UK PM launches largest defense review since Cold War

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Besides defense policy, ‘integrated’ review to include foreign policy, Britain’s post-Brexit role in the world.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched on Wednesday the U.K.’s largest review of foreign, defense, security and development policy since the end of the Cold War as post-Brexit Britain seeks to map out its place in the world, according to a government statement.

This “integrated review” is different from previous “strategic defense and security reviews” that took place in 2010 and 2015 in that it will not be limited to only defense policy and equipment, but also foreign affairs, the U.K.’s role in the world, how the country can work more effectively with allies and what capabilities it needs to meet the challenges of the coming decade.

The British government has already committed to spending at least 2% of national income on defense, in line with its NATO commitment, as well as 0.7% on international aid.

The review, expected to take six months, will also not be “cost-neutral,” meaning there could be a boost in defense spending.

“I am determined to lead a government that delivers for our people — both at home and abroad,” Johnson said in a statement, adding: “The UK’s institutions, expertise, leadership and values are renowned around the world. But, we cannot rest on our laurels. We must do more to adapt. We will be judged by how we respond to the opportunities ahead.”

“As the world changes we must move with it — harnessing new technologies and ways of thinking to ensure British foreign policy is rooted firmly in our national interests, now and in the decades ahead,” he said.

For its part, the government said in a press release that the review would be “policy-led” and “go beyond the parameters of a traditional review by considering the totality of global opportunities and challenges the UK faces and determining how the whole of government can be structured, equipped and mobilised to meet them.”

“The Government will utilise expertise from both inside and outside government for the review, ensuring the UK’s best foreign policy minds are feeding into its conclusions and offering constructive challenge to traditional Whitehall assumptions and thinking,” it added.

The report is expected to focus in particular on British military procurement, long seen as inefficient and wasteful by many analysts.

The press release said the report would also look at how the U.K. could “better use technology and data to adjust to the changing nature of threats we face — from countering hostile state activity to strengthening our Armed Forces.”

While the U.K. will continue to spend 0.7% of its national income on international aid, the Department for International Development is expected to be absorbed by the Foreign Office.

The review will be led by civil servant Alex Ellis, who will lead a team from various government bodies in the Cabinet Office alongside a smaller team inside 10 Downing Street that will include outside experts.

The Treasury, Home Office and Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy will take part in the review alongside the Foreign Office, Department for International Development and Ministry of Defence.

The review’s final decisions will be taken by the National Security Council that Johnson chairs.

The main conclusions of the review are expected to be delivered later in the year, running in parallel with the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

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