How to effectively manage and mitigate risks associated with emerging threats in the UK defense sector

Since the end of the Cold War, the international landscape has undergone tremendous change. The transformation of former power blocs has over time been replaced by more complex, and dynamic relationships that are now driving an impact across the world. 

The digitalisation of the global economy has created new exchange and trade opportunities for countries and citizens, allowing them to become more connected, and dependent on one another. 

During the last decade, we’ve created intricate, diverse and sophisticated systems that have helped to safeguard democracy, and promote the forward-looking commonwealth of people across the United Kingdom, and across the world. 

However, these systems are coming under threat, as new adversaries enter the market, and look to tear down the pillars of democracy and justice, placing tremendous stress on nations, such as the UK, to create more profound defence networks that aim to effectively manage and mitigate risks within the UK. 

Emerging threats in the UK defence sector 

In a more complex, and unpredictable era, national defence has become one of the most important topics within the government, and among allied nations. Over the last several years, the British government has undergone new changes that have enabled it to place more emphasis on the protection of citizens, within Britian, abroad and in the digital ecosystem. 

Current and emerging future threats in the defence sector have become increasingly perplexing, and harder to predict. While the UK faces a range of security challenges, the government has a threat prioritisation that allows the Ministry of Defence (MOD), and the wider national defence sector to detect, mitigate and manage any potential security risks. 


Nations across the globe have noticed an increase in terrorist groups inciting violence as an attempt to publicise their causes. These groups look to influence governments and government policies, reject democratic processes, and draw extreme interpretations from religious groups to justify their actions.

International or foreign terrorism, on British soil, isn’t the only form of terrorist activity. Right Wing Terrorism (RWT) and Left, Anarchist and Single-Issue Terrorism (LASIT) witnessed an increase in activity since April 2020. Northern Ireland-related terrorism remains a potential threat for British and Scottish nationals. Although a new task force within the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) has helped cease the Northern Irish terrorist campaigns. 


While many defence and security officials thought that espionage – spying – would end after the collapse of Communism on European soil, it continues to remain a risk for the government to unearth, and properly mitigate. Espionage is a damaging act against the government, the people, and the national security of the UK. 


Today, more than ever, cyber security is perhaps one of the biggest, and most crucial safety nets any government entity, or business requires. Malicious players and bad actors are operating under the shadows of the digital ecosystem, promoting violence, and threatening systems of national security. Various forms of technologies are being used to research capabilities within the tech industry. This enables nations across Europe, and internationally to expand their digital security infrastructure and the various technologies they’re using for data collection.

Perhaps one of the biggest problems with cyber security, is that victims remain defenceless, due to the nature of the situation, and how it is carried out. Cyber attacts can strike at any time, making it extremely difficult to predict. In recent years, the government has established several high-profile UK defence and security offices to manage cybersecurity risks, and to help create more awareness surrounding the severity thereof.


Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) are still considered to be one of the biggest security risks any country can face. Despite humanitarian organisations, such as the United Nations (UN), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) developing stringent international policies and agreements that aim to counter the production and distribution of WMDs, some countries remain in opposition to these developments. 

The production of WMDs is not only an intimidation to one nation, but perhaps to the global community. Without proper oversight and control, these weapons can end up in the hands of malicious groups, such as terrorist organisations that operate behind closed doors. 

The government has established several counter-proliferation partners within the UK, to minimise potential conflict, and thoroughly regulate the imports and exports to countries flagged for harbouring WMDs. 

Strategies for Managing and mitigating Defence Sector Risks 

Due to the nature of these risks, and the catastrophic damage it can cause to the people, the MOD has developed, and deployed agile defence strategies to help with emerging risk analysis, defence sector innovation, threat prioritisation, and adaptive procurement practices.

Since 2020, the government has committed itself to invest a minimum of £6.6 billion in defence research and development over the next four years. During the same time, between 2019/20, the MOD spent roughly £20.3 billion with UK defence industry and commerce and aims to invest more than £85 billion in the procurement of defense equipment and support in the coming years. 

Using public funds allocated from the government to create agile defence strategies, and help to mitigate defence sector risks, managing these operations is not an easy job to start with. However, for the MOD and defence sector, there has been significant development in recent years that allows them to implement more collaborative defence strategies. 

Creating a Global Britain 

In March 2021, the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy helped to establish a forward-looking vision for a more competitive and dynamic United Kingdom. The review recognises the importance of the UK relying on science, deference innovation and technology to build better strategic advantage and boost national security. 

National Cyber Security Strategy

The establishment of the National Cyber Security Strategy (NCSS) has allowed the MOD to better understand the importance of cybersecurity in UK defence, and create a more national security preparedness network. The NCSS helps to develop and deploy more advanced capabilities of MOD innovation, helps to raise the readiness of the defence sector against any potential cyber risks, and effectively evades these problems. 

Collaboration with the private sector 

The MOD has become one of the biggest, and most sophisticated buyers of high-tech advanced security goods, materials and defence equipment from industry specialists. The collaboration, and investment in public and private companies has helped to enlarge risk management strategies and the procurement of agile tools. 

Today, the national defence sector comprises 95 per cent of Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that help to provide the sector with goods, equipment, and advanced security services. 

Geopolitical risk assessment 

The international political landscape is highly complex, and requires the MOD, in collaboration with the national government and private enterprises, to evaluate and assess any potential geopolitical risks. Through these domestic networks and allied nations, the defence sector can promote information sharing across the defence sector, and create a hybrid warfare strategy that enables defence preparedness. 

Final Thoughts 

Both international and domestic security risks in the defence sector continue to be a highly complex and unpredictable interconnected set of problems that creates immense risks for the Ministry of Defence, the UK government, and the wider national defence sector. 

Through adequate innovation, and collaboration with private enterprises, the uk defence sector can build more agile defence strategies that help to improve its level of preparedness and encourage a diverse network that manages and mitigates these risks appropriately. 


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