Defence in a Changed World – Flexible Thinking, Flexible Forces (excerpt)
(Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued Jan. 19, 2010)
Speech as delivered by Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, the First Sea Lord to the Berwin, Leighton and Paisner Defence Breakfast on Tuesday, 19 January 2010.


I am here to tell you why I think that we need a properly informed debate in this country about the security strategy we aspire to, and, against that context, the sort of Defence policy and Armed Forces we need, and therefore ought to consider paying for.

The forthcoming Defence Review is something which I very much welcome and it is with the aim of informing the debate that I am speaking to you this morning from 2 perspectives - as a member of the Defence Board, and as the First Sea Lord.

I applaud Berwin Leighton Paisner’s foresight in sponsoring this series of Defence breakfasts, extremely timely as this is an important period to have a debate because I passionately believe there are few more fundamentally important issues for discussion than the defence and security of this country and the protection of its global interests. I appreciate the invitation to speak and I thank you for making time to join me this morning.

I need to start by explaining what Defence does for you. You in the City know far better than I that hedging against an uncertain future is sensible, especially when, as we all know, past performance is no guarantee of future results. But Defence is not just the UK’s national insurance policy. It is intimately tied to Britain’s wider position of influence in the world and its dependence on the international market place. It is far more than simply a means of insuring against future crises; it can prevent them from arising.

To fully understand the scope of this business, we need to assess in strategic terms how we use the Armed Services for the overall benefit of the Taxpayer. The Royal Navy contributes significantly to the overall business of Defence across the globe. Most of you will instinctively understand the benefits of taking a strategic view of things, and those who do think at such levels intuitively, I believe, understand the case for continuing investment in Defence.

But such an intuitive understanding does not mean that the taxpayer should be writing blank cheques to the MOD. We are all very aware of the public funding challenge and the truth is that even if Defence spending holds its value in real terms, something we would love to see, we will be significantly stretched to prioritise and manage our resources over the next few years.

The challenge for Defence is this. For now, Afghanistan remains our Main Effort. But at the same time, the world is an uncertain place, characterised by a variety of current and future trends that can quickly generate new threats to our security and the UK’s wider national interests. We must, I would contend, always be prepared to deal with those challenges and protect our interests, wherever we can.

To resolve this conundrum we must have a defence strategy that is flexible enough to deliver security today, whilst at the same time, preparing us to address the security challenges of an uncertain tomorrow. We have no choice but to look again at where our country’s security interests lie and then in that context, we must be prepared to look afresh at Defence: What it does, where and how it does it, but also who and what it does it with. (end of excerpt)


Click here for the full text, on the Royal Navy website.

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