Integrated Review ‘refresh’ finds extra £5bn for MoD

Sunak sets new ‘aspiration’ for UK to spend 2.5% of GDP on defence amid concerns over Russia and China
US president Joe Biden with Rishi Sunak yesterday. The funding supports the delivery of nuclear-powered submarines as part of the AUKUS project. Photo: No.10 Downing Street

By Jim Dunton

14 Mar 2023

The Ministry of Defence is to receive an additional £5bn over the next two years as part of a package of security-focused measures in a refresh of 2021’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.

Also included in the refresh – called IR2023 for short – is the creation of a new National Protective Security Authority that will be based in MI5 and provide intelligence-led advice to businesses and institutions in sensitive sectors of the economy. NPSA will replace the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure and has been tasked with delivering a tenfold increase in customer reach over the next two years.

Increased insecurity following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year and growing concerns about China’s support for Moscow and its intentions towards Taiwan are recurring themes in IR2023.

The review refresh confirms the creation of a new directorate in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office that aims to increase the UK’s capability to assess and respond to the “hostile manipulation of information by actors including Russia, China and Iran”.

Funding will also double for “Chinese expertise and capacities” in government so that more Mandarin speakers and China experts are available, foreign secretary James Cleverly told parliament.

IR2023 commits an additional £20m to support the BBC World Service over the next two years, protecting all 42 World Service language services.

Elsewhere, IR2023 pledges a new £1bn Integrated Security Fund to deliver “critical programmes” on priorities such economic security, cybersecurity and counter-terrorism at home and abroad. 

The fund will be created through the combination of the existing Conflict, Stability and Security Fund and a range of smaller government funds to support delivery of Integrated Review objectives.

Up to £50m will also be made available for a new “economic deterrence initiative” that aims to boost the UK’s diplomatic and economic tools to counter “hostile acts”.

The headline £5bn in extra funding that IR2023 makes available to the MoD follows high-profile calls for additional resources made by defence secretary Ben Wallace in recent weeks.

However, while Wallace has stressed the impact of inflation on his department’s current Spending Review settlement, and was reportedly seeking an uplift of £8bn for the period to 2025, the extra funding in IR2023 appears earmarked to cover longer-term strategic goals.

According to the review, £3bn of the new money will be invested across the defence nuclear enterprise, supporting the delivery of new infrastructure related to nuclear-powered submarines at Barrow, as well as for facilities at Derby and at the Atomic Weapons Establishment.

The investment also supports the delivery of the new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines that will be built by the UK and Australia as part of the AUKUS project in partnership with the United States. Those vessels are expected to enter service by the late 2030s.

The remaining £2bn of new money for the MoD is earmarked for replenishing weapons stockpiles and increasing them “in line with a reassessment of appropriate levels”.

IR2023 acknowledges that the transition into a “multipolar, fragmented and contested world” has happened “more quickly and definitively” than had been anticipated in 2021’s Integrated Review.

“We are now in a period of heightened risk and volatility that is likely to last beyond the 2030s,” it says. “IR2023 updates the UK’s priorities and core tasks to reflect the resulting changes in the global context.”

In his foreword to the document, prime minister Rishi Sunak said the pace of geopolitical change and the extent of its impact on the UK “could not be fully foreseen in 2021”.

“Since then, Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, weaponisation of energy and food supplies and irresponsible nuclear rhetoric, combined with China’s more aggressive stance in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, are threatening to create a world defined by danger, disorder and division – and an international order more favourable to authoritarianism,” he said.

“Long-standing threats from terrorism and serious and organised crime are enduring and evolving, and may find new opportunities in events like the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

“Other transnational challenges such as large-scale migration, smuggling of people, narcotics and weapons, and illicit finance have become more acute, with grave human costs and strain on our national resources.”

Sunak said the UK’s overall defence spending was expected to reach 2.2% of gross domestic product this year and would rise to 2.3% when the cost of providing military support to Ukraine was factored in.

“We will go further still, moving away from the baseline commitment of spending at least 2% of GDP on defence to a new aspiration to reach 2.5%,” he said.

“Taken together, these commitments will maintain our leading position in NATO and continue the modernisation of our armed forces, which will be further strengthened as we learn the lessons from the war in Ukraine.”

Other measures in IR2023 include £4m over the next two years to “embed” the College for National Security, which was launched through IR2021, in the national security architecture.

Last week FCDO confirmed that it would recruit a new second permanent under-secretary following the departure of Sir Tim Barrow to become National Security Adviser in September last year.

While Barrow focused on strategic foreign policy advice and global engagement, the new second permanent under-secretary role will be focused on international development.

IR2023 lists the new role as part of ongoing work to “maximise the benefits of the merger of diplomacy and development in one department” following FCDO’s September 2020 creation from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development.

The document says the profile of development will also be boosted by giving the minister for international development a permanent place on the National Security Council and creating a new FCDO-HM Treasury governance structure to improve oversight of all aid spending.

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