The Integrated Review in Context: A Strategy Fit for the 2020s?
This the first part in our series of essays on the Integrated Review, published by the Centre for Defence Studies in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. They provide insight and analysis to contextualise and interpret the United Kingdom’s recently published national strategy, Global Britain in a Competitive Age: the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.
Whilst the Review adopts an upbeat tone, particularly about seizing opportunities, the uncertainty and insecurity of the last five years creates a very different mood of reception for the Review’s title, Global Britain in a Competitive Age. The May and Johnson governments have struggled to define the phrase ‘Global Britain’ and breathe life into it, against the backdrop of five years of insular, inward-looking debate about what Brexit can and should be. This protracted, still on-going process has had a significant impact on relations between the United Kingdom’s constituent parts. It has also inevitably affected the UK’s relations with its closest neighbours in Europe and, to that extent, reduced the UK’s utility as a US partner.
This volume of 20 essays – the first in a new series of volumes – are written by a diverse range of distinguished contributors, both former national security practitioners, established and early-career scholars, most of whom are affiliated with the School of Security Studies at King’s. Each essay addresses a different aspect of the Review’s subject-matter, exploring the connections between its domestic and international agendas.
The collection places the Integrated Review in both historical and strategic context, assessing whether it lives up to its description by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the ‘biggest’ strategic review conducted since the end of the Cold War, and whether it offers a strategy fit for the next decade. The essays cover core themes of the Review, such as the Indo-Pacific Tilt, as well as important topics apparently neglected by the Review, such as the role of the Gulf States and other small states in UK strategy.
The contributors differ in their respective assessments. Some praise the breadth of the Review’s ambitions, its re-focusing of UK strategy on the Indo-Pacific, and its enthusiasm for Science and Technology. Others criticise the lack of hard choices about priorities, absence of detail about funding and implementation, and the gap between its ambitious rhetoric and some troubling, arguably counterproductive policy decisions, such as on the aid budget and subordinating development policy within the new Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office.
The assessments, insights and provisional forecasts offered by the contributing authors can be returned to over the next five-to-ten years, used as indicators of how expert opinion regarding the Review has shifted – as it will – over its implementation cycle.
About the editors
Dr Joe Devanny is Lecturer in National Security Studies in the Department of War Studies and deputy director of the Centre for Defence Studies (King’s College London).
Professor John Gearson is Professor in National Security Studies in the Department of War Studies and director of the Centre for Defence Studies (King’s College London).