A former Defence Secretary has warned that the current defence review has no relation to strategic threats.
Lord Hutton was speaking during a debate on British defence forces in the House of Lords where he said:
“My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Soley for giving us the opportunity today to have a very important conversation about the future of our national security and Armed Forces. Like my noble friend Lord West, I think there was probably a broad consensus in 2015 about the outcome of that security review. It recommended Joint Force 2025, an expeditionary force of nearly 50,000 people, with significant land, sea and air elements. It embarked on a hugely significant programme of defence equipment procurement across land, sea and air, and contained a promise to keep spending on defence at 2% of GDP.
But there was obviously major concern at the time, confirmed now by the Public Accounts Committee, the Select Committee on Defence in another place, the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, senior retired officers and think tanks—pretty well everyone—that the MoD would not be able to sustain the ambitions of the 2015 SDSR. There was and remains no clear path to realising the significant efficiency savings on which all that spending was predicated, other than continued pay restraint for members of the Armed Forces—and that is perhaps not a brilliant recruitment and retention tool over the long term. Since then, we have had to add into the equation the significant impact of Brexit and the dramatic fall in value of sterling—the pound is 30% down against the dollar and the euro—when so much of that defence budget is spent in dollars and euros.
Two years on, we have the announcement of a new security capability review. Every Defence Minister learns the mantra that everything is kept under review, which can sometimes get them out of trouble. On this occasion, it has probably got them into a little more trouble. There are probably two principal justifications, two years after a significant SDSR such as the 2015 report, for having another look at things. One would be any significant or material change in the threat situation facing the UK. By common consensus, that has got worse, not better. The other would be any significant change in technological development and science—technology that might allow us to think again about how we equip our Armed Forces and where we want to spend our money. Neither of those justifications is plausible for this midpoint review of the SDSR. There is only one obvious conclusion for us all to reach: this is really a review about money.”