Speech: Building future forces and using modern technologies to meet with rising...

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  1. Introduction


    Your Highnesses, Your Excellences, ladies and gentlemen.

    It’s an honour to be invited to speak at such a significant event in the international defence calendar…and on a topic that’s at the forefront of everyone’s minds…

    Churchill: lessons on innovation


    Last month, Britain marked the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death…

    …a man whose visionary approach to innovation…including the use of tanks and radar…

    …combined with his resolute belief in standing up to aggression when faced with the existential threats of his time… …gave Britain and her allies the vital edge that would help them win both world wars.

    In 1943 Churchill famously observed that, “the empires of the future will be empires of the mind.”

    And, as I stand here before you, today, his words ring clearly and presciently across the decades.

    Innovation key to success in this challenging era


    A couple of thousand kilometers northwest of Abu Dhabi, Daesh militants continue their brutal campaign of murder and repression across northern Iraq and Syria.

    Even closer by growing insurgencies in Libya and Yemen threaten further instability to the region.

    Insurgencies are spreading in Africa, again in the name of Islamic extremism, as the barbaric Boko Haram are moving across national borders beyond Northern Nigeria to threaten neighbouring countries…

    …and only yesterday another atrocity committed by Al-Shabab in Somalia.

    And now on the borders of Europe, a resurgent Russia having annexed the Crimea from Ukraine, now shows little respect for ceasefire agreements it helps negotiate one week in Eastern Ukraine only to help break the next.

    And across the world, we see weapons proliferation, the relentless advance of cyber warfare, non state actors pedaling an expansionist global ideology, rogue states, and traditional military advantage being undermined by disruptive technologies.

    Gone are the days of Cold War certainty…and in this new world order…just as Churchill foresaw…now more than ever…it will be our attitude to innovation that determines whether we sink or swim on the tide of progress.

    It will be our attitude to innovation that gives us the confidence to face the unpredictable threats of the future.

    Just as it will be innovation that delivers the value for money…and the military productivity…that are the key to raising military outcomes in a world of challenging defence budgets.

    The UAE has, of course, embraced this notion wholeheartedly, designating 2015 as its “Year of Innovation”.

    And, this month, His Highness Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum gave a stark warning when he wrote: “the choice is simple: innovate or become irrelevant.”

    Innovation: front and centre of UK thinking to secure the future


    His point is not lost on the UK…

    While innovation in defence has reference to everyone in this room and in this region, I would like to start my remarks by setting the importance of innovation within the context of how we have innovated within the UK…

    Where…as our forthcoming Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) looms large on our horizon…

    …and as we adjust to the new realities of this post Afghanistan era…

    …innovation is at the forefront of our thinking…

    …touching on everything we do:

    from high level strategy and policy, introducing next generation capability,

    investing in cutting edge science and technologies, to undertaking transformational business change and, of course, developing our people.

    Fortunately, we have some momentum behind us…

    Since coming into office, almost five years ago we have undertaken the most radical transformation of defence since the Cold War.

    In tandem with updating our National Security Strategy…

    …our Prime Minister established a National Security Council to coordinate security issues across the UK government…

    …our 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review established a roadmap for the recalibration of what had become an outdated and unwieldy defence machine…

    …so we could look forward and be better positioned to meet the threats of the 21st Century head on.

    Reform: laying the groundwork for successful innovation


    But before we could do anything meaningful, we had to clear the decks.

    So we sorted out our balance sheet in the UK Ministry of Defence…with £38 billon [$50 billion] worth of inherited unfunded commitments, many in the equipment space, together over-committing more than 100% of our annual budget…

    We cut old platforms which were expensive to maintain, some already beyond their service design life…

    We reduced our manpower, with administrative roles reduced at over twice the rate of the frontline.

    And we got to grips with our big ticket procurement projects, curbing delays and cost overruns.

    Once we’d got the legacy of runaway procurement out of our system, we turned our attention to the problems that had caused it…and started the painstaking process of building a better, more secure future for defence.

    We have restructured our forces…

    …creating a scalable, modular, and fundamentally joint approach to provide us with the flexibility and agility that our volatile world demands…

    …establishing amongst other things a cyber domain within our Joint Forces Command.

    We devolved budgets to the single services…

    …ensuring the men and women who really understand what’s required now take responsibility, and with that accountability, for spending decisions.

    Finally, we overhauled our infrastructure, procurement and most recently logistics organisations…injecting them with much needed private sector expertise.

    They now are adopting a more commercial approach…ensuring we are a more intelligent customer; one able to get high quality equipment at best value for the taxpayer, making our defence dollars achieve more for less.

    It’s been a major programme of radical transformation in UK defence…and it’s not over yet… as while we have made the major decisions, much of the implementation is yet to come through to deliver our Future Force 2020.

    But we are already starting to reap the benefits.

    Equipment coming on stream


    Over the past year alone we’ve made a steady stream of investment in next generation capability…and have introduced new capability into service.

    On land, this has included the biggest armored fighting vehicle order for the British Army in a generation, a £3.5 billion ($5.4 billion) contract for almost 600 highly advanced Scout specialist vehicles…the British Army’s first fully digitalised armoured vehicle.

    At sea, we saw the floating up of the Royal Navy’s flagship Queen Elizabeth Carrier, followed by the decision that it will be joined in service by our second operational aircraft carrier…

    …we started building 3 new offshore patrol vessels…

    …and only last Friday our Prime Minister announced an £859 million ($1.3 billion) investment in long lead items for the first 3 of our next generation Type 26 Global Combat Ship frigates.

    Beneath the oceans, we launched HMS Artful, the third of 7 Astute class hunter killer submarines.

    The Royal Air Force received the first A400M Atlas transport aircraft, which will become the backbone of one of the most modern air mobility military fleets in the world.

    Our first new RC-135 Airseeker (Rivet Joint) surveillance aircraft came into service, cutting its operational teeth immediately over Iraq.

    And just this month, 17 Squadron Royal Air Force, began operational testing of the UK’s first F35 Lightning II in California.

    Our helicopter fleets had a stand out year in terms of bringing new or improved capability into service, with all 3 services receiving additions to their fleets, with Puma Mk2 and Mk6 Chinooks for the RAF, new Merlin Mk 2s for the Royal Navy and Wildcats for the army.

    While in the growing unmanned space we introduced our new Watchkeeper, the army’s next generation unmanned aerial system, into service in Afghanistan.

    So, as we approach our next Strategic Defence and Security Review… despite the ever changing threat environment…

    We can plan with much greater confidence…safe in the knowledge that we have secure foundations of a more agile, flexible force structure with next generation capability funded to serve our defence needs as these evolve. But, complacency is the enemy of progress.

    And today I want to focus briefly on 3 key things that, I believe, we must strive to do, not just to survive this current tidal wave of international strife and geopolitical flux…

    But to ride it… and to do so with you, our allies and partner nations in the Gulf.

    First: continue investing in innovation


    The first imperative is to grasp every opportunity to invest in scientific and technological innovation.

    And here I’m not just talking about incremental changes to existing capabilities for each of us…

    But also the emerging technologies and thinking that will defeat the threats of tomorrow.

    For instance, how can we harness the power of big data analytics…and the “internet of everything”…to best effect?

    How can we exploit the potential of autonomy and robotics for future unmanned platforms?

    And what about the use of intelli gent, self healing, self adjustable networks…?

    In the UK today, we take this very seriously, which is why, we’re investing in world class science and technology…

    …protecting our annual investment in science and technology…so it remains at least 1.2% of the defence budget…

    …And investing an increasing amount of that on research into game-changing capability…

    This year we spent 10% of our science and technology budget researching disruptive technologies …and next year, we plan to increase that by 50%.

    We are already developing novel high risk, high potential benefit innovations on everything from kinetic complex weapons to sensor navigation and guidance.

    But we are also researching new technologies which allow intelligent analysis of social media to help identify new threats as they emerge.

    What’s more, we’re channeling our investment more intelligently.

    By devolving equipment capability setting to the single services, each now has greater responsibility to direct its investment dollar in to the systems of the future.

    So, for instance, the Army is currently working with our Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) on a host of projects such as …

    …Active Integrated Protection Systems (AIPS)… devices designed to offer vehicles both “hard” active defence…by physically intercepting incoming projectiles…and “soft” active defence…through the use of electronic countermeasures.

    And, crucially, the development of Generic Vehicle Architecture…

    a concept that has been successfully applied to Scout SV and Foxhound…

    but one that has even greater potential to…

    …reduce logistical complexity and costs…

    …increase functionality, adaptability and safety… …and better prepare our armed forces…

    …across all domains…for all contingencies.

    But it’s not just about having capability…it’s what you do with it that counts…

    …which is why we’ve restructured our armed forces…and it’s why we’re breaking new ground with innovations like the British Army’s new 77 Brigade…

    …a nascent unit responsible for the integration and delivery of all non lethal and non military effects on military operations…including the delivery of information warfare, psychological operations and deployed media operations.

    Drawing heavily on lessons learned in Afghanistan, it’s testament to our growing understanding that it’s not only science and technology that will help us succeed in this new Information Age.

    Second: investing in people


    Which brings me to my second point: The importance of investing in people.

    World beating capability is all well and good.

    But it’s people who interpret the intelligence gathered by our ISTAR capabilities.

    It’s people who generate innovation and engineer the solutions.

    It’s people who provide the moral framework within which we operate.

    And it’s people who achieve information superiority through cunning insights, strong will, and the confidence and training to employ new and innovative skills.

    In short, it’s our people who provide the vital spark that sets us apart from our adversaries.

    And, in this fiendishly complex world, the demands we make upon our men and women will only intensify.

    That’s why our first capability priority must be to recruit, train, develop and retain high quality and adaptable personnel who can out think our adversaries by working together, increasingly through tri-service cooperation, and exploit our assets to best effect.

    But, of course, it’s not just British military personnel I am talking about here.

    The key to success is making use of our whole force…drawing on all the talent and expertise on offer…

    …from regulars and reservists, contractors, civil servants, and other government departments…to industry, academia, the third sector and, of course, our international allies.

    Third: collaboration


    Which brings me to my third point…the strand that draws everything together: collaboration.

    Because we can’t get the most out of our armed forces…

    …we can’t develop and sustain the right equipment…

    …and we can’t use that equipment in the most effective way, without co-opting all of our assets and building strong working relationships right across the board.

    In UK defence, we’ve spent the last 5 years doing just that.

    We’ve seen it with the creation of our Joint Cyber Reserve Unit…

    …employing some of the country’s best brains to help us develop a full spectrum military cyber capability.

    And with the creation of our Defence Cyber Protection Partnership, a collaboration between government and industry that seeks to build national resilience to cyber attack.

    We’ve seen it with the introduction of private sector skills to defence procurement, infrastructure and logistics services…

    …and with cross government and third sector collaboration on international defence engagement.

    Above all, we’re seeing it when it comes to technological innovation…

    …because in a world of the most rapid technological advance we have ever witnessed, it’s now often in the civilian sphere and in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that the latest innovation is found.

    We need to tap that talent…and we are doing so now.

    That’s why in the UK we’re encouraging defence primes to open up their supply chains…

    …and encouraging non UK domiciled defence primes to look to the UK defence and security supply chain, which is the broadest and deepest outside the US, with more companies than in Germany, France and Italy combined, 80 of them exhibiting at IDEX this week….

    …These efforts will smooth the path for SMEs…from all sectors…to help provide the niche capability, the groundbreaking ideas and the enterprise that makes the difference between top-class capability and world beating capability.

    And, that’s why, through a new initiative in the UK called the Defence Growth Partnership, we’re providing a collaborative environment for the collective effort of industry, government and academia to focus on making the UK defence industry more sustainable and more competitive…

    …establishing world class centres of excellence…

    …able to provide leading edge capability for our armed forces and international customers.

    This is just a snapshot of activity.

    But collaboration purely within the UK…is no silver bullet.

    In times of squeezed resources and burgeoning threats…no nation can afford to go it alone.

    The importance of international collaboration


    If we want to stay at the very forefront of global innovation…

    …and if we’re to remain ahead of our adversaries…

    …we must pool our resources more widely and collaborate on an international scale.

    Building an international tapestry of full spectrum capability…that is balanced, coordinated and, good value for money.

    And ensuring that not only our capability…but our armed forces…can work together…

    Sharing information, common understanding, common command and control arrangements, common standards and common doctrine and procedures.

    Whether it’s great coalitions of countries operating seamlessly together…as we saw in Afghanistan…

    …as we have seen off the coast of Somalia with counter piracy collaboration…

    … as we have seen in the Baltic States…

    … and as we are seeing in our anti-Daesh campaign… where the UK is by some margin the second largest contributor, after the US, to the air campaign over Iraq…

    Or countries training and exercising and basing together…

    …as we’ve seen with the British Army’s 51 Brigade training and joint exercise programme across the Gulf… including Cougar 14… the Advanced Tactical Leadership Course (ATLC), at Al Dhafra Air Base… the RAF’s permanent presence in Al Minhad… and the Royal Navy’s new base in Bahrain.

    Whether it’s developing cutting edge capability bilaterally…as we’re seeing with Anglo-French cooperation on the development of Unmanned Combat Air Systems.

    …or multinationally…with the Meteor missile coming into service and the Eurofighter Typhoon where I look forward to announcing further air to ground strike capability, tomorrow, at IDEX .

    Logic…backed up by historical experience…tells us that when it comes to guarding our security, our stability and prosperity…

    We can save money

    We can save time

    And we can magnify our effect.

    By working together.

    Conclusion


    So…if we are to build future forces fit for the 21st Century…

    …We must invest in innovation

    …We must invest in our people

    …But above all…we must continue to invest in each other…as nations.

    Pooling our resources…

    Sharing information…

    Leveraging our strengths…

    …mitigating our weaknesses

    And galvanising the mutual trust that is the linchpin upon which strong and successful international cooperation rests.

    Building not just forces but partnerships fit for the 21st century.

    Partnerships…based on shared interests and forged, not only in a shared past, but in a shared future.

    And, for the UK, nowhere is this more important than here, in the Gulf…where we have a refreshed strategy and a renewed commitment to stepping up our engagement and cooperation with every one of our Gulf partners…

    …reflecting as our Foreign Secretary said at Manama in December, our clear understanding in this globalised world that: “your security is our security; your prosperity is our prosperity; your stability is our stability.”

    So over the next few days, I hope we can all seize this unique opportunity provided by IDEX to build on that understanding.

    In the words of Churchill: “ Moving forward together with our united strength.”

    Or as David Cameron my Prime Minister might say: “Working together to secure the future for us all.”

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