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Forces restructure may be accelerated to meet increasing threats – Williamson

The Modernising Defence Programme could see investment ‘accelerated’.

The Government may need to accelerate a restructure of the UK’s Armed Forces to meet “increasing threats”, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has said.

In the first significant announcement from the Modernising Defence Programme (MDP), Mr Williamson writes that the military must be ready to “match the pace” of adversaries, that the country needs a “fighting force fit” for the 21st century and that defence needs to be reset in order to make it “better value for money”.

The MDP was launched in January after the National Security Capability Review acknowledged the increasing security challenges the UK is facing.

Mr Williamson, in a written ministerial statement, said: “Although we anticipated many of the threats and risks we now face, we underestimated the pace at which they would intensify and combine to challenge UK national security at home and threaten the rules-based international order that has delivered peace, security and prosperity over many decades.

We may need to accelerate elements of the programme to meet the most acute threats sooner. Gavin Williamson

“And, we did not fully understand the ways in which they would interact with each other.

“Alongside this, the character of warfare has changed since 2015. We are in a period of constant aggressive competition between states, often developing into undeclared confrontation and, in some cases, proxy conflicts. Technology, especially digital technology, is developing at a breath-taking pace, making pervasive many capabilities once only imagined in science fiction.”

Mr Williamson confirmed that it was his ambition to “introduce new capabilities or equipment that provide significant advantage in the immediate term”.

He added: “We need to be able to meet future threats and face down our adversaries to continue to protect our prosperity and security.

“We may need to accelerate elements of the programme to meet the most acute threats sooner.”

To help create the “financial headroom” for the additional modernisation, Mr Williamson said the MoD will consider how to deliver “greater efficiency by adopting ambitious, digitally-enabled business modernisation.”

In parallel, the Secretary of State said he would consider removing existing areas of overlap and duplication within the force structure, and see burden-sharing more effectively with allies and partners.

Mr Williamson also confirmed that a “Space Strategy” will be published after the recess to enable the UK’s military to work in space and stressed the importance of an “information advantage” to win conflicts.

He concludes by stating that he will work with the Prime Minister and Chancellor throughout the next stage of MDP.

Shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith, responding to the statement, said: “It is disappointing and somewhat unsurprising that the Government has failed to publish anything substantive or detailed from the Modernising Defence Programme in spite of previously committing to do so by the Summer Recess.

“We have seen the chaos caused by the Tories’ deep cuts to defence in 2010, followed by unfunded, over commitment in 2015, so we hope that this delay means that the review will be well thought out, really deal with the issues faced by MoD and properly funded.

“Anything less than that will simply not be acceptable to Parliament, our Armed Forces or the country.”

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