This is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to government. The Government has two months to respond.
Defending global Britain in a competitive age
Date Published: 28 July 2022
This is the full report, read the report summary.
1. The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy was published on 16 March 2021. The following week, the Defence Command Papers, ‘Defence in a Competitive Age’ and the ‘Defence and Security Industrial Strategy’ were published. We held our first evidence session on 23 March 2021 and subsequently held a further six evidence sessions.
2. The witnesses to this inquiry were:
3. We have also drawn on evidence to an earlier inquiry, ‘Defence industrial policy: procurement and prosperity’1 which we were unable to report upon in advance of the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy (DSIS) being produced. We would like to express our thanks to all of our witnesses, both to this inquiry and to the ‘Defence industrial policy: procurement and prosperity’ inquiry whose insights proved invaluable when evaluating the DSIS.
4. In its first phase report on the Integrated Review (published in advance of the Integrated Review) In Search of Strategy, the Committee concluded that the high-level purpose of such an exercise was to answer the following questions:
5. The first outcome of this process was the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy3 entitled Global Britain in a Competitive Age (referred to in this Report as the Integrated Review or the IR). The IR goes someway to answering the first of these four questions. There is little indication of prioritisation however. The accompanying Defence Command Paper to the IR, Defence in a Competitive Age,4 then addresses, to some extent, the third question, setting out how the MOD intends to adapt the UK Armed Forces to face the challenges resulting from the complex threat environment. On the final question, there is some detail in where the MOD is planning to invest and what it is planning to cut but the document does not identify what the UK Armed Forces will be unable to do as a result.
6. The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine has only exacerbated the pressure on Defence resources. The UK has doubled the number of soldiers currently deployed to Estonia under NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence and deployed further personnel and equipment along NATO’s eastern flank.5 As well as gifting equipment, the UK has been engaged with co-ordinating the delivery of military equipment gifted by other countries.6 However, as the conflict continues there are concerns that stockpiles of weaponry gifted to Ukraine are being depleted without the industrial capacity available to replace them.7
7. We, alongside many other Members of this House and the other place, have frequently raised the prospect of an increase in Defence Spending but have been told that the money allocated in the 2021 Spending Review, which set a multi-year budget for Defence until 2024 –2025, is sufficient.8 Witnesses to the Committee have disagreed with that assertion.9 On 30 June 2022, the Prime Minister announced that the UK’s defence spending would increase to 2.5% of GDP “by the end of the decade”.10 However, the following week he clarified that rather than making a commitment, he was instead making a prediction.11
8. It is difficult not to feel a sense of déjà vu as we see British military ambitions which are not entirely matched by resources. Open conflict has returned to Europe and it is disappointing to see that the Government is not preparing for the impact of inflation and insufficient industrial capacity on the production of defence equipment as it looks to meet the new challenges.
9. The Integrated Review, Global Britain in a Competitive Age, responds to global changes which will impact UK security defined by geopolitical and geoeconomic shifts; competition between states and between differing systems of government and values; rapid technological change; and transnational challenges. These will overlap and intersect, with the ongoing impact of covid-19 influencing the trajectory of each in ways which will be difficult to predict. This will result in a more competitive and multipolar world.
10. The Integrated Review signals a move away from the recent focus on the threat posed by Islamist terrorism. This assessment of threat includes what the Government refers to as state threats (previously referred to as ‘Hostile State Activity’)12 and the threat posed by non-state actors13 who are able to use innovations in technology and proliferation of CBRN technology to inflict increasing harm on both military and civilian targets. A number of our witnesses endorsed the analysis of the threat within the three papers, particularly in relation to the waning power of Western institutions and the complexity of the range of threats in a multipolar world.14 Their views on the Government’s response to that threat are discussed in the section below.
11. In oral evidence in June 2021, the Secretary of State set out what he perceived to be the most significant threats: Russia, China, terrorism and Iran.15 In November 2021, the National Security Adviser also highlighted the threats posed by Russia, China and terrorism as significant, and added CBRN proliferation and the development of advanced military weaponry to that list.16
12. In August 2021, the Taliban overran Kabul causing a scramble by Western countries to evacuate their citizens and partners from Afghanistan. The evacuation operation run by the MoD does not deserve criticism but the lack of foresight, planning, and indeed effectiveness of other Government Departments leaves a lot to be desired.17 Afghanistan was mentioned twice in the Integrated Review (both in relation to supporting the Afghan Government) and six times in the Defence Command Paper. Despite the then US President having agreed the previous year that the US would withdraw from Afghanistan, there was seemingly no public acknowledgement that the situation could deteriorate as a result.
13. Our colleagues on the Foreign Affairs Committee have criticised the Government for their lack of planning in relation to the withdrawal. They note that: “The manner of the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan was a disaster, a betrayal of our allies, and weakens the trust that helps to keep British people safe. It will affect the UK’s international reputation and interests for many years to come. There were systemic failures of intelligence, diplomacy, planning and preparation, which raise questions about machinery of Government, principally the National Security Council”.18 The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy have also been critical of the work of the NSC in relation to Afghanistan, describing the response as “a systemic failure by the Government to prepare properly for a scenario that it had, in fact, foreseen.”19 Further details of the JCNSS’ work on the response to Afghanistan is examined in the chapter on ‘Integration and funding’.
14. On 24 February 2022, Russian forces started a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In the subsequent months, the UK has supported the Ukrainian Government and its Armed Forces in its efforts to remove Russia from Ukrainian sovereign territory. As of 25 May, the UK has provided the following military equipment:
Furthermore, the UK has increased its deployments to support NATO defensive security and the MOD has provided Army personnel to the Home Office in order to assist with its visa processing.21
15. General Sir James Everard, former DSACEUR, told us that:
Yes, you need to go back and look at the integrated review in the light of the lessons we have learned from Afghanistan. There are some quite useful lessons in relation to capacity building, which show where it works and where it does not work. There are lessons coming out of Ukraine: ammunition consumption, urban fighting, subterranean fighting. These are all things that people need to take away.22
16. Despite the impact upon the UK Armed Forces of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the conflict in Ukraine, there appears to be no real commitment to revisit the conclusions drawn by the Integrated Review or the Defence Command Papers. In the month after the evacuation from Kabul, the National Security Adviser said that the IR “describes an increasingly complex environment which is characterised by the need to confront a range of diverse and networked threats to the UK, its people and its interests”. He noted its emphasis on “geopolitical and geoeconomic shifts”, how the “return of systemic competition” means that a whole of state approach must be taken in countering hostile activities, how technology and proliferation were transforming the threat and how the basis to countering many of these challenges lay in building resilience at home.23 In his judgement:
recent events demonstrate that we must double down on the trajectory the IR sets out. We should strengthen our determination to build UK capabilities and work with partners to capitalise on the UK’s great strengths. How we do that of course will be crucial. But I see nothing that fundamentally changes the strategy.24
17. The Government has also pointed to the description in the Integrated Review documents of Russia as “the greatest nuclear, conventional military and sub-threshold threat to European security”,25 and to the fact that the Integrated Review begins with the assertion that the most important area for our national security is the Euro-Atlantic area.26
18. Yet it is clear that both Afghanistan and Ukraine have changed the current strategic environment.27 In November 2021—8 months after the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper had been published—the Prime Minister told the Liaison Committee that:
We have to recognise that the old concepts of fighting big tank battles on the European landmass, which I think is what you are driving at, are over, and there are other, better things that we should be investing in: in the FCAS—the future combat air system—and in cyber. This is how warfare in the future is going to be fought. We should be investing in our advanced early warning systems; that is where we need to be. I think that the investments we are making in new technology … are absolutely indispensable to our ability to fight the wars of the 21st century.28
However, recent events in Ukraine have shown that tanks and conventional heavy artillery are still very much a part of modern warfare. For example, a Newsweek report estimated in June 2022 that 1,465 Russian tanks had been destroyed in the conflict in Ukraine29 although other estimates are more conservative—in the same month, the Economist quoted a figure of 774 Russian tanks lost.30 Even if the latter is closer to the actual number (accurate figures are difficult to establish given the scale of both the offensive and counter-offensive), that figure is over three times the number of Challenger II tanks the British Army has in its arsenal. This has led to some suggesting that tanks are now obsolete but General Sir Richard Barrons told us that it was more nuanced than that:
Tanks, armoured infantry vehicles, self propelled armoured artillery and supporting engineers, as constructed in the 1990s, have had their day, but armour on the battlefield in the 21st century has not had its day. There is no way you can move around the battlefield in Ukraine, for example, except under armour, because the biggest killer remains artillery.
We are going to see—we should not be surprised by it—the evolution of armoured vehicles from the things we were familiar with from the Cold War into armoured vehicles that take advantage of a whole range of digital age technology—materials, sensors, weapons, communications. That will take us into a new generation of firepower, protection and mobility on the land battlefield.31
In the autumn we will further examine the decisions on heavy armour made within Defence in a Competitive Age—in particular, the proposed upgrade of 148 tanks to Challenger III.32 In light of events in Ukraine, the MOD ought also to be reviewing whether that decision is appropriate in the current context.
19. When we asked the MOD’s Permanent Secretary whether the decisions made in the Integrated Review and Defence in a Competitive Age were in need of reassessment, he told us that during the Integrated Review (and the accompanying spending review), the decision was taken to move towards future capabilities and that investment for those future capabilities was prioritised over maintaining current capabilities. He explained that “Ministers’ appetite for risk in the middle of the decade allowed us to run some of those existing capabilities down sooner rather than later” which meant that more money could be diverted in order to create and staff those future capabilities which the UK Armed Forces required to counter future threats. He went on to say that:
There are underlying themes in the integrated review that were right. We identified Russia as the most acute threat to European security. We reconfirmed the importance of NATO as the bedrock of our security and of the “i” in “integrated”. We emphasised the importance of whole-of-Government responses, not simply defence responses. Nevertheless, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine suggests at the very least that the calibration of that threat is something that we need to re-examine, and it may well be that some of the risk judgments that we made during the IR are no longer palatable.33
20. In July 2022, the Secretary of State told us that the Department was undertaking a ‘lessons learned’ process which would look at the conflict in Ukraine and allow the Department to test assumptions:
Do I think that we should do a piece of work looking at the threat and the lessons learned, which should infuse into the Department and change, if necessary, some of the things? Yes, we should, and we will. Of course, we are doing it right now in an ongoing process, but there is definitely a time when we will have to absolutely look at Ukraine and learn the lessons. … There are two parts to this—when we do a fixed lessons learned and whether you do that at the end of the conflict, and when we can do a running commentary that is so important that we have to get on with it.34
21. In the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper, the Government identified and understood the implications of the range of complex and cascading threats faced by the UK. However, the impact of both the Afghan withdrawal and the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine are being seemingly dismissed as insignificant and there appears to be no intention to re-visit the conclusions of the documents. UK Defence thus appears as arrogant and unwilling to learn lessons. Events of the last year have demonstrated that the Government was unprepared for (and in the case of Afghanistan, failed to appropriately respond to) international crises. No strategy should be set in stone nor subject to constant revision. However, there is a need for Government to be able to respond to major events—which it was manifestly not prepared for—rather than downplaying the potential implications of such geopolitical shocks.
22. There is a need for a New Chapter update to the IR and the Defence Command Paper which takes into account the events in Afghanistan and Ukraine. The document should then set out how the analysis of the strategic context has changed and what decisions in the Command Paper the UK Government is reviewing.
23. Polling carried out just before the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine found that the British public perceive climate change, international terrorism and the rise of China as a world power being the three greatest threats to the UK national interest. Whilst participants were not asked which country they viewed as the greatest threat, they were questioned on whether they trusted specific countries35—91% did not trust Russia and 81% did not trust China.36
24. Another poll found in May 2022 that Russia was perceived to be the greatest risk to the UK and that there had been a large increase in concerns about the use of nuclear weapons by an aggressor. There was a smaller increase in concern about the use of chemical and biological weapons.37 China was also perceived to be a risk (although less of a risk than energy supply disruption and equal to the risk of an economic crisis). Iran and North Korea were seen to be comparatively much lower risk.38
25. Public support for defence and foreign policy decisions is vital. The National Security Adviser has, in a speech to the Council on Geostrategy, previously set out his views on why public engagement is important:
public consent for foreign policy, military interventions and our wider approach to national security is a critical factor. Once support for the mission in Afghanistan ebbed away in the US, it became clear that it would come to an end sooner rather than later. That’s why IR sets out a need to further develop public engagement capability. We must make the case for how international engagement affects people’s real lives and helps make the UK safer and more prosperous.39
26. Lt Gen. (rtd) Ben Hodges made a similar point to us:
You need to be able to articulate, in a way that makes sense to the average voter, that with deterrents, in the long run—and why we know from history that if you are prepared and demonstrate that you are prepared—the chance of ever going into conflict is significantly reduced.40
Lt General Hodges noted how important it had been to have journalists on HMS Defender who were able to dispel Russian misinformation41 when Russia announced it had launched an attack against the ship as it was transiting the Black Sea.42
27. It is clear that the UK public were unhappy with the outcome of the Afghanistan drawdown. In September 2021, Ipsos Mori found that 41% of those polled thought that the Government had done a bad job (compared with 23% who thought that the government had done a good job) on handling the Afghanistan situation.43
28. On Ukraine, the polling is more favourable—a May 2022 poll found that 58% of those polled had a favourable view of the UK response to the Russian invasion.44 This may be as a result of the wider engagement of the public in what the UK is doing and why. The Prime Minister, and the MOD and FCDO Ministerial teams have regularly updated the House and engaged with British media. The daily information feed from Defence Intelligence is widely available and regularly cited. The war in Ukraine seems to have increased awareness amongst the UK public of the wider threats which the UK faces—in March 2022, polling found that, according to those polled, the top issue facing the UK was ‘Defence/foreign affairs/terrorism’, which had risen from 27% to 35%.45 However, this has subsequently begun to decline, overtaken by concern around the cost of living crisis.46
29. 62% of the public say that they are interested in what the UK does internationally (albeit this number has decreased since last year when it was 71%). However, less than half (43%) of Britons feel informed about UK international activities and only 35% trust that the Government’s foreign policy decisions are taken in the UK public’s interest.47 Public engagement is vital to ensuring that the UK taxpayer understands why investment in military capabilities is as important as investment in other areas such as education and the NHS.
30. The UK public is aware of the threats which the UK faces but does not appear to trust the Government to act in the national interest. Whilst investments in new technology are vital, it is also clear that, the days of “big tank battles on the European landmass” are not over and so a review of the decisions made in the Integrated Review and Defence in a Competitive Age, and the timelines committed to, is important for the UK’s defence and security and for the public’s trust.
31. The Government needs to ensure that the public is aware of the link between the cost of living and global instability: the rises in energy and food prices are both directly attributable to the conflict in Ukraine. The Government needs to ensure that they are effectively communicating this to the public, particularly given the increasing cost of UK support to the Ukrainians.
32. Foreign policy decisions and consequent actions by UK Defence need to be supported by the UK public. The lack of organisation round the withdrawal from Afghanistan damaged the Government’s standing. However, so far, engagement with the public on the Russian offensive in Ukraine and British support for Ukraine has been regular and transparent. We welcome this approach: the Government needs to build on this.
33. The overall goal of UK Defence is to support the Government in achieving the objectives set out in the Integrated Review.48 Defence in a Competitive Age notes that in order for UK Defence to help the Government, the approach to the operational environment needs to change. The additional objective within the two Defence Command Papers then is to transform UK Defence so that it can operate effectively in the future national security and international environment set out in the Integrated Review. The Secretary of State, when he gave evidence to us argued that it was important to read Defence in a Competitive Age in conjunction with the Integrated Operating Concept 2025 (IOpC25), originally published in September 2020,49 which had previously concluded that the UK “need[s] a new model for deterrence that takes account of the need to compete”. The IOpC25 concluded that in order to respond to current threats, UK Defence had to ensure it maintained its strengths—“quality people; alliance and partnerships; innovation and experimentation; and [UK] values as a centre of gravity”—and to “drive the conditions and tempo of strategic activity, rather than responding to the actions of others”. It then followed that this would require integration at every level—throughout the military, across Government, internationally and “in-depth within our societies” as “on the new sub-threshold battlefield, assuring societal resilience constitutes deterrence by denial”.50
34. The then Chief of the Defence Staff explained to us that:
We need to recognise that, in modernising the Armed Forces, the battlefield of the 2030s will be a very different battlefield. … It will be about a combination between hiding and finding. It will be about trying to get your forces to be much better connected in order to be able to maximise their effect. … Multi-domain integration … requires a different approach both in terms of technology and people, but also doctrine and process. ... I would describe it as active deterrence. I would also say that we need to think hard about how we manage escalation these days because some of the capabilities that our opponents have now developed, whether that is hypersonics or other missile systems, make it very difficult to understand how escalation is working and we need to think hard about that. … It is no longer a single ladder that you move up and down; it is much more of a spider’s web of multiple levels, with multiple domains, and some of those domains are very hard to attribute, whether that is space or cyber. Understanding escalation management is an issue.51
35. As well as discussing the updated tasks for Defence and the capabilities required (explored in detail below), Defence in a Competitive Age also provides a brief introduction to the change in the relationship with industry (later covered in more detail in the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy). In addition it explores UK Defence’s relationship with Allies and the change in skills required by UK Defence. The then CDS told us:
If we are going to be fit for purpose in the 2030s, we need to recognise that the skills we will require in that timeframe will be rather different to the skills that we have all grown up with.52
Defence outcomes of the Integrated Review and ‘Defence in a Competitive Age’
Commitments and announcements
An additional £3bn in new Army equipment in: new vehicles (including Ajax, Boxer and, £1.3bn on 148 Challenger III); modernised long range precision fires (including £250m on a guided multiple launched rocket system, £800m on a Mobile Fires Platform and Apache); new air defences; tactical surveillance drones: and £200m in new electronic warfare and cyberspace capabilities.
Type 26 Frigates (previously announced)
Type 31 Frigates (previously announced)
Type 32 Frigates (previously announced)
3 Fleet Solid Support Ships (previously announced)
£1.5bn investment in creating a ‘Digital Backbone’
£40m more developing the Future Commando Force as part of the transformation of UK amphibious forces, as well as more than £50m in converting a Bay class support ship to deliver a more agile and lethal littoral strike capability.53
An automated Mine Hunting Capability54 (jointly with France) (previously announced) and investment in new capabilities to protect underwater CNI
Multi Role Ocean Surveillance Ship
Multi Role Support Ships
Upgrade to the air defence systems on Type 45
Interim surface to surface weapon (replacement of Harpoon) (previously announced)
National Cyber Force
£500m in capabilities that will enable a response in the electromagnetic environment
Type 83 Destroyers (Concept and Assessment)
£1.4bn on establishing a new Space Command and enhance the breadth of UK space capabilities (including delivering a UK-built Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance satellite constellation, the establishment of a Space Academy and the National Space Operations Centre to increase Space Domain Awarenes)
£120 million on creating the Ranger Regiment which will become part of the new Army Special Operations Brigade
Creation of a Security Force Assistance Brigade
Consolidation of the fleet of medium helicopters (including the AH-64 Apache upgrade and the replacement of the retired Puma helicopters)
Retention and upgrade of Watchkeeper
Typhoon upgrade (radar and SPEAR Cap 3 deep strike capabilities) (previously announced)
Increase of the fleet of F-35 beyond the 48 ordered, invest in updating software and capabilities and integrating UK weapons
16 long-range Protector RPAS (previously announced)
£2bn on Future Combat Air Systems
An increase of the nuclear stockpile to being no more than 260 warheads and replacement of the existing nuclear warhead
£1.5bn improving Single Living Accommodation
£1.4bn providing wraparound childcare
£4.3bn on Defence Estate Optimisation
£6.6bn on R&D55 and investment in the Defence and Security Accelerator to improve the pull through of R&D into equipment
£60 million to increase the Defence Attaché network and British Defence Staffs by a third
Investment in facilities, infrastructure and deployments across the UK’s global network, including in Cyprus, Gibraltar, Kenya, Oman, BIOT and Germany
A ‘tilt’ to the Indo-Pacific56
Establishment of the Secretary of State’s Office for Net Assessment and Challenge (SONAC)
Withdrawn from service/retired
79 Challenger 2 Tanks
767 Warrior infantry fighting vehicles
9,500 Army personnel (a reduction from the 82,000 commitment in SDSR 2015 to 72,500 by 2025)57
2 Type 23 Frigates
13 Mine Counter Measure Vehicles
24 Typhoons (Tranche 1)
14 C130J Hercules
76 Hawk (Tranche 1)
4 Bae146 planes
5 E3-D Sentry aircraft and a reduction from 5 to 3 in the (not yet in service) replacement fleet of E-7 Wedgetail
9 Chinook helicopters58
24 Puma helicopters
36. The Integrated Review and ‘Defence in a Competitive Age’ set out a number of changes to Defence capabilities. The Secretary of State noted that “[t]he Royal Navy will have new ships and missiles, the RAF new fighters and sensors, and the Army will be more deployed and better protected.”59 Alongside the investment from the 2020 Spending Review into improving and expanding capabilities (particularly in emerging technologies), a number of capabilities were withdrawn from service. In September 2021, the National Security Adviser said that:
There is now a plan for UK Defence. The equipment plan is in balance. We have taken difficult decisions to enable us to invest in new technologies which provide the UK with a strategic advantage. It will deliver a force designed around the strategic context of the 2020s, not the strategic concept of the post-9/11 period. And it will enable the Armed Forces to make a decisive contribution to an integrated, cross Government approach to national security.60
37. The then Chief of Defence Staff told us that during the process of the Integrated Review, the MOD had to:
take some risk against capabilities that were in the programme to take them out of service in order to create the headroom to be able to invest for the future—capabilities such as C-130, the Puma helicopter, Warrior, and the Type 23.61
38. Defence is therefore cutting capabilities which it does not see as being an effective part of the Future Force in order to invest in new and emerging technologies to enable what it refers to as ‘Multi-Domain Integration’ (MDI). Lord Houghton thought that:
One of the things that the Defence Secretary is saying in his foreword to the defence command paper is that he is attempting to match money to credible ambition. Therefore, he is saying, “Brace, brace. We are going to get rid of all this stuff. We are going to get rid of loads and loads of planes, hundreds of tanks and armoured fighting vehicles. We are going to pension off obsolete type 23 frigates. We are no longer going to pretend that we have, in size terms, the huge amount of capabilities we have. We are going to harness the money we have in a more selective and focused way.62
39. Overall, the investments have focused on upgrading systems (Typhoon, Challenger, Watchkeeper); maintaining previous spending commitments (F-35s, Fleet Solid Support Ships and Protector RPAS) and investing in new and developing technology such as:
40. The Defence and Security Industrial Strategy (DSIS) was published on 23 March 2021. It reiterated the threat as set out by the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper before noting that:
The UK is well placed to meet these challenges, and there are significant opportunities for the UK’s defence and security industrial sectors in doing so. These can be best realised through a significant step change in the relationship between government and industry focused on a clear assessment of strategic needs, future priorities, and the realities of the market. As the Defence Command Paper (‘Defence in a competitive age’) notes, the government must integrate with its allies and partners, across domains and with industry to enable us to respond most effectively to the future operating environment.64
41. DSIS foresees the need to create a “virtuous circle” whereby Government clarity on its future requirements enables industry to invest in R&D with confidence, allowing innovation and productivity to increase. This then makes the capabilities on offer more attractive to a wider range of buyers and so increases exports. Exports mean a healthy UK industrial base, sustaining investment in R&D, equipment and skills.65 To achieve its aims, the strategy focuses on changes in four areas:
a) Ensuring that the Government’s approach to defence and security acquisition and procurement is effective and fit for purpose. This includes emphasising when onshore capability66 is necessary for reasons of national security and working with industry to ensure that is an option in those areas. This may mean forming partnerships with industry in those areas and only using competition where appropriate. The Government will reform the regulations covering defence & security public contracts to ensure these regulations are appropriate and allow decision-makers to take account of the ‘social value’ of a tender before awarding a contract.
b) Strengthening the productivity and resilience of defence and security sectors, evolving the relationship between Government and industry. The Government will work to understand the complex supply chains involved in production of defence and security capabilities (and therefore protect innovative UK technology) whilst also promoting UK entities to overseas suppliers who wish to win MOD contracts.
c) Communicating Government priorities and future plans through investment in key technologies. Part of this includes finding ways to ensure that innovative technology makes it from conception through to validation and then on to production.
d) Thinking about how to work with allies and partners and adopting an agreed approach on international cooperation, exports and foreign investment. Such an approach will have clear priorities on what capabilities the Government wishes to collaborate on, what capabilities it wishes to export (and to whom) and ensure that its approach on exports is a cross-Government endeavour. One way to support British industry is for the UK Government to more regularly utilise government-to-government (G2G) commercial agreements.67
42. Before the publication of DSIS, we had begun an inquiry looking at ‘Defence industrial policy: procurement and prosperity’. We held several evidence sessions, including hearing from the Minister. Unfortunately, we were unable to produce a report before the publication of DSIS. However, there were several themes within the evidence received which DSIS touches upon:
43. Professor John Louth told us that DSIS represented a “massive change in emphasis” which would require the MOD to communicate its intentions:
there will be a fresh action plan for SMEs. There is going to be a land-sector strategy; that has already been flagged. There will be an intellectual property strategy and a defence supply chain and innovation strategy. It is strategy on top of strategy on top of strategy. There is enormous work here, but it all points towards significant and profound change that can all be captured in this idea of a sectorial approach and this flexible acquisition architecture.69
However, he felt that the challenge for the authors of DSIS will be to ensure the whole of the MOD supports the changes.70 Paul Hough agreed, explaining that “DSIS is not something that is going to happen or be fully implemented next year. It will take some time. It will take concerted and focused effort, training and recruitment, sector by sector”.71 The National Security Adviser explained why he felt that DSIS played such a vital role:
There are certain sovereign capabilities that, once gone, we will never get back. Defence is also more cognisant of the social role that it plays in supporting British industry. Much of that is expanded at considerable length in the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy, which marks the kind of strategic shift that you are talking about, but it was only published earlier this year. These are long-term projects. I hope that they will be seen to bear fruit.72
44. Defence in a Competitive Age and the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy are ambitious papers, aimed at modernising UK defence and ensuring it has equipment suitable for the Information Age. Whilst the conclusions of Defence in a Competitive Age ought to be revisited in light of the conflict in Ukraine, the commitments made in the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy ought to be implemented fully. We recognise that this will take time—we urge the MOD to ensure that the changes are seen through.
45. The Integrated Review and the Defence in a Competitive Age do not include any prioritised assessment of the threat or of activities to counter it. In a debate in the House of Lords on 17 March, former National Security Adviser Lord Ricketts welcomed the ambitions set out in the Integrated Review but noted that:
…what I do not see are any clear choices among all these priorities. Indeed, I see that the review dropped the prioritised list of national security risks, which we introduced in 2010.73
46. The Government’s priorities were debated throughout the evidence sessions in this inquiry. Former Chiefs of Defence Staff, Gen. Lord David Richards and Gen. Lord Nick Houghton expressed some misgivings about the lack of direction.74 Lord Richards felt that neither the Integrated Review nor ‘Defence in a Competitive Age’ had a “guiding intent” leaving him to wonder what the PM and Secretary of State for Defence envisioned: “Is it state-on-state warfare or is that so unlikely that we should predicate our structures and our capability on something else?”75
47. Dr Sidharth Kaushal from RUSI felt that the Integrated Review had adequately set out the priority between the threat posed by Russia and the competitive challenge posed by China and had resourced each accordingly. Similarly, Admiral Alex Burton felt that the Integrated Review was clear: the “pacing threat is Russia” with the “tilt” (as opposed to the full-turn of the Obama pivot to Asia which shifted resources from Europe and the Middle East76) to the Indo-Pacific allowing for strategic ambiguity.77 He considered that the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper offered an ambitious view of the Navy’s role, relying on it to exercise British influence and leverage over the maritime domain.78
48. By contrast, the cut in Army numbers meant that its role would change, with an increased reliance on the Army Reserve. The then Chief of Defence Staff told us that one way of managing any shortfall would be to “invest properly in our reserve”.79 Defence in a Competitive Age promised that:
The challenges of the next decade will require us to maximise the outputs, talents and synergies of the whole force. Our reserve forces will be given new, more clearly defined roles. They will provide capacity, alongside their regular and civilian colleagues, and an alternative source of diverse talent to conduct operations at home and abroad. We will create an efficient and fluid spectrum of military service, providing our people with a range of commitment options at different stages of their lives. We will improve the way we recruit and employ reserves, enabling us to bring expertise from across society, government, industry and academia to bear on some of the greatest challenges we face, and consider any recommendations from the Reserves Forces 30 review in due course.80
That commitment was made in March 2021 and in May 2021, Lord Lancaster produced the ‘Reserve Forces Review 2030’ which examined the role which the Reserve would play. As of June 2022, the MOD has not formally responded to the Review’s 18 recommendations.
49. We have previously highlighted our concern that the Armed Forces are being used almost as a fourth bluelight service.81 Naval resources are being utilised to counter small boat channel crossings82 and the Chief of General Staff has acknowledged that the Government is relying increasingly on the Army to fill gaps, noting the importance of the Reserve in this space:
We need to get more out of [the Reserve] because we can’t hook the Regular force held at high readiness into a whole host of domestic tasks. The Government looks to have an appetite to use the Army more than they used to, so we should expect a higher level of commitment in support of national resilience.83
When we raised our concern about the use of the military for visa processing (both in relation to Afghanistan and Ukraine) with the Minister for Armed Forces, he acknowledged that, in the current environment, it might not be the most effective use of trained military personnel to have them operating in a civilian capacity.84
50. When questioned on how the Government reviewed its prioritisation in light of the changing circumstances, the NSA explained that:
issues of national security [prioritisation] are for the Prime Minister. That is self-evidently the case, and that is self-evidently what happens in practice. We typically have hierarchies of objective in this area, because if we were to seek to defend ourselves against absolutely every single conceivable threat, we would not have any money for anything else at all, so we do need to prioritise. That is a mixture of increasing amounts of data, a great deal of analysis—our Joint Intelligence Organisation does a great deal of analysis, and the collation of analysis from the Departments, and to a certain extent a degree of judgment, as you would inevitably expect. All these things come together in the centre, in the National Security Secretariat, and advice is provided to the Prime Minister and he takes decisions accordingly.85
51. This suggests that the prioritisation (of threats and actions to counter them) is therefore decided at the NSC, which previously met weekly whilst the House of Commons was in session (although it appears to meet less regularly now).86 Discussions of the NSC are classified. This means that there can be little public scrutiny of either the prioritisation itself or how regularly it changes. The Government has committed to producing an annual report on the implementation of the Integrated Review but there is no indication as to whether this will contain any information on what, if anything, has changed in relation to the Government’s objectives or plans.87
52. Priorities will change over the lifetime of the Integrated Review and some objectives linked to the top priorities will be achieved quickly whereas others will fall to the bottom of the to do list. The JCNSS heard that the NSC must set clear priorities which are backed with sufficient allocation of resources in order to “help to focus the minds of the departments that we are asking to work together more effectively”.88 The National Security Adviser told us that the MoD was responsible for 11 of the 148 “deliverables”89 stemming from the Integrated Review and that it has one Senior Responsible Officer leading on an IR “sub-strategy”. However, neither details of what the deliverables are, nor updates on progress in achieving them, nor indeed the number of IR sub-strategies are available to us or the general public.90
53. The reason that lack of publicly available information of the Government’s defence and security priorities presents a problem is that for integration—highlighted by the MoD as absolutely vital for the UK’s security—to be effective, the NSC must set clear priorities, backed with sufficient resources. If we (and the general public) are not aware of the priorities or the progress made on them, we cannot say with certainty whether we are being adequately protected by our Government.
54. The lack of prioritisation means that it is impossible to determine which of the threats highlighted the Government perceives to be greatest. It also results in the military seemingly being the answer for every question whilst not being appropriately resourced for the task.
55. We are further concerned by the use of the UK Armed Forces as a ‘backfill’, employed to carry out civilian tasks by Departments which are seemingly unable to respond to crises themselves. This is compounded by the MOD’s failure to respond to the 18 recommendations made by the Reserves Review.
56. We recommend that the MOD publish annual figures for the assistance provided to other Government Departments and to public authorities. This list should include the number of personnel deployed, the length of deployment, the task they were deployed for, the cost of the task and the renumeration received by the Department. Furthermore we recommend that the MOD commit to publishing its response to the Reserves Review in the Autumn.
57. The three papers were prepared concurrently and were all published over the space of a week. The Integrated Review was written by a team in the Cabinet Office and the Defence in a Competitive Age Command Paper and the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy were prepared by the MOD. Whilst the analysis of the threat is consistent throughout, witnesses were concerned by the lack of consistency in response and follow on from the documents. Professor Louth told us that he was:
unsure as to how the hierarchy of plans, if I can use that phrase, works and comes together. .... Over the past couple of weeks, I have tried to map across the themes from the three documents and it is not a particularly easy exercise.91
58. There were a number of concerns raised around the conclusions of the papers. Professor Patrick Porter described the Integrated Review and Defence in a Competitive Age as having an ambitious view of the UK’s role (globally-engaged, defending liberal values) that was not matched by resources. He suggested that there was a “means/ends imbalance, which even increased funding this time has not quite corrected”, with the UK instead relying on technology and coalitions to make up the shortfall.92 Funding was also raised by Admiral Burton who noted that Defence in a Competitive Age was “insufficiently innovative at pace if we are to ensure that we keep pace with our adversaries”93 before adding “that investment for the information age is not there at the quantum that I would expect to deliver on that integrated review.94
59. In contrast, Lt Gen Ben Hodges felt that “with this Command Paper for the first time it feels that a review was done truly based on looking at threats and strategy as opposed to something that feels more like a budget drill”. However, he also warned that:
It sets out a good, strong approach. It is up to the Government to follow through and make good on the requirements. These things are always built on assumptions and, as you look into this, you need to challenge the assumptions. That is the foundation. What assumptions are you making about time, resources, the capabilities that will be available in five or ten years? And you have to continue to challenge those assumptions.95
The reduction in Army numbers has been challenged by witnesses throughout the inquiry. Two related themes which have emerged are the cut in capabilities, particularly in the Army, and the reliance on technology to replace mass.
60. Lord Richards told us that the Defence Command Paper was “short on detail”96 and seemed like it was “cobbling together forces and making the best of a job, hoping that other things like cyber will compensate”. He warned that so-called conventional warfare would continue to be a “major risk”:
As I said, in the mid-2020s, I see a significant dip in conventional capability before the new capabilities have been properly grown. In that period, an adventurous Russia—I am not saying it will try to seize Paris or Berlin—might just be tempted to cause trouble by seizing a chunk of Estonia or one of the other Baltic states. That becomes a real problem for us.97
61. Lord Houghton acknowledged that the paper was not envisioning the future deployment of “heavy armour at scale with supporting armoured fighting vehicles with weeks of artillery supplies”. Instead conflict would look like:
a game of hide and seek on the battlefield, where the organisation with the greater data and information superiority and the greater precision and weight of aerial strike will dominate.98
He acknowledged that “[i]n terms of whether or not this all going to work, this is a bit of a strategic bet”.99
62. We heard that the lack of prioritisation (discussed above) left the role of the Armed Forces and where they will operate geographically unclear.100 Lord Houghton thought that new force structure would mean the UK Armed Forces were becoming “sort of one-shot, with quite long notice and not long sustainment … It looks like one result of this review, in terms of the numbers that have been reduced in terms of straightforward platforms and boots on the ground, is that we are less able to deploy to conflicts at scale.”101 Lord Richards concurred, noting that
I am worried that the one so called war fighting division that is left is actually not very fightable. I commanded an armoured brigade. It had two type-58 tank armoured regiments. It had two armoured infantry battalions with a whole load of Warrior armoured fighting vehicles. These new ones in due course will get new tanks, and I am sure they will be jolly good, but a tank alone does not enable you to fight that brigade or division if there are going to be no armoured infantry fighting vehicles and nothing with a turret.102
63. The then Chief of Defence Staff told us that the reductions in capabilities were a financial decision, taken to “create the headroom to be able to invest for the future capabilities”.103 However, the Defence Secretary told us in June 2020 that some of the decisions around cuts in capabilities would need to be re-examined following the lessons learned from the conflict in Ukraine:
I have made it perfectly clear that, before Russia invaded Ukraine, we took a decision that there would be a dip—a sort of sunset and sunrise, as the former Chief of the Defence Staff used to talk about—in capabilities. While the 26s, 31s and the Boxers came on stream in the Army, for example, we were going to take that dip. The threat has changed, so I take a view that some of those areas we were prepared to take a risk in are areas where we should not be prepared to take that risk and, therefore, I have made no secret of the fact that that is a place where we would look for more money or more investment.104
64. Lord Richards was sceptical that the UK would be able to fulfil its commitments to NATO following the decisions made in the strategy documents:
I am worried that global Britain, as much as I am with it in principle as a patriotic chap, is not deliverable in defence terms, and we ought to be centring our effort on NATO and the Euro-Atlantic area, which are militarily deliverable and hugely strategically influential, and not risk penny-packaging our more limited forces around the world and not necessarily gaining any extra influence, because they do not have the sufficient mass in any particular place to gain that influence.105
65. Professor Porter was concerned that technology was intended to be “a substitute for mass and a replacement for large scale capability, and to create agility” with the expectation that it will “replace the absence of enough numbers”. He argued that:
When you are in a crisis, particularly in a world where forward bases and fleets are targets as much as they are resources, and the key to winning a war or surviving is fighting through after the first round of devastating attacks, you are going to need reserve power. Technology cannot do enough to make up for that.106
66. Similarly, Dr Blagden warned:
It is a particular concern with the cuts in the numbers of people, because British defence documents always talk about being more flexible and adaptable than the last one and yet, if you want to talk about the most flexible or adaptable platform that a military has, it is the people. People can do anything. They have brains. They can think of new ways to use whatever: “Crap, they are coming towards us. Pick up a shovel and hit them.” This is a choice that a person can make, whereas if you have put your eggs in one basket with a particular technological vision of the future, and that technological vision of the future turns out to not be quite right—if the technology has some loophole that makes easily counterable, does not quite materialise in the way that you expected or whatever—what you have sacrificed is the ultimate flexible and adaptable piece of kit, which is people who can come up with new ways of doing things on the hoof. Yes, that is a problem.107
67. The Secretary of State told us that “automation and modern equipment” meant that UK Defence needed fewer people for the “same lethality”108 The then Chief of Defence Staff also pointed to the utilisation of the Reserve as one way of increasing capacity.109 However, there is a sign that the events in Ukraine may well have resulted in a re-think: at the RUSI Land Warfare conference, the new Chief of the General Staff acknowledged that:
it would be perverse if the CGS was advocating reducing the size of the Army as a land war rages in Europe and Putin’s territorial ambitions extend into the rest of the decade, and beyond Ukraine.110
When questioned in July 2022 as to whether he would review the cuts to the Army, the Secretary of State told the House that:
The threat has changed and it warrants more spending on defence, because the world is more dangerous and anxious than it was—not only when we had the defence Command Paper but before Putin invaded.111
68. The cuts to capability—both in terms of Army numbers and armour as the number of tanks are reduced from 227 Challenger 2 to 148 upgraded Challenger 3 and the Warrior upgrade programme has been retired—raise serious concerns given the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper saw future warfare as being hybrid, with much of the activity taking place in the Grey Zone. As the then Chief of the General Staff noted in May 2022:
We were clear that Russia was an acute problem but we expected it to manifest itself in a more hybrid, unconventional fashion – bots as well as boots, subversion and disinformation. They’d done similar in Georgia and Crimea so the surprise was that Putin went all in at very significant scale and in a very crude, conventional, old-style manner. … [Ukraine has] certainly highlighted the fact that mass and size are important. I’m not comfortable with an Army of just 73,000. It’s too small.112
69. This is compounded by the delay to the Ajax programme. As Lord Richards notes, tanks do not fight alone—they are supported by (amongst others) infantry fighting vehicles. The losses of Russian tanks in Ukraine demonstrates what happens when tanks are used without combined arms support. The Defence Secretary acknowledged the importance of Ajax:
the fundamental is that the Army needs its capabilities. Its capabilities, as planned, are the incredibly capable 40 mm gun, the digital architecture—the capabilities that they can deliver are really important and needed by an armoured fleet of the Army that is well out of date and overmatched by not only our friends and allies, but our adversaries. We definitely need to deliver.113
As well as the armoured component, the Defence Secretary notes the importance of the digital architecture provided by Ajax. Lord Richards acknowledged that the capability changes were predicated on getting the digital infrastructure in place—something which was cast into doubt by issues with the secure communications programmes (LE TacCIS).114 It is clear that it is essential to ensure the viability of the digital backbone and the ability to integrate data effectively to find the adversary.
70. Much of the information-based future capabilities will fail to be the effective gamechanger foreseen by the Integrated Operating Concept without the ‘Digital Backbone’—the people, processes and technology which will allow the UK Armed Forces to truly integrate and utilise the vast amounts of data being provided by sensors on equipment (such as Ajax or the F-35). Given the difficulties presented by previous digital projects, across Government and particularly in the MOD, success is not a foregone conclusion. The Public Accounts Committee found this year that:
Two of the Department’s digital programmes teams—New Style of IT (Deployed) and Morpheus115—identified a range of shortcomings in their early adoption of agile approaches. These included learning by trial and error, a lack of shared understanding of what will be delivered, customers’ reluctance to accept trade-offs in capability to improve the speed of delivery, suppliers’ lack of experience with the approach, and difficulties when agile programmes need to join up with programmes being delivered traditionally.116
On another MOD digital project (Army Recruitment), the NAO concluded that the MOD needed to ensure that there was a shared understanding of the requirements between the Department and the supplier before undertaking such contracts:
71. When we raised concerns about the reliance of innovative technology against peer or near peer competitors with the Secretary of State, he told us:
I think we will be able to match the Russians and Chinese, as alliances, on strategic advantage. Whether it is on one type of capability or another, I am not going to get into those types of predictions, because I would probably be wrong. Overall, I think we will still be able to continue a strategic advantage as long as our alliances continue to invest in defence capability, intelligence gathering, and training and exercising. There is no such thing as a free lunch. If people stop doing that, then I fear that, obviously, that strategic advantage will ebb away.117
72. Alongside the Permanent Secretary’s acknowledgement that some of the risk judgements made within the Integrated Review process might need to be revisited in light of events in Ukraine, it is clear that the capability gaps which the Defence Command Paper saw as acceptable are now no longer palatable. Furthermore, the move to such a position relies on technological innovation and the adoption of digital capabilities (such as Ajax and the Digital Backbone, as noted above).
73. As noted in the opening paragraph to this chapter, several of the witnesses questioned whether the ambitions stated in the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper were achievable with the resources provided.118 On the concerns raised around the cuts to Army numbers, the Secretary of State again pointed to technology as an answer—using portable cameras as look outs and weapons systems that can cover greater ranges. He noted that by using automation to maintain the ammunition storage on HMS Queen Elizabeth, they were able to reduce the number of sailors required.119 He also pointed to the use of reserves in ‘Military Aid to Civil Authorities’ (MACA) situations:
we have seen much more use of Reserves in covid, for example. We would have a MACA request—we had one for Manchester—and I remember saying, “Okay, you can have 90 soldiers”, or 200 or whatever it was, “but after three weeks they will change to Reserves.” We can achieve resilience in that way, but we are not abandoning people. We are going down from 82 [thousand] to 72—we are currently on 76—but we also have to see whether we can use our integration to increase the impact on the ground.120
74. When we asked the then Chief of Defence Staff whether the MOD was meeting the digital challenge, he acknowledged the difficulties:
If I was being realistic, I would say perhaps 3, gusting 4. We have a long way to go. We are probably better off in many ways than the Americans, because they tend to do everything through their services and tend to be, in many ways—they would admit this—more stove pipe than we are. Being smaller, we are completely obliged to make it work across the five domains of space, cyber, land, air and maritime. It is much harder for them to do that.121
He also acknowledged that the procurement processes within the MOD were part of that challenge:
I have read the evidence that Committees such as the PAC have taken in terms of how we spend our money and how we deliver effect through our equipment programme. The plain fact—we all know this—is that we can do a better job on that. How we maximise the potential with the money that we already get is something that I think we should all be conscious of and that we should all be striving to improve. That is a really important issue that we need to reflect on.122
75. Paul Hough told us that DSIS needed to be implemented fully for the technology to work:
the example that we have given of where a more collaborative approach has been taken is recognised as successful: Team Complex Weapons. What happens in a competition is that, in order to run one, to nail everything down and to hold people’s feet to the fire, we write extremely long and detailed contracts and we start to manage the contract rather than the outcomes. The company and the MoD employ a lot of people to make sure that we write requirement after requirement, and we end up with a bloated contract. We run a competition and people commit to technical and programme risk that they otherwise would not need to take, but they need to win the competition. It will be on a case-by-case basis and a competition may still be appropriate, but you would hope that, by working together and looking at the art of the possible, we will avoid some of the issues.123
Professor Louth emphasised that complex capability generation should be approached differently from what had been done previously; he acknowledged that 95% of current costs were “sunk” in the current Equipment Plan but argued that “for tomorrow’s programmes, there is at least a sense that we can be a little bit more creative in how we think of that acquisition space.”124
76. Given that achieving the objectives of the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Papers seemingly relies on integration, we explore what that means in the Chapter below.
77. The MOD faces a number of challenges following decisions made in the Integrated Review: the likelihood of a capability gap, as equipment is retired before its replacement is introduced; a reduction in the British Army’s heavy armour and mass at a time when tank battles are raging in Ukraine; and a reliance on not yet tested, let alone proven, technology, to counteract that reduction in equipment and numbers. There are also valid questions about whether the resources allocated to the task of moving the UK Armed Forces into the information age are adequate—a number of our witnesses seem to believe not.
78. It is clear that, even if the Government decides to proceed with the decisions taken in the IR and the Defence Command Paper, the timeline of changes ought also to be reviewed given the potential for capability gaps which leave the UK Armed Forces vulnerable. We are especially concerned about the proposed cuts to personnel numbers and the effective reduction in mass, particularly since that we are seeing Defence being used more and more often as an emergency measure to relieve exceptional pressures on public services and perform such tasks that otherwise might be expected to be carried out by others. In this context, we welcome the decision by the new Chief of the General Staff to describe the cuts as “perverse” and, as a first step, the Secretary of State’s seeming acknowledgement of the need to review the decision.
79. There is a danger of overstretch. The Government needs to ensure that the military is properly resourced with both equipment and personnel to carry out the tasks required of it. To do this, we recommend there be a wholesale re-examination of the decisions on capabilities and timeframes within the Defence Command Paper and the decisions taken in it following events in Ukraine.
80. The Defence Secretary has emphasised the importance of integration in countering the threat recognised by the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Papers:
An integrated response is what is demanded by today’s threat. Multi-domain, broad action, inter-government, international relationships – sub-threshold and above threshold”.125
In written evidence, the MOD acknowledged that integration would be a “significant challenge” given “the inherent complexity in integrating across platforms, force elements, and multiple agencies and partners; rapidly pulling through technology into capability; and ensuring our solutions are effectively future-proofed”.126
81. The Secretary of State suggested integration needed to happen in 3 areas:
He told the Strategic Command Conference that:
The challenge of achieving all three levels of this type of integration, with cybersecurity demands and multiple alliances, is not going to be an easy one. In fact, it will be harder if policy leads, equipment programmers and military leaders don’t speak to each other, which is why at the Command Paper’s heart is the threat. The start point is we coalesce around a common threat picture.127
82. However, there is no Government definition of integration in any of the IR papers. General Everard suggested that even in terms of military multi-domain integration, there was no common understanding of what it is and that, as such, NATO was working to develop a common understanding and a road map.128 Without a definition of what the Government (and as part of that, the MOD) are trying to achieve, it will be difficult to judge whether or not integration is being employed.
83. When we asked the National Security Adviser for examples of UK Defence acting in an integrated manner, he noted that “Defence is fully integrated into the broader national security architecture and plays a vital role helping deliver the UK’s priorities”, and provided the following examples:
84. The National Security Adviser declined to identify areas where integration might be difficult for Defence. However, he did emphasise that the MOD implementation of the Defence Command Papers would be subject to Cabinet Office scrutiny:
The Integrated Review was, as much as anything else, a statement of intent and ambition, allied with concrete activity. The manifestation of that for defence is in the Defence Command Paper. The Prime Minister will expect the Defence Department to fulfil its capability requirements. Not all of those are on the right track, as we know. He will expect it to do the things that it has said it is going to do with its workforce, and he will expect it to adjust the force posture in the way that he has set out. All those things are trackable. Most of those things are in the Defence Command Paper. They are checked on, I know, in Defence very actively and we will be checking in on them from the Cabinet Office as well.130
The National Security Adviser also chairs a quarterly meeting which examines the Defence Settlement stemming from the 2020 allocation of funding, the MOD’s progress against the ‘deliverables’ under the Integrated Review and the capability commitments within the Defence Command Paper.131 As noted above, MOD seem to be responsible for 11 out of the 148 ‘deliverables’ which existed in November 2021.132
85. Both Professor Porter and Dr Blagden were clear that in order for integration to happen effectively, there needed to be political direction from the NSC and/or the Cabinet in order to reconcile the trade offs involved—integration could not be the responsibility of officials alone.133 The National Security Adviser explained that he would “provide the Prime Minister with advice and updates on the progress of the priority actions” as well as making sure that the “various arms of Government” were “integrated in the pursuit of those objectives” at both the strategic and operational levels.134
86. The system of oversight described — the list held by the Cabinet Office, the quarterly meetings chaired by the NSA and the advice to the Prime Minister — appear to be implementation by a senior policy official, rather than the NSC or Ministers. This is surprising given that the IR stated that
Ministers should be engaged collectively at earlier stages in policy-making and more emphasis needs to be placed on effective implementation, including in reporting to and review by the NSC.135
As a result of the need to improve ministerial oversight of implementation, the IR committed the NSA to a review of “national security systems and processes” to ensure that the NSC was adequately supported in its efforts to oversee implementation.136
87. The National Security Adviser’s review changed the membership and process of the National Security Council meetings, with meetings of the whole council taking place less regularly whilst (with the approval of the Prime Minister) sub-groups of Ministers can meet in place of the Council in a new format known as the National Security Ministers (NSM) group. NSM meetings are also served by the National Security Adviser and National Security Secretariat, the ministerial chair of the meeting depends on the policy area under discussion.137
88. The organisation of the work of officials also changes, with the system of cross-departmental National Security Implementation Groups (NSIGs)138 retired.139 In correspondence the NSA told the JCNSS that:
We are in the process of creating new senior official-level Integrated Review Implementation Groups (IRIGs), which will oversee the development and implementation of a series of Integrated Review sub-strategies. Each sub-strategy will have a named senior official as the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO), who is tasked by the NSA to convene departments from across government to ensure that decisions align with, and build upon, the IR and harness diverse perspectives, expertise and experience (from within and beyond HMG) in order to drive innovation, adaptation and integration. Additionally, we have created a new central strategy function within the NSS. This Strategy Unit will both oversee the development and delivery of the SRO-led sub-strategies as a whole, and enhance the support provided to Ministers in making grand strategy.140
89. The JCNSS has examined concerns about the NSC’s work on Afghanistan including:
Following an evidence session on Afghanistan, the JCNSS wrote to the Prime Minister about their concerns:
The unedifying public briefing war between departments as Kabul fell in August exposed the failure of the NSC to direct unified, cross-government plans for withdrawal and for the identified contingency of a rapid fall of the country to the Taliban. Whistle-blower testimony and media reports suggest that the FCDO was in chaos during the evacuation, despite it having led more than 60 “campaign meetings” (including on contingency planning) in the preceding year, raising fundamental questions as to whether FCDO crisis response capabilities are fit for purpose. Meanwhile, the Home Office still cannot commit to launching the Afghan Citizen Resettlement Scheme by March 2022—more than two years after President Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. This is an unforgivable delay for Afghans who have served the UK well over the past 20 years.142
90. Particularly concerning is the fact that the NSA and the then Deputy NSA, David Quarrey, had rejected the suggestion that Afghanistan demonstrated a failing of integration. David Quarrey told the JCNSS that:
Can I just say, on the National Security Council and Afghanistan, that it did what it was supposed to do? It set clear direction to the system at various points through the process ... It was not the fault of the National Security Council that that did not happen. The political direction had been set.143
91. The National Security Adviser told us that the Departments involved were all taking forward their own ‘lessons learned’ processes (although each seeking feedback from other Departments and looking to co-ordinate on implementing the findings of all of them).144 Despite our request to see the ‘lessons learned’, the Government has not shared its findings with us.
92. Integration is key to the effective implementation of the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Papers. It is clear that this requires a long-term commitment, with decisions consistently re-evaluated as progress is made. It further requires a cohesive, effective and dedicated Government which is able to work collaboratively towards a common goal.
93. If Afghanistan was intended to be an example of effective policy integration in action then it leaves a lot to be desired. It is even more worrying given that the NSC apparently gave the political direction required to bring together a ‘whole-of-systems’ approach. If the NSC set the appropriate direction then it leads to two pertinent questions: why did implementation of the policy, agreed by Ministers, fail? And how can the Government ensure that integrated, cross-Government policy decisions—made by those Ministers who have been elected by the UK public and accountable to them and this Parliament—are fully implemented in future? The fact that these Departments are carrying out individual lessons learned exercises, rather than a single integrated exercise, is concerning. Furthermore, the Government has failed to take disciplinary action against any senior individual for any (of the many) mistakes made during the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
94. The Government should publish the actions agreed by each of the Departments as a result of the lessons learned exercises which examined the response to the Afghanistan crisis, together with a time frame for implementation.
95. On 19 November 2020, the Prime Minister announced that the Government was allocating Defence a multi-year funding settlement with a substantial increase in funding.145 The Public Accounts Committee noted that the 2020 Spending Review “increased the Department’s overall budget by £16.5 billion over the four years from 2021–22 to 2024–25 (above the budget it had previously assumed would be available) … [The MOD] expects to spend £238 billion on equipment procurement and support over ten years, an increase of £48 billion (25%) from the 2020–2030 Plan.” The Integrated Review and the Defence Command Papers, published in March 2021, “set a new policy direction for the Department and outlined some of the changes it would make”.146 Most of the capability changes were expected to be defined within the MOD’s Equipment Plan 2021–31. However, the Public Accounts Committee had previously warned that the fact that the Equipment Plan (2020–30) had not been balanced147 could mean that much of the additional money could be used to make up shortfalls rather than investing in new capabilities.148
96. The Minister for the Armed Forces told the House, during a debate on defence spending in June 2021, that the multi-year settlement meant that “for the first time the budget looks like it can be balanced and choices can be made based on military need, not because of accounting issues”. He rejected the suggestion that the increase in funding would be consumed by any potential black holes:
Thanks to our boosted budget, we have been able to plug a potential black hole of some £7 billion on projected equipment spend. Some Members have already pointed out that last year’s National Audit Office report suggested the deficit could be deeper still, but that reflected the situation as it was then, not as it is now, following a multi-year settlement, new investment and the defence Command Paper. Together, those have allowed us to redress the imbalance of previous spending reviews.149
In November 2021 the National Security Adviser told us that:
the additional funds … did put us on the right track. They were not merely a question of filling in the hole. Although certainly a part of it was about rebalancing, alongside it came decisions not only to invest in new capabilities but to retire quite a lot of older capabilities. It was a fundamental reset of the way in which the MoD ran its finances.150
97. However, the MOD’s Equipment Plan 2021–31 (which was delayed by a number of months) has not provided enough reassurance for the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which found that:
98. Given the concerns raised by the Public Accounts Committee, it is possible that procurement decisions taken by the MOD could increase the cost of the Equipment Plan to a point where it once again becomes unaffordable. Should that happen, it will be difficult to convince the British Public that money spent by the MOD is a worthwhile investment in their security, particularly given the current economic insecurity which many of them are facing. We asked the National Security Adviser whether he thought the MOD procurement process was fit for purpose. He told us that:
The procurement processes in the Ministry of Defence are being overhauled by the new permanent secretary and the Defence Secretary, and he has been very open about that. They are adopting more closely some of the techniques that the Treasury recommends that all Departments adopt. … There is a process that was starting as I was leaving the Department that goes by the acronym MAID, which is the MoD Approach to Investment Decisions. I have not been very recently updated on where it has got to. I know that the Secretary of State, since I left, has set up a unit of net assessment and challenge, which is designed to get into this as well. I think there is plenty to be looked at here. There is an ongoing process of seeking to improve. Everybody knows that it needs to improve. Nobody is resiling from the comments that you made earlier. Ajax is a good example where clearly it did not go right.153
99. When we asked the MOD for information on the changes to the procurement process, they told us that:
The key recommendation of Project MAID was implemented in 2020 with the transition to a three stage approvals process and the introduction of the Strategic Outline Case, bringing the MOD in line with wider government practice and the principles of HM Treasury’s Green Book.154
The Strategic Outline Case apparently “enables areas of strategic programme risk and complexity to be considered at an early stage” which means that problems ought to be identified earlier on. Following its introduction, a further review on the process was carried out which found support for its introduction but suggested that a further focus on early discussions with key stakeholders and improved transparency were required. In addition, it was determined that “decision-making based on appropriate risk and encouraging a learning culture” were also areas which could be improved.155
100. The MOD Permanent Secretary was unable to name a successful MOD procurement programme—instead he pointed to programmes, like the Carriers, which had experienced difficulties yet had still provided important capability to UK Defence.156 Given that the MOD’s initial cost for the Carriers was expected to be £3.65 billion157 whilst the final cost was in fact £6.2 billion,158 the argument appears to be that the capability was eventually provided, just at a significantly increased cost.
101. In addition to the potential financial difficulties as a result of procurement issues, the Autumn Budget 2021 included the announcement that the MOD was the only government department for which day-to-day spending (resource DEL excluding depreciation) was set to decline in real terms over the period to 2024/25—by £1.4 billion (-4.6%).159 As we noted in our report on Naval procurement (We’re going to need a bigger Navy), this may have implications for funding available for the Navy and the other armed services’ day-to-day resources and administration costs, including operations and other activity, support (maintenance, stores and spares), and pay.160
102. On 30 June 2022, the Prime Minister announced that Defence spending would rise to 2.5% of GDP by the end of the decade. However, there was little clarity on how this target is to be achieved and what will happen to the budget from 2025 onwards.161 When making a statement to the House the following week, the Prime Minister said that:
If you follow the trajectory of our programmes to modernise our armed forces … you will draw the logical conclusion that the UK will likely be spending 2.5% of GDP on defence by the end of this decade.162
When he was asked whether he was committing to spending 2.5% by 2030, he told the House that he was making “a straightforward prediction based on what we are currently committed to spending under the AUKUS and future combat air system programmes” before noting that “much depends on the size of our GDP” at the end of the decade.163 In answer to a question on how the increase in spending would be funded, the Prime Minister replied that:
we will pay for it out of steady and sustained economic growth.164
103. We welcome the uplift to the MOD’s budget in 2020 and the four-year budget commitment. However, inflationary pressures and an increase in the scale of threat means that it is no longer enough. At the same time, serious concerns persist around a number of procurement programmes. The Department now needs a strategy to regain both Parliament’s and the public’s trust in its procurement abilities. We are concerned that a real terms fall in sustainment funding (RDEL) up to 2024–25 will erode the Armed Forces’ ability to maintain and train on military equipment. We recommend a further, long-term increase to the budget but the MOD must ensure that money is not wasted.
104. There are significant challenges to integration but none that concerns us as much as the MOD’s procurement difficulties. For instance, the MOD has made it clear that in order to achieve integration and utilise new technologies, it needs an effective digital network. Without that network, few of the suggested benefits are accrued. Yet its track record in large and complex programmes is abysmal. We recommend that the Government identify those programmes which are critical enablers and ensure there is additional scrutiny of them. Furthermore, it needs to identify international partners with whom it can collaborate on the technologically advanced equipment that the UK Armed Forces require.
105. The lack of a definition of what it means to be integrated makes it somewhat difficult to measure the success of the Government in achieving its objectives. However, we will continue to evaluate the implementation of the Integrated Review, the Defence Command Paper and the DSIS throughout the life of this Parliament.
106. We welcome the Government’s commitment to the publication of an annual review on the implementation of the Integrated Review. However, given that the implementation is the key, consistent evaluation of the implementation of the strategies throughout this Parliament is vital. This Committee, alongside our colleagues on the Public Accounts Committee, the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy and the House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee, plays a vital role in ensuring that Government decisions, and their implementation, are regularly scrutinised. Since the Integrated Review papers were published, we have published a Report on Naval procurement and are currently holding inquiries examining Defence Space policy, how the UK works with the US and NATO, the tilt to the Indo-Pacific, aviation procurement and the impact of climate change on Defence.
107. As well as an annual report on the implementation of the IR, we recommend the MOD produce an annual evaluation of what has been achieved in their implementation of Defence in a Competitive Age and DSIS. This evaluation should include case studies which demonstrate implementation (examples of integration with other Government Departments, allies and partners, and defence industry). It should also include an account of how certain events have led to a review of thinking and any subsequent decisions made which change previously agreed outcomes. This will allow Parliamentary Committees and the UK public to scrutinise the implementation of the Integrated Review, Defence in a Competitive Age and the Defence Security and Industrial Strategy.
1)The Integrated Review (IR) had four overall objectives:
2)The first objective is based on recognition that states which lead the way on the design and use of new technologies will be able to shape the world.165 The Integrated Review states that this objective is focused on “gaining economic, political and security advantages in the coming decade and in shaping international norms in collaboration with allies and partners”.166
3)As part of its objective on science and technology, the Government has established a framework of “own-collaborate-access”: This is about establishing which critical and emerging technologies need to ‘owned’ by the state (i.e. discovered and produced within a UK establishment and sold under UK government purview); which can be ‘collaborated’ on (i.e. need UK involvement in development but with international partners) and which can be ‘accessed’ (i.e. produced outside of the UK, with no UK input but bought and used within a UK context).
4)To achieve this objective, the Government wishes to create an “enabling environment” which will result in a “thriving S&T ecosystem of scientists, researchers, inventors and innovators, across academia, the private sector, regulators and standards bodies, working alongside the manufacturing base to take innovations through to markets.” Alongside this, the Government has committed to utilising the UK’s science and technology capability in support of wider policy goals (such as environmental and economic policy). The IR also commits the Government to being a “responsible, democratic cyber power”, one aspect of which is the establishment of the National Cyber Force, a joint MOD/GCHQ unit.
5)Defence in a Competitive Age found that Defence would support this objective by:
MOD contribution (alongside GCHQ and SIS) to the National Cyber Force; £6.6bn in R&D spending over the next 4 years; innovation hubs; the Defence and Security Accelerator Challenge: and the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy ensuring that Industry understands the future capability commitments made by HMG.167
6)The second objective, shaping the open international order of the future, is driven by a recognition that the UK’s economy and society relies on being open, democratic and fair. The objective therefore represents the UK’s commitment to multilateralism, support for democracy and the promotion of human rights for all. The Government has determined that the UK economy must be both open and resilient, recognising the role that global and digital trade will play in the future economy whilst also ensuring that it is also sustainable. It has also committed to ensuring that developments in the space and cyber domains are subject to the rules and norms of the international order. The IR acknowledges that to achieve this objective, the Government will need to ensure its diplomacy is aligned with cross-Government policies underpinned by a ‘whole-of-system’ approach.
7)Defence in a Competitive Age found that Defence would support this objective by:
ensuring that International Humanitarian Law is adhered to in UK operations; ensuring that International Humanitarian Law (alongside international norms and values) is an integral part of the UK’s approach to capacity building; freedom of navigation operations; shaping an ethical and responsible framework around cyberspace, space and the development and use of emerging technologies.168
8)The third objective, strengthening security and defence at home and overseas, is wide-ranging; it encompasses countering threats and hostile actions from state powers which intend harm; tackling conflict and instability across the World; and tackling “transnational security challenges” which include radicalisation, terrorism, serious and organised crime and the proliferation of advanced military technology and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons Defence in a Competitive Age found that Defence would support this objective by:
ensuring that UK Armed Forces are equipped to carry out non-combatant evacuation operations and support UN peacekeeping operations; maintaining the ability to detect and counter a CBRN attack; deter threats through working alongside NATO allies; continue to play a key role in the UK’s counter-terrorism mission.169
9)The fourth objective is building resilience at home and overseas. Under this objective HMG is aiming to build the UK’s national resilience, tackle climate change and biodiversity loss and build health resilience. Defence in a Competitive Age found that Defence would support this objective by:
providing both Military Aid to Civilian Authorities (help and support provided by the Armed Forces to authorities in the UK, like the Police, NHS or local authorities) in the event of an emergency; providing humanitarian relief overseas; providing specialist and rapid support in responding to global health risks.170
1)The Integrated Operating Concept (originally published in September 2020 and updated in August 2021) found that in order to operate effectively in the future operating environment, a Future Force would need to:
2)The conclusion drawn was that modernisation (in both force structure and capabilities) would need to be a longer-term process rather than a complete transformation. So-called sunset capabilities (those which are “vulnerable or redundant in the Information Age”171) would need to be reduced over time whilst new ‘sunrise’ capabilities, based on information-centric technologies, were introduced.
3)The MOD Science and Technology Strategy 2020 (published in October 2020) subsequently drew on this to identify five ‘capability challenges’ as a result of changing operating environment. These were:
1. Pervasive, full spectrum, multi domain Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)—respond to threats and opportunities of emerging technologies affecting our ability to conduct ISR in all domains and environments through affordable resilient solutions.
2. Multi-domain Command & Control, Communications and Computers (C4)—develop the capability for multi-domain integration and ability to coordinate effects globally enabling us to execute joint operations against adversaries with well-integrated and resilient capabilities.
3. Secure and sustain advantage in the sub-threshold—improve the UK’s ability to compete against adversaries below the threshold of conventional conflict and address our vulnerabilities, especially in the Information Environment.
4. Asymmetric hard power—develop highly-capable systems to target adversaries in new ways across all domains; develop novel means of delivery of hard power and effective protection against highly capable adversaries.
5. Freedom of Access and Manoeuvre (FOAM)—generate affordable, survivable capability responsive to rapidly evolving threats operated within a denied electromagnetic environment and be interoperable with our allies and partners.172
These strategies (and the conclusions drawn within) form the basis upon which the decisions in Defence in a Competitive Age are based.
1)In 2010 the MoD awarded a demonstration contract to General Dynamics Land Systems UK (GDLS-UK) to develop a fleet of armoured vehicles for the British Army’s Armoured Cavalry Programme—known collectively as Ajax.174 The Ajax programme was designed to replace the in-service Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) (CRV-T) fleet, which entered service in the early 1970s. The CVR(T) fleet has received limited upgrades over the past half century, but although it has been obsolescent for decades the British Army has had to retain it in service due to repeated failures to replace it with a more modern family of vehicles.
2)This observation is hardly new, or indeed unique to the acquisition of Ajax, but reflects the inability of the MoD and the Army to replace a whole range of armoured vehicles since the Cold War. In our March 2021 ‘Obsolescent and outgunned’ report we noted that “The Ajax programme, which is now seriously delayed, is yet another example of chronic mismanagement by the Ministry of Defence and its shaky procurement apparatus.”175 Ten years before, the National Audit Office’s (NAO’s) 2011 The cost-effective delivery of an armoured vehicle capability report176 similarly noted that across the six principal armoured vehicle categories none would meet the Army’s warfighting capability requirements by 2017 unless they were replaced by more modern fleets (See Figure 1).
Figure 1: British Army armoured vehicle forecast capability: 2010–2030
3)Fast forward a decade and, having failed to meet any of the milestones set out in Figure 1, the British Army has fleet-wide obsolescence across all its principal armoured vehicles. Indeed, the situation has deteriorated significantly since the NAO wrote its 2011 report. According to Figure 1, had the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (Warrior CSP) and the ‘FRES Scout’ (which became the Ajax programme) entered service as planned in 2017 they would have begun to address these capability gaps. However, Warrior CSP was cancelled in 2021 and Ajax has been delayed so significantly that the MoD will not even commit to an Initial Operating Capability (IOC) date.177 Updating Figure 1 to reflect the actual position in 2022, Figure 2 sets out our current assessment of the armoured vehicle pipeline.
4)In fact, partly due to the cancellation of Warrior CSP, the MoD now places even more reliance on delivering a successful Ajax programme to meet its future armoured vehicle requirements. In a recent evidence session, the senior uniformed officer responsible for military requirements, Air Marshal Knighton, told us that “During the Integrated Review, the Army has changed its operating concept, and it brings together Ajax with Boxer, and with Deep Fires, to provide the brigade combat teams to deliver what the NATO requirement is.”178
5)Conversely, actual delivery of the Ajax programme continues to slip. Noise and vibration issues have been widely reported and remain a problem, despite the manufacturer assuring us in 2021 that “challenges…have largely been resolved”.179 More worryingly, Reliability Growth Trials—designed to identify and rectify any deficiencies—have barely begun and will almost certainly discover more problems with the vehicle. As noted in the NAO’s 2022 report on Ajax, the original IOC slipped from 2017 to July 2020, then June 2021, “…despite accepting some technical constraints, most notably on the weapon system and armour.”180 Full Operating Capability (FOC) was supposed to be April 2025, but we think it highly unlikely that even the IOC will be achieved by this date.
6)The other recent development that may have a significant impact on the Ajax programme is the Ukraine crisis—or at least what may be perceived to be the military ‘lessons learnt’ from the conflict. Early indications are contradictory, based on the initial stages of the crisis where Russian combat troops failed to effectively manoeuvre with their armoured forces and large-scale assaults on urban areas have taken place.181 The effect of hand-held anti-armour weapons and the widespread employment of relatively cheap uninhabited air vehicles—and particularly armed drones—may indicate the death of seemingly outdated armoured vehicles. Conversely, artillery has maintained its pre-eminence in terms of destructive power, particularly against personnel caught in the open with inadequate armoured protection.
7)These ‘lessons’ may initiate another round of MoD strategy and capability reviews, which could further delay replacing today’s obsolescent armoured fleets. A perceived lesson from the 1999 Kosovo campaign and other global interventions in the early 2000s was around strategic deployment and the need for “…faster, lighter and more deployable vehicles…” Consequently, the MoD cancelled its participation in the international Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV) programme, only to re-join it under the guise of the Boxer programme in 2018.182 This should begin to meet the ‘Mechanised Infantry’ requirement in Figure 1 from 2023, although countries that remained in the MRAV programme saw deliveries commence in 2009.
8)As noted, the challenges the MoD has faced on the Ajax programme are not new, but symptomatic of UK armoured vehicle acquisition since the end of the Cold War. Since that time the MoD has looked to variously replace the 1960s FV430s armoured personnel carriers; the 1970s CRV(T) (Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance – Tracked) vehicles and the 1980s Challenger 1 Main Battle Tank (MBT) and the Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV). However, having initiated an alphabet soup of more than a dozen different armoured vehicle families since the 1990s, the MoD has been incapable of digesting any of them, with one programme cancellation after another.183
9)Although each programme failure will have been caused by a range of different issues—including having sufficient funding profiled at the right time—three key principles stand out as critical to the success of armoured vehicle acquisition:
As show, below, the Ajax programme failed to achieve any of these three principles.
10)Before approval of the Ajax demonstration contract in 2010 the most recent guidance on the armoured vehicle sector was in the 2005 Defence Industrial Strategy.184 The Strategy was clear that the UK should retain the ability to do “systems engineering, domain and design knowledge”; be able to undertake “the intellectual ability to design, validate and interpret the results of AFV (Armoured Fighting Vehicle) testing” and be able to design and build critical sub-systems such as weapons systems for armoured vehicles. It also noted that there was “…no absolute requirement to manufacture all of the constituent parts of an AFV in the UK. An onshore capability to repair and overhaul AFVs is however required, both for routine maintenance and in response to operational needs.”185
11)Given the, admittedly high-level, objectives for armoured vehicle acquisition, further detail was required to ensure the principles were followed through into actual acquisition, including a dedicated land acquisition (and industry) strategy. For example, on ‘critical sub-systems’ the MoD could have ensured the UK focus on those that it considered were either:
12)In the event, the MoD selected a technically unproven and immature 40mm cannon for the main armament for both the Warrior CSP and the Ajax programmes. The cannon’s development has continued to cause technical problems, with the Ajax contractor telling us that further programme delays in 2020 were in part caused by challenges integrating the cannon into the vehicle.186 In regards to the decision to select the 40mm cannon for Warrior and Ajax, we called for the MoD to “…publicly justify why this decision was taken and by whom” but we have yet to receive a response.187 Given the bespoke nature of the novel 40mm caseless ammunition we also asked the MoD what the cost of a 40mm round was, but the MoD has not provided the Committee with an answer.188 With the Warrior CSP upgrade cancelled, it also means that currently the 40mm cannon will only be used on the roughly 200 specialist Ajax reconnaissance vehicles, almost certainly further increasing support and ammunition costs.
13)The Minister for Defence Procurement agreed with us that having a land strategy would have helped over the past decade. Indeed, it may have ensured that the Government’s approach to the sector would be more coherent. For example, we were told that Lockheed Martin invested £17 million in its armoured vehicle facilities in the UK, but much of this value must have been wasted when the Warrior programme that it managed was cancelled the following year.189 Having been without such a strategy for too long, the MoD finally released its Land Industrial Strategy in May 2022.190
14)In setting military requirements there is an inherent tension between choosing more mature equipment—so as to reduce technical risk and increase the likelihood of entering service on time and budget—versus selecting novel technologies to deliver greater initial military advantage, and potentially making the platform more attractive for overseas sales.191 What remains critical, however, is that the platform enters service and is then incrementally developed through-life to enhance its military capability. The involvement of industry will be discussed in part C below.
15)On armoured vehicles the UK has taken different approaches over time to requirements setting. Although Warrior IFV development to service entry in 1987 was not trouble-free, risk and cost were reduced by setting military requirements that used existing components and fitting mature, not novel, technologies. For example, it reused the unstabilised 30mm cannon already in CVR(T) service since the 1970s. By comparison, the United States’ M2 Bradley IFV entered service in the early 1980s after a tortuous and costly development, although it did represent a technical generation ahead of Warrior, with a stabilised cannon, advanced thermal imaging sights and an anti-armour missile system attached.
16)Revealingly, for export customers the Warrior was fitted with the Bradley’s stabilised cannon, but the UK never received the upgrade. Indeed, since entering service, Warrior has received only one planned, significant enhancement as opposed to urgent upgrades to tackle threats while on operations—the Battle Group Thermal Imager (BGTI) programme in 2005. Even minor ammunition upgrades were cancelled, with Warrior still retaining its 1960s-designed cannon. Conversely, the M2 Bradley has maintained its military advantage by receiving five, incremental developments (called spiral development in the US) over the past 40 years—an average of one significant upgrade every eight years.
17)The comparison is not confined to the Warrior and Bradley. The Challenger MBT entered British army service in 1983 and although it was urgently modified for operations in Kuwait in 1990 it never received a significant upgrade before being replaced by the Challenger 2. Although the latter vehicle also received urgent enhancements for Middle East operations, its first significant planned upgrade in nearly thirty years will be the Capability and Sustainment Programme (CSP) conversion to Challenger 3 from 2027. In comparison the US equivalent, the M1 Abrams MBT, has received seven upgrades to date—an average of once every seven years (Figure 3).
Figure 3: M1 Abrams spiral development
18)In contrast to Warrior, in the 2000s the MoD attempted to commission a common family of around 3,000 Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) vehicles. These would utilise a unified platform but being sufficiently adaptable to build a range of different variants meant setting some demanding military requirements. While the MoD’s internal review forum considered the requirements to be deliverable, with some ‘trading’, our predecessors were more sceptical. In 2007 they stated that “We are concerned that the FRES requirement may simply be unachievable without a major technical breakthrough.”192 In 2008 the MoD suspended the largest part of the FRES programme, the Utility (FRES-UV) variant, due to ever-shifting requirements and huge technical risks around trying to design a globally deployable platform with superior levels of protection. Instead, it prioritised Warrior CSP and FRES-SV (Specialist Vehicle) variant which became Ajax. Ironically, given Warrior’s cancellation and Ajax’s delays, the de-prioritised FRES-UV requirement will now be met first if Boxer enters service from 2023.
19)After the FRES experience it was clear that overall technical risk needed to be minimised. In its response to the 2011 NAO armoured vehicle report the MoD said: “The Department acknowledges that in the past it has over-specified requirements and attempted to integrate too many novel technologies at once in an attempt to deliver the best possible capability…and some of the earlier procurement strategies were over-complex and as a result neither the Department nor Industry were able to manage them effectively.” Consequently, “the Scout Specialist Vehicle [which became Ajax] programme has…pursued a modified solution of an existing and proven vehicle, reducing the costs and risks associated with a new design.”193
20)Having selected an off-the-shelf platform for Ajax the MoD then proceeded to fiddle with the design so thoroughly that at our evidence session in March 2022 the MoD’s Director-General for Ajax said that “(apart from the chassis)…we have, in effect, developed it from scratch.”194 The NAO’s 2022 Ajax report said “The Department’s and GDLS-UK’s approach was flawed from the start as they did not fully understand the scale or complexity of the programme.”195 Further, “…the Department and GDLS-UK signed the manufacture contract in 2014 before the critical design review was conducted, meaning that they did not fully understand the scope, interdependencies, and sequencing of work. The critical design review failed in March 2015, then passed in July 2015 with more than 60 technical issues outstanding, of which 15 were critical. Many of these issues were unresolved when the Department and GDLS-UK reset the programme in 2018. We have previously found that the Department declares key project milestones as achieved without the intended capability always being met at that point.”196 In its desire to deliver an advanced platform the MoD set demanding requirements that have yet to be met; and kept pushing through key checks that its own scrutiny was reporting as having failed to achieve, thereby putting at risk the entire programme—rather than aiming for more achievable targets but enhancing them incrementally through-life.
21)Industry likes certainty from governments. Certainty of orders, of supply, cash flow and profit. This has not sat easily with the Government’s focus on competition and achieving best price for developing and manufacturing defence equipment. However, an often quoted figure is that around two-thirds of whole-life project costs are in support and in-service operations, not in the initial procurement.197 Further, both the MoD’s recently released Defence and Security Industrial Strategy (DSIS) and the Land Industrial Strategy MoD have re-focused interest in ’social value’—understanding the full costs and benefits of defence procurement, including taxes paid by UK workers back to HM Treasury and the social benefits of well-paid employment.198 If successfully applied this might result in a higher equipment ‘headline sticker price’ for the MoD but be of wider benefit to UK plc, communities and the taxpayer.
22)From a purely defence perspective reducing procurement risk by using more mature technology but then continuously improving through-life also lends itself to a constant drumbeat of industrial activity. Having not manufactured an armoured vehicle since the 1990s UK defence engineering has atrophied somewhat over the past three decades. To develop the Ajax new investment, skills and infrastructure had to be re-established. Its production facility in South Wales was previously a forklift truck factory and extensive investment in the local community was required to meet the specific skills required for armoured vehicle construction.
23)Unsurprisingly, these lessons resonate more widely across the defence acquisition sector. For example, the UK took a post-Cold War financial ‘holiday’ from nuclear-powered submarine construction when the last Trafalgar Class boat commissioned in 1991 and until the first Astute Class submarine was laid down in 2001—a skills gap of over a decade which severely impacted on the UK’s ability to design and manufacturer submarines.
24)Further, both recent and past operations are reminders that guaranteed, urgent access to certain sovereign capabilities and a domestic industrial capacity and a skilled and experienced workforce can be essential during conflict. To combat the threat of Argentine radar-directed anti-aircraft guns in 1982 UK engineers took less than three weeks to take the Blue Eric electronic warfare system from initial design to having nine pods ready for RAF Harriers.199 Similarly, numerous Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs) were required in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s to combat a range of threats including roadside bombs. In the light of the current crisis in Ukraine, we have questioned whether production lines need to keep “ticking over…rather than the stop-start practice that is traditional in defence” to avoid running out of key supplies.200
25)If the MoD is successful in bringing Ajax into service it will be critical to ensure that it is then well supported by industry with incremental updates to re-fresh and enhance its capabilities, to ensure it can be urgently adapted in times of crisis and make it more attractive to potential overseas customers. This applies equally to the other new armoured vehicles, such as Boxer and Challenger 3, that are due to enter service over the next few years.
26)In examining the Ajax programme, the Public Accounts Committee recently summarised the issues as:
As a matter of the upmost urgency, the Department must establish whether noise and vibration issues can be addressed by modifications or whether they require a fundamental redesign of the vehicle. If the latter, the Department must decide whether the right course is to proceed with General Dynamics or if it should opt for an alternative. We expect an update on this when we next take evidence and a definitive decision, either one way or the other, by December 2022. After twelve years, enough is enough.204
We share and endorse the concerns raised by the Public Accounts Committee in relation to the Ajax programme.
1. It is difficult not to feel a sense of déjà vu as we see British military ambitions which are not entirely matched by resources. Open conflict has returned to Europe and it is disappointing to see that the Government is not preparing for the impact of inflation and insufficient industrial capacity on the production of defence equipment as it looks to meet the new challenges. Paragraph 8)
2. In the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper, the Government identified and understood the implications of the range of complex and cascading threats faced by the UK. However, the impact of both the Afghan withdrawal and the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine are being seemingly dismissed as insignificant and there appears to be no intention to re-visit the conclusions of the documents. UK Defence thus appears as arrogant and unwilling to learn lessons. Events of the last year have demonstrated that the Government was unprepared for (and in the case of Afghanistan, failed to appropriately respond to) international crises. No strategy should be set in stone nor subject to constant revision. However, there is a need for Government to be able to respond to major events—which it was manifestly not prepared for—rather than downplaying the potential implications of such geopolitical shocks. (Paragraph 21)
3. There is a need for a New Chapter update to the IR and the Defence Command Paper which takes into account the events in Afghanistan and Ukraine. The document should then set out how the analysis of the strategic context has changed and what decisions in the Command Paper the UK Government is reviewing. (Paragraph 22)
4. The UK public is aware of the threats which the UK faces but does not appear to trust the Government to act in the national interest. Whilst investments in new technology are vital, it is also clear that, the days of “big tank battles on the European landmass” are not over and so a review of the decisions made in the Integrated Review and Defence in a Competitive Age, and the timelines committed to, is important for the UK’s defence and security and for the public’s trust. (Paragraph 30)
5. The Government needs to ensure that the public is aware of the link between the cost of living and global instability: the rises in energy and food prices are both directly attributable to the conflict in Ukraine. The Government needs to ensure that they are effectively communicating this to the public, particularly given the increasing cost of UK support to the Ukrainians. (Paragraph 31)
6. Foreign policy decisions and consequent actions by UK Defence need to be supported by the UK public. The lack of organisation round the withdrawal from Afghanistan damaged the Government’s standing. However, so far, engagement with the public on the Russian offensive in Ukraine and British support for Ukraine has been regular and transparent. We welcome this approach: the Government needs to build on this. (Paragraph 32)
7. Defence in a Competitive Age and the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy are ambitious papers, aimed at modernising UK defence and ensuring it has equipment suitable for the Information Age. Whilst the conclusions of Defence in a Competitive Age ought to be revisited in light of the conflict in Ukraine, the commitments made in the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy ought to be implemented fully. We recognise that this will take time—we urge the MOD to ensure that the changes are seen through. (Paragraph 44)
8. The reason that lack of publicly available information of the Government’s defence and security priorities presents a problem is that for integration—highlighted by the MoD as absolutely vital for the UK’s security—to be effective, the NSC must set clear priorities, backed with sufficient resources. If we (and the general public) are not aware of the priorities or the progress made on them, we cannot say with certainty whether we are being adequately protected by our Government. (Paragraph 53)
9. The lack of prioritisation means that it is impossible to determine which of the threats highlighted the Government perceives to be greatest. It also results in the military seemingly being the answer for every question whilst not being appropriately resourced for the task. (Paragraph 54)
10. We are further concerned by the use of the UK Armed Forces as a ‘backfill’, employed to carry out civilian tasks by Departments which are seemingly unable to respond to crises themselves. This is compounded by the MOD’s failure to respond to the 18 recommendations made by the Reserves Review. (Paragraph 55)
11. We recommend that the MOD publish annual figures for the assistance provided to other Government Departments and to public authorities. This list should include the number of personnel deployed, the length of deployment, the task they were deployed for, the cost of the task and the renumeration received by the Department. Furthermore we recommend that the MOD commit to publishing its response to the Reserves Review in the Autumn. (Paragraph 56)
12. Alongside the Permanent Secretary’s acknowledgement that some of the risk judgements made within the Integrated Review process might need to be revisited in light of events in Ukraine, it is clear that the capability gaps which the Defence Command Paper saw as acceptable are now no longer palatable. Furthermore, the move to such a position relies on technological innovation and the adoption of digital capabilities (such as Ajax and the Digital Backbone, as noted above). (Paragraph 72)
13. The MOD faces a number of challenges following decisions made in the Integrated Review: the likelihood of a capability gap, as equipment is retired before its replacement is introduced; a reduction in the British Army’s heavy armour and mass at a time when tank battles are raging in Ukraine; and a reliance on not yet tested, let alone proven, technology, to counteract that reduction in equipment and numbers. There are also valid questions about whether the resources allocated to the task of moving the UK Armed Forces into the information age are adequate—a number of our witnesses seem to believe not. (Paragraph 77)
14. It is clear that, even if the Government decides to proceed with the decisions taken in the IR and the Defence Command Paper, the timeline of changes ought also to be reviewed given the potential for capability gaps which leave the UK Armed Forces vulnerable. We are especially concerned about the proposed cuts to personnel numbers and the effective reduction in mass, particularly since that we are seeing Defence being used more and more often as an emergency measure to relieve exceptional pressures on public services and perform such tasks that otherwise might be expected to be carried out by others. In this context, we welcome the decision by the new Chief of the General Staff to describe the cuts as “perverse” and, as a first step, the Secretary of State’s seeming acknowledgement of the need to review the decision. (Paragraph 78)
15. There is a danger of overstretch. The Government needs to ensure that the military is properly resourced with both equipment and personnel to carry out the tasks required of it. To do this, we recommend there be a wholesale re-examination of the decisions on capabilities and timeframes within the Defence Command Paper and the decisions taken in it following events in Ukraine. (Paragraph 79)
16. Integration is key to the effective implementation of the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Papers. It is clear that this requires a long-term commitment, with decisions consistently re-evaluated as progress is made. It further requires a cohesive, effective and dedicated Government which is able to work collaboratively towards a common goal. (Paragraph 92)
17. If Afghanistan was intended to be an example of effective policy integration in action then it leaves a lot to be desired. It is even more worrying given that the NSC apparently gave the political direction required to bring together a ‘whole-of-systems’ approach. If the NSC set the appropriate direction then it leads to two pertinent questions: why did implementation of the policy, agreed by Ministers, fail? And how can the Government ensure that integrated, cross-Government policy decisions—made by those Ministers who have been elected by the UK public and accountable to them and this Parliament—are fully implemented in future? The fact that these Departments are carrying out individual lessons learned exercises, rather than a single integrated exercise, is concerning. Furthermore, the Government has failed to take disciplinary action against any senior individual for any (of the many) mistakes made during the withdrawal from Afghanistan. (Paragraph 93)
18. The Government should publish the actions agreed by each of the Departments as a result of the lessons learned exercises which examined the response to the Afghanistan crisis, together with a time frame for implementation. (Paragraph 94)
19. We welcome the uplift to the MOD’s budget in 2020 and the four-year budget commitment. However, inflationary pressures and an increase in the scale of threat means that it is no longer enough. At the same time, serious concerns persist around a number of procurement programmes. The Department now needs a strategy to regain both Parliament’s and the public’s trust in its procurement abilities. We are concerned that a real terms fall in sustainment funding (RDEL) up to 2024–25 will erode the Armed Forces’ ability to maintain and train on military equipment. We recommend a further, long-term increase to the budget but the MOD must ensure that money is not wasted. We recommend a further, long-term increase to the budget but the MOD must ensure that money is not wasted. (Paragraph 103)
20. There are significant challenges to integration but none that concerns us as much as the MOD’s procurement difficulties. For instance, the MOD has made it clear that in order to achieve integration and utilise new technologies, it needs an effective digital network. Without that network, few of the suggested benefits are accrued. Yet its track record in large and complex programmes is abysmal. We recommend that the Government identify those programmes which are critical enablers and ensure there is additional scrutiny of them. Furthermore, it needs to identify international partners with whom it can collaborate on the technologically advanced equipment that the UK Armed Forces require. (Paragraph 104)
21. The lack of a definition of what it means to be integrated makes it somewhat difficult to measure the success of the Government in achieving its objectives. However, we will continue to evaluate the implementation of the Integrated Review, the Defence Command Paper and the DSIS throughout the life of this Parliament. (Paragraph 105)
22. We welcome the Government’s commitment to the publication of an annual review on the implementation of the Integrated Review. However, given that the implementation is the key, consistent evaluation of the implementation of the strategies throughout this Parliament is vital. This Committee, alongside our colleagues on the Public Accounts Committee, the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy and the House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee, plays a vital role in ensuring that Government decisions, and their implementation, are regularly scrutinised. Since the Integrated Review papers were published, we have published a Report on Naval procurement and are currently holding inquiries examining Defence Space policy, how the UK works with the US and NATO, the tilt to the Indo-Pacific, aviation procurement and the impact of climate change on Defence. (Paragraph 106)
23. As well as an annual report on the implementation of the IR, we recommend the MOD produce an annual evaluation of what has been achieved in their implementation of Defence in a Competitive Age and DSIS. This evaluation should include case studies which demonstrate implementation (examples of integration with other Government Departments, allies and partners, and defence industry). It should also include an account of how certain events have led to a review of thinking and any subsequent decisions made which change previously agreed outcomes. This will allow Parliamentary Committees and the UK public to scrutinise the implementation of the Integrated Review, Defence in a Competitive Age and the Defence Security and Industrial Strategy. (Paragraph 107)
John Spellar, in the Chair
Draft Report (The Integrated Review, Defence in a Competitive Age and the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy), proposed by the Chair, brought up and read.
Ordered, That the draft Report be read a second time, paragraph by paragraph.
Paragraphs 1 to 107 read and agreed to.
Annexes and summary agreed to.
Resolved, That the Report be the Second Report of the Committee to the House.
Ordered, That John Spellar make the Report to the House.
Ordered, That embargoed copies of the Report be made available (Standing Order No. 134).
Adjourned till Tuesday 6 September 2022 at 10.00am.
The following witnesses gave evidence. Transcripts can be viewed on the inquiry publications page of the Committee’s website.
The Lord Richards of Herstmonceux GCB CBE DSO DL, Chief of Defence Staff (2010–13), Ministry of Defence; The Lord Houghton of Richmond GCB CBE DL, Chief of Defence Staff (2014–16), Ministry of DefenceQ1–60
Dr Sidharth Kaushal, Research Fellow, Sea Power, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI); Rear Admiral Alex Burton, Former Commander, UK Maritime Forces (2016–2017)Q61–127
Professor John Louth, independent author and defence analyst; Paul Hough, defence business consultantQ128–167
Professor Patrick Porter, Professor of International Security and Strategy, The University of Birmingham; Dr David Blagden, Senior Lecturer in International Security, The University of ExeterQ168–195
Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP, Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence; Air Marshal Richard Knighton CB, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, Ministry of DefenceQ196–279
Lt Gen (Retd) Ben Hodges, Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies, Center for European Policy Analysis, Former Commanding General (2014–2017), United States Army Europe (Wiesbaden, Germany)Q280–320
Sir Stephen Lovegrove, National Security AdviserQ321–392
The following written evidence was received and can be viewed on the inquiry publications page of the Committee’s website.
DGB numbers are generated by the evidence processing system and so may not be complete.
1 Ministry of Defence (DGB0002)
2 Ministry of Defence (DGB0001)
All publications from the Committee are available on the publications page of the Committee’s website.
The Treatment of Contracted Staff for The MoD’s Ancillary Services
Operation Isotrope: the use of the military to counter migrant crossings: Government response to the Committee’s fourth report of Session 2021–22
Russia and Ukraine border tensions
Women in the Armed Forces
“We’re going to need a bigger Navy”
Operation Isotrope: the use of the military to counter migrant crossings
Obsolescent and outgunned: the British Army’s armoured vehicle capability: Government Response to the Committee’s Fifth Report of Session 2019–21
Manpower or mindset: Defence’s contribution to the UK’s pandemic response: Government Response to the Committee’s Sixth Report of Session 2019–21
Russia and Ukraine border tensions: Government Response to the Committee’s First Report
Protecting those who protect us: Women in the Armed Forces from Recruitment to Civilian Life: Government Response to the Committee’s Second Report
“We’re going to need a bigger Navy”: Government Response to the Committee’s Third Report
1 Defence industrial policy: procurement and prosperity - Committees - UK Parliament
2 Defence Committee, First Report of Session 2019–21, In Search of Strategy, HC 165
3 HM Government, The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy: Global Britain in a Competitive Age, March 2021
4 Ministry of Defence, Defence in a Competitive Age, March 2021
5 HC Deb, 25 May 2022, col 349; HC Deb 13 June 2022, col 13
6 RUSI, Military Assistance to Ukraine: Rediscovering the Virtue of Courage, 17 May 2022
7 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 24 May 2022, HC (2022–23) 184, Q146 [General Sir James Everard]; Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 26 April 2022, HC (2021–22) 1225, Q108 [Air Marshal Knighton]
8 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 5 July 20222, HC (2022–23) 181, Q143; Q149
9 Q1 [Lord Richards]; Q168 [Professor Porter]
10 Boris Johnson faces tax questions after signalling defence budget rise, The Guardian, 30 June 2022
11 HC Deb, 4 Jul 2022, col 594
12 Actions undertaken by states which are contrary to the UK’s national interests.
13 In relation to the physical threats posed, this can refer to organised crime groups, proxy groups - which allow states deniability for the actions they carry out - and also those armed groups with their own political agenda, such as separatist or fundamentalist groups. All three of these categories can overlap for instance, some non-state actors might have both a political and a criminal dimension.
14 Q1 [Lord Richards]; Q2 [Lord Houghton]; Q168 [Professor Porter; Q169 [Dr Blagden]; Q291 [Lt. General Hodges]
15 Q202 [Secretary of State]
16 Q325 [National Security Adviser]
17 Foreign Affairs Committee, Missing in action: UK leadership and the withdrawal from Afghanistan, First Report of Session 2022–23, HC 169 incorporating HC 685; Letter from the Chair of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy to the Prime Minister, 17 December 2021
18 Foreign Affairs Committee, Missing in action: UK leadership and the withdrawal from Afghanistan, First Report of Session 2022–23, HC 169 incorporating HC 685, para 12
19 Letter from the Chair of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy to the Prime Minister, 17 December 2021
20 Ministry of Defence, Praise for Ukraine support as Defence industry offers more help, 20 June 2022
21 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 8 March 2022, HC (2021–22) 271, Q194–5 [Minister for the Armed Forces]
22 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 24 May 2022, HC (2022–23) 184, Q204
23 Speech by the National Security Adviser at the Council on Geostrategy, September 2021
24 Speech by the National Security Adviser at the Council on Geostrategy, September 2021
25 HL Deb,7 April 2022, col 2184
26 HC Deb, 24 February 2022, col 572
27 In July 1998, the then Government published the Strategic Defence Review which was intended to “to give the Armed Forces of this country a coherent and stable planning basis in the radically changing international and strategic context of the post-Cold War world”, by addressing the UK’s defence requirements up to 2015. On 18 July 2002 the then Secretary of State for Defence published ‘The Strategic Defence Review: A New Chapter’ which was intended to set out “further and more detailed conclusions, particularly in the area of capabilities to counter terrorism abroad” as a result of work which was launched following the terrorist attacks of September 2001.
28 Oral evidence taken before the Liaison Committee on 17 November 2021, HC (2021–22) 835, Qq 147–8
29 ‘Ukraine kills 87 Russian Troops Saturday in Combative East Region: Official’ Newsweek, 19 June 2022
30 Does the tank have a future?, The Economist, 15 June 2022
31 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 19 April 2022, HC (2021–22) 608/167, Q76
32 Ministry of Defence, Defence in a Competitive Age, March 2021, p54
33 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 26 April 2022, HC (2021–22) 1225 Qq 47–48
34 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 5 July 2022, HC (2022–23) 181, Qq147–148
35 If participants were asked Iran on North Korea, these figures were not included in the publication of the research.
36 The British Foreign Policy Group, 2022 Annual Survey of UK Public Opinion on Foreign Policy and Global Britain (June 2022) p 41; 23–4
37 Munich Security Conference, Zeitenwende for the G7: Insights From the Munich Security Index Special G7 Edition, Munich Security Brief No. 03/22 (June 2022) p 9
38 Munich Security Conference, Zeitenwende for the G7: Insights From the Munich Security Index Special G7 Edition, Munich Security Brief No. 03/22 (June 2022) p 8
39 Speech by the National Security Adviser at the Council on Geostrategy, September 2021
41 In June 2021, HMS Defender sailed from Odesa (in Southern Ukraine) to Georgia, sailing within 12 nautical miles of the coast of Crimea and therefore passing through Ukrainian waters in a commonly used and internationally recognised transit route. Russia responded by sending planes and coastguard ships to shadow the vessel. The Russian Ministry of Defence announced that a patrol ship had fired warning shots and a jet dropped bombs in the path of HMS Defender but journalists aboard were able to report that whilst there had been harassment, no offensive actions had been taken against the ship.
43 Handling Afghanistan polling, Ipsos MORI, September 2021
44 New polling: the British public’s view of the global response to the Ukraine crisis, UK in a changing Europe, 4 May 2022
45 Ipsos Issues Index, Ipsos, March 2022
46 Ipsos Issues Index, Ipsos, May 2022
47 The British Foreign Policy Group, 2022 Annual Survey of UK Public Opinion on Foreign Policy and Global Britain (June 2022) p 12–13; 15
48 These were: sustaining strategic advantage through Science and Technology; shaping the open international order of the future; strengthening security and defence at home and overseas; and building resilience at home and overseas. Greater information on the context behind the objectives can be found on Annex 1
49 An updated version was published in August 2021
50 Ministry of Defence, The Integrated Operating Concept, August 2021, pg 9–10
51 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 9 November 2021, HC (2021–22) 842, Q1
52 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 9 November 2021, HC (2021–22) 842, Q1
53 The Secretary of State told us on 5 July 2022 that the Navy was now considering, rather than converting a Bay class, instead having RFA Argus fulfil that function.
54 As we have previously stated, greater clarity is needed over what form this will take, the potential cost and the timeframe for introduction (given that the Sandown class is scheduled to be withdrawn from service within the next two and a half years and the Hunt class by 2031). This was explored in greater detail in our Report: We’re going to need a bigger Navy, Third Report of Session 2021–22, HC 168, December 2021, paras 139–144
55 Including investments in: next generation capabilities (including advanced high-speed missiles; quantum; engineering biology; directed energy weapons; and swarming drones) and in the newer domains of space and cyberspace.
56 The tilt to the Indo-Pacific included the following commitments:
Increase capacity building and training across the Indo Pacific, delivered through longer and more consistent military deployments and by better leveraging existing regional facilities; Maximise regional engagement as part of the Carrier Strike Group deployment in 2021; Increase UK maritime presence in the Indo Pacific region through the deployment of Offshore Patrol Vessels from 2021, Littoral Response Group from 2023 and Type 31 frigates later in the decade, including to uphold freedom of navigation; Make a bigger and more consistent contribution to the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA); Pursue closer defence cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states; Guarantee regional access through existing UK bases, including the British Indian Ocean Territory, access to allied facilities, and the development of an enhanced training facility at Duqm, Oman; Deepen and expand defence industrial relationships in the region, including with Australia, Japan, Republic of Korea and India, underpinned by co-operation on science and technology. Enhance programmes of exercises, exchanges and capability development with these key partners; Expand the Defence Attaché and Advisor network and build a new British Defence Staff in Canberra to work alongside the existing Defence Staff in Singapore and coordinate Defence activity across the region.
57 This was later changed to a commitment of 73,000 Army personnel in the Future Soldier paper published in November 2021.
58 9 will be retired – 14 will be replaced by newer models.
59 Ministry of Defence, Defence in a Competitive Age, March 2021, p 2
60 Speech by the National Security Adviser at the Council on Geostrategy, September 2021
61 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 9 November 2021, HC (2021–22) 842, Q1
62 Q29 [Lord Houghton]
63 to enable “data curation, data sharing and data exploitation, cloud services at Secret and Above Secret, and a common network architecture” according to the then Commander of Strategic Forces.
64 Ministry of Defence, Defence and Security Industrial Strategy, March 2021, p 12
65 Ministry of Defence, Defence and Security Industrial Strategy, March 2021, p 15
66 i.e. the need to be able to design, integrate, upgrade or manufacture a component, a part or a whole product within the UK.
67 Ministry of Defence, Defence and Security Industrial Strategy, March 2021, p 18
68 Defence industrial policy: procurement and prosperity - Committees - UK Parliament
70 Q135 [Professor Louth]
73 HL Deb, 17 March 2021, col 406
76 The Pivot to Asia Was Obama’s Biggest Mistake, The Diplomat, 21 January 2017
78 Q64 [Admiral Alex Burton]
79 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 9 November 2021, HC (2021–22) 842, Q95
80 Ministry of Defence, Defence in a Competitive Age, March 2021, p 35
81 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 8 March 2022, HC (2021–22) 271, Q194–5 [Minister for the Armed Forces]
82 Operation Isotrope, giving Defence responsibility for countering those crossing the channel in small boats, is not funded through MACA. Instead, “£50 million has been agreed with the Treasury and Home Office to ensure the capability uplifts and enhancements required can be delivered” and Defence primacy in the Channel will be maintained until 2023. We published a Report examining the operation in March 2022.
83 Interview with the then Chief of the General Staff, Soldier, May 2022, pp37–41
84 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 8 March 2022, HC (2021–22) 271, Q194–5 [Minister for the Armed Forces]
86 Q386 [National Security Adviser]
87 Oral evidence taken before the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy on 5 July 2021 HC (2021–22) 231, Q139
88 Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, First Report of Session 2021–22, National Security Machinery, para 47
89 The NSA also referred to these as “specific individual initiatives under the IR” (Q337)
90 Letter dated 11th January from the National Security Adviser responding to Chair regarding the Integrated Review, Defence Command Paper and the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy
94 Q104 [Admiral Alex Burton]
97 Q47 [Lord Richards]
99 Q22 [Lord Houghton]
100 Q16 [Lord Richards]; Q17 [Lord Houghton]
103 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 9 November 2021, HC (2021–22) 842, Q1
104 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 5 July 2022, HC (2022–23) 181, Q143
108 HC Deb, 22 March 2021, col.656
109 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 9 November 2021, HC (2021–22) 842, Q95
110 Speech by the Chief of the General Staff at the RUSI Land Warfare conference, 28 June 2022
111 HC Deb, 18 July 2022, col. 686
112 Interview with the then Chief of the General Staff, Soldier, May 2022, pp37–41
114 Q60 [Lord Richards]; PQ 618 [on LE TacCIS Programme], 20 May 2022
115 Morpheus is a sub-programme of LE TacCIS, referred to in the paragraph above
116 Committee of Public Accounts, Twenty-Second Report of Session 2021–22, Improving the performance of major defence equipment contracts, HC 185, para 16
118 Q1; Q168 [Professor Porter]; Q194 [Dr Blagden]
119 Q211; 257
121 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 9 November 2021, HC (2021–22) 842, Q62
122 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 9 November 2021, HC (2021–22) 842, Q3
125 Speech by the Defence Secretary at the RUSI Strategic Command Conference, 26 May 2021
126 Ministry of Defence (DGB0002)
127 Speech by the Defence Secretary at the RUSI Strategic Command Conference, 26 May 2021
128 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 24 May 2022, HC (2022–23) 184, Q171
129 Letter from the National Security Adviser responding to Chair regarding the Integrated Review, Defence Command Paper and the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy, 11th January 2022
131 Letter from the National Security Adviser responding to Chair regarding the Integrated Review, Defence Command Paper and the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy, 11th January 2022
132 Para 52
135 HM Government, The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy: Global Britain in a Competitive Age, March 2021, p 97
136 HM Government, The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy: Global Britain in a Competitive Age, March 2021, p97
137 Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, First Report of Session 2021–22, National Security Machinery, HC 231, para 8
138 In 2019, the JCNSS found that: “A principal component [of the Fusion Doctrine] is the National Security Strategy and Implementation Group (NSSIG) established for each of the NSC’s key national security priorities. Each NSSIG is chaired by a ‘Senior Responsible Official’ (SRO) at Director-General level. These SROs are drawn from relevant departments and agencies across Government and, according to Sir Mark Sedwill, are “personally accountable” to the NSC. Their role involves developing options for the NSC and “coordinating [across Government] in support of collective decision-making.”” To give an example of scale, the ISC’s Russia Report noted that the Russia NSSIG was attended by 14 Departments and Agencies.
139 National Security Adviser (NSM0036)
140 Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, First Special Report of Session 2021–22, The UK’s national security machinery: Government Response to the Committee’s First Report of Session 2021–22, HC 947, Appendix 2
141 Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, First Report of Session 2021–22, National Security Machinery, HC 231, para 147
142 Letter from the Chair of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy to the Prime Minister, 17 December 2021
143 Oral evidence taken before the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy on 20 October 2021, HC (2021–22) 760, Q17
144 Letter from the National Security Adviser responding to Chair regarding the Integrated Review, Defence Command Paper and the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy, 11th January 2022
145 HC Deb., 19 November 2020, Col 487
146 Committee of Public Accounts, Fifty-Second Report of Session 2021–22, Ministry of Defence Equipment Plan 2021–31, HC (2021–22) 1164, para 3
147 The MOD’s planned expenditure exceeded the projected budget which had been agreed within Government.
148 Committee of Public Accounts, Fiftieth Report of Session 2019–21, Defence Equipment Plan 2020–2030, HC (2019–21) 693, para 5
149 HC Deb, 24 June 2021, col. 1106
152 Committee of Public Accounts, Fifty-Second Report of Session 2021–22, Ministry of Defence Equipment Plan 2021–31, HC (2021–22) 1164
154 Ministry of Defence (DGB0001)
155 Ministry of Defence (DGB0002)
156 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 26 April 2022, HC (2021–22) 1225, Q86 [David Williams]
157 “Royal Navy aircraft carrier costs ‘to double’” BBC News, 4 November 2013
158 HMS Prince of Wales: The incredible size and £3.1bn cost of the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier, i news, 19 November 2019
159 UK defence expenditure, Research Briefing 8175, House of Commons Library, 6 April 2022
160 Defence Committee, Third Report of Session 2021–22, “We’re going to need a bigger Navy”, HC (2021–22) 168, para 93
161 “Boris Johnson faces tax questions after signalling defence budget rise”, The Guardian, 30 June 2022
162 HC Deb, 4 July 2022, col. 588
163 HC Deb, 4 July 2022, col. 594
164 HC Deb, 4 July 2022, col. 594
165 Technologies mentioned in the IR include AI; Quantum technologies; green energy technologies; and the use of machine learning to exploit data.
166 HM Government, The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy: Global Britain in a Competitive Age, March 2021, p 18
167 Ministry of Defence, Defence in a Competitive Age, March 2021, p8
168 Ministry of Defence, Defence in a Competitive Age, March 2021, p8
169 Ministry of Defence, Defence in a Competitive Age, March 2021, p8
170 Ministry of Defence, Defence in a Competitive Age, March 2021, p8
171 Ministry of Defence, The Integrated Operating Concept, August 2021, p18
172 Ministry of Defence, Science and Technology Strategy 2020, October 2020, p12
173 Or, as Sir Robert Watson-Watt, inventor of the WW2 ‘Chain Home’ early warning radar said about the ‘cult of the imperfect’ “Give them the third best to go with; the second best comes too late, the best never comes”.
174 As part of a family of armoured vehicles, Ajax is the variant that will replace the CVR(T) in the reconnaissance role, but the term ‘Ajax’ is also used to describe the entire vehicle family. Other variants include intelligence gathering, battlefield command, protected mobility, support, recovery, and engineer reconnaissance.
175 Defence Select Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2019–21, Obsolescent and outgunned: the British Army’s armoured vehicle capability, HC (2019–2021) 659, para 12
176 National Audit Office, The cost-effective delivery of an armoured vehicle capability, May 2011
177 Ministry of Defence, Defence in a competitive age, March 2021, p.54
178 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 26 April 2022, HC (2021–22) 1225, Q66
179 Defence Select Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2019–21, Obsolescent and outgunned: the British Army’s armoured vehicle capability, HC (2019–2021) 659, para 54.
180 National Audit Office, The Ajax programme March 2022, p.7, para 6.
181 Oral evidence taken before the Committee on Public Accounts on 30 March 2022, HC (2021–22) 1102, Q2
182 National Audit Office, Major Projects Report 2003 January 2004, p.165.
183 In alphabetical order but not exhaustive: the ABSV (Armoured Battlegroup Support Vehicle); Challenger CSP (Capability Sustainment Programme); FFLAV (Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles); FGMC (Future Ground Manoeuvre Capability); FLAV (Future Light Armoured Vehicles); FLCS (Family of Land Combat Systems) FRES SV (Future Rapid Effect System – Specialist Vehicle) and FRES UV (Utility Vehicle); MBAV (Multi-Base Armoured Vehicle); MRAV (Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle); TRACER/FSCS (Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement/Future Scout and Cavalry System); WCSP (Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme); WR FIP (Warrior Fightability and Lethality Improvement Programme); Warrior MLI (Warrior Mid-Life Improvement) and Warrior CSP (Capability Sustainment Programme).
184 Ministry of Defence, Defence Industrial Strategy Defence White Paper, December 2005.
185 Ministry of Defence, Defence Industrial Strategy Defence White Paper, December 2005, para B3.1.
186 Defence Select Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2019–21, Obsolescent and outgunned: the British Army’s armoured vehicle capability, HC (2019–2021) 659, para 54.
187 Defence Select Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2019–21, Obsolescent and outgunned: the British Army’s armoured vehicle capability, HC (2019–2021) 659, para 51
188 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 20 July 2021, HC (2021–22) 550, Q114.
189 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 20 October 2021, HC (2019–21) 659, October 2020, Q151
190 Ministry of Defence, Land Industrial Strategy Fusing our capability and industrial objectives, May 2022.
191 More complex technology does not necessarily result in international success, however, as overly complicated and bespoke technology can deter potential sales.
192 Defence Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2006–07, The Army’s requirement for armoured vehicles: The FRES programme, HC 159, para 93
193 HM Treasury, Treasury minutes on the fifty second to the fifty fifth and on the fifty seventh to the sixty first reports: Session 2010–12, February 2012, p.43
194 Oral evidence taken before the Committee on Public Accounts on 30 March 2022, HC (2021–22) 1102, Q8
195 The National Audit Office, The Ajax programme, March 2022, p.12
196 The National Audit Office, The Ajax programme, March 2022, p.31
197 For example, US Army, Army Chief of Staff on FVL Assault Aircraft: ‘We’re flying before buying’, November 2020.
198 Ministry of Defence, Land Industrial Strategy May 2022, paras 77–82.
199 Selex ES, Radar and EW in the RAF Electronic Warfare presentation 1914–2014 slide 31.
200 Oral evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 26 April 2022, HC (2021–22) 1225, Qq108–111
201 Committee of Public Accounts, Seventh Report of Session 2022–23, Armoured Vehicles: the Ajax programme, HC (2022–23) 259, p.3
202 Committee of Public Accounts, Seventh Report of Session 2022–23, Armoured Vehicles: the Ajax programme, HC (2022–23) 259, p.3
203 Committee of Public Accounts, Seventh Report of Session 2022–23, Armoured Vehicles: the Ajax programme, HC (2022–23) 259, p.3
204 Committee of Public Accounts, Seventh Report of Session 2022–23, Armoured Vehicles: the Ajax programme, HC (2022–23) 259, p.3