Introduction: Reforming Defence

Learning lessons from past Defence Reviews

By Dr Andrew Syk for

This article is part of the Military History and Policy Series
Series III: Reforming Defence - Learning lessons from past Defence Reviews

RUSI's Third Military History and Policy Series brings together leading historians of British defence policy in the twentieth century with the object of illuminating the lessons we can derive from earlier defence reviews. With the latest Strategic Defence and Security Review currently underway, RUSI was amongst the first to identify and quantify the likely economic constraints of the global recession on British defence policy.

As this series of Military History and Policy articles makes clear, such considerations highlight the degree of continuity with many previous defence reviews. In those reviews held during the twentieth century politicians and military leaders were similarly required to confront the question of 'Britain's Place in the World' and reconcile this with military capability and, more often than not, economic retrenchment.

In publishing this series of articles RUSI seeks to identify, through historical example, some of the key ingredients of a successful defence review and, conversely, factors that contributed to perceived failure. This leads us to the question of how it is possible to judge a successful defence review: whether through the inclusion of economic balance, military flexibility and inter-service cooperation; or whether through subsequent events, such as the smooth deployment of the correct military capabilities. Further questions are raised by the rigid adherence to outdated foreign policy doctrines, particularly Churchill's 'Three Circles', the legacy of which continues in defence policy today, and the perennial need to balance current military requirements with preparation for unforeseeable threats to British interests. Consideration of these questions and identification of their importance for current policymakers are to be found in the articles below.


To read articles from the Military History series 'Reforming Defence', click here >


Andrew Syk

Visiting Research Fellow

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