David Cameron today confirmed that £650 million will be allocated over a four-year period to the fight against cyberattacks.
Meanwhile, as he announced the Strategic Defence and Security Review in the House of Commons this afternoon, he made only indirect references to an ongoing £7.1 billion communications programme with HP, called DII, which had been tipped to be rescoped. He indicated support for the programme by stating that advanced communications were vital to a more modern military.
The prime minister said there needed to be “a new focus on unconventional threats”, in particular to cyber attacks. The £650 million being allocated is around a third more than previously indicated by defence sources.
“We need to fix the shortfalls in the critical cyber infrastructure on which the whole country relies,” he said. In a strategy document, the government says that cyber threats present “enormous implications for the nature of modern conflict”.
“We will transform our cyber capabilities within Defence by establishing a UK Defence Cyber Operations Group,” the review said. “Future conflict will see cyber operations conducted in parallel with more conventional actions in the maritime, land and air environments.” The Cyber Operations Group will include science, technology and military experts.
The UK and US are also drafting a Cyber Operations Memorandum of Understanding covering cybersecurity responses, the government said.
The prime minister today insisted that the review was focused on developing a response to “new threats”, rather than simply being a “cost-cutting exercise”.
Nevertheless in the review, Cameron announced that the government would cut the UK’s defence budget by eight percent in real terms, saving £4.7 billion over the next four years. Twenty-five thousand civilian troops will be cut. And 7,000 army personnel will go, taking the army to 95,000 personnel.
The Ministry of Defence will also work to renegotiate contracts with existing suppliers.
One of the largest IT-focused programmes in the MoD is the £7.1 billion Defence Information Infrastructure scheme, with supplier HP (formerly EDS). The DII is focused on providing hand-held terminals to 300,000 forces personnel around the world, as part of a single information and communications platform that will handle sensitive in-the-field mission data.
There was no news on that programme, in spite of suggestions it could be rescoped in today’s Defence Review.
The prime minister, in an apparent reference to that and other programmes, said however that “enhanced communications equipment” will play a part in “making the army more capable” of the new environment in which it will operate.
In the review, the government said: “The introduction of new armoured vehicles, enhanced communications equipment and new strategic lift aircraft, will make the army more mobile and more flexible. It will be better adapted to face current and future threats, with the type of equipment it needs to prevail in today’s conflicts.”
As enemy technology advances, “we must therefore win the battle for information, as well as the battle on the ground”, the government said.