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Future Defence ReviewFollowing its successful ‘Defence in the Round’ conference, held in November 2008, RUSI is producing a second conference in its series of events looking at UK defence policy. This event takes place in the run up to a General Election and the Future Defence Review (FDR), which an incoming Government is likely to commission.

The November conference, with a programme populated with Government officials, politicians, industrialists and independent analysts, provided a lively, informative and ultimately very useful forum for igniting the debate about the future direction of UK defence thinking, military strategy and policy review processes.

This second conference will make another important contribution. The direction of UK defence strategy and policy is an issue of fundamental importance to the UK at this time. In this event, RUSI is creating a high profile, public arena for a discussion which, for political reasons, may not take place in many other forums. Yet this debate must happen prior to a General Election and the commencement of any defence review, as this may prove to be the only time that such matters can be properly addressed.

Finance In the present economic climate, the affordability and relative priorities of Government spending is a fundamental issue. Public support for defence should be reflected in the priority given to it by government in relation to welfare, health, education and other pressing demands. This session will explore issues affecting the funding for defence and the Armed Forces, including: the position of defence spending in Government financial priorities; whether there should be a single ‘security’ budget, incorporating both homeland security and defence funding lines; should the defence budget be costed as a fixed proportion of GDP; how should the costs and consequences of ongoing operations be financed; and how capital and resource budgeting and expenditure can be optimised to deliver long term value for money; and how private finance can be exploited to best effect?

Process This session will consider the optimal form, process and timeline of a defence review. Analysing insights from earlier defence policy revisions such as the Nott Review, Options for Change and the Strategic Defence Review, and drawing comparisons with international models such as the cyclical US Quadrennial Defense Review and the ‘independent’ French White Paper, the session will discuss: FDR’s relationship with the Government’s National Security Strategy; whether or not there is a requirement – and time – for wide consultation; and whether or not it is time for a ‘clean sheet’ review – or will some existing commitments or aspects of policy remain as ‘givens’?

Hard Strategic Choices This session will examine the strategic choices that the UK might face within broad limits of affordability. The session will address: the viability of established national presumptions and premises of defence policy; the UK’s critical national interests, threats to such interests, and resulting demands on the military; continuing public and political support for interventions of choice; implications of any constitutional change; the alliance and multinational context of the UK’s military strategy and capabilities; capability implications of specific strategic choices; and balancing long term policy thinking and capability investment with an inevitable focus on short term operational demands.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Professorial Research Fellow, RUSI
  • Professor Paul Cornish, Carrington Chair in International Security and Head of the International Security Programme, Chatham House
  • Dr Andrew Dorman, Senior Lecturer, Defence Studies Department (Joint Services Command and Staff College), King’s College London, and Associate Fellow, Chatham House
  • Lieutenant General Sir Robert Fry KCB CBE, Vice President EDS Defence & Security and Member of Council, RUSI
  • Professor Peter Hennessy, Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History, Queen Mary, University of London
  • Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely KCB MC, Visiting Professor, King’s College, London 
  • Professor Ron Smith, Birkbeck College, University College London and Associate Fellow, RUSI
  • Professor Trevor Taylor, Professorial Research Fellow, RUSI

Papers from the November conference, ‘Defence in the Round’, were published in the December 2008 edition of the RUSI Journal. RUSI intends to publish a short analysis of the November discussions in advance of the July conference.

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