army armoured brigade faces the chop’, The Times, 8 October 2017

142 Oral evidence taken on 17 April 2018, HC 818, Q131. See also Human Security Centre (MDP0020)

143 Gabriele Molinelli (MDP0004); Human Security Centre (MDP0020); DefenceSynergia (MDP0029); Graham Edmonds (MDP0030)

144 ‘DSEI 2017: UK looks to boost indirect-fire capability’, Jane’s Defence Weekly , 14 September 2017

145 Defence Committee, SDSR 2015 and the Army, Eighth Report of Session 2016–17, HC 108, paras 29–33. See also Oral evidence taken on 1 November 2016, HC 108, Qq239–243, Dr Jie Sheng Li (MDP0001); Gabriele Molinelli (MDP0004); Human Security Centre (MDP0020); DefenceSynergia (MDP0029); Graham Edmonds (MDP0030); ‘British Army unveils Sky Sabre air defence system’, Jane’s Missiles and Rockets, 15 February 2018

147 Defence Committee, Unclear for Take-off? F-35 Procurement, Second Report of Session 2017–19, HC 326

148 The F-35B is the short take-off/vertical landing variant which will be used on the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers. The F-35A is a conventional take-off and landing variant and is a cheaper airframe. The Government has refused to rule out purchasing units of the F-35A variant - see Public Accounts Committee, Oral evidence taken on 4 December 2017, HC 394, Q175 and Defence Committee, Unclear for Take-off? F-35 Procurement: Government Response to the Committee’s Second Report of Session 2017–19, Fifth Special Report of Session 2017–19, HC 845, para 6. See also Dr Jie Sheng Li (MDP0001); Gabriele Molinelli (MDP0004); Lockheed Martin UK (MDP0025)

149 Air Vice-Marshal (Retd) Andrew L Roberts (MDP0011); Group Captain (Retd) Derek K Empson (MDP0018). See also Dr Jie Sheng Li (MDP0001);

150 Gabriele Molinelli (MDP0004); Commander (Retd) N D MacCartan-Ward (MDP0007); Dr David Blagden (MDP0009); Lockheed Martin UK (MDP0025)

152 PQ 1301 7; [2017–19] PQ 1368 2 [2017–19]

154 ‘RAF starts talks on E-3D AWACS replacement’, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 18 May 2018. See also Dr Jie Sheng Li (MDP0001); Gabriele Molinelli (MDP0004); DefenceSynergia (MDP0029); Graham Edmonds (MDP0030)

155 Gabriele Molinelli (MDP0004); DefenceSynergia (MDP0029); Graham Edmonds (MDP0030)

158 PQ 267 7 [2015–16]

159 Ministry of Defence, ‘New cyber reserve unit created’, 29 September 2013

160 Ministry of Defence, ‘Defence Secretary announces £40m Cyber Security Operations Centre’, 1 April 2016; Ministry of Defence ‘UK steps up cyber defence’, 8 March 2018

161 Lockheed Martin UK (MDP0025). The CVI is a programme to help the Department better understand cyber vulnerabilities and improve resilience.

162 DefenceSynergia (MDP0029)

163 Gabriele Molinelli (MDP0004); DefenceSynergia (MDP0029); James Rogers (MDP0028); Graham Edmonds (MDP0030)

164 Lockheed Martin UK (MDP0025)

169 Lockheed Martin UK (MDP0025)

171 See Office of the Director of National Intelligence (United States), Worldwide Threat Assessment of the United States Intelligence Community, 13 February 2018, p 13

172 Ministry of Defence, Annual Report and Accounts 2016–17, HC 21, July 2017, p 38; Ministry of Defence, Future Operating Environment 2035 (1st Edition), Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, August 2015, p 23

174 Lockheed Martin UK (MDP0025)

178 ‘British Army looks to form info manoeuvre division’, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 3 July 2017

180 Dr Jie Sheng Li (MDP0001)

181 Gabriele Molinelli (MDP0004)

182 HM Government, National Security Capability Review, 28 March 2018, p 17

184 Pinch points are defied as roles where there are not sufficient trained regular personnel to perform specialist roles without taking mitigating action.

185 National Audit Office, Ministry of Defence: Ensuring Sufficient Skilled Military Personnel, HC 947 [2017–19], 18 April 2018

186 Defence Committee, SDSR 2015 and the Army, Eighth Report of Session 2016–17, HC 108, paras 106–108. See also ‘Army recruitment system “unacceptable”, says defence secretary’, BBC News, 19 February 2018; ‘Ministers spent £1bn on armed forces recruitment despite repeated failure to hit manpower targets’, Daily Telegraph, 29 January 2018. Rt Hon Mark Francois MP, a Member of the Committee, was commissioned by the Prime Minister to report and make recommendations on the state of recruiting. These recommendations have been accepted by the Government - see Filling the Ranks: A Report for the Prime Minister on the State of Recruiting into the UK Armed Forces, July 2017

187 Defence Committee, Who guards the guardians?: MoD support for former and serving personnel, Sixth Report of Session 2016–17, HC 109

188 Defence Committee, Investigations into fatalities in Northern Ireland involving British military personnel, Seventh Report of Session 2016–17, HC 1064

189 Sir Jeremy Blackham (MDP0005)

190 Boeing UK Ltd (MDP0008). See also The Scottish Government (MDP0023)

192 techUK (MDP0017); ADS Group (MDP0024); Lockheed Martin UK (MDP0025)

193 techUK (MDP0017), Lockheed Martin UK (MDP0025)

194 Professor David Kirkpatrick (MDP0010)

195 Lockheed Martin UK (MDP0025)

196 ADS Group (MDP0024); Lockheed Martin UK (MDP0025)

197 The Scottish Government (MDP0023)

198 Sir Jeremy Blackham (MDP0005); General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (MDP0013) ; ADS Group (MDP0024); Graham Edmonds (MDP0030).

199 Lockheed Martin UK (MDP0025)

203 See para 63 and footnote 130 above.

205 PQ HL5676 [2017–19]

206 Ministry of Defence (DPS0001); Defence Committee, Sunset for the Royal Marines? The Royal Marines and UK amphibious capability, Third Report of Session 2017–19, HC 622, para 34–38

207 Shifting the Goalposts? Defence expenditure and the 2% pledge, Second Report of Session 2015–16, HC 494, paras 62–74

208 The 2% commitment was established at the NATO Defence Ministerial meeting of June 2006. The commitment was reaffirmed at the 2014 Wales Summit and Allies at that time not meeting the target resolved to “move towards the 2% guideline within a decade”. NATO, Wales Summit Declaration, 5 September 2014. See also James Rogers (MDP0028).

209 HL Deb, 19 April 2018, cc 1255–1332; HC Deb, 11 January 2018, cc 503–578

210 HC Deb, 26 March 2018, c 577

211 HC Deb, 26 February 2016, c 624

216 Oral evidence taken on 14 November 2017, HC 556, Q2 [Admiral Sir George Zambellas], Q5 [General (Retd) Sir Richard Barrons]; ‘Britain’s enemies “perilously close” to calling UK’s “bluff” on defence, warns ex-Army chief’, PoliticsHome, 3 May 2018

Published: 18 June 2018