28 April 2020 

In February this year, the Government announced that the upcoming defence and security review will be “the largest review of the UK’s foreign, defence, security and development policy since the end of the Cold War” emphasising that it will cover all aspects of the UK’s international policy. Remote warfare is no exception.

This makes the Review an important opportunity to set the tone for the UK’s foreign policy, a feat that is particularly important at a time when the UK's place in the world is undergoing substantial rethinking as it leaves the European Union, faces renewed concerns about the rise of state-based threats from countries such as Russia and Iran, and must learn lessons from its approach to the ongoing global pandemic.

Emphasising the importance of taking into account the real risks and challenges of remote warfare as the UK plans for its future, the Remote Warfare Programme’s submission to this inquiry makes some key recommendations.

Cross-sectoral Engagement, at Home and Abroad

For the Integrated Review to set a strong course for the UK’s international policies over the next five years and beyond, it must focus on improving the UK’s approach to collaboration. This is true across three stages:

  • The UK Government must ensure that differences among its own departments, such as the Ministry of Defence, Department for International Development, and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, are bridged. A good place to start would be to address differences in language used by the three departments, which hinders effective collaboration.
  • Additionally, external consultation with experts and civil society should be effectively incorporated into the review. That is true both for civil society in the UK and in countries where the UK engages abroad.
  • Finally, the review must prioritise the UK’s role in partnerships and alliances when it engages in crises and conflicts overseas. This must be the mindset from pre-planning stages through to delivery. This is particularly important when it operates in regions that are congested with international actors, such as the Sahel and Horn of Africa.

Transparency on UK Defence and Security Policy

  • The Integrated Review should infuse greater transparency into the UK’s national security policies, programmes and best practices to increase democratic accountability of its defence and security policy and actions.
  • This is particularly important given the many aspects of the UK's military engagements overseas which are designated as non-combat or exempt from established accountability mechanisms such as the War Powers Convention.
  • To achieve this, we argue that parliamentary committees should be entrusted with a greater role in holding the Government's defence and security policy to account.

You can read the full submission here.