The Integrated Review in context: One year on
A new volume of essays appraises the Integrated Review and the strategic inheritance of the Truss administration.
In March 2021, the UK government published its flagship, much delayed strategic blueprint: Global Britain in a Competitive Age: the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy. The Integrated Review had bold ambitions and was billed by then Prime Minister Boris Johnson as one of the biggest ever re-assessments of Britain’s role in the world and how best to achieve national strategic objectives.
Any effort to look ahead and prepare Britain to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of the 2020s was likely to face the same perennial issues that have beset strategic reviews throughout history. In practice, the events of the eighteen months since the Review’s publication – including the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, the rapid spread of the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19, the urgent climate negotiations at COP26, and the recent invasion of Ukraine – have already provoked a plethora of questions about whether the Review captured the right priorities, and whether it is still fit for purpose.
On its publication, critics wondered whether the Integrated Review’s judgements about international security would be proved well-founded and useful for orienting UK policy: did the Review strike the right balance between Britain’s role in the political and security architecture of Europe and expansive plans to enhance Britain’s global role, particularly in the form of the Indo-Pacific tilt? And was the size, shape and pace of change in Britain’s armed forces well calibrated to provide the necessary instruments to support the Johnson government’s ambitious agenda?
These questions are cast in a new light by the transition from Johnson’s premiership to that of his successor, Liz Truss, on Tuesday 6 September 2022. Marking this significant point in UK politics, a new volume of essays, edited by Dr Hillary Briffa, Dr Joe Devanny and Professor John Gearson, has been published by the Centre for Defence Studies (CDS) and School of Security Studies at King’s College London, to address these issues and reflect on Liz Truss’s strategic inheritance as the UK’s new Prime Minister.
This volume is the latest in the series The Integrated Review in Context. It follows two earlier volumes in the series, published by CDS and the School in 2021, the first focusing on the broad geopolitical and strategic implications of the Review, and the second focusing specifically on its significance for defence and security policy.
The 10 essays collected in this volume were published initially online in instalments, with a weekly commentary on a different aspect of the Review in the context of recent developments. We have collected them together in this new volume, presented with a new introductory essay by the editors, to mark the end of the Johnson premiership and provide a point of reflection on the strategic challenges facing the Truss premiership.
This is a significant moment for strategic reflection, as Truss has announced a quick update to the Review by the end of the year, led by her foreign policy and defence adviser, Professor John Bew. The new government has also appointed a new National Security Adviser, senior diplomat Sir Tim Barrow, and refreshed (or at least, restyled) the National Security Council as the Foreign Policy and Security Council.
As in previous volumes, our contributors are primarily drawn from the outstanding academic community of the School of Security Studies, encompassing established and early career scholars, academics and former practitioners. Their essays cover a wide variety of contemporary defence, foreign and security policy topics: the conflict in Ukraine; consideration of the UK’s role in wider European security; the implications of the collapse of the government of Afghanistan in 2021; as well as assessments of developments in the UK armed forces, space strategy, and UK nuclear policies.
We hope that this latest volume in the Integrated Review in Context series will continue to contribute to the public debate about UK strategy, Britain’s role in the world, and the challenge of aligning ends, ways and means. For the process of strategic planning to have value, it must be subject to monitoring and evaluation. Where necessary, it will need to be adapted. Whilst much of that process is governmental and classified, a well-functioning system of national strategy should be open to the challenge, scrutiny and alternative analysis provided by stakeholders from outside of the siloes of government. The essays in this volume are offered as part of this on-going, public debate about the national strategy that Britain needs.
In the coming months, this debate will have a fresh focus, as the Truss administration reflects on its inheritance and re-considers the performance of the Johnson premiership’s strategy as it faced the relentless pressure of the continuous present and tried to prepare for the longer term. The incoming administration has had little opportunity to indulge in slower, deliberative thinking about the currents of national strategy, faced as it has been with a gruelling election campaign. Similarly, the pace and pattern of events will dictate much of the Truss administration’s agenda in office, as has been the case with its predecessors. In this light, the essays of this volume are presented as a contribution that takes a longer view, and places the problems of today in strategic context.
About the editors
Dr Hillary Briffa is Lecturer in National Security Studies in the Department of War Studies and assistant director of the Centre for Defence Studies (King’s College London).
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, Head of the School of Security Studies, and director of the Centre for Defence Studies (King’s College London).