The Ministry of Defence’s Modernising Defence Programme must address the challenges presented by the resurgence of state-based threats and be supported by a fully-funded and sustainable financial settlement, says a report published by the Defence Committee.
The report, entitled Beyond 2 per cent, has been produced ahead of the anticipated release of ‘high-level findings’ by the MDP, towards the end of June. It examines how the process has proceeded and highlights areas, including capability, commercial practices, recruitment and international partnerships, which the Committee expects the review to consider.
The report explores how the MDP had its origins in the decision taken in mid-2017 to initiate the National Security Capability Review (NSCR) in response to the development of new and intensified threats facing the United Kingdom.
The aim of the NSCR was to ‘refresh’ the findings of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review and look again at capabilities across 12 broad areas of national security policy, including Defence. However, the ‘fiscally neutral’ nature of the NSCR meant that any new resources applied to some aspects of national security would entail reductions in resources available to others – even though the emergence of new threats had not been accompanied by the disappearance of pre- existing ones.
The report concludes that the only solution is to move spending on Defence closer to 3% of GDP – approaching the level of investment made by the UK from the end of the Cold War until the mid-1990s. This could produce a long-term settlement providing strategic and financial stability. Although further reform within the scope of the MDP will be necessary, for the MoD to prove that it can be the ‘responsible owner’ of a new settlement, it should not be based on elusive and ambitious ‘efficiency savings’ in order to make ends meet.
Dr Julian Lewis, Defence Committee chairman, said:
“We hope that our report will assist in sparking debate and focusing minds on priorities that should be considered by the Modernising Defence Programme. The Secretary of State was right to remove Defence from the National Security Capability Review which would otherwise have resulted in further disastrous cuts to the Armed Forces, and we endorse his efforts to obtain a better settlement for Defence.
The Government now needs to look beyond the two per cent minimum on Defence spending, and begin moving towards a figure of three per cent, to place our defence policy on a sustainable basis to meet new threats and fill existing financial ‘black holes’. Defence is constantly described as the first duty of government. The MDP is the government’s opportunity to show that it means what it says.”