The UK must play defense before the 2024 Spring Budget

Ahead of the release of the UK’s 2024 spring budget, defense watchers are wondering whether more money will be allocated to military spending in an election year that looks increasingly difficult for the incumbent Conservative Government.

The March 6, 2024 budget will essentially serve as a formula to stimulate a degree of growth in the economy and series of good news ahead of the widely expected general election in the fourth quarter of this year, likely in November.

In defence, the UK will look at ways in which it can strengthen its posture through its strategic commitments – from its support to Ukraine to organizing its own force structure against near-peer threats.

With the National Audit Office accounting for the UK’s largest defense equipment deficit in December 2023, the government will need to catch up as it seeks to meet these commitments.

Background and objectives

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there have been renewed calls for increased defense spending, particularly in the context of rising inflation since the conflict began in February 2022.

The Spring Budget 2023 allocated an extra £5 billion in defense spending over the next two years (2023/24 and 2024/25) and a further £2 billion a year in subsequent years until 2027/28. This increases defense spending by a total of £11 billion over this five year period.

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Moreover, as part of Built-in review update 2023 (which sets out the government’s national security and international policy), Prime Minister Rishi Sunak set a longer-term ambition to increase defense spending to 2.5% of UK gross domestic product (GDP). Although no timeline has been given for achieving this goal.

Defense procurement ahead of the budget

Recently, the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) established new methods for acquiring its systems. On 28 February 2024, Defense Procurement Secretary James Cartlidge sought to accelerate the pace of delivery with greater emphasis on exportability and minimum national configuration requirements.

“Instead of striving for perfection before delivery to the frontline, capabilities at 60-80% of their full potential will be delivered to the user, allowing early implementation and subsequent improvements to realize their full potential,” the State Department said.

This procurement reform sets the stage to equip the UK Armed Forces with more systems more cheaply and off the shelf – surely a good news headline if ever there was one for a government that usually relies on nothing more than tax cuts to curry favor.

The budget may allow the Department of Development with funds to pursue what appears to be a new form of procurement for cheaper systems.

New strategies for an inadequate power structure

Last month, Cartlidge also unveiled a new Drone strategy backed by at least £4.5bn of investment over the next decade. and land.

These longer-term commitments to restructuring the Armed Forces as they adopt hybrid methods of warfare will help deliver new opportunities proven by asymmetric methods applied on Ukraine’s battlefields.

Additional reporting by Richard Thomas.

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