It was a great honour to be asked by the Prime Minister to accept again the role of Defence Secretary. Continuity is important, but make no mistake: this is a new Government, elected with a clear mandate to implement the Conservative manifesto.
When the Prime Minister re-appointed me, he stressed just how important he believes our role is in Defence. We are here to deliver.
The incredible VE Day 70 celebrations recalled the triumph of the forces of freedom over the forces of fascism. We need no reminding that the world today remains an equally dangerous place. In the Middle East, ISIL barbarians perpetrate atrocity after atrocity while, on the fringes of Europe, an aggressive Russia agitates against the Ukraine and threatens NATO. Meanwhile, other disasters both natural and man-made continue to demand our response.
In just the last few weeks, our roster of activity has included:
- targeting terrorists in Iraq
- policing Baltic skies
- supplying equipment to Ukrainian forces
- taking part in the largest ever NATO anti-submarine exercise off Estonia
- assisting in the relief effort in Nepal
- and sending HMS Bulwark and three of our Merlin helicopters to the Mediterranean to alleviate the migrant crisis
It is critical for us to remain ready respond to concurrent crises on multiple fronts in the future. That’s why I have identified three key priorities in the coming months.
First, to take a leading role in the Strategic Defence and Security Review. This will enable us to establish where, when and from whom future threats may come.
Second, to make sure we have the right capabilities to do the job. That means getting the right mix of manpower in our Armed Forces - whether Regulars, Reserves or civilians. That means making the most of our £163bn Equipment Plan to give our Armed Forces the high-end capability they need. And it means ensuring we maintain our Continuous-At-Sea Deterrence by building the next generation of Successor submarines.
Lastly, my third priority is to strengthen our international partnerships. Global problems require global solutions. We need to do everything we can to work bi-laterally with our partners such as the US and France – and I will be speaking to my counterparts in those countries this week. We also need to work multilaterally, with NATO – the cornerstone of our Defence, and with our other European partners.
Ultimately, success in all these areas depends on the quality of our people both military and civilian. That is why I am going out and about to meet our staff up and down the country. I’ve already spoken already to Defence colleagues in London, Andover and High Wycombe.
That is why we will be building on the success of our Armed Forces Covenant, ensuring Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their families continue to get the resources they need. And that is why we will be acting decisively to ensure our Armed Forces overseas are not subject to persistent human rights claims that undermine their ability to do their job.
So there’s an enormous amount to be getting on with. But there's a mandate behind our momentum. And make no mistake, we will inject all our energy and enthusiasm into the task. Doing everything in our power to guarantee the safety, the security and the prosperity of citizens across the United Kingdom.