Chief of general staff Sir Nick Carter is expected to call for a significant increase in defence spending to ensure that Britain will be able to respond to the threat posed by Russia’s fast-growing military and cyber security capabilities.
Sir Nick Carter may warn the government that lack of defence spending will massively constrain Britain’s ability to respond to threats from hostile states that would seek to exploit the seams between peace and war, including Russia.
Bank in November, it came to light that the Cabinet Office review was looking to implement major cuts in several areas of defence investments. The proposed cuts included a reduction in the number of personnel and amphibious vessels, a reduction in the number of F-35 fighters to be purchased for carrier operations, and the scuttling of a new army plan to deploy a brand new division of 30,000 personnel by 2025.
The proposed cuts were said to have evoked a sense of alarm in the military establishment, including the MoD itself. It is now believed that thanks to the proposed cuts, Britain could soon find itself unable to respond effectively to various forms of threats, including cyber warfare, posed by Russia and other hostile nations.
In a speech which he will deliver in London in the coming days, Sir Nick Carter is expected to tackle the government’s plans of implementing cuts on defence spending by warning about Britain losing its edge in the coming years.
‘Our ability to pre-empt or respond to threats will be eroded if we don’t keep up with our adversaries. We must take notice of what is going on around us or our ability to take action will be massively constrained,’ read excerpts from his upcoming speech.
‘Speed of decision making, speed of deployment and modern capability are essential if we wish to provide realistic deterrence. The time to address these threats is now – we cannot afford to sit back.
‘State-based competition is now being employed in more novel and increasingly integrated ways and we must be ready to deal with them. The threats we face are not thousands of miles away but are now on Europe’s doorstep – we have seen how cyber-warfare can be both waged on the battlefield and to disrupt normal people’s lives – we in the UK are not immune from that,’ he will add.
It has been highlighted by security experts in the past that Russian hackers may seek to render Britain’s military powerless by attacking the Trident nuclear missile systems, nuclear submarines as well as two brand new aircraft carriers. As such, the military will need additional spending in cyber security to ensure that its weapon systems and advanced vessels are immune from cyber warfare conducted by hostile nations.
Even if the MoD succeeds in convincing the government to pause cuts in defence spending, merely carrying on with the existing budget allocation or increasing the number of personnel may not enable Britain to retain its strategic edge in the long run.
‘It is absolutely right to call for increased resources for British cyber-security defences. However, the problem is more that just a need for more money and personnel to address the issue,’ says Piers Wilson, Head of Product Management of Huntsman Security.
‘Every day the UK is assailed by thousands of cyber-threats, from cyber-espionage aimed at the Government itself to attacks on critical infrastructure, industries, intellectual property and personal information. Put simply, our defences could spend every penny available on people and tools and it still wouldn’t be enough to keep us secure. After all, we are still in the midst of a crippling security skills shortage that is expected to result in over 1.5m open jobs by 2020.
‘The government needs to make sure that spending is being directed intelligently on the right technologies and techniques to solve the problem. In particular, automated systems which are able to assess and rank various threats, allowing analysts to focus on the most pressing ones, are going to be essential.
‘Intelligent automation, leveraging AI and analytics, can help defence analysts avoid running down endless rabbit holes and be smarter about defending all areas of the nation from attack. Cyber-defence isn’t just a matter of deploying people where they are needed, but giving them the right tools and technology to do the job – and this carries over into the commercial world too,’ he adds.