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Military is squeezed to pay for investment in security services and preventative overseas aid

By Tim Montgomerie

Apologies for only posting now about yesterday's important statement on national security.

Having begun to digest the National Security Strategy (read it in full) and the announcements on defence spending the contours of Coalition foreign policy are becoming much clearer.

Screen shot 2010-10-19 at 12.09.48 David Cameron established the National Security Council* to ensure better coordination of foreign policy. The above picture was taken at its first meeting.

Three headline observations:

  • Although Liam Fox got a much better deal from the Treasury than was once feared it has become obvious today that the settlement is still going to require difficult sacrifices. Because of Labour incompetence over contracts which mean it would be more expensive to scrap the two planned aircraft carriers than build them, the situation is nothing short of a £5bn fiasco, as The Telegraph reveals. The Harrier Jump Jet is going. Trident is being delayed by five years. 7,000 troops are to be cut. We'll learn more from the Prime Minister's statement to the Commons.
  • The Government is correctly taking cyber-terrorism very seriously for fear of attacks disrupting air traffic control and other essential services. The Sun explains why here and for something a little more detailed see The Economist's recent cover feature (£). The overall 'spooks' budget is increasing by £1bn, partly to enable the defeat of cyber-attacks.
  • The third interesting - and controversial - component is the Coalition's use of the aid budget to enhance UK security. In today's Sun William Hague writes that Britain "will spend more of our aid in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan where there is a direct link to our security." He continues: "We will put more effort into preventing conflict, rather than dealing with the consequences when war breaks out." A sensible enough policy but one that will anger (a) development agencies (like Oxfam) who want all aid to be poverty-focused and (b) traditionalists who would rather money was spent on soldiers rather than development. Interestingly the shift to development spending gets the backing of the hawkish Trevor Kavanagh. Again in The Sun he writes that foreign aid is a vital way of stopping failing states from descending into such chaos that they export their problems to us. I second that.
The graphic below summarises the Coalition's assessment of the greatest threats facing the UK:

Screen shot 2010-10-19 at 11.35.27* Members of the NSC: Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary, Defence Secretary, Secretary of State for International Development, Minister for Security, Minister for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Secretary, Chief of the Defence Staff, National Security Advisor, Chair of the Joint Intelligence committee, the Director General of the Security Service, C and Director of GCHQ.

4.30pm Parliament: Highlights of David Cameron's statement to the Commons on the defence review.


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