National Security Strategy and Defence and Security Review – Summary
The Government has published its Strategic Defence and Security Review alongside a National Security Strategy which outlines the risks to UK security. This summary is related to issues about resilience in the UK and the emergency service and local authority response.
National Security Strategy
The strategy, entitled “A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty” outlines the four highest priority risks:
- international terrorism, including through the use of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) materials; and of terrorism related to Northern Ireland;
- cyber attack, including by other states, and by organised crime and terrorists;
- international military crisis;
- major accidents or natural hazards.
A National Security Risk Assessment has been produced to assess and prioritise all major areas of national security risk and will be reviewed every two years.
A number of other risks are classed as ‘tier two and three risks’ which include:
- significant increase in the level of organised crime affecting the UK;
- severe disruption to information received, transmitted or collected by satellites;
- a significant increase in the level of terrorists, organised criminals, illegal immigrants and illicit goods trying to cross the UK border to enter the UK;
- disruption to oil or gas supplies;
- short to medium term disruption to international supplies of resources essential to the UK (e.g. food, minerals).
The report emphases the value of promoting resilience, and ensuring the the public is fully informed of the risks we face.
The threat from terrorism continues to come from Al Qaeda, its affiliates, and terrorists inspired by its ideology. Terrorism can also come more locally, such as from Northern Ireland groups with an aspiration for attacks in Great Britain.
Government, the private sector and citizens are under sustained cyber attack today, from both hostile states and criminals. The report urges that unless action is taken this could become worse against the backdrop of cyberspace being the fabric of our society. The Olympics is cited as an attractive target for criminals and other groups wishing to mount a cyber attack.
An international military crisis could occur in the UK arising from potential instability overseas perhaps as a result of the ambitions of states to acquire nuclear weapons or because of unresolved border and sovereignty disputes.
Major Accidents or Natural Hazards
The report highlights the serious damage to the UK that can be caused by the impact of civil emergencies. The risk of human pandemic disease remains one of the highest risks as well as flooding from the seas, rivers and streams and from surface water. The impacts of major industrial hazards are recognised, such as an incident similar to the Buncefield terminal. There is acknowledgement that disruption of critical UK utility services such as telecoms, water or energy supplies could be a consequence of natural hazards. It is suggested that the approach should be to plan for the consequences of potential civil emergencies no matter what the cause.
Eight national Security tasks will be explored in more detail in the Strategic Defence and Security Review, which includes “Provide resilience for the UK by being prepared for all kinds of emergencies, able to recover from shocks and to maintain essential services.”
The main priorities are to:
- protect operational counter-terrorist capabilities through intelligence and policing;
- develop an programme for addressing the threat of cyber security;
- focus cross-government effort on natural hazards, including major flooding and pandemics, and on building corporate and community resilience;
- focus on preventing the threat of international military crises through diplomatic, intelligence and defence capabilities.
The Strategic Defence and Security Review
This review provides detail of delivery based on the risks identified in the National Security Strategy. Related to resilience, the report states that the Government will focus cross-government effort on natural hazards, including major flooding and pandemics, and on building corporate and community resilience.
The national security tasks include: “[to] provide resilience for the UK by being prepared for all kinds of emergencies, able to recover from shocks and to maintain essential services. ” This will be through:
- security and resilience of the infrastructure most critical to keeping the country running against attack, damage or destruction;
- crisis management capabilities able to anticipate and respond to a variety of major domestic emergencies and maintain the business of government;
- resilient supply and distribution systems for essential services;
- effective, well organised local response to emergencies in the UK, building on the capabilities of local responders, businesses and communities;
- enhanced central government and Armed Forces planning, coordination and capabilies to help deal with the most serious emergencies.
The review continues to highlight terrorism as a key risk to the UK from abroad and linked to Northern Ireland. The review warns of the potential for more frequent, albeit less sophisticated attacks. High priority is given to ensuring that counter-terrorism capabilities are maintained and also enhanced. The CONTEST strategy (countering international terrorism) will be adapted, and specifically a reform of the counter-radicalisation work-stream. The Department for Communities and Local Government will work to encourage a more integrated society, separate from CONTEST, whilst the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (based in the Home Office) will be responsible for a more focused Prevent strategy.
The Police’s response to a terrorist firearms atack in the UK will be strengthened and improvements made to the joint working between police, fire and ambulance services in evacuating casualties during a firearms incident.
Cyber security will benefit from a national cyber security programme and strategy, to be published in Spring 2011.
Civil emergencies are again featured and the review states that the risks related to all kinds of civil emergency are likely to remain at similar levels to now over the next five years, but the longer term prospects are that the likelihood and impact of some natural hazards will increase with changes in the climate.
Specific work related to civil emergencies includes:
- changing the focus of our civil emergencies work to ensure we are prepared for the highest priority risks; terrorist attacks using unconventional materials, major tidal or coastal flooding and a severe influenza outbreak;
- improvements in preparedness for these specific risks including flood preparedness through the National Flood Emergency Framework, and influenza pandemic response including lessons learnt from the Swine flu outbreak;
- development of the National Resilience Capabilities programme to build generic capabilities to deal with a wide range of risks;
- focus on building community resilience as part of the Government’s broader Big Society agenda. This includes a new strategic national framework and a range of public information products;
- introduction of a new corporate resilience programme to improve business continuity;
- establishment of a new Infrastructure Security and Resilience Advisory Council to enhance cooperation between public sector bodies and private sector providers of national infrastructure;
- enhancement of the arrangements for response and crisis management both within central government (Cabinet Office) and local responders. This includes clarification of duties under the Civil Contingiences Act, improving resilient telecommunications and the ability of emergency services to work together during emergencies. Options will also be evaluated for an improved national public alert system for use in major emergencies.
- A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty – the National Security Strategy (PDF)
- The Strategic Defence and Security Review (PDF)
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