In today's Strategic Defence & Security Review, the Prime Minister detailed how the government will prepare and respond to a range of national security threats. There will be a £12 billion increase in expenditure, to £178 billion over ten years, with a clear focus on information technologies including the widely trailed news that an extra £1.9 billion is to be spent on cyber-security by 2020 and 1,900 new spies will be recruited.
The Reserve forces are set to grow to 35,000 with the Joint Force 2025 structure including, "two innovative brigades comprising a mix of regulars and specialist capabilities from the Reserves able to contribute to strategic communications, tackle hybrid warfare and deliver better battlefield intelligence".
However the Ministry of Defence's civilian workforce will be reduced by almost 30 percent - to 41,000 - over the next five years and there will be cuts to front-line police officers.
Wednesday's Spending Review will see a 30 percent increase in the counter-terrorism budget with fighting terrorism and ISIS in particular a recurring theme with the PM noting its use of the internet and encryption: “The way ISIS has exploited social media and internet propaganda to recruit fighters and spread hate also poses a new threat. Terrorist groups also use widely available encrypted online communications to plan attacks.
“This and other attempts to evade detection mean that it is now much harder for the police and security agencies to spot, investigate and then successfully disrupt terrorist attack planning. It is also difficult to investigate and disrupt terrorist and criminal threats when they originate from states which have poor governance, or which lack credible and effective police and security organisations operating to our human rights standards.”
James Murphy, techUK associate director for defence & security, welcomed the SDSR saying: “The last SDSR failed to acknowledge the importance of information to our national security. This time, the government has clearly understood that to stay at the cutting edge, secure our national interests and to prepare for operations in the information age, different steps needed to be taken – as demonstrated by the focus on cyber and C4ISR technologies. By working more closely together, sharing information and collaborating, government departments and industry will enhance the UK's ability to protect our citizens and economy.”
Beyond the announced new strikeforces and new hardware, Murphy noted, “Government departments must continue to invest in the underpinning ICT infrastructure, see through the transformations already underway and do so in partnership with industry.”
Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, the manufacturers' organisation described the announcements as a welcome boost for UK defence saying that it redresses some of the capability failings which were ushered in under the 2010 Review, adding that it could particularly benefit SMEs. Gary Smith, GMB's acting Scotland secretary also broadly welcomed the deal, while David Pitchforth, managing director of Boeing Defence UK said: “Boeing welcomes the insight provided to industry by the SDSR.”