Britain’s special forces and cyberdefences will receive an extra £4 billion in the next five years to combat terrorism and protect Britain from cyberattack.
The Special Air Service (SAS), the Special Boat Service (SBS) and the intelligence services look set to be the big winners of a large-scale review of defence and security due to be published on Monday as the government focuses on measures to tackle Islamic State and other terrorist groups.
David Cameron used a foreign policy speech at the City of London’s Guildhall last night to announce:
- An extra £2 billion over five years for the SAS and other special forces, to pay for weapons, vehicles including helicopters, protective equipment and night fighting gear.
- Refocusing more of the aid budget on stabilising fragile states, which are a major factor in creating instability and violence in the world.
- More funding for moderate Muslim groups, to encourage “reforming and moderate Muslim voices to speak up and challenge the extremists”.
George Osborne, meanwhile, will today announce a doubling of investment in cybersecurity to £1.9 billion by 2020.
In an unprecedented speech at GCHQ in Cheltenham, the chancellor will also reveal plans for a new National Cyber Centre and a new Institute for Coding, which will be at the heart of a new National Cyber Security Strategy.
He will say that Britain must be prepared for hybrid conflicts, played out in cyberspace as well as on the battlefield.
The SAS is to have a far greater role in combating any terrorist attacks in Britain under a review of security tactics.
A policy of shoot to kill will take precedence over previous notions of trying to “cordon and negotiate” given that the attackers in France wore suicide vests and were intent on dying with their victims, according to Whitehall sources.
“There is a feeling that if the cops came up against something like Paris, they could not deal with it,” a security source said.
“It is a military operation that should be handled by the SAS and the SBS. [We] are so battle hardened it would be a normal night out for us. We have faced plenty of suicide bombers.”
The budget for the SAS and the SBS is not made public but some £36 billion a year is spent on the whole of defence, making an additional £2 billion for such a small group a significant increase.
There is understood to be a desire to expand significantly the number of full-time SAS and SBS – currently about 450-strong – but there are concerns within the special forces community that this risks diluting their quality.
Additional funding for new equipment, however, will be welcome.
The strategic defence and security review will also approve the funding for more drones to be used in security operations. In addition, it is expected to set out how the military will increasingly support the police in the event of a domestic terrorist attack.
Mr Cameron revealed last month that the government would buy 20 Protector drones to replace the ten Reaper drones that are operating over Iraq and Syria. The Protectors will fly further and carry more advanced weapons.
Last year the prime minister announced a £1 billion investment in hi-tech military equipment and cyberwarfare to assist the SAS and the SBS.
In his speech, Mr Cameron also said that at least 50 per cent of the international development budget would be spent on “stabilising and supporting broken and fragile states”, a rise of around £2 billion, up from 30 per cent.