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The Integrated Review: Technology, Not People, Is the UK’s Finest Asset

Andrew Young
RUSI Defence Systems, 25 March 2021
Martial Power Programme, Military Sciences, UK Integrated Review 2021
The Defence Command Paper has bet big that technology will deliver the war-winning edge for the Armed Forces. It has done so without addressing the elephant in the room – personnel.

If people are Defence’s greatest asset, they were strangely absent from the Defence Command Paper (DCP). Despite recognising the centrality of strategic capability, culture, and training and skills to implementing the Integrated Review (IR), the DCP followed in its predecessors’ footsteps and focused on the physical components of fighting power. The moral and conceptual components were largely silent.

This is surprising given the 2020 Defence People Strategy, although referring to that as a strategy is a misnomer. It was visionary in scope and a quantum leap in terms of approach, but light on the resource detail that strategy demands. This omission has been a common theme in criticisms of the DCP, and continues into the subsequently released document, ‘Our finest asset: what it means to serve in the 21st century’. Here, the themes for what the DCP means in terms of demands of service are laid bare: more technical skills and equipment-serving opportunities; more overseas deployments and postings; and more frontline roles. The fact that these are couched in attractive language does little to soften the real blows that this will deal to personnel already committed to simultaneously supporting civilian resilience, forward presence, persistent campaigning and enduring operations. Moreover, the focus on ’new cutting-edge technology‘ to provide the war-winning edge will only further reinforce philosophical dissonance: does Defence equip the man, or man the equipment? Facetious, perhaps, but it has often been said that the Army measures effect through its people, while the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force measure it through their platforms. However, without suitably trained, educated and motivated people, the question is moot.

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Andrew Young
Andrew Young
Military Sciences Community Manager

Andrew (Andy) Young is the Military Sciences Community Manager at the Royal United Services Institute.

Prior to joining RUSI,... read more

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