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Keywords:

  • defence;
  • security;
  • nuclear deterrence;
  • Strategic Defence Review;
  • reform;
  • government

The Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government has committed itself to a Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDR) in 2010. The government and the country face very hard choices to bring United Kingdom defence and security policy back from the brink of bankruptcy—both financial and strategic (Gow). To succeed, it must overcome the failings of the past (Chisnall, Dorman, Rees) and take a truly open and radical look at all aspects of policy and process—including the Trident independent nuclear deterrent (Allen), relations with Europe (Witney) and the importance of cyber-issues in the future security context (Fisher). It must get strategic concepts right to provide flexibility with credibility (Stone). It must deliver ‘what the military wants’: true strategic prioritisation, radical defence acquisition reform, and credible balancing of resources and commitments (Kiszley). The scale of the challenge facing the United Kingdom in—and beyond—the 2010 SDR is why The Political Quarterly convened a workshop early in 2010 involving MPs, practitioners, retired military personnel, journalists, commentators, business people and academics, and publishes these associated papers. Most of all, to overcome the failings of the past, there must be a radical move beyond the welcome first steps of the Cameron–Clegg government to introduce a National Security Council and a National Security Advisor, to reconfigure relationships within government, across departments and with Parliament to have a government figure of accountability and responsibility—a Secretary of State for Security Policy, primus inter pares with other Secretaries of State—to make sense of the questions needing to be asked and answered (Gearson and Gow).