16 October 2010


Dr Paul Cornish
(Former Chatham House Expert)


  • This report offers a framework for assessing the quality and durability of the UK government's Strategic Defence and Security Review addressing the process leading to the 2010 review, and the purpose, the future and the value of security and defence in the context of the review.
  • Reviews of UK security and defence strategy usually fail, either because the mismatch between strategy and budget becomes too great, or because of a failure to identity and anticipate security and defence challenges as they evolve. If the SDSR is to succeed as a strategic plan it should be more than a product of the moment.
  • It should be possible for the Ministry of Defence to use an inadequate defence budget prudently and cleverly, by investing in resources which will maximize value. What is required is a shift in emphasis from defence 'inputs' - weapon systems, equipment and force postures - to strategic 'outputs' - the functions required to ensure national security and defence in a challenging and changing environment.
  • A debate on national strategy should explore the full spectrum of security possibilities to establish, first of all, where UK national interest and values will be most urgently and unavoidably engaged.

This report forms part of the project on Rethinking the UK's International Ambitions and Choices.

More resources

Project on The UK's Strategic Defence and Security Review >>

Britain's Strategic Defence and Security Review: Muddling Through
The World Today
Paul Cornish, November 2010

Evaluating the 2010 Strategy Review
Scorecards, October 2010

Breaking the Mould: the United Kingdom Strategic Defence Review 2010
International Affairs
Paul Cornish and Andrew Dorman, March 2010

National Defence in the Age of Austerity
International Affairs
Paul Cornish and Andrew Dorman, July 2009

Blair's Wars and Brown's Budgets: From Strategic Defence Review to Strategic Decay in Less Than a Decade
International Affairs
Paul Cornish and Andrew Dorman March 2009

Media Dissemination

Below is a selection of media mentions of the the report Strategy in Austerity and comments made by Chatham House experts.

Editorial: Defence and Security Review: Groping for a strategy
The Guardian, 20 October 2010

Fortress Britain no longer?
Foreign Policy, 20 October 2010

Cameron keeps everybody happy...for now
The Financial Times, 18 October 2010

Times panel: analysis of defence cuts
The Times, 19 October 2010

Leading article: An age of uncertainty
The Independent
, 19 October 2010

Defence cuts: will the US now give up on us?
The Guardian, 19 October 2010

Crow on UK's defence review
Bloomberg, 19 October 2010

How the carriers sank a defence strategy
The Financial Times, 18 October 2010

Where will the axe fall? Whitehall waits for the bloodbath
The Independent, 17 October 2010