National security must be top priority

The first duty of Government remains national security, the Royal Navy’s most senior officer, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, told a meeting of Cardiff Business Club.

Our national security must be top priority, says Admiral

THE first duty of Government remains national security, the Royal Navy’s most senior officer, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, told a meeting of Cardiff Business Club.

The First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff said that while China’s defence budget enjoyed “fair winds and following seas” most western nations defence departments were sailing through a fiscal storm.

Sir Mark said, “Since 2008, France’s, Germany’s and the UK’s have all been reduced by around 7.5% with further implications likely for us following the autumn statement.

“Meanwhile, the US was cutting its military cloth by 10% which left those of us with responsibility for security and defence with a considerable challenge.”

Delivering security in a age of austerity called for a change of approach that meant Whitehall could afford only to focus on that which is a priority, a necessity, and delivered greatest value for money.

He said: “By 2020, the military trained strength will have shrunk by almost a fifth and the civilian workforce by twice that. Austerity also means deepening and expanding the pool of collaboration. For an outward-looking country like the UK – engaged in and exposed to shared global opportunities, threats and interests – it makes sense for us to work with other nations and other navies.”

He added: “I think our response to delivering security in an age of austerity is also about making a more imaginative contribution to what is referred to by some as ‘Smart Power’. But in my view ‘smart power’ is more than ‘speaking softly and carrying a big stick’. It’s also about using our power more wisely.”

Sir Mark said the military must be more imaginative about its contribution in areas such as “capacity building” and “upstream conflict prevention” which was the ultimate prize in defence.

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Source: Wales Online.

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