Integrated review: ‘Guide for action’ sets out cross-Whitehall reforms

Document sets direction of travel to 2030 “including in departments that would not previously have been considered part of the national security community”
A helicopter lands on the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth Photo: Crown Copyright

By Richard Johnstone

17 Mar 2021

The government’s Global Britain vision will require a series of reforms to create “more integrated, adaptive and innovative structures and capabilities” across Whitehall, the integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy has concluded.

The major policy document, which was published yesterday and which sets the UK’s military and diplomatic course for the next decade, including an investment in technology and a “tilt to the Indo-Pacific” in strategic terms, will be overseen by both a new performance and planning framework and an evaluation taskforce.

In the review, prime minister Boris Johnson set out a 16-part vision for the UK in 2030, under four headings –  a stronger, more secure, prosperous and resilient union, a problem-solving and burden-sharing nation with a global perspective, creating new foundations for our prosperity, and adapting to a more competitive world.

This leads to a four-part strategic framework for international policy across government: sustaining strategic advantage through science and technology; shaping the open international order of the future; strengthening security and defence at home and overseas; and building resilience at home and overseas.

Meeting the aims of this strategic framework will require “some significant changes and shifts in policy”, according to the document, with 12 named. These range from “mov[ing] from defending the status quo within the post-Cold War international system to dynamically shaping the post-Covid order” and learning from Covid-19 to “improve our ability to anticipate and respond to crises” to pursuing deeper engagement in the Indo-Pacific in support of shared prosperity and regional stability, with stronger diplomatic and trading ties, and doing more “adapt to China’s growing impact on many aspects of our lives as it becomes more powerful in the world”.

The section of the review setting out how the plan will be implemented says it “is intended as a guide for action for those responsible for aspects of national security and international policy across government, including in departments that would not previously have been considered part of the national security community”.

In total, the document lists 10 departments as having integrated review projects funded in last year’s Spending Review: the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; the Ministry of Defence; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; the Department for International Trade; the Department for Education; the Home Office; the Cabinet Office; the Department of Health and Social Care; and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, as well as the UK security and intelligence agencies.

To implement the plan, a performance and planning framework will now be developed to set a series of priority outcomes, including the four elements of the integrated review’s strategic framework. From this, government departments will develop outcome delivery plans, leading to both improved monitoring of implementation (defined as progress on projects, programmes and outputs) and impact (reaching specific outcomes and benefits). This approach builds upon the development of the planning and performance framework for departments announced in last year’s Spending Review.

It also revealed that the government’s new national security adviser Sir Steven Lovegrove is to review the UK’s “national security systems and processes to ensure that integrated review objectives and priority actions, as well as future policy decisions, are implemented swiftly and effectively, and to establish systems that better support the National Security Council”. Lovegrove will take up the post of NSA, moving from his current role as Ministry of Defence permanent secretary, at the end of this month.

The document also reveals that there will be further strategies, including on resilience, cyber and international development, published by government in the months ahead, with these plans influencing decisions in future spending reviews.

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