The U.K.’s national Integrated Review of security, defense, development and foreign policy warns of likely cyber and CBRNE attacks within the next ten years.
Building on the £24-billion multi-year settlement announced in November, the Integrated Review is modernizing the defense and security sectors to counter future threats. The Review covers a planned spend of over £210-billion on equipment programs across the next ten years. This is in addition to a £14.6-billion investment into research & development and science and technology, using it to influence new designs and capabilities for vital equipment. The U.K. defense department will spend at least £6.6-billion on research and development over the next four years.
The Review states that terrorism will remain a major threat over the coming decade, with a more diverse range of material and political causes, new sources of radicalization and evolving tactics. In the U.K., the main sources of terrorist threat are from Islamist and Northern Ireland-related terrorism, and far-right, far-left, anarchist and single-issue terrorism. In Northern Ireland, there remains a risk that some groups could seek to encourage and exploit political instability. Overseas, poor governance and disorder, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, is likely to increase space for terrorist and extremist groups to operate.
According to the review, there is “a realistic possibility that state sponsorship of terrorism and the use of proxies will increase” and it is “likely that a terrorist group will launch a successful CBRN attack by 2030”.
The Review also mentions the “systemic challenge” of China. The U.K. has had a relatively inconsistent approach to China, only recently condemning the detention of Uighur people and actions in Hong Kong, but the review indicates it will be taking a firmer line.
There will be increased funding for the intelligence agencies and Counter Terrorism Policing in 2021-22 and a drive to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers. The Review also includes new capabilities such as the Counter-Terrorism Operations Centre and the National Cyber Force, as previously reported in Homeland Security Today. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also pledged to have “the most effective border in the world” by 2025.
In addition, the U.K. will set out a national space strategy in 2021, and establish a new Space Command by summer 2021, to enhance cooperation with allies and ensure it can compete with adversaries.
The shift to focus on cyber, space and AI means the number of soldiers in the British Army is likely to be reduced by approximately 10,000. As of January 2021, there were 80,010 soldiers in the U.K.’s regular Army, down from 86,080 in 2015. It is possible that the reduction could be a result of a hold on new recruits but given the high number there could well be some job losses, if not a move to one of the new focus areas.
The Review also sees the U.K. government increase its cap on nuclear warheads from the proposed 180 to 260, a reversal of previous plans to reduce the stockpile.