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Jim Murphy MP, Labour's Shadow Defence Secretary, is expected to say in a speech today at a meeting informing Labour's Defence Procurement Policy Review in Washington DC:

On procurement co-operation: 

“Part of the deeper co-operation we want to see is also learning from best practice – and there is mu ch to learn from the strength of the domestic US industry. The default position of the UK Government in industrial policy at present is to ‘buy off the shelf’, and they principally mean ‘buy American’.

"The UK will regularly buy with or from the US because of your cutting edge technology and larger investment in what are very expensive systems. My default position, however, is that for our core sovereign capabilities I want to make and buy British. Rather than buy from America, I want to learn from America.”

On the need for a pragmatic attitude to the special relationship:

“We have vital and historic links which foster an undoubted and important solidarity. Neither ideology no r nostalgia, however, will ensure we benefit from our close links in today’s world, and so pragmatism should define our approach. 

“In the new security landscape we must assess where and when the UK-US partnership adds value. It is neither a prerequisite nor a luxury. A pragmatic approach which values multiple partners, respects anxious domestic populations and seeks new innovative solutions to enhance capabilities is the best basis on which to shape our defence strategies.”

On the need for a greater European contribution to NATO:

“At times it’s seemed as if there has been an imbalanced relationship between the US and Europe through NATO, and it’s in all of our interests to leave that behind us... Europe must pull its weight in the NATO of the future or NATO will have little future. We’re either all in this together, committed to playing our full parts, or we’re not an alliance that will last.

“The transatlantic allian ce will only be more meaningful if it is more reciprocal. If we do not want the title ‘The Pacific President’ to stick to President Obama then the onus is on Europeans to act.

“It is important for the UK to make this case since we gain power and influence in our relations across the world through our being a strong partner with European nations. Contrary to much conventional wisdom back home, the UK’s transatlantic and European alliances are not alternative paths to influence - they should be mutually reinforcing.” Pragmatism, protection and power: US-UK defence co-operation

Jim Murphy MP, Labour's Shadow Defence Secretary

Introduction: the ‘special relationship’

The ‘special relationship’, a phrase coined by Winston Churchill over 60 years ago, lives on today. We have deep cultural, political and social bonds and President Obama is right when he says that our partnership is “indispensible”. 

The debate we need to have, and that I want to touch on now, is the shape that partnership should take to maximise our national and mutual strategic advantage in defence policy.

It is in the field of defence in many ways that our relationship stands out. Originally based on trade and colonialism, more recently the transatlantic alliance has been deepened through conflict, whether the first or second world wars or now Afghanistan. Our nuclear deterrent policy is intertwined, as is our joint fight against international terrorism. We are deepening interoperability and industrial co-operation and the many new threats we face will only be tackled through a joint response. 

Our values, our interests and our ideals more often than not demand a common approach to conflict and conflict prevention.

We live, however, in a world of rapidly evolving threats and a new security landscape which demands that we continually reassess our security priorities to ensure we can realise our ambitions at home and internationally. 

I want to propose that the UK-US relationship in defence should be based on the themes of pragmatism, protection and power.

Pragmatism

The old notion of the special relationship passed with the passing of the cold war. There is no single common opponent, threats are many and diffuse and we have a new generation of leaders for whom alliances forged in the cold war need to be sustained by de sign not by default.

We have vital and historic links - financial, cultural, political, military interconnections – which foster an undoubted and important solidarity. Neither ideology nor nostalgia, however, will ensure we benefit from our close links in today’s world, and so pragmatism should define our approach. 

Consider three key defining aspects of the new security landscape.

First, this is a global era. Whether WMD proliferation, cyber warfare, counterinsurgency or building the security capacity of partner states, the threats we face are global, so too should be our approach to alliance-making and resolution-building. The growth of new concentrations of political, economic and military power such as in the BRICs underlines the limits of UK-US bilateralism. Today, we cannot escape events beyond our shores, but if our objectives are to be met they must be shared, and therefore a defence posture based on greater multilateralism is inescapable. 

Second, both the UK and US are grappling with challenging domestic fiscal circumstances combined with the rise of other military powers, which means our strategic position needs to be rethought. In the UK, the Government’s defence review limited planning assumptions to just one enduring conflict. The US faces cuts of billion. ‘Smart defence’ must move from rhetoric to reality and we must seek innovative and collaborative ways to boost both the frontline and the bottom line – and with partners other than each other.

Third, our publics are wary and weary. The US is experiencing international reticence: as former Secretary Gates has said, ‘after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war’. At the same time the financial crisis has strengthened protectionist instincts, and so while multilateralist internationalism is more necessary than ever our scope to pool power is limited by sceptical domestic populations.

These three i ssues map a complicated terrain. Our nations, which stood the whole of the previous century shoulder to shoulder against common enemies and for common values, must consider how we now manage our bond under these conditions; how we find smarter ways to support each other in terms of policy and in terms of materiel.

In this landscape we must assess where and when the UK-US partnership adds value. It is neither a prerequisite nor a luxury. A pragmatic approach which values multiple partners, respects anxious domestic populations and seeks new innovative solutions to enhance capabilities is the best basis on which to shape our defence strategies.

Protection

The second theme to focus on is protection. The first duty of all governments is protection of its own citizens. Today that means we have a duty too to protect those whose names and stories we do not know from violence and insecurity. To be able to enhance the protection we offer I want to mention just two areas – greater direct industrial co-operation and strengthening NATO.

First, US-UK industrial co-operation. 

There are already areas where we co-operate with great success. Our open market lets US companies operate in the UK – Northrup Gruman, General Dynamics and Lockhead Martin play a key role in the sector and are major UK employers – while BAE Systems is now predominantly a US-based company. Great examples of cross-pollination.

We should work, however, to see this go further. Learning from our international partners is key plank of the official UK Opposition’s review into defence procurement.

We want to find ways to speed up and reduce costs of delivery of fit for purpose systems; look at how to increase adaptability in procurement programmes; explore how transparency can be increased in the planning process; and examine how co-operation can strengthen sovereign industrial and military capabilities.

Our relationship with the US is of course central. The UK is the largest foreign investor in the US defence industry and the largest foreign supplier to the US military. The US is the leading investor in the UK and the leading destination for our exports.

Better aligned procurement practices will help ensure the UK is able to make a significant military contribution to future operations, for example by having command and control structures and platforms are interoperable with those of the US. 

The UK-US Defence Co-operation Treaty increases trade and co-operation between US and UK companies and, now ratified, I hope that our Governments will be able to quickly identify the defence goods which will be subject to the Treaty and to select the companies who will participate in the approved ‘community’.

We already share technology, such as that developed through UORs for Afghanistan, and should explore how technological development can be a two-way street in, for example, cyber, ISTAR and intelligence gathering. The JSF is a good example of joint development of high-end technology which will serve future conflicts.

But part of the deeper co-operation we want to see is also learning from best practice – and there is much to learn from the strength of the domestic US industry. The default position of the UK Government in industrial policy at present is to ‘buy off the shelf’, and they principally mean ‘buy American’. I know that the UK will regularly buy with or from the US because of your cutting edge technology and larger investment in what are very expensive systems. My default position, however, is that for our core sovereign capabilities I want to make and buy British. 

Rather than buy from America, I want to learn from America.

A stronger British defence industrial base is good for America. Our being able to produce and procure British products for our sovereign defence brings distinctive military capabilities to coalit ion operations, in particular NATO, and it increases demand for skilled jobs and quality engineering graduates who partner Americans in the global defence engineering pool and in the operational environment. 

So I want to learn how you harness innovation and incentivise technological development; how you preserve a cutting edge skills base. This is, I think, a mixture of culture – the premium placed on the evolution of the industry – and policy – the links between business and HE, the nature of the tenders on offer, the inward investment.

We cannot compete on scale, but we can learn from your successes. That is what I hope to do on this visit.

The second issue key to protection is maximising the impact and potential of NATO. Libya, despite the difficulties, is testament to Nato’s enduring relevance. It is the forum through which common action can be taken against what we jointly consider to be unacceptable in the world. 

Progress has been made to update the Alliance. The NATO-wide missile defence system, the new strategic concept, the return of Russia for the first time since 2008 and the agreed timetable for transition in Afghanistan are all positives. 

However, at times it’s seemed as if there has been an imbalanced relationship between the US and Europe through NATO, and it’s in all of our interests to leave that behind us. That is why I welcome the plain speaking by former Secretary Gates and I hope it will continue under Secretary Panetta. Europe must pull its weight in the NATO of the future or NATO will have little future. We’re either all in this together, committed to playing our full parts, or we’re not an alliance that will last.

The transatlantic alliance will only be more meaningful if it is more reciprocal. If we do not want the title ‘The Pacific President’ to stick to President Obama then the onus is on Europeans to act. 

That means greater burden shari ng within NATO - France, UK and Germany represent 65% of all defence expenditure in NATO Europe and 88% of R&T investment.

That also means greater deployability of assets - the EU spends E200bn on defence a year, more than any country except the US, and have two million European troops in uniform, but only 5% deployable at any one time.

And, yes, that also mean nations aiming to meet the NATO expenditure targets on defence.

It is important for the UK to make this case since we gain power and influence in our relations across the world through our being a strong partner with European nations. Contrary to much conventional wisdom back home, the UK’s transatlantic and European alliances are not alternative paths to influence - they should be mutually reinforcing. 

It has been said before that the UK can be the transatlantic bridge which fosters understanding and co-operation between Europe and America. Through NATO, and by making this argument , I think we can begin to live up to that role.

Power 

Finally, I want to mention power.

For many years we will all be renegotiating our world order through the consequences of the Arab spring. As we have all seen people across the Middle East and North Africa lose their fear of dying for the sake of their right to have their voice heard and have some fundamental democratic rights, so are we challenged to recast the orthodoxies of international relations. 

The retention of power has long been at the heart of long term security strategies. Now, however, when the denial of freedom and disempowerment are amongst the greatest destabilising threats the world faces, it is the distribution of power which needs to be central to sustainable international security.

Realisation of democratic ideals overseas supports security within our own shores and so empowerment of the will of people must, I believe, become a focus for integrated defence strategi es. That means diplomatic leadership and developmental intervention, with a focus on governance and political processes, becoming as important to our defence policy as our ability to intervene military. 

In practical terms the US aid package to Tunisia and Egypt is vital, and the EU can act as a further magnet for positive change by linking support with progress on political and economic reform. We must build the capacity and encourage the participation of the other multilateral organisations, such as the African Union and Arab League. 

This is of course not an agenda the UK and US can achieve alone, but it is one I hope we could lead to persuade others to jointly pursue.

Conclusion

The Arab Spring, like the global financial crisis and like 9/11, underlines the unpredictability of the world in which we live. To be prepared we need the best and most flexible military capabilities our budgets and collaborative procurement processes will allow for; b ut as part of comprehensive security strategies we need to aid the shift of power to people.

When Churchill spoke of the special relationship in 1946 he spoke of a ‘fraternal association’ and intended it to be wide, encompassing ‘the British Commonwealth and the Empire’. As part of our security policy we need again to have the view of association with many beyond our borders.

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