Britain’s security experts want increased defence spending, new survey shows

Britain’s security experts want increased defence spending, new survey shows

Britain’s future military commanders and staff officers want the Government to increase defence spending, new research shows.

Soldiers and security experts have said more funding is needed for the Armed Forces, according to a new survey.

A total of 58 per cent of surveyed members of the Defence Academy – soldiers who are training to be military leaders - and security experts who belong to a leading security and defence think tank would like the Government to better fund the UK’s defences.

Just six per cent of soldiers and security experts involved in the survey said they supported defence spending cuts, while 37 per cent said spending should remain around the same. The University of Exeter research found the staff officers and security experts consider the most critical threats to the UK in the next 10 years to be cyber-attacks, followed by climate change and Russian territorial ambitions. Almost three quarters questioned said cyber-attacks on UK computer networks were a critical threat. Around 40 per cent said Russia’s territorial ambitions were a critical threat.

Around 2,000 members of the public were also surveyed, 38 per cent of who were in favour of increased defence spending - this was the case for 25 per cent of those who voted to remain in the European Union and 54 per cent who voted to leave.

The Government recently confirmed that the Ministry of Defence will be given an extra £800 million in the next financial year. This includes access to £600 million from the Dreadnought contingency.

Dr Catarina Thomson, who carried out the research, said: “At this time of debate over public spending in the UK it is telling that those who will command our armed forces in the future want greater funding for the Army, Navy and RAF. Almost 4 out of 10 members of the public also want the Government to increase defence spending, while only 12 percent thought that the Government should spend less on defence. This is quite remarkable after years of austerity have had an effect on other areas which typically affect the public’s lives more directly.”

A total of 85 percent of the security experts, and 61 percent of the public, surveyed said the UK needs a strong military to be effective in international relations. This percentage jumps to 74 percent when looking at members of the public who voted ‘leave’ in the EU referendum. Figures are similar when it comes to maintaining Britain’s nuclear capabilities – 81 per cent of security experts agreed this should be the case, and 60 per cent of civilians questioned. This was the case for 73 per cent of the members of the public who voted to leave the EU and 51 per cent of those who voted to remain.

The research, funded by the Economic Social and Research Council, involved 64 members of the Defence Academy as well as 533 members of the independent security think tank RUSI and the RUSI extended network.

Dr Thomson said: “There is no evidence to support the notion that people want the UK to play a lesser role in the world post-referendum. This goes beyond the military realm. Almost all of the security experts said it would be best for the future of the UK to take an active part in world affairs, as did 67 per cent of the public. Although there are differences between those who voted remain and those who voted leave, the majorities of both groups think the UK should be active in world affairs. Almost eight out of ten remain voters said taking an active part in world affairs is best for the future of the UK, as did six out of ten of Leave voters.”

The research shows the public feel more threatened by international terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, and large numbers of economic migrants and refugees coming to the UK. Seven out of ten people consider international terrorism as a critical threat to vital UK interests in the next ten years and only five per cent thought it was not important. Around 64 per cent of members of the public considered Islamic fundamentalism to be a critical threat.

Future military commanders and other security experts said their foreign policy priorities for the next decade were defending the security of Britain’s allies, preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and combating international terrorism. The public had different concerns – almost 70 per cent said protecting the jobs of national workers should be a very important foreign policy goal and around 40 per cent said large-scale economic and refugee migration to the UK was a critical threat.

Date: 11 April 2018

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