The Integrated Review – Security News Desk UK Leave a comment

The recent release of the Integrated Review by the UK government has produced controversy in the industry, does the new vision align with government intended aims?

The UK government recently released its Integrated Review 2021 which aims to place technology and science at the heart of UK security, with priority areas identified to help tackle new forms of warfare like cyber attacks.

The british government website, released a statement regarding the review detailing how the Integrated Review is a comprehensive articulation of the UK’s national security and international policy. It outlines three fundamental national interests that bind together the citizens of the UK – sovereignty, security and prosperity – alongside our values of democracy and a commitment to universal human rights, the rule of law, freedom of speech and faith, and equality.

The Integrated Review concludes at an important moment for the United Kingdom. The world has changed considerably since the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, as has the UK’s place within it.

The document, which is the product of over a year of work across government and of consultation with a wide range of external organisations and thinkers, sets out a vision for Global Britain. This includes:

  • an emphasis on openness as a source of prosperity
  • a more robust position on security and resilience
  • a renewed commitment to the UK as a force for good in the world
  • an increased determination to seek multilateral solutions to challenges like climate change
  • It also stresses the importance of deepening relationships with allies and partners around the world, as well as moving more swiftly and with greater agility.

In this context, the Integrated Review sets out four overarching objectives:

Sustaining strategic advantage through science and technology, incorporating it as an integral element of national security and international policy to firmly establish the UK as a global S&T and responsible cyber power. This will be essential in gaining economic, political and security advantages.

Shaping the open international order of the future, working with partners to reinvigorate the international institutions, laws and norms that enable open societies and economies such as the UK to flourish. This will help our citizens and others around the world realise the full benefits of democracy, free trade and international cooperation – not least in the future frontiers of cyberspace and space.

Strengthening security and defence at home and overseas, working with allies and partners to help us to maximise the benefits of openness and protect our people, in the physical world and online, against a range of growing threats. These include state threats, radicalisation and terrorism, serious and organised crime, and weapons proliferation.

Building resilience at home and overseas, improving our ability to anticipate, prevent, prepare for and respond to risks ranging from extreme weather to cyber-attacks. This will also involve tackling risks at source – in particular climate change and biodiversity loss.

The Integrated Review sets out the government’s overarching national security and international policy objectives to 2025. These will inform future policy-making for all government departments. They will also inform future Spending Reviews, offering further opportunities to align resources with ambition over the long term. We will ensure all government’s instruments work together, coordinated by enhanced strategic capabilities at the centre, to achieve our objectives.

Rethinking Security, a network of peace and security practitioners, published a briefing for parliamentarians, civil society and media to explain how human security should be at the heart of the government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, launched on 11 March.

Human Security and the Integrated Review explains what the approach means, how it has developed and been adopted by various actors, including the UK government, and how past UK national security strategies have failed to uphold it, with calamitous consequences for our health security and the viability of our ecosystem.

The briefing precedes a Westminster Hall Debate on Human Security, the first time the approach has been directly debated in Parliament.  It also coincides with the course of a private members bill on the Wellbeing of Future Generations, which has attracted cross-party support in the Lords and Commons.

It marks the culmination of Rethinking Security’s year-long engagement with the Integrated Review and the beginning of an ambitious three-year project to conduct an Alternative Security Review that puts human security first.

Rethinking Security Co-ordinator Richard Reeve said, “While the government has been mulling its Integrated Review and a military ‘tilt’ to Asia, Covid-19 and the accelerating climate and ecological crises have shown that the real threats to our common security are transnational and demand a cooperative international response.

“The decision to separate out the Defence white paper from the wider Review is welcome, but the MoD is just one of many branches of government that needs to be involved in upholding the human security of people in the UK.

“Past UK National Security Strategies have referenced climate change as a long-term concern, mainly affecting security in far-off places. This review must follow Sir David Attenborough’s recent advice, put climate security front and centre and acknowledge the scale and immediacy of the threat to all of us from ecological collapse.

“Over the next three years Rethinking Security will be coordinating an Alternative Security Review to do what this and previous governments should have done: to develop a Human Security Strategy for the UK, its people and the planet.”

Commentary: Richard Reeve, Co-Ordinator, Rethinking Security

The Integrated Review is an elaborate document that recognises many of the challenges that will grievously impact the world over the next decade. However, it is not a strategy for national security or anything else.

The Review defines a vision for the UK’s future and many actions towards achieving it, but no strategy for prioritising or reconciling them.  

Saying that ‘HMG will make tackling climate change and biodiversity loss its number one international priority’ is good but the Review’s helpful breakdown of applied funding shows that it falls behind resourcing the military.

Prioritising the deepening of trade and investment relationships with China, Gulf States and other autocracies is in tension with the Review’s objective of promoting open societies and defending human rights. 

Increasing the number of nuclear warheads in the UK stockpile and increasing ambiguity around their deployment is potentially irresponsible and could send a message to other states to do likewise. 

Over the next three years Rethinking Security will be coordinating an Alternative Security Review to do what this and previous governments should have done: to develop a Human Security Strategy for the UK, its people and the planet.”

Commentary: Rob Pratten, CEO at Conducttr

It’s great to see a shift away from traditional battlefield techniques towards science and innovation. However, it’s critical that we don’t overlook newer types of threats like information warfare which pose just as big, if not a more worrying risk to national security, as cyber security.

While our security and defence industry is well versed in traditional combat training simulations, currently immersive training in a virtual information environment is rare. Yet, foreign nations are increasingly seeking to use information warfare to destabilise society and international relationships.

Social media has been weaponised and the defence and security sector is trying to catch up, so it’s critical that sufficient budget is allocated for training in narrative combat. Adversaries are already attempting to undermine democracies by weaponising freedom of expression to make our cultural strengths a weakness, so the need for a high-fidelity, realistic simulated information warfare training environment is more pressing than ever.

Commentary: Steve Forbes, Government Cyber Security Expert at Nominet

The UK’s ability to be a force for good in conducting offensive cyber operations to disrupt online aggressors is increasingly important as we continue to move all aspects of our lives online. With so much changing since the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, it is paramount that as a society we have a robust and cutting edge approach to defending against high level nation-targeted attacks. Investment in ‘home grown’ cyber is a wise move.

In positioning our country as a global digital leader for the future, it will be important to devise solutions that are adaptable as well as highly resilient and scalable; that both protect us from specific nefarious cyber activity and keep the entire UK safe online. The government’s plan to offer a full spectrum approach to cyber defence is crucial to this. A competitive UK is a secure UK.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and as we move to bolster cyber defences the Government’s commitment to increased collaboration between them, academia and industry will be invaluable. As will international alliances. These joint efforts can provide information at scale that individual organisations and countries could perhaps never match on their own. From identifying new threats and where education needs to take place, through to technologies that can provide a broad foundation of security. The more we can pull together in our cyber defence, taking advantage of collective intelligence and counter defence, the stronger we will be.


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