Mid-Term Review: the Coalition and defence
With Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg recently announcing the publication of a Mid-Term Review on the Coalition Government’s progress as it reaches the two and a half year mark in its five-year term, DCI looks at the Coalition’s track record on defence.
The Review outlines the Coalition’s progress under four main targets – fixing the economy, improving public services, building a better society and standing tall in the world – the latter of which dealing with defence and national security, with the Coalition partners looking to reiterate the goal they set for themselves when taking office in 2010: ‘to reach across party lines to act in the national interest’.
Among the successes of the Coalition outlined in the Review with regards to defence include: sharply reducing MOD running costs and reducing civilian staff by more than 20,000; consistently provided Ministerial and official backing to British industry’s bids on defence exports; the appointment of a National Security Adviser and National Security Council; and the publication of a National Security Strategy and a Strategic Defence and Security Review, overseen by the National Security Council and closely integrated with the 2010 Spending Review.
The Review also makes some announcements for future defence activity. The plans include an extra £650 million over the current Spending Review period in improving Britain’s cyber security; the strengthening of UK borders with a new Border Policing Command; investing £1.8 billion over the next 10 years to increase the size and capability of the Reserves; and the removal a further 7000 MOD civilian staff by 2014.
The achievements laid out in the Review, however, have come at considerable cost, and many have criticised the Government’s handling of departmental cuts over the past two and a half years. In response, the Review details the ‘painful decisions’ which were necessary when the Coalition took office in 2010:
“When we first came to office, our defence procurement programme was not achievable within the budgets then provided. Painful decisions were needed; but we have now ensured that our defence commitments properly match the resources available to meet them. Importantly, this has enabled us to reconfigure the Armed Forces so that Britain can meet the threats it will face between now and 2020, and beyond.”
However, Labour Leader Ed Miliband, in response to the report, accused the Coalition of glossing over the facts and delivering ‘no real substance and no real detail’ in the Mid-Term Review:
“All the promises they made to us about what they would achieve about economic growth haven’t come true. They are struggling to reduce the deficit this year – the central promise that they made to the country.”
Indeed, one notable absence from the Review is details of the Coalition’s views on Trident. When discussing the UK’s controversial nuclear deterrent, the Review simply states that it has been ‘maintained’ and that the Coalition has ‘initiated a study into alternatives to Trident’, despite the Liberal Democrats’ clear opposition to a ‘like for like’ Trident replacement.
The full Review is available to view at http://midtermreview.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/. If you have any views on the Coalition Government’s successes at its halfway point in office, join the debate on Twitter @DCItenders