‘Radical’ security shift sought

By Alex Stevenson

Calls for a radical overhaul of Britain’s national security needs have brought Britain face-to-face with the changing demands of the 21st century.

The Institute for Public Policy Research’s commission, which has been studying the issue for the last two years, has today called for the strategic defence review to be replaced with a strategic security review.

It says that Whitehall needs need to re-shape Britain’s defence institutions to more closely match the security risks currently faced by the country. At the top of the tree it has backed the creation of a national security council, a proposal currently supported by the Conservatives.

Defence programmes totalling £24 billion should be reviewed and potentially cut, today’s report adds. It prefers resources to be diverted to UK-specific risks like a Mumbai-style terrorist attack and “major civil contingencies”.

The report also recommends Britain should keep a nuclear deterrent but look at cheaper alternatives than Trident as the means to achieving this.

It says a rapid increase in strategic gas storage is needed to avoid “energy blackmail” and calls for deportations of terrorist suspects to other countries to cease.

Paddy Ashdown, co-chair of the commission, said: “We need to change the way we think and change not just what we do but also how we organise ourselves to do it.

“In a world where power is no longer the sole preserve of nation states, and where security is no longer only about defence, we need new joined-up machinery in Whitehall, a truly integrated strategy that links all of our policy instruments together, and a much greater focus on how we link the UK effort to the efforts of others around the world.

“The most important part of what we do today is what we do with others.”

The government published its updated national security strategy last week. Gordon Brown described it as a “comprehensive framework” for the government to protect the people.

It included new measures to address cyber-security issues, including the creation of an Office for Cyber Security and a Cyber Security Operations Centre.