Defence Secretary's Speech on Defence Reform
(Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued Dec 11, 2020)
Transcript of UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace's speech at the RUSI Conference covering the Integrated Review, the spending review settlement and other issues for defence.

Good morning, I would like to thank RUSI for giving me the opportunity to start setting out the reasoning behind the defence proposition for the Integrated Review and the MOD’s direction of travel from this point.

When last month the Prime Minister called me to confirm his determination to deliver a vision for Global Britain, and defence’s role in it, I knew he had created a real opportunity for us to not only deal with the legacy of previous flawed reviews, but to embark on a deep and far-ranging programme of reform.

The record multi-year settlement, especially in such challenging economic circumstances, is a recognition of him by the dangers in the world and a determination to properly fund the UK’s ambitions – this is a vision he and I have shared over a number of years.

For defence is one of Britain’s greatest exports – not just British-made equipment but British know-how and values. It is also one of the biggest innovators and employers across the whole of the United Kingdom.

Whichever way you cut it, the Prime Minister’s important decision to make an exception for defence, was a bold and sensible move to ensure that defence can deal with its pressures and create the “headroom” to modernise. I was delighted that the case I have put to No10 was not only shared by the Prime Minister but enthusiastically embraced with the funding to match.

From the day I arrived in the MOD I recognised the need for change and investment.

The consequences of decades of SDSRs that were over-ambitious and under-funded, were fast coming ‘home to roost’. All of us have got used to SDSRs that looked good at the press launch but faded by tea-time.

The decades of funding deferrals were about to hit the buffers. Bogus efficiencies, saving targets, hollowing out, and the lasting impacts of fighting the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are all things that continue to drain away precious resources long after the political leadership that directed them have exited the stage.

I found a Ministry of Defence that, actually, had little confidence in itself, and was accustomed to living hand-to-mouth.

Our desire to please was replacing our mission to defend.

As a former Security Minister who knows the threat inside out, I feared defence had lost touch with it. Instead of ‘threat’ driving us and our mission, it was infrastructure, HR and annual savings measures. The latter is of course important but secondary to the mission of defending this great nation from evolving threats and increasingly emboldened adversaries.

And make no mistakes we have adversaries. From terrorists with chemical weapon ambition, to hostile state actors, this country, our citizens and our values are all targets.

And as I witnessed first-hand over the last few years, these threats are not scenarios in the minds of our planners. They are actually happening. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full text of the speech, on the MoD website.



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