National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Creating the National Security Strategy

1.We welcome the implementation of our predecessor Committee’s recommendation to allow more time for review and for engagement with external experts in developing the NSS & SDSR 2015. Such engagement must, however, be more than a tick-box exercise and must include a robust examination of the substance of the security strategy. Looking ahead, the Cabinet Office should build on its achievement in engaging external expertise by forming ‘red team’ panels to challenge the assumptions underpinning the next security strategy. (Paragraph 6)

2.The Cabinet Office should produce classified analysis that prioritises specific threats and opportunities to inform decisions taken by policy-makers, diplomats, the security and intelligence agencies and the armed forces. (Paragraph 8)

The National Security Strategy

3.The NSS & SDSR 2015 placed unprecedented emphasis on domestic resilience, marking a shift in approach to national security. We welcome the change in focus from shielding the UK’s interests and citizens from threats to strengthening the UK’s domestic resilience to threats. All capabilities available to the Government, including the armed forces, should be used to make the UK more resilient. However, the NSS & SDSR 2015 provided insufficient detail on the specific activities required to build domestic resilience within UK civil society. (Paragraph 14)

4.We welcome the stronger emphasis on a whole-of-government approach to national security in the NSS & SDSR 2015. It is an important step in creating and delivering cross-government responses to the threats facing the UK. A more substantial discussion of the three National Security Objectives, the links between them, whether and how they can be traded off against each other, and how they are intended to tackle threats to UK national security would have provided a sound foundation for the rest of the NSS & SDSR 2015 and for future policy-making. (Paragraph 19)

5.The primary goal of the NSS and SDSR process is to set out (a) what the UK wants to achieve; (b) how it intends to achieve it; and (c) what capabilities are required. The NSS & SDSR 2015 does not achieve that presentational goal. The Cabinet Office must review the presentation of the NSS & SDSR 2015. SDSR commitments must be numbered and include a timeframe for completion to enhance transparency and accountability. (Paragraph 23)

6.Foreign ownership of the UK’s Critical National Infrastructure may reduce the Government’s control over key technology and investment decisions. This could make it difficult for the Government to mitigate risks to the infrastructure project in question, as has been shown in the case of the proposed nuclear power station, Hinkley Point C. Foreign ownership of CNI also raises the possibility of security vulnerabilities. (Paragraph 39)

7.We recommend that the Government conducts thorough, continual security assessments of all foreign-owned CNI projects. It is essential that the Government is prepared to veto proposals that do not provide adequate reassurance on potential security vulnerabilities. (Paragraph 40)

8.In producing the next NSS & SDSR, the Cabinet Office should ‘game’ hypothetical scenarios where the UK’s relationships with key allies and partners are called into conflict. That process would help to establish which aspects of the UK’s key relationships are the most important. (Paragraph 48)

9.The NSS & SDSR 2015 addressed some of the capability gaps and negative perceptions about the UK’s defence capacity following the SDSR 2010. Nevertheless, it is questionable whether Joint Force 2025 will meet the national security challenges faced by the UK. We are concerned that the UK will remain exposed in the short term while the newly announced capabilities are developed. (Paragraph 55)

10.The Ministry of Defence must clarify whether in practice the expeditionary force envisaged as part of Joint Force 2025 will draw on armed forces personnel already on operations or kept on standby to assist civil authorities in dealing with emergencies in the UK. It must also set out progress on developing Joint Force 2025 capabilities. (Paragraph 56)

11.Despite the Government’s commitment to maintain the size of the Regular Army at 82,000 and to increase the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force by a total of 700 Regular personnel, the manpower fielded by the UK armed forces is inadequate bearing in mind the range, complexity and potential concurrency of tasks expected of them. In addition, the current establishment will not facilitate the effective use of the state-of-the-art equipment to be purchased as a result of the NSS & SDSR 2015. This situation is exacerbated by ongoing difficulties in maintaining sufficient numbers of trained Reserves. (Paragraph 61)

12.There is a risk that the planned 30% reduction in the MOD civilian headcount by 2020 could undermine the Ministry’s ability to deliver the NSS & SDSR 2015. The MOD should review the impact of the proposed 30% reduction in civilian headcount by 2020 on policy formulation and delivery and place its analysis in the public domain. (Paragraph 64)

13.We welcome the Government’s commitment to meet the NATO target of spending at least 2% of GDP on defence. However, we are concerned that the changed economic climate following the UK’s vote to leave the EU will see the defence budget reduced in real terms, reversing the November 2015 decision to make additional funding available for defence. We are also concerned that the NATO minimum spending target would not have been fulfilled in 2015 if UK accounting practices had not been modified, albeit in ways permitted by NATO guidelines. (Paragraph 68)

14.The MOD may struggle to make the efficiency savings of £9.2 billion expected of it over the next five years. This ambitious target presents a significant risk to the delivery of the defence capabilities set out in the NSS & SDSR 2015. We are concerned that the planned increases in the MOD’s budget, as set out in the November 2015 Spending Review, will be offset by increased public sector employee costs. (Paragraph 71)

15.We support the inclusion of the armed forces as a key element of the Government’s full spectrum response to threats to the UK and its interests. We are concerned, however, that the armed forces will not be able to fulfil the wide-ranging tasks described in the NSS & SDSR 2015 by 2025 with the capabilities, manpower and funding set out in the same document. (Paragraph 72)

16.We welcome the Government’s recent efforts to consolidate previous cyber initiatives and to establish strong leadership on cyber. The Cabinet Office should clarify the lines of ministerial responsibility in relation to cyber policy-making, which would facilitate effective scrutiny by Parliament. It should publish a clear outline of those structures on its website. (Paragraph 78)

17.The private sector shares responsibility for the maintenance of the UK’s cyber security with the Government. However, the partnership between the Government and the private sector on cyber security is not yet productive. We therefore welcome the initiatives announced in the NSS & SDSR 2015 on facilitating engagement with the private sector. (Paragraph 80)

18.The emphasis on cyber-related education and skills in the 2011–16 National Cyber Security Programme was not matched by a similar level of financial investment, which comprised only 4% of the total programme budget. The cyber skills gap is a barrier to the Government’s goal of creating a vibrant cyber economy that is resilient to fast-changing threats. The allocation of the five-year National Cyber Security Programme budget must reflect the strategic imperative to develop cyber skills. (Paragraph 83)

19.We welcome the aspiration set out in the NSS & SDSR 2015 to entrench a whole-of-government approach to national security in Whitehall. The Cabinet Office must set out how it will measure the effectiveness of cross-departmental units and funds and of the development of a cross-government culture of collaboration. (Paragraph 87)

20.We were surprised to learn that no single Minister has responsibility for the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (see paragraph 109). In May 2016, we launched an inquiry examining the CSSF. The inquiry’s terms of reference are available on the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy website. We welcome written submissions addressing the operation of the CSSF. (Paragraph 88)

21.We expected the NSS & SDSR 2015 to address what action would be required in the short term following a vote for the UK to leave the European Union. The failure to outline a plan to address that contingency indicated the prioritisation of political interests above national security. If the National Security Strategy is to be credible, it must prioritise the maintenance of national security above political expediency. Planning for a new security review, starting with a detailed analysis of the changed security environment, should begin immediately. (Paragraph 92)

22.The European Union is facing significant security challenges, such as large-scale migration and an emerging domestic terrorist threat. These challenges also have implications for the UK, regardless of whether it is a member of the European Union. A new NSS & SDSR must address how the UK will engage with these issues from outside the EU. (Paragraph 93)

Decision-making on national security

23.Previous and ongoing efforts to mitigate risks to UK national security were considered as a factor alongside likelihood and impact in the production of the National Security Risk Assessment 2015. We welcome the adoption of this recommendation by our predecessor Committee in the 2010–15 Parliament. (Paragraph 100)

24.The National Security Risk Assessment 2015 may have oversimplified the security risks facing the UK by presenting aggregated risks. We are, however, somewhat reassured by the existence of a finer-grained analysis that is classified but available to the Government when prioritising policy and resources. We could achieve certainty on this point if the Government were to share this analysis with us on a confidential basis. (Paragraph 104)

25.The NSRA must be used as an aid to, not a substitute for, good judgment. This is especially important given that the model relies on an assessment of the likelihood and impact of risks to the UK, for which high-quality data are not always available. We therefore welcome the input from other government assessments and external experts into the risk assessment, categorisation and prioritisation processes. (Paragraph 105)

26.The establishment of a risk assessment with a five-to-20-year timeframe is not a substitute for continual horizon-scanning. (Paragraph 106)

27.We commend Prime Minister David Cameron’s investment in the NSC structures set up by the then Coalition Government in 2010 and developed further under the current Government. However, the effectiveness of those structures depends on the Prime Minister’s personal commitment, leaving them vulnerable to decline under his successors should they choose not to invest similar energy in driving cross-government collaboration on national security. The Government should consider creating a ministerial post within the Cabinet Office with oversight of national security. This would strengthen the leadership on national security at the centre of government, a function which is currently fulfilled by the Prime Minister. (Paragraph 109)

28.The NSC secretariat would benefit from a greater capacity to undertake horizon-scanning proactively and to conduct a strategic, whole-of-government assessment of UK national security on an ongoing basis, as a complement to the individual viewpoints of Departments. The benefits of actively generating institutional knowledge within the secretariat have been muted by excessive staff rotation. The Cabinet Office should track the turnover of staff in the NSC secretariat to ensure an appropriate mix of policy expertise, experience, fresh thinking and institutional memory. (Paragraph 112)

29.We welcome the establishment of the Implementation Sub-committee of the National Security Council, which introduced ministerial responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the NSS & SDSR 2015. We will monitor the effects of this development on the Government’s implementation of the 89 commitments set out in the NSS & SDSR 2015. The Cabinet Office should publish the 89 commitments in the NSS & SDSR 2015 on its website and detail progress on each of them in the form of an online tracker. (Paragraph 114)

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

8 July 2016