Today’s defence-related news includes coverage of the Modernising Defence Programme (MDP).
Modernising Defence Programme
The Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian, and The Independent all cover the announcement that defence will be separated from the National Security Capability Review (NSCR) and have its own dedicated review called the Modernising Defence Programme (MDP).
This morning, the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson made the following statement in the House:
I undertook to return to the House at the earliest possible opportunity to update Hon and right Hon Members on the programme to modernise defence which the Ministry of Defence will be conducting in the months ahead.
Following agreement of the high-level findings of the National Security Capability Review by the National Security Council, I have agreed with the Prime Minister and Chancellor that we should take forward its recommendations for a programme of further work to modernise defence, to deliver better military capability and value for money in a sustainable and affordable way. This is essential if defence is to make its full contribution to National Security.
The 2015 National Security Strategy and the SDSR set out a clear ambition to ensure that the Armed Forces can tackle the threats that we face. It also proposed important new policy initiatives, including a stronger international approach, pursuit of innovation, modernised personnel policies, and defence making a bigger contribution to our national prosperity. And we are making real strides to unlock greater efficiency and productivity.
Protecting the UK and our people remains our first priority and responsibility. As the threats we face become more complex and intertwined, we will need to work ever more closely with our NATO allies. We can also expect to remain actively involved with our partners in the Gulf in tackling shared threats to our security. And the Asia-Pacific region will become more important to us in the years ahead. The MOD is making a major contribution to our prosperity, both as we procure the equipment our Armed Forces deserve and support defence exports, in which there have been recent successes most notably the £6 billion Typhoon contract agreed with Qatar.
Significant events last year - the callous terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, and the major storms that ravaged British dependencies in the Caribbean – are reminders of our wider responsibilities. We need to contain threats that have their origin overseas and be prepared to react swiftly and effectively when crises arise.
As we identified in 2015, this requires the Joint Force we are building to be versatile and agile. It will need to be capable of operating in all five domains (land, sea, air, space and cyber). It will need to be international by design, routinely exercising and operating with allies and partners. It will need to be credible and capable of operating against state and non-state threats, normally not alone but with allies, such as NATO, and our partners, but always having the ability to act on our own if and when that is required. And it must be able to contribute to our national security at home, working with the police, and other national security organisations.
Whilst the major elements of our plans for Joint Force 2025 remain the right ones, in order to secure competitive advantage over our potential adversaries we need to ensure we can move quickly, to further strengthen our capabilities in priority areas, and reduce the resources we devote elsewhere.
The government commissioned the National Security Capability Review to ensure we have the policy and plans to implement our National Security Strategy, ensuring our investment in national security capabilities is as joined-up, effective, and efficient as possible to address current national security challenges. A report will be published later in the spring.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in her recent Lord Mayor’s banquet speech, the threats, risks, and challenges have become more complex and intertwined and have developed in areas and ways that we broadly expected but at a much greater pace than was foreseen. The Defence budget is £36 billion this year, that’s the fifth largest Defence budget in the world. And it will increase by £1 billion each year so that it will be almost £40 billion by 2021. The UK Government remains one of the few countries to exceed NATO’s 2% spending target, and this Government has committed to continue to increase the Defence budget by at least 0.5% above inflation every year. However, we must do more to ensure that we use our resources effectively and deliver the efficiencies the Department committed to, so they can be reinvested in the capabilities that we require for our Armed Forces.
It is for these reasons that I have agreed with the Prime Minister and Chancellor to launch the Modernising Defence Programme so that we can strengthen and modernise the Armed Forces to meet the threats that the NSCR identified. Modernising defence will allow us to deliver better military capability and value for money in a sustainable and affordable way. And it will allow us to ensure that defence capabilities complement other national security capabilities in the most effective way.
I am determined to realise this goal through a modernised, more productive, and more effective Joint Force which can deter threats more effectively and ensure we can deliver what is required of defence today and succeed in any future conflicts. Turning this approach into reality will be my key goal for the Modernising Defence Programme.
This programme will involve four strands of work. The first three will optimise how the MOD is organised and is operating, identify further efficiencies and ways to be more productive, including through an aggressive programme of business modernisation, and improve our performance on the commercial and industrial issues. The fourth strand will look at the capabilities that Defence requires to contribute to our three National Security Objectives today and in the future. But most importantly understanding the threats and the ever changing threats that this country faces.
I am determined to use the Modernising Defence Programme to ensure that Defence can make its full contribution to our national security on a sustainable basis.
This is a programme of work that I will speak to hon. and right hon. Members regularly about and I will keep this House updated as decision are made. In the meantime, I would warmly welcome any contributions hon. and right hon. Members would like to make. I and my Department will be consulting beyond this House as this programme of work gets under way in the weeks ahead.
Protecting our National Security and the Safety of the British People both at home and abroad remains the Government’s first priority. And make no mistake, the world is becoming a more dangerous place. We cannot afford to shy away from this reality, nor can we take our security for granted. But even more than that, in a post-Brexit world Britain must continue to champion the global good. It must continue to reach out to seize global opportunities and deal with global threats. Our history teaches us that we can’t have prosperity without security. To protect that prosperity we must have Armed Forces primed and ready to tackle the challenges to come.
Private Sean Benton
The Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Daily Express, The Sun, The Guardian, and The Times cover the fresh inquest into the death of Private Sean Benton at Deepcut Barracks in 1995.
An Army spokesperson said:
The Army deeply regrets the death of Private Sean Benton on the 9th June 1995. His death was a terrible tragedy. The Army apologises for the shortcomings at Deepcut in 1995. We took too long to recognise and rectify the situation. The Army is not afraid to be open and honest and to be held accountable for its actions, whether in training or on operations. We care about our soldiers above all else, they are the Army. Nobody wants to know more than we do what can be done to reduce the risk of a tragedy like Private Sean Benton’s death happening again.