5 March 2015

On 3 March, the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy published The next National Security Strategy, a report on preparations for the National Security Strategy (NSS), which is due to be published after the UK general election. Oxford Research Group (ORG) submitted evidence in September, and we are gratified that many of the Committee’s recommendations reflect the points we made, which are summarised below and can be read in full here.

ORG called for the NSS to take a broad ‘human security’ perspective that understands individual and collective security as linked through a web of social, political, economic and ecological factors. Alongside ‘blowback’ from post-2001 UK military campaigns, we argue that long-term threats to the UK include climate change, marginalisation and resource scarcity. The Committee’s report responded:

Our view remains that the next NSS must take a broad enough approach to 'security'; for example, climate change presents several threats to our security, ranging from economic instability to environmental crisis. It realistically must have limits, and cannot and should not go into detail, but the strategy should contain evidence that the Government is thinking about security from different angles, and can provide a strategic framework applicable to a range of threats. We recommend that the scope of the next NSS be wide, encompassing resilience, deterrence and defence; and also emerging risks, such as pandemics and climate change, which threaten international order.

ORG also argued that the UK must be realistic about its declining global influence, planning to manage its relative decline rather than cling to the role of a 19th century great power. The Committee appeared to broadly concur with these sentiments, recommending:

Even during the lifespan of the current NSS, the UK's international influence has fluctuated. The reality is that the UK now faces a variety of scenarios, including the growth of fundamentalism in the UK and abroad, the rising hostility of Russia and political changes in the Middle East. The NSS should be rooted in as realistic an assessment of the UK's international influence as can possibly be made, rather than a statement of political intent that may be impossible to fulfil.

Finally, the Committee’s recommendations echoed our concerns over the sequencing of the National Security Strategy and spending review decisions, and agreed that the NSS should be completed in advance of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) so it can be used to set the Government’s security agenda. The Committee recommended:

The Government must ensure that the thinking behind the priorities of the next NSS are identified and communicated within Government in time to inform and drive CSR security allocations.

ORG’s Sustainable Security Programme will continue to remain engaged with this and other select committees up to and beyond the general election.

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