While it is the case that Britain only had a Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2015 circumstances have clearly changed.
The last Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) which took place in 2015 was criticised by many as being conducted through the lens of accountancy. However, fast forward to present day, and there are already discussions taking place in the Ministry of Defence and Whitehall in London over the financial reality of the armed forces.
The current political discussions are based on reducing defence expenditure including the possibility of cuts to our amphibious warfare capabilities such as the HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark and the dismemberment of the Royal Marines. Both of which is strategically nonsensical.
It is of my opinion, the best way to reach an agreement in terms of resources needed to match the changing security architecture is for a fresh review to be brought forward in Parliament, so it can be debated in the Select Committees and to be open to all the branches of the military to have an input and say on future defence policy including procurement, what should be included in our National Security Strategy, the current and future balance of forces, and also current and future spending.
As the political system and the nature of separate branches encourage debate on the nature of those interests between the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, The British Army, and the Royal Air Force, this is a good thing. As such, I realise there will be competition among the branches who will get the most allocated to them but that is the nature of the bureaucratic system, and there will no doubt debate. But that is a good thing. Not something to ignore. It is both necessary and essential for our national interest to do so if we are going forward with our security operations in the 2020s and beyond. While it is worth mentioning that the last Strategic Defence Review was concerned with enshrining that Britain retains its nuclear capabilities in the new Trident replacement in the Dreadnought class submarines, this new defence review will look more broadly at the status of our current and future force structures, and material.
With the commissioning of the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier this month, with a lifespan of 50 years, it will be expected to operate until the late 2060s or maybe even beyond that lifespan. We have to consider what type of military and in particular what type of Royal Navy can our country sustain if Britain is going to continue to have global reach?
However, for Britain to have a global reach it must have an amphibious capability based upon the ability to deploy Royal Marines in any combat zone across the world. On a final note, this brings us to the question of security itself, and how the United Kingdom defines its security interests in this increasingly multipolar, and unpredictable environment.
The only benefit the Cold War gave us, is the security community knew who the enemy was, and it was a state-based international system. Now with the advent of international terrorism and the concept of failed states, we are no longer dealing with monolithic states with global ideologies, but extremists. We are living in a multipolar world, where security cannot be necessarily guaranteed by the United States and NATO, which means that countries such as the United Kingdom may have to become more innovative in how it meets its defence needs, and contemplate the possibility of acting unilaterally if necessary or with its partners.
Plus, we have to reconcile our strategic interests with the rise of China, a nuclear-capable North Korea, and a resurgent Russia in the East. All of which needs to be discussed and explored within a new defence review so that Britain can articulate its strategic vision to the world, and match it with current and future capabilities.