The Defence Committee has published a report titled ‘In Search of Strategy – The 2020 Integrated Review’.
The Defence Committee say that their report underscores the need for strong political leadership and strategic analysis to inform the UK’s future defence posture and urges the Government to include a thorough assessment of the economic, diplomatic and military activities and the internal political dynamics of hostile foreign states, such as Russia and China.
Greater Transparency and External Engagement
The report reiterates the Committee’s previous calls for clarity and transparency. In particular, the Committee calls for the Government to identify the key players leading the Integrated Review and to clarify the role of the Prime Minister, Cabinet ministers and advisers. Additionally, the report highlights the need to consult external stakeholders, especially those who were involved with, and scrutinised, previous policy reviews.
A Vision for the Future of our Armed Forces
The Committee emphasises the opportunity that the Integrated Review presents for defence, stating that the Government must use the Review to set out a coherent vision how our Armed Forces will fight in the future and set out the platforms, weapons and personnel that will be provided to ensure this vision is realised.
Chair of the Defence Committee, Tobias Ellwood MP, said:
“The Integrated Review presents a rare opportunity to conduct a holistic assessment of the effectiveness of the UK’s security, defence, foreign and development policy. As we re-orient ourselves on the world stage, and react to significant geopolitical shifts in power, we must make an honest assessment of our country’s strengths and weaknesses, using this to inform our strategy going forward. Decisions must be made based on a clear view of the world and a detailed vision for the UK’s role within it, rather than short term economic considerations. Number 10 has described the Integrated Review as the most comprehensive policy review since the end of the Cold War, however we are concerned that the gap between this expectation and reality is widening. The prime purpose of the Integrated Review must be to ensure our defence posture is upgraded to match emerging threats and protect our developing interests. We must not lose sight of that – even with the financial pressures caused by COVID-19. To ensure the Review takes a strategic approach, there must be broader engagement and consultation of external stakeholders, and yet so far the Committee has seen little evidence that this has taken place.
The Defence Committee, alongside colleagues in the Foreign Affairs and International Development Committees, have repeatedly called for clarity and transparency from the Government. These calls have, at times, been left unanswered. A number of unknowns remain, including the key players at the heart of the Review. A policy review of this importance should not take place behind closed doors. The Committee system should not be viewed as an adversary of Government, but instead as a constructive critic and contributor. We hope that this report aids the Government in its approach to the Integrated Review; it is in all of our interest that this Review is a success.”