The responsibility of the HCDC is to monitor and to hold to account the Ministry of Defence and its associated public bodies, including the Armed Forces, on behalf of the House of Commons and the people who elect it. The committee’s SDSR report represents its initial reaction to the Secretary of State’s and the Department’s written and oral evidence given before the Parliament summer recess.
The MOD welcomed the report as an important contribution to the debate on issues being considered in the SDSR.
Conclusions and recommendations of the report covered policy context, the SDSR timetable, the National Security Strategy and MOD studies, costing and industry involvement, manpower costs and the Reserve Forces, cost-cutting and reform, consultation and the public, as well as other issues.
The committee reported the following key conclusions:
- it welcomes the pan-Government nature of the SDSR, through the establishment of the National Security Council, to set the country’s defence needs in a stronger foreign and policy context;
- it recognises the Government’s need to tackle the deficit to ensure financial soundness, the urgency of the SDSR process and the need to align with the Government’s Spending Review; and
- it acknowledges the continuing process of internal reductions made to date and structural reform.
The report does, however, outline the committee’s concerns. They conclude that the following concerns could lead to SDSR conclusions that are not robust:
- the rapid pace at which the SDSR is being undertaken, given that the process for the SDSR is not tried and tested;
- the limited nature of consultation with industry and the ‘missed opportunity’ to reconnect with the general public on defence issues; and
- the implications of spending cuts and the impact of decisions on funding the nuclear deterrent replacement.
See Related Links to view the full report.
SDSR Departmental Progress
The Secretary of State’s and the Department’s evidence made clear that we face the SDSR with unavoidably constrained finances. Like all aspects of public expenditure, our future plans will need to be affordable over the short and long term, and the review will look at how to deliver the future strategy for national security as efficiently and effectively as possible. To ensure the SDSR is resource-informed and its decisions are sustainable, it is proceeding in parallel with the Government’s Spending Review, which will report in late October.
The first duty of Government is the security of our people, territories and interests. The SDSR will set out how we plan to meet this responsibility. For the first time, we are looking thoroughly and comprehensively at the national security challenges we face and our responses to them in a co-ordinated and strategic way across Government, rather than in silos. The National Security Council is directing the full review of the UK’s plans, policies, resources and commitments across all areas of national security.
Past reviews have taken the Department less than a year. Preliminary work on the SDSR began in late 2009 to set the strategic context and frame the pertinent questions this review would need to address. This involved useful public engagement as a contribution to the review.
Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox said:
Any outcomes from the Strategic Defence and Security Review will not undermine our main combat effort in Afghanistan. The SDSR will address the most immediate threats to our national security, while maintaining the ability to identify and deal with emerging ones. This flexible approach will ensure our Armed Forces can deal with challenges now and in the future.
The MOD has received over 6,000 responses on the SDSR and related issues. This broad range of views is being considered as decisions are made on how we deliver the future strategy for national security as effectively and efficiently as possible. To ensure the SDSR is sustainable and resource-informed, it is proceeding in parallel with the October Spending Review.
It is clear there will be a lot still to do after the SDSR announcement in late October.