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Refreshed Defence Command Paper sets out the future for Armed Forces

The Defence Command Paper Refresh (DCP23), which will be published today (18 July), takes learnings from the war in Ukraine – and wider threats to our security – and sets out a plan to deliver a credible warfighting force that will keep us on track to act as a global heavyweight both now and in the future.

A £2.5 billion investment in stockpiles and a Global Response Force that enables the UK to ‘get there first’ is behind a refreshed plan to improve the warfighting readiness of the British Armed Forces.

We must adapt and modernise to meet the threats we face, taking in the lessons from President Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine Ben Wallace, Defence Secretary

It follows the publication of the Integrated Review Refresh earlier this year, which identified Russia as the most acute threat to our security, recognised China as a long-term systemic challenge, and predicted a more adversarial international system.

The DCP23 outlines how the British Armed Forces will modernise and adapt to the changing global picture and, in particular, we will prioritise investment in science and technology to ensure we have a force greater than the sum of our parts.

It sets out:

  • An additional £2.5 billion investment into our stockpiles and munitions, on top of the increased investment committed at the Autumn Statement
  • Global Response Force that enables the UK to ‘get there first’, bringing together our deployed and high-readiness forces, and drawing on capabilities from all domains
  • How Defence will become a science and technology superpower, enhancing our capabilities in fields such as robotics, human augmentation, directed energy weapons and advanced materials, to gain the edge on the battlefield
  • An improved surge capacity through our Strategic Reserve, built around the ex-regular reserve forces to add further depth and expertise in time of crisis
  • new alliance with industry, engaging much earlier in strategic conversations and building in greater financial headroom to respond to changing needs
  • new employment model and skills framework, increasing fluidity between the military, the Civil Service and industry, while offering a more compelling and competitive incentivisation package
  • A further £400 million to modernise accommodation that our service families deserve, which is essential for the operational effectiveness of our personnel.

Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace said:

“We must adapt and modernise to meet the threats we face, taking in the lessons from President Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

“This Defence Command Paper will sharpen our strategic approach – ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of military capability, and a leading power in NATO.” 

Since the Defence Command Paper 2021 was published, the UK has led the way in Europe on support for Ukraine’s defence and remained a leading contributor to NATO, consistently meeting the commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on Defence and moving towards 2.5%.

In the last two years, the world has changed and the threats and challenges we face have evolved, including Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Our people and their expertise are at the heart of what we do, underpinning our strategic advantage across all domains and delivering a force that deters against threats and defends our homeland and those of our Allies James Heappey, Minister for the Armed Forces

Our Armed Forces are central to protecting the UK around the clock and when global security is challenged, we have seen the effect it can have on our economic security. With a more campaigning approach to global competition, the DCP23 will support the Prime Minister’s priorities of growing the economy and reducing inflation.

The recent increased investment of £5 billion at the Spring Budget allows the Ministry of Defence to plan ahead, with the Defence budget – for the first time – over £50 billion a year. The certainty over an increased budget will support greater integration between government and UK industry, which is fundamental to sustaining the fighting force, developing and exploiting new technologies, and producing the equipment we need to sustain the fight.

Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey said:

“Our people and their expertise are at the heart of what we do, underpinning our strategic advantage across all domains and delivering a force that deters against threats and defends our homeland and those of our Allies.

“We also recognise that to maintain advantage over adversaries we have to do things differently, responding to rapidly evolving geopolitical, technological and economic threats, learning lessons from Ukraine, and championing closer integration with our Allies and partners.

“This Defence Command Paper sets out how we’ll do this – prioritising investment in replenishment, modernising our forces and embodying a fully integrated approach to deterrence and defence.”

DCP23 is broken down into a number of chapters based on priorities, including, People; Science, Innovation and Technology; Industry; Productivity; Deterrence and Defence; Campaigning and Global Competition; Strength through our Partnerships; Strategic Resilience.

People

The Defence Secretary has been clear of the need to look at our career structures and remuneration package, which is why he commissioned the independent Haythornthwaite Review. Three key areas of the review’s recommendations have been identified to take forward.

  • Greater career flexibility through a Spectrum of Service, which means increasing fluidity between the military, the Civil Service and industry.
  • Enhancing the effectiveness of our offer by adopting a Total Reward Approach, giving a more compelling and competitive incentivisation package.
  • Improving the digitalisation and simplification of our people management system, to remove the red tape that prevents flexibility and workforce agility and restrict access to talent. This will see us progress towards a single Armed Forces’ Act.

The Ministry of Defence will also promote ‘zig-zag’ or ‘portfolio’ careers for all our people who want them and to revolutionise the way we recruit, we will increase recruitment into our Armed Forces the next two years and transition to a transformational tri-service recruitment model.

The provision of service accommodation is essential for the operational effectiveness of the Armed Forces and a key component of the offer we provide to our people. We will therefore inject a further £400M over the next two years to ensure that we provide the modern accommodation that our service families deserve.

Reservists must also be recognised – at all levels in Defence – as a vital part of the workforce. The Reserves deliver both mass and access to battle-winning specialist civilian capabilities that Regular forces cannot readily generate or sustain and are also a crucial part of Defence’s engagement with the nation.

Within Defence we remain committed to Civil Service reform through the development of a ten-year reward strategy for Civil Servants in Defence, the introduction of improved long-term workforce planning, and by modernising our approach to the way we attract, recruit and retain talent.

By 2024, we will have expanded access to childcare under the Wraparound Childcare initiative for those working in overseas’ locations. 

Science, Innovation and Technology

The global technology landscape is more complex and dynamic than ever, which is why we need to stay at the cutting edge of a technology-centric approach.

As shown by the war in Ukraine, that battle-winning advantage is not just achieved by expensive and exquisite capabilities. It can also be delivered by judiciously combining the truly high-tech with the low-cost, the off-the-shelf and the inventive.

We plan to invest significantly more than £6.6 billion in advanced Research and Development (R&D) to seize the opportunities presented by new and emerging technologies. We will also increase investment in our in-house capabilities in those areas which are key to evolving security challenges and future technological advances.

We will strengthen our engagement with, and increase our investment in, the UK’s world-class university sector and industrial base, nurturing a genuinely collaborative ecosystem with the aspiration to create one system for Defence Science and Technology excellence – Government, industry and academia.

DCP23 outlines the plan to accelerate delivery of our own digital transformation, develop an ambitious new approach to the exploitation of intellectual property (IP) generated by Defence Science and Technology and other innovators, and continue to implement our AI Strategy, ensuring the Defence AI Centre is fully operational and offers the opportunity to exploit the rapid advancement in technology for campaign benefit.

Industry

Integration between Government and industry is fundamental to sustaining the fighting force, developing and exploiting new technologies, and producing the equipment we need to sustain the fight.

To engage earlier in strategic conversations with industry, we will move beyond the traditional customer-supplier relationship by developing long-term strategic alignment and binding Defence and industry into a Joint Endeavour.

We will work with industry and the City to ensure that funding markets understand more clearly the critical need for our world-class UK suppliers to gain access to third-party revenue and financial services so that defence suppliers are not disadvantaged.

It also means working more closely with the private equity and venture capital community, building on our existing relationships to attract private investment and grow new national security and defence companies.

With industry, we will kickstart an honest assessment of industrial capability, capacity, and sustainment. Within Defence, we will be clear about our sovereign requirements – in particular for munitions, complex weapons, and uncrewed systems.

There is an intention to set a maximum five-year commitment for acquisition programmes, with a maximum three-year commitment for digital programmes.

We will also build a cadre of professionally qualified SROs and Programme Directors, and mandate Infrastructure and Projects Authority accreditation.

Productivity

The need to compete effectively in a more contested world means Defence must deliver more, at an accelerating pace. To be truly competitive and to deliver even greater effect, the Department must be strategy-led, threat-informed, outcome-focused, and data-enabled.

We will take a much more sophisticated approach to managing risk, ensuring that we strike a sensible balance between appropriate mitigation and seizing opportunity.

Recognising that in working with partners globally, we will often be in lower threat environments, where we can, and will, empower our people to be able to live and operate alongside the partner force, and to be enabled by them.

The Integration Design Authority (IDA) will optimise integration across Defence, driving Defence towards a software, not hardware-defined approach; and to valuing systems-of-systems above platforms.

We will seek to harness AI and digital capabilities to replace repetitive tasks across Defence. We will increase investment in AI-enabled military capability, prioritising AI options in Force Development and ‘balance of investment’ exercises.

We will work with the relevant regulatory authorities – for example the Military Aviation Authority in relation to drone technology – to enable us to better test, experiment, and innovate within legal bounds.

We are already reforming the way we work to remove Defence’s response to a more contested and volatile world 85 organisational and bureaucratic layers that are no longer fit for purpose and will drive towards a more productive Department.

It is essential that we continue to invest in the Defence Estate, specifically through increasing our investment in technical infrastructure, and through the Defence Estate Optimisation Portfolio to enable core capability across Defence.

We will continue to deliver an ambitious set of reforms across the organisation, accelerating the progress on we have made on our Head Office Reform since DCP21.

Deterrence and Defence

Defence’s core business is to deter and defend against the threats to our security, to roll them back where necessary, and to adapt to them as they evolve.

We have committed to a one-in-two-generations programme of modernisation of our nuclear forces, underpinned by long-term investment of £3 billion over the next two years, with a further £6 billion over the subsequent three years.

Alongside an additional £2.5 billion in our munitions and stockpiles, we will also increase our investment in the resilience and readiness of the UK’s munitions infrastructure, including storage facilities.

Over the coming years we will expand the capacity and reach of the NCF to keep pace with adversaries and ensure that offensive cyber capabilities are fit for future conflicts and deliver greatest effect as an integrated part of the force.

We will continue to be a leading provider of military equipment to Ukraine. This year our support will again total some £2.3 billion, including over 360,000 rounds of heavy artillery ammunition; hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of strategic UAS; and hundreds of additional air defence missiles.

Campaigning and Global Competition

Defence will always be required to operate globally to safeguard our interests and those of our allies.

The GRF brings together forces from across land, sea, air, space and cyber to respond quickly to events around the world. Sometimes that’s moments of crisis like Sudan, where getting there quickly allows us to meet our commitments to our citizens and help other countries do the same. On other occasions, it’s about getting there first to move the geopolitical dial – to deter an adversary from doing something destabilising or illegal, or to embolden others to join us.

In addition to the Global Response Force, we will further professionalise and operationalise the Integrated Global Defence Network to enhance relationships and improve our ability to sense and understand.

We will continue to invest in our Global Hubs, which will provide our Armed Forces with a springboard to project globally, assure partners and combat current and future threats.

We will also develop mechanisms across the whole of Government to support our activist approach to exports, including the re-establishment of a Defence Exports Inter-Ministerial Group to drive priorities and sustain senior engagement.

Strength through our Partnerships

A cooperative approach is needed to effectively and sustainably counter malign threats and support global stability.

We will continue to support close cooperation and coherence between NATO and the EU, recognising that there will be areas where the strengths and different tools of both organisations need to be combined.

Under the auspices of this trilateral partnership, we will deliver SSN-AUKUS, a conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine that will be built and operated by both Australia and the UK.

The Global Combat Air Programme with Italy and Japan aims to harness next-generation technologies to deliver cutting-edge sensors, weapons and data systems. The aircraft, which will start to replace the Typhoon from 2035, will provide the backbone of the RAF fighter force and sit at the centre of a wider system of capabilities, including next-generation weapons systems and un-crewed aerial systems.

The Carrier Strike Group will return to the Indo-Pacific in 2025, representing the UK’s commitment to exercise the best capabilities our Armed Forces have to offer alongside partners in the region.

Strategic Resilience

Our strategic resilience comes in part from our ability to mobilise at scale our military resources in a time of crisis in response to threats to our homeland.

We will work with our partners across Government to plan and test how we would better identify vulnerabilities, and exercise our systems, to secure and defend the homeland in times of war. By taking steps now, we will strengthen our preparedness, and enhance our deterrence for the future.

We will also step up our efforts to deliver an Integrated Air and Missile Defence approach. Doing so will provide a major contribution to homeland defence and national resilience.

Continuing to invest in the most cutting-edge technology is vital, and that includes the Sky Sabre air defence system, through collaboration within AUKUS, and with R&D channelled through the UK’s Missile Defence Centre into the detection and interception technologies of the future.

We will work with other Government Departments to implement the 2022 Resilience Strategy, which sets out the Government’s plan to strengthen the underpinning systems and capabilities for resilience.