Armed forces and Ministry of Defence reform


The UK needs to support its existing, high quality military operations while reducing the overall running costs of defence.


We expect to spend at least 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) on defence, being realistic about what we can afford now and in the future to get the most armed forces capability we can from the defence budget.

Our ‘transforming defence’ programme sets out security targets, budget reforms, and a new organisational structure to help us provide flexible, agile and capable forces in a more affordable way.

In order to support national security needs more efficiently, we will:

  • provide the military capabilities as set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) and since to be able to continue to:
    • react quickly to crises
    • carry out operations on the scale of Afghanistan
    • respond to a range of threats in the future
    • maintain the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent
  • introduce a new, simplified operating model for defence that cuts running costs significantly by 2020 as set out in the Defence Reform Review recommendations
  • reduce Armed Forces regular personnel by 33,000 (about 19%) by 2020, while increasing the trained strength of the Reserve Forces by 50% or more to about 35,000 by 2018
  • reduce the Civilian workforce by some 32,000 (about 38%) by 2020
  • honour the Armed Forces Covenant to make sure the Armed Forces community is treated fairly and is not disadvantaged because of its military experience, by addressing issues from housing and education to support for veterans
  • develop the New Employment Model for service personnel
  • keep our network of overseas military bases (Gibraltar, Cyprus, Falklands, Ascension, and Diego Garcia) but bring back all our personnel from Germany by 2020
  • continue to build constructive bilateral relationships including with the US


The Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Armed Forces are working to implement the October 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), and the recommendations of Lord Levene’s independent Defence Reform review of the department’s strengths and weaknesses in June 2011. Progress on these is reported annually to Parliament.

As set out in the Defence Vision this is being managed through the ‘transforming defence’ programme which aims to achieve:

  • battle-winning Armed Forces
  • a smaller, more professional MOD
  • a realistic approach to what we can afford

SDSR and Future Force 2020

The SDSR and subsequent Army 2020 and Future Reserves 2020 reports set out the changes we will make to our defence capability so that it is ready for the challenges we will face in 2020 and beyond. We call this capability Future Force 2020.

The policy, resource and capability choices that are set out in the SDSR are based on the National Security Strategy (NSS). The last Strategic Defence Review was in 1998 at a time when we faced different threats. The 2010 NSS reflects the risks we face now and our priorities across all areas of national security.

The House of Commons Defence Committee published its report on the SDSR in August 2011, and the government’s response was published in November 2011.

The First Annual Report on the SDSR and the Prime Minister’s Written Ministerial Statement on the Report from December 2011, and the Second Annual Report on the SDSR and Written Ministerial Statement from November 2012, have more detail about what Government is doing and will do to carry out the SDSR. It also confirmed a future annual update to Parliament in 2012.

Bills and legislation

It was announced in the 2013 Queen’s speech that a ‘Defence Reform Bill’ will be introduced to provide the framework to improve the way we procure and support defence equipment and strengthen the reserve forces.