Defence & security focus: MoD head Stephen Lovegrove on competing for talent and combating extremism

Written by Stephen Lovegrove on 18 April 2019 in Feature

As the UK faces increasingly complex global threats, our defence and security organisations must work more collaboratively than ever. Here, CSW hears from Ministry of Defence permanent secretary Stephen Lovegrove about the challenges and opportunities ahead

What has been the biggest challenge facing your organisation in the past 12 months?

There are many challenges that we work hard to overcome, such as the ever more prominent return of state-based threats, as demonstrated by continued aggressive Russian activity, our ongoing role in the final defeat of Daesh, and combating violent extremism around the world. 

The challenges posed by Brexit, both for the department and for how we can support the rest of government, is unique. 

There’s also the continued challenge of building a modern, fully recruited defence "whole force" that can keep pace with technological change and the evolution of threats, while being representative of our society.

How is your organisation adapting to reflect Britain’s changing place in the world?

We need to be even more representative of our society. There have been some real notable milestones in terms of female representation in the Armed Forces, but there is more we must do.

We are also focusing on strong alliances across the world – we can’t go it alone. NATO is the cornerstone, but also the Joint Expeditionary Force, building stronger links in Asia Pacific and Africa and reinforcing relationships with our allies in the Middle East. 

We have been able to respond more rapidly to the changing context by embracing technology and instilling the Fusion Doctrine. We are also transforming how we do business corporately to be more efficient.

What opportunities or innovations are you excited about in the coming years that will help you improve public outcomes?

Defence in Britain is on the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or perhaps phase two of the third): AI, data science, machine learning, cyber and space. We are superb in these areas. Let’s make them count. 

We’re working harder to get the right talent in the Armed Forces and MoD civil service. Technology and the competition for talent demand this. 

MoD is the biggest employer of apprentices, and I feel it is now more a place where some of Whitehall’s best want to work.

What do you think your role will look like in 20 years’ time?

It will be massively more integrated with every other department as a result of the Fusion Doctrine. Some things won’t change. Tradition and history – rightly applied – are key factors in why our people fight and make MoD such an interesting place to work. And I hope there will continue to be openings for English Literature graduates.

How do you unwind at the end of a long day?

I go home on two wheels, either powered or unpowered, and I find that by the end of 30 minutes of dodging London traffic most of the cares of the day have been firmly dislodged!

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Stephen Lovegrove
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Stephen Lovegrove is permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence

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