Gavin Williamson – 2019 Statement on Daesh

Below is the text of the statement made by Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Defence, in the House of Commons on 8 April 2019.

The House may welcome an update on the military campaign against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. Forces in Iraq and Syria now say that, with the support of the global Coalition, they have liberated all the towns and cities that were once occupied by Daesh. This is a huge achievement, and one in which UK forces should take great pride for the part they played in this success. The Global Coalition assesses there are currently not enough Daesh fighters remaining in Iraq and Syria to make any further significant territorial gains. Nonetheless, it is important to note that this is not the defeat of Daesh as an organisation. Daesh has dispersed into a cellular structure in order to maintain insurgency activity, planting improvised explosive devices, conducting extortion, kidnapping and mounting terrorist attacks. The UK, as a partner in the Coalition, is committed to defeating this ongoing threat, in order to guarantee the lasting defeat of Daesh’s ambitions, to build on the stability of the region and protect our interests and our national security.​

The UK has contributed sophisticated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to find, identify and enable the Coalition to degrade Daesh’s military capabilities, which is as crucial to the air campaign now as it was at Daesh’s territorial height. ISR alone does not make a successful campaign, however; since the beginning of operations over Iraq and Syria, the UK’s Tornado, Typhoon and Reaper aircraft have released over 4,300 weapons against Daesh targets to reduce their military capabilities.

In 2015, the then Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Michael Fallon, committed to providing Parliament with UK airstrike numbers from the Coalition’s datasets to allow us to compare our contribution with other Coalition partners. This was a move away from using a UK dataset and methodology to calculate our airstrike contribution to the Counter-Daesh fight. Following the House of Commons Defence Committee’s request to provide a biannual breakdown of our air contribution to the Counter-Daesh campaign in Iraq and Syria, I have reviewed the method by which our contribution to the Coalition’s air campaign are calculated and from this decided to discontinue reporting on airstrikes, which can be interpreted differently each time they are viewed, to focus on reporting the number of actual weapon release events.

Under doctrine, an airstrike is one or more weapon releases against the same target by one or more aircraft. With this definition, two aircraft dropping weapons on the same target could be seen by one person as one airstrike, and as two airstrikes by another. We do not consider this a reliable method of reporting our contribution. A weapon release event is the employment of a single weapon system, by a single airframe, at one time, against a single target. As such, a weapon release event will always be calculated and reported in the same way and cannot be misinterpreted.

Gavin Williamson – 2019 Speech to the Munich Security Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Defence, to the Munich Security Conference on 15 February 2019.

It’s a huge privilege to attend my first Munich Security Conference.

While you have heard this message before many times, we will continue to repeat.

Whilst the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union, I want to start by saying our commitment to European security remains steadfast.

We have delivered European security long before the creation of either the European Union or NATO and we will continue to deliver it when we leave the EU. Britain will remain an outward looking nation. We will look for new opportunities, enhance our bilateral relationships and take Brexit as an opportunity to do more on a global stage. Delivering the leadership that the world turns to Great Britain to actually provide.

For me, one of those key bilateral relationships is with Germany.


We are proud, very proud, of our deep friendship with Germany.

260 years ago we fought side-by-side at the battle of Minden. Since then, it is fair to say, our partnership has greatly evolved. The odd ups and downs. Today, we are both defending the borders of Eastern Europe as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence. We are taking on Daesh in the Middle East. And, we are working together in Afghanistan, Lithuania and Mali.

With the signing of the UK-Germany Joint Vision Statement (JVS) last October it is obvious to both that there is much more to achieve as two nations.

The fact both our nations are increasing their defence budgets reflects the growing threats we are facing. And, we must not forget what can be achieved by working together.

As the world becomes darker and more dangerous, allies must stand together.


And, I know this is something Ursula very clearly recognises. She has spoken of her determination to take forward greater EU defence co-operation. This is something we welcome, European countries combining to develop capabilities that are available to the Alliance.

The EU’s role in stabilisation and capacity building is also important for the future.

But it is important that an EU which shuts out non-EU NATO allies from capability development will only weaken its own industry base and capabilities it wishes to develop.


NATO must remain the bedrock of our security in Europe. Since 1949 it has stood the test of time. It is combat proven. It deters the most serious threats.

So, let’s support the world’s most successful military Alliance. Let’s deal with Russia’s breach of the INF Treaty and the threat of new Russian missiles.

Let’s be ready to handle their provocations.

Russian adventurism must have a cost.

The US has been stepping up its commitment to NATO. But, as Ursula and I agreed with Pat Shanahan when we met at NATO earlier this week, Europeans should not be spending two per cent of GDP on defence for America. We should be spending it for ourselves and our security. And, I applaud Ursula’s personal efforts to drive investment in German defence.

It is a genuine and real privilege to be able to work side-by-side with a colleague who is not only so personally inspiring but a lady of deep compassion and a real sense of duty, not just to her nation, but to her friends and allies as well.

And, it is that sense of duty which means all European nations must take responsibility for the security of our continent.


This is something the UK is continuing to do, as we step-up our efforts in NATO.

In NATO, we are ready to defend what’s right. Ready to fight what’s wrong. And, ready to lead.

At the recent Defence Ministers meeting, I announced the increased commitment to Alliance readiness in Estonia, adding to our presence with Apache attack and Wildcat reconnaissance helicopters.

In NATO’s 70th anniversary year, we are also hosting a NATO Heads of State Meeting at the end of December.

Significantly, in the next few months our UK-led nine-nation Joint Expeditionary Force…will conduct its first deployment in the Baltic Sea…delivering reassurance to our allies and deterrence to those who wish to do us harm.

And, we continue to increase our defence budget, creating a new Transformation Fund to boost our nation’s global presence, and the armed forces’ mass and lethality.


NATO matters more than ever because an old adversary is back in the game. 30 years since the Berlin Wall fell and five years since the illegal annexation of Crimea – Russia remains a threat to our security.

Russia’s illegal activity continues unabated on land in the Donbas, and, at sea with the seizure of Ukrainian naval ships and the imprisonment of their sailors.

We’ve seen Russian recklessness and disregard for life on the streets of Britain. With Russia degrading its reputation with such blatant disregard of international borders and sovereignty.

Meanwhile Russia, despite its denials, has clearly breached the INF treaty. It has made clear it is developing more missiles and nuclear-capable weapons that break this agreement. Trying to goad the West into a new arms race it simply is not interested in and does not want. Making the world a less safe place. They claim they want greater security on the one hand. While undermining trust on the other.

The Kremlin is also taking the fight into the ‘grey zone’. Operating without rules using espionage, military, political, cyber, economic and even criminal tools to undermine its competitors. Russian Governmental subversion of Western elections through disinformation, online trolling and persistent cyber-attacks has become its new norm.

Their clandestine use of proxies…mercenary armies… like the infamous and unaccountable Wagner Group…allows the Kremlin to get away with murder while denying the blood on their hands.

But, as a nation who hold dear the values of democracy, tolerance and justice we must not be cowed or intimidated.

That’s why our military continues asserting its legitimate freedom of access and action across the globe…deploying our forces in a measured and resolute way.

And, we all continue to work together to lift the veil on this behaviour and always deliver a clear response – for actions must have consequences.


And, we will not abandon countries Russia seeks to undermine, like Ukraine and those in the Western Balkans. In the Cold War those behind the iron curtain saw us as a beacon of liberty. Now they have achieved their freedom the UK will continue to help them defend their right to choose their own destiny.

But, let me be clear this is not the relationship with Russia that we want.

We remain open to a different kind of relationship and options of dialogue remains on the table. It is vital that we always work to avoid escalation and avert risks of miscalculation.

And, we encourage Russia to start acting within the rules-based international order. Step back from the path it has been taking and look to a new and different way.

This very conference has long honoured those with the vision and courage to bring an end to the Cold War – inspirational people such as, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, George Bush, Helmut Kohl and, of course, Mikhail Gorbachev.

These were patriots. Figures who understood strength. Leaders who fought for their country’s interests. And, they understood the value of being open to different kinds of relationships. As we are today. We hope Russia chooses a different way. Being inspired, not by those who wish to bring fear and hate, but, be inspired by those who wish to bring hope and peace.

But, as we continue to face threats in an increasingly dangerous world we know that NATO is the best guardian of our security.


So, for the sake of our values, allies and friends we will continue to lead in NATO.

We will continue to build our alliances with close friends like Germany.

We will continue to deliver European security.

We will continue to step out into the world protecting our friends, defending our interests and standing-up for our values.

And, let us never forget that the reason that we will invest in our defence is to deliver a more peaceful, a more prosperous, and more just world.

Gavin Williamson – 2019 Speech on Defence in Global Britain

Below is the text of the speech made by Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Defence, at RUSI on 11 February 2019.

Malcolm [Chalmers] thank you so much for having hosting this event here today at RUSI. It’s a real privilege and honour to be able to come along.

It’s important to start off by asking the question why do we fight? It is fundamentally, to protect our people, protect our interests, and, of course, to defend Britain.

As a nation, we’ve never shied away from acting even if that has meant standing alone as we did in the darkest hours of the Second World War. Even after the Berlin Wall fell 30 years ago, when there was no overwhelmingly obvious threat to our security, we recognised the UK had a role and responsibility to stand up for our values across the globe. Defending our values took us to Kuwait, Bosnia, Sierra Leone and Kosovo and it made a difference to millions of peoples’ lives.

But, after September 11th, the importance of defence increased as a deadly new threat arose. A threat not just to any nation but to all who cherished the values of the Western way of life. A global ideology seeking the destruction of everything that we hold dear. We have learned much from fighting Al Qaeda and Daesh. But, while we tackled this extremism, state-on-state competition has reviving. Today, Russia is resurgent – rebuilding its military arsenal and seeking to bring the independent countries of the former Soviet Union, like Georgia and Ukraine, back into its orbit. All the while, China is developing its modern military capability and its commercial power.

Today, we see a world of spheres of influence and competing great powers. Not only are we confronting a state like Russia. An ideological enemy without a state like Al Qaeda and Daesh. But the very character of warfare itself is changing. The boundaries between peace and war are becoming blurred. Our adversaries are increasingly using cyber-attacks, subversion and information operations to challenge us and the rules-based international order. Operating in the ‘grey zone’. Operating below the threshold of conventional conflict. Our Joint Forces Command is already dealing with this. But, we need to go further. We need to bring together our strategic capabilities. We need to integrate them more effectively and a greater agility to meet the demands of this increasingly contested environment.

We and our allies must deter and be ready to defend ourselves. Ready to show the high price of aggressive behaviour. Ready to strengthen our resilience. And ready, where necessary, to use hard power to support our global interests.

But there is a great opportunity here too. As we look at our position in the world, we should remind ourselves that we are a nation with a great inheritance. A nation that makes a difference. A nation that stands tall. Inevitably, there are those who say that we are in retreat. Those who believe that, as we leave the European Union, we turn our back on the world. But, this could not be further from the truth. Whether people voted to leave or remain, they believe Britain must continue to play an important and major role on the international stage.

It is my belief that Britain has its greatest opportunity in 50 years to redefine our role. As we leave the European Union. And, the world changing so rapidly it is up to us to seize the opportunities that Brexit brings. We will build new alliances, rekindle old ones and most importantly make it clear that we are the country that will act when required. We should be the nation that people turn to when the world needs leadership.

And Defence will be pivotal in reinforcing Britain’s role as an outward looking nation. We are making sure it does so in a number of key ways:


First, by increasing our global presence and building on our alliances.

NATO. 70 years on from its founding, remains the bedrock of our nation’s Defence. In the past five years, the Alliance has come a long way. It is far more focused and ready to deter and defend against Russian hostile acts. But, more European nations need to be ready and capable of responding too. Stepping up to the 2% NATO target and not being distracted by the notion of an EU Army.

Britain must be willing and able to lead the Alliance, to bring stability in a changing-world. We are a leader in NATO, this year hosting the Leaders Meeting here in London. Alongside this we have sent a Battle Group to Estonia to support NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence. We lead multi-national maritime task groups in the Mediterranean and defend the skies over the Black Sea and the Baltics. And, we strongly support NATO’s Readiness Initiative to make sure forces are available and ready to do their job.

And in NATO, we must stand firm against Russia’s non-compliance with the INF Treaty. If necessary being ready to deal with the threat that new Russian missile systems may pose. The Alliance must develop its ability to handle the kind of provocations that Russia is throwing at us. Such action from Russia must come at a cost. Nor, can we forget those countries outside NATO who face a day-to-day struggle with Russian attempts to undermine their very sovereignty. We stand ready to support our friends in Ukraine and the Balkans. These countries have the right to choose their own destiny and be free from Russian interference. At the same time, in such an uncertain age, like-minded nations must come together to increase their own security. That is why the United Kingdom is leading the nine-nation Joint Expeditionary Force which in a few months’ time will take part in its first deployment to the Baltics.

But we must not see this as our limit. We must be willing to go further. History has taught us that crisis comes when we least expect it. As uncertainty grows we must be ready to act, bringing others with us. Readiness has to be our new watchword.

In an era of ‘Great Power’ competition we cannot be satisfied simply protecting our own backyard. The UK is a global power with truly global interests. A nation with the fifth biggest economy on the planet. A nation with the world’s fifth biggest Defence budget and the second largest Defence exporter. And since the new Global Great Game will be played on a global playing field, we must be prepared to compete for our interests and our values far, far from home.

That is why Global Britain needs to be much more than a pithy phrase. It has to be about action. And our armed forces represent the best of Global Britain in action. Taking action alongside our friends and allies. Action to strengthen the hand of fragile nations and to support those who face natural disasters. Action to oppose those who flout international law. Action to shore up the global system of rules and standards on which our security and our prosperity depends.

And action, on occasion, that may lead us to have to intervene alone.

Now, I know there are some that question the cost of intervention. But it is often forgotten the cost of non-intervention. The fact that this has been unacceptably high. It will not always be the role of the traditional Western powers to act as a global policeman but nor can we walk-on-by when others are in need. To talk…but fail to act…risks our nation being seen as nothing more than a paper tiger.

I do not underestimate the challenges that this approach brings. But we do start from a position of strength. Our people are already acting around the world from the North Sea to the South Pacific to protect our interests and we already benefit from strong international partnerships. But we cannot take such relationships for granted.

Our global presence must be persistent…not fitful. Patient…not fickle.
Permanent…not fly-by-night.

So, as well as our relationships with Europe, we need to build on our established relationship with the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada as part of the Five Eyes. With Singapore and Malaysia in the Five Powers Defence Arrangement. With other ASEAN nations, with Japan, the Republic of Korea and India. With our partners in the Middle East, and with our many friends in Africa – from Nigeria in the West to Kenya in the East.

And we are seeking to use our global capabilities to strengthen our global presence.

From this spring, HMS Montrose, along with five other naval vessels, will be permanently based in the Gulf using innovative crewing and support methods to keep the ship available for more of the time. Today, we also go further. And I can announce the first operational mission of the HMS Queen Elizabeth will include the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Pacific region. Making Global Britain a reality. Significantly, British and American F35s will be embedded in the carrier’s air wing. Enhancing the reach and lethality of our forces and reinforcing the fact that the United States remains our very closest of partners. We share the same vision of the world. A world shaped by individual liberty, the rule of law and, of course, the tolerance of others. We have the unique ability to integrate with US forces across a broad spectrum of areas. And, we are more determined than ever to keep working together.

We will also be using our string of global support facilities and military bases more strategically…to consistently project power both hard and soft. The Duqm port facilities in Oman are large enough to be able to support our aircraft carriers. The Al Minhad and Al Udeid Air Bases, in the Emirates and Qatar respectively, provide strategically important capabilities. In Bahrain, our Naval Base and our long-standing Maritime Command make a major contribution to our activities in the region but also beyond. Further afield we already benefit from facilities in Belize, in Brunei, in Singapore as well as our bases in Cyprus, Gibraltar and Ascension Island.

And, I believe that we need to go further. Considering what permanent presence we might need in areas including the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific to extend our global influence. Our proactive approach shows we are not getting by on half measures. For us global engagement is not a reflex reaction to leaving the European Union. It is about a permanent presence.


But having that presence goes hand-in-hand with our multi-million-pound Transformation Fund, making sure our armed forces have the right capabilities as quickly as possible. And today, I can announce some of the first investments from that Fund.

Take the Royal Navy. They are exerting British influence through greater forward presence. I want to capitalise on that. Investing now to develop a new Littoral Strike Ship concept. And, if successful, we will look to dramatically accelerate their delivery. These globally deployable, multi-role vessels would be able to conduct a wide range of operations, from crisis support to war-fighting.

They would support our Future Commando Force. Our world-renowned Royal Marines – they’ll be forward deployed, at exceptionally high readiness, and able to respond at a moment’s notice bringing the fight from sea to land.

Our vision is for these ships to form part of 2 Littoral Strike Groups complete with escorts, support vessels and helicopters. One would be based East of Suez in the Indo-Pacific and one based West of Suez in the Mediterranean, Atlantic and Baltic. And, if we ever need them to, our two Littoral Strike Ships, our two aircraft carriers, our two amphibious assault ships Albion and Bulwark, and our three Bay Class landing ships can come together in one amphibious task force. This will give us sovereign, lethal, amphibious force. This will be one of the largest and best such forces anywhere in the world.

In 1940, Winston Churchill said: “Enterprises must be prepared with specially-trained troops of the ‘Hunter Class’, who can develop a reign of terror down enemy coasts.” Our actions mean that we will deliver on Churchill’s vision for our Royal Navy and for our Royal Marine Commandos.

Turning to our Royal Air Force, fresh from celebrating its centenary last year, it is now firmly focused on the next 100 years. They already have 17 new RAF and Royal Navy F35 Lightning jets, capable of land-based operations anywhere on the globe and due to embark on our aircraft carrier for the first time later this year. We’ll soon have nine new Poseidon P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft enabling us to patrol thousands of miles of ocean and greatly enhancing our anti-submarine and maritime capability. We’re upgrading our AWACS aircraft with modern and better capability that will improve our battle winning airborne command and control. We are growing our operational Typhoon squadrons from five to seven – equipping them with world leading radar and now carrying deep strike Storm Shadow cruise missiles. And, to complement leading edge technology from F35, I have decided to use the Transformation Fund to develop swarm squadrons of network enabled drones capable of confusing and overwhelming enemy air defences. We expect to see these ready to be deployed by the end of this year.

And the Army is continuing to modernise its forces. We will have a Warfighting Division with troops able to deploy from our bases at home and in Germany. We’ll increase the firepower and protection of the battle-proven Warrior and introduce the ultra-modern AJAX. And, at the tip of the spear, will be our elite Parachute Regiment within 16 Air Assault Brigade, able to deploy into any environment at a moment’s notice.

So, we are making sure our armed forces have the sufficient mass to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment to deal with the coming dangers.


Finally, if we are to live up to our global role then our armed forces must continue to be a lethal fighting force fully adapted to the demands of 21st century warfare.

When I came into the Department the talk was about cutting capability. But instead, this Government has delivered an extra £1.8 billion of Defence funding, keeping us on track and prioritising the right UK Defence for the decade to come. That includes £600 million to protect the future of our nuclear deterrence. This ensures we will deliver the new submarines on time and means that we are spending £4 billion every year to ensure the ultimate guarantee of our safety for another 50 years.

That means £60 million to invest in Typhoon’s next generation radar. And, as the cyber threat grows, we are making a very significant additional investment on the £1.9 billion we spend on cyber capabilities. That’s funding to improve offensive cyber, putting the command and control structures in place across-Government. And, it will give us extra money to protect our network resilience from online attacks.

With the threat from the Kremlin increasing in the North Atlantic, we’re spending an additional £33 million to improve our anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

And, we will also spend £100 million on a variety of initiatives to modernise how we do business in defence. If this isn’t enough there will also be a further £24 million available through innovative Spearhead projects.

Meanwhile, we are using our Transformation Fund to further increase our armed forces’ lethality. For example, we’re going to make sure that our ground troops – whether in the Army, the Royal Marines or the RAF Regiment – are going to get the same night vision equipment that their colleagues in Special Forces have. We’re also going to buy pioneering robotic fighting and logistic vehicles. Reducing the risk to our personnel and increasing the firepower and agility of our infantry.

In addition, as a result of the Transformation Fund the Royal Air Force will double our armed ISR capability so we can identify and neutralise targets far faster. The Venom kinetic strike capability will mean those who wish to do us harm have more to fear.

And to our armed forces quite simply the sky is not the limit. In space, they look forward to the investment we are making to enhance our space operations centre bringing together the best civilian and military minds.

And our ambitions are greater still.

I want to see our armed forces embracing transformation at an ever-faster rate, keeping pace with technological change, enhancing our mass and increasing our lethality. We shouldn’t be shy about the ambition that we have for our forces. The future of conflict will require us to be adaptable, agile and capable of using new technologies quickly and cost-effectively. I am determined to focus the Transformation Fund on investments that will create the armed forces of the future.

That future, of course, is uncertain. But I expect to see, the Army using both manned and unmanned teams, Artificial Intelligence and the unmatched quality of our personnel to win, not just conventional wars but also dominate the conflict in the grey zone.

I expect the Royal Navy to deploy flexibly, to be capable of being in many places at once and to ensure we have an efficient fleet of warfighting ships, looking at how they can grow both their mass and their lethality.

And, I expect the Royal Air Force to operate the next generation with modern Air Command and Control, more combat air squadrons and energy weapons to keep our skies safe.


Wherever I go in the world I find that Britain stands tall. It’s not just because are the world’s fifth biggest economy. Not just because we have the world’s finest scientists, mathematicians and engineers. It’s because we have the world’s finest and best Armed Forces. Brave men and women who stand up for the values that we hold dear. Men and women that we are so truly proud of.

They are contributing and they are the key capabilities that guard UK airspace and waters. They are supporting the civil authorities right across the United Kingdom. They are ensuring that we remain a leading member of NATO. They are protecting our interests and enhancing our prosperity. And they are showing, they are showing that Britain still matters on the global stage. Some still wish to cut Britain down to size and send her back to her shores. But to those I say that has never been our way. It is not in our nature. Britain has always sought to take risks. Britain has always stood up for its deeply held values. Britain has always been an outward looking nation. And against adversaries upping their spending…investing in new technologies… we have to respond. If we do not, we will find ourselves with fewer options when we face the challenges and the threats in the future.

And Brexit. Brexit has brought us to a moment. A great moment in our history. A moment when we must strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality, and increase our mass.

So today I set out my vision for UK Defence in a more global age. But as we look to life beyond Brexit, I believe it is incumbent on us all to consider the role of Defence in our national life. Defence has always been the most vital and first duty of Government. But now we have an unparalleled opportunity to consider how we can project and maximise our influence around the world in the months and years ahead. It is up to all of us…from here on in…to make sure that our great nation seizes and grasps the opportunity that present themselves with both hands.

Gavin Williamson – 2018 Speech on Modern Defence

Below is the text of the speech made by Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Defence, on 12 March 2018.

The United Kingdom has a proud history on the world stage. We helped defeat tyranny in two world wars and communism in the Cold War. We have shielded the most vulnerable from Kosovo to Sierra Leone. We helped liberate millions from the shackles of oppression and exported democracy, tolerance and justice around the world. In the process, Britain alongside our allies ushered in a period of peace and prosperity across our continent unparalleled in its history.

Today, our Armed Forces continue to uphold this proud British tradition. They are keeping us safe across the world. Our pilots are destroying terrorist targets in Iraq and Syria and policing Eastern European skies against an increasing threat from Russia.

Our soldiers stand sentinel with our NATO Allies in Estonia and Poland to deter this threat. We are strengthening the security of Afghanistan and, in South Sudan, helping establish stability and giving democracy the chance to grow and flourish.

Our sailors are countering international piracy, policing our waters and securing safe passage for the ships that support our global trade.

Beneath the waves our nuclear submarines go undetected, our submariners on patrol every day of every year providing our ultimate defence against the most deadly dangers to our way of life

In the last few weeks alone our forces have provided vital assistance in the wake of Storm Emma and are using their expertise to assist the ongoing criminal investigation following the horrific attack in Salisbury.

I want to thank each and every one of them for the dedication and commitment they have shown our nation.

Continuing to deliver for the Armed Forces is imperative – especially in a world where the threats are growing.

When it comes to non-state actors we’re seeing a generational shift with terrorist organisations able to access increasingly sophisticated weapons.

And state-based dangers are increasing. Back in 2010 we did not believe they posed us a credible threat. With the benefit of hindsight, this can, at best, be described as naive.

China is pushing for superpower status, restructuring the People’s Liberation Army, pushing towards the Indian Ocean and employing “sharp power” including military, media and economic pressure against any challenger.

Iran’s proxy military presence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen is well known.

North Korea has demonstrated an active global cyber capability while its nuclear actions are destabilising the international order, flouting decades’ worth of non-proliferation treaties.

And then there is Russia.

At a time when its economy is under pressure, it is still prioritising military expenditure, investing in highly capable equipment across all domains including long-range surface to air missiles, T-90 tanks, new advanced submarines, long-range precision strike systems and ISKANDER ballistic missiles, a new range of BLACKJACK strategic bombers and the new nuclear systems President Putin recently boasted about in his state of the nation address.

What is also clear is that the Kremlin is ripping up the international rule book. Using its growing hybrid capabilities to subvert, undermine, and influence countries around the world. Its cyber operations are active and brazen. It uses social media to muddy the waters and spread confusion.

Last year Russia’s military intelligence organisation directed the NotPetya ransomware activity. Overwhelming systems in Ukraine from its power grid to its postal service and causing hundreds of millions of pounds of damage to companies around the world including here in the UK

But Russia is capable of much more. It is already increasingly using proxies to undermine sovereign states. Its involvement in the Ukraine conflict has cost tens of thousands of lives.

In Syria, we’re seeing a humanitarian crisis where Russia is using private military companies such as the Wagner Group to reduce their liability and limit criticism on the world stage.

Meanwhile, Russia is also using its operatives insidiously to interfere in the political processes of other nations.

Security authorities have compelling evidence to show Russia was involved in the attempted 2016 coup in Montenegro, just prior to that country’s joining NATO.

And, if we doubted the threat Russia poses to our citizens, we only have to look at the shocking example of their reckless attack in Salisbury.

But against this backdrop of threats, we shouldn’t forget that our Armed Forces remain truly world class and we are giving them the capabilities to respond

For example, we know the chemical threat doesn’t just come from Russia but from other actors so we’re evolving the capability to meet that danger.

I made the decision to offer the anthrax vaccine to our forces at the highest readiness providing them with vital protection against a deadly danger

And today I can announce we are building on our world class expertise at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory in Porton Down.

We are investing £48 million in a new Chemical Weapons Defence Centre to maintain our cutting edge in chemical analysis and defence.

We’ve brought together Defence’s world-renowned explosive ordnance expertise with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialists.

And we are continuing to invest and explore new ways and new capabilities to deal with this threat.

More broadly, our Armed Forces are internationally recognised as having an almost matchless combination of capability and experience, able to field a well-equipped Army division, with armoured brigades, strike brigades, and an air assault brigade, able to project power at distance through an expeditionary air group, based on the state-of-of the-art Typhoon and the new F35 Lightning II that will soon embark on our new aircraft carriers.

Those carriers, in turn, will form part of a hard-hitting maritime task group including modern destroyers, frigates, submarines and commando forces.

All this plus the world’s best Special Forces and some of the most advanced intelligence gathering and analytical capabilities in the Alliance.

These are all the hallmarks of a serious military nation:

able to conduct first night, first strike attacks with the technology to go into contested air, sea or land space to project power at range from the UK and make a major contribution to deterring threats not just in the Euro-Atlantic area but across the globe.

Many of these forces are on operations and missions today, we are making a major contribution to the campaign that has crippled Daesh, where we have helped to train over 60,000 Iraqi Security Forces, seen the first UK use of offensive cyber in combat and our airforce is operating at an intensity not seen in more than 25 years

We’re training the Afghan and Nigerian security forces and even the US Marine Corps.

And this month we have deployed HMS Trenchant to the Arctic with the US Navy on ICEX 2018 – confirming our ability to operate under the ice.

Our operational experience and prowess is the reason the UK has played an important leadership role in NATO since its formation.

The reason we lead a range of international divisions and operations right around the globe.

And the reason we’re the preferred operational partner for other top tier Western militaries, particularly the US and France who also acknowledge they too must modernise to stay ahead of our adversaries.

But, after a long period of relative peace, threats are increasing again.

So we have arrived at a profound moment in our history.

A crossroads where the choice before us as a nation is simple.

To sit back and let events overtake us.

Or step forward.

Seizing the moment, as we leave the European Union, to shape our vision for a bolder, more prosperous Britain.

A Britain proud of its past and confident of its future.

A Britain ready to reassert its right to do global good in a dangerous and unpredictable world.

A Britain able to protect our security and prosperity at home and abroad

After all, our Armed Forces are the face of Global Britain, enhancing our international reputation, epitomising everything that is great about our nation.

We talk about soft power and we must acknowledge the amazing work of the Foreign Office and DFID, but also of business and organisations like the British Council, in promoting Britain’s values around the world.

Our Armed Forces work with them delivering aid in the wake of Hurricane Irma minesweeping in the Gulf and bringing medical support to fight Ebola in West Africa.

But let’s be clear soft power only works because hard power stands behind it.

And that’s what our Armed Forces deliver and why they are so important to our future.

That’s why this is our moment to retain our competitive advantage and invest in hard power capabilities

And that is why we have launched our Modernising Defence Programme.

It will make sure our country can respond to the changing character of warfare and can deter and, if necessary, contest the new threats we face to British interests demonstrating to potential adversaries that their efforts to harm the UK are futile and not worth the costs they will incur.

So our Modernising Defence Programme will give us a more productive, more lethal, harder-hitting Joint Force able to counter conventional threats and deal with the new challenges of asymmetric conflict. Building on our existing plans for the future of our Armed Forces.

It will balance routine every day capabilities vital to fulfilling day-to-day tasks with highly sophisticated new equipment, using technology and different approaches to counter the full range of threats to our security and to be able to operate freely in all five domains, land, sea, air, space and cyber

It will prioritise game-changing technologies giving our service personnel the edge in combat.

In practice this will mean taking our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability to the next level, hoovering up information from beneath the waves, from space, from across the increasingly important electro-magnetic spectrum finding out what our enemies are doing in high-definition and providing artificial intelligence – enabling analysis that can stay ahead in a fast-moving world

It will mean accelerating the development of our innovative 77 Brigade – those reservists and regulars who give us the ability to win the information war – so we create and counter the narratives so central to modern conflict

It will mean investing in new more advanced and more capable armoured vehicles, more drones as well as stealth fighters and state-of-the-art anti-submarine ships in new autonomous systems – in areas like mine hunting – to enhance the protection we can provide to the Royal Navy and our NATO allies and in offensive cyber developing our capability, working in partnership with GCHQ.

Today I can announce we will be spending almost £4million with Thales and General Dynamics Land Systems-UK to deliver the Ajax Shot Detection System which can sense enemy gunfire and protect troops using our next generation armoured vehicles.

But we’ll be going further developing and embedding new approaches to warfighting protecting and enhancing our information networks to give our commanders the edge over our adversaries and pursuing technological ‘big bets’ in big data, artificial intelligence and novel weapons.

All the while building innovation and risk tolerance into our thinking, planning and operating.

So that’s my vision:

A modernised force.

Fit for the future.

Delivering the hard power to complement Britain’s soft power.

Strong, balanced and innovative Armed Forces, equipped with cutting edge capabilities.

Operating confidently in the new domains of warfare.

Preparing us for the unpredictable.

Keeping British citizens safe wherever they are.

Fulfilling our global ambitions and defending Britain’s national interests.

Our Modernising Defence Programme will make sure we continue leading in NATO.

Continue to be a capable and reliable contributor to missions led by close allies and partners but just as importantly continue to act independently or, lead multinational missions when the need arises.

And this weekend I will be attending a major exercise of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force – bringing together the capabilities of nine nations that allow us to respond more rapidly and pack a more powerful punch in times of crisis.

Our Modernising Defence Programme is also about our prosperity.

You cannot have prosperity without security.

What better illustration of that fact than our iconic hosts in Filton today – Rolls Royce.

The very embodiment of cutting edge, world leading technology, one of our largest suppliers of defence aerospace engines, and a driver of local economic growth, as an employer of more than 22,000 people across the UK.

Together with thousands of other brilliant British businesses they form an industry supporting one in every two hundred jobs in the UK and providing high-quality training and apprenticeships that in just over a decade generated more than £73 billion in exports.

Our Modernising Defence Programme will support the growth and competitiveness of the defence sector, helping to create and sustain jobs by transforming our partnership with industry.

It will allow us to deliver cutting-edge capability more effectively bring more small and medium sized enterprises into the supply chain encourage greater innovation and deliver long-term value whilst we drive a harder bargain for the goods and services we buy.

Since strong defence underpins our nation’s prosperity, I have invited Philip Dunne to conduct a review to help demonstrate it is far more than an insurance policy, it’s an investment in jobs at home and exports abroad.

He understands this sector extremely well and also brings an important independent perspective.

This work on the Modernising Defence Programme, delivering the right capabilities for our Armed Forces, making sure we remain a leading voice on the world stage, supporting economic growth and creating a stronger and more strategic partnership with industry will be substantially completed by the time of the NATO Summit in July, at which point we will be in a position to share some headline conclusions.

I will be saying more in the weeks ahead about my vision for the Armed Forces we want to create.

I hope to engage with many of you between now and then, and would encourage you to take part in our public consultation.

But let’s be clear – after 1990, we believed the world was going to become a safer and better place with every year that passed.

Just as we have believed there would be only one superpower.

But, as we have seen increasingly clearly over the last few years, the reality is rapidly changing.

In every continent of the world there are not just extremists but states willing to undermine our values, ideas, and everything we stand for.

To deal with this challenge we need to ensure that soft power has the hard power to back it up.

As we take a new approach to Defence in a post-Brexit world we must work harder to explain why it matters to the nation.

When I visited the Parachute Regiment recently I was told something that’s stuck with me:

“Knowledge dispels fear”

So let’s not give into the demons of doubt

Instead let us be confident.

Let us be determined.

And let us be resolute in our belief that, by using all our power, hard and soft, Britain will continue bringing light to a darkening world.

Gavin Williamson – 2018 Speech on Modernising Defence

Below is the text of the speech made by Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Defence, in the House of Commons on 25 January 2018.

I undertook to return to the House at the earliest possible opportunity to update hon. and right hon. Members on the programme to modernise defence, which the Ministry of Defence will be conducting in the months ahead.

Following agreement of the high-level findings of the national security capability review by the National Security Council, I have agreed with the Prime Minister and Chancellor that we should take forward its recommendation for a programme of further work to modernise defence to deliver better military capability and value for money in a sustainable and affordable way. This is essential if defence is to make its full contribution to national security.

The 2015 national security strategy and strategic defence and security review set out a clear ambition to ensure that the armed forces can tackle the threats that we face. It also proposed important new policy initiatives, including a stronger international approach, pursuit of innovation, modernised personnel policies and defence making a bigger contribution to our national prosperity, and we are making real strides to unlock greater efficiency and productivity.

Protecting the United Kingdom and our people remains our first priority and responsibility. As the threats we face become more complex and intertwined, we will need to work ever more closely with our NATO allies. We can also expect to remain actively involved with our partners in the Gulf in tackling shared threats to our security, and the Asia-Pacific region will become more important to us in the years ahead. The Ministry of Defence is making a major contribution to our prosperity as we procure the equipment our armed forces deserve and support defence exports, in which there have been recent successes, most notably the £6 billion Typhoon contract agreed with Qatar.

Significant events last year—the callous terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, and the major storms that ravaged British dependencies in the Caribbean—are reminders of our wider responsibilities. We need to contain threats that have their origin overseas and be prepared to react swiftly and effectively when crises arise. As we identified in 2015, this will require the joint force we are building to be versatile and agile. It will need to be capable of operating in all five domains: land, sea, air, space and cyber. It will need to be international by design, routinely exercising and operating with allies and partners. It will need to be credible and capable of operating against state and non-state threats—normally not alone but with NATO allies and other partners, but we must also be able to act on our own if and when required. It must be able to contribute to our national security at home, working with the police and other national security organisations.

While the major elements of our plans for Joint Force 2025 remain the right ones, in order to secure competitive advantage over our potential adversaries we need to ensure that we can move quickly to strengthen further our capabilities in priority areas and reduce the resources we devote elsewhere.​
The Government commissioned the national security capability review to ensure that we have the policy and plans to implement our national security strategy, so that our investment in national security capabilities is as joined-up, effective and efficient as possible to address current national security challenges. A report will be published later in the spring.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in her recent Lord Mayor’s banquet speech, the threats, risks and challenges have become more complex and intertwined and have developed in areas and ways that we broadly expected, but at a much greater pace than was foreseen. The defence budget is £36 billion this year—the fifth largest defence budget in the world—and it will increase by £1 billion each year so that it will be almost £40 billion by 2021. The UK remains one of the few countries to exceed NATO’s 2% spending target, and this Government have committed to continue to increase the defence budget by at least 0.5% above inflation every year. However, we must do more to ensure that we use our resources effectively and deliver the efficiencies that the Department has committed to, so that they can be reinvested in the capabilities we require for our armed forces.

It is for these reasons that I have agreed with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to launch the modernising defence programme so that we can strengthen and modernise the armed forces to meet the threats that the NSCR identified. Modernising defence will allow us to deliver better military capability and value for money in a sustainable and affordable way, and it will allow us to ensure that defence capabilities complement other national security capabilities in the most effective way. I am determined to realise this goal through a modernised, more productive and more effective joint force that can deter threats more effectively and ensure that we can deliver what is required of defence today and succeed in any future conflicts. Turning this approach into reality will be my key goal for the modernising defence programme.

This programme will involve four strands of work. The first three will optimise how the MOD is organised and is operating, identify further efficiencies and ways to be more productive, including through an aggressive programme of business modernisation, and improve our performance on the commercial and industrial issues. The fourth strand will look at the capabilities that defence requires to contribute to our three national security objectives today and in the future, but also, most importantly, to understand the ever-changing threats that this country faces. I am determined to use the modernising defence programme to ensure that defence can make its full contribution to our national security on a sustainable basis.

I will speak to right hon. and hon. Members about this programme of work on a very regular basis, and I will keep the House updated as decisions are made. In the meantime, I would warmly welcome any contributions that right hon. and hon. Members would like to make. My Department and I will be consulting beyond the House as this programme of work gets under way in the weeks ahead.

Protecting our national security and the safety of the British people both at home and abroad remains the Government’s first priority. Let us make no mistake—the world is becoming a more dangerous place. We cannot afford to shy away from this reality, nor can we take our ​security for granted. But even more than that, in a post-Brexit world Britain must continue to champion the global good. It must continue to reach out to seize global opportunities and deal with global threats. Our history teaches us that we cannot have prosperity without security. To protect that prosperity we must have armed forces primed and ready to tackle the challenges to come.