The UK's national security machinery Contents

Annex 1: An introduction to the 2021 Integrated Review

1)It is the task of the UK’s national security machinery, with the NSC at its apex, to implement the Integrated Review (IR)—Global Britain in a Competitive Age: The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy—which was published in March 2021. A Command Paper outlining the Defence contribution to the IR, Defence in a Competitive Age, was published a few days later. The IR also committed to the development and publication of other cross-government papers, such as a national resilience strategy.

2)An overview: The IR describes a complex environment in which there is rapid change, with power changing in nature and changing hands. It states that the boundaries between “war and peace, prosperity and security, trade and development, and domestic and foreign policy”—as well as between economic and national security—are becoming blurred as hostile actors increasingly use them in an “integrated” manner.249

3)Within this context, the IR sets out four overarching goals that together form its ‘Strategic Framework’ for action in the years to 2025: sustaining strategic advantage through science and technology; shaping an open and resilient international order; strengthening security and defence at home and overseas; and building resilience at home and overseas.

4)A new approach? Previous SDSRs were rooted in a risk management approach to national security—seeking to reduce threats or hazards, minimise vulnerability and lessen negative consequences. In contrast, the Government says it took a ‘grand strategy’ approach under the Integrated Review: a more aspirational style which aims to secure long-term security, peace and prosperity through—in the words of one of its earliest proponents, the military historian Basil Liddell Hart—coordinating and directing “all the resources of a nation” towards the attainment of its goals. Grand strategy is rooted in long-term thinking, with an emphasis on bringing history into policy calculations.250

5)Initial reception: We received limited evidence on the quality and content of the IR itself, which was not within the scope of this inquiry (although we sought evidence on the manner in which it addressed aspects of national security machinery).

6)Reception to the IR has been mixed. Lord Ricketts praised its “ambitious targets” and said it “struck a careful balance on policy towards China”; former MI6 Chief Sir John Sawers said it “succeeds in linking foreign policy to the UK’s domestic priorities”; and a former Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, described it as an “impressive exercise”. But it has also been widely and strongly criticised for failing to prioritise the Government’s goals and for setting ambitions that are greater than the resources available—especially in light of the cut to aid spending, which was announced months before the IR was concluded.251

249 HM Government, Global Britain in a Competitive Age: The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, CP 403, March 2021; Ministry of Defence (MoD), Defence in a Competitive Age, CP 411, March 2021

250 Basil Liddell Hart, Strategy (New York, NY: Praeger, 1967), pp. 321–22

251 “The Integrated Review in Context”, King’s College London, July 2021; Malcolm Chalmers, “The Integrated Review: The UK as a Reluctant Middle Power?”, RUSI Occasional Paper, March 2021




Published: 19 September 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement