Global Britain in a Competitive Age and Defence in a Competitive Age: A Critique

The white papers Britain issued in 2021–Global Britain in a Competitive Age and Defence in a Competitive Age–do not serve their claimed purpose. They do not provide a meaningful “integrated review” of British defense, and they fail to properly address most of the challenges raised in the House of Common’s commentary–In Search of Strategy—The 2020 Integrated Review. Instead, they are filled with vague good intensions, rhetoric, and goals, but they lack any of the specifics. Both documents mention the need for serious study and analysis, but they are 109- and 71-page vacuums when it comes to providing such content.

Global Britain in a Competitive Age touches on idea after idea without defining specific courses of action, and it sometimes seems to be more of a catalog of strategic options focusing more attention to full color photos than a real effort at strategy. The closest it comes to specifics is listing the areas of added spending in Annex A: Integrated Review priorities funded in Spending Review 2020, but this annex provides no real specifics as to how and when this money will be spent and does not even show that the money will be adequate to meet its intended purpose.

Defence in a Competitive Age does list most of the key strategic challenges that Britain faces and does list some force improvements, specifics, and spending data. However, it does not present clear overall force plans or supporting details describing plans, programs, implementation schedules, budgets, or measures of effectiveness.

This report entitled, Global Britain in a Competitive Age and Defence in a Competitive Age: A Critique, is available for download at

Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. He has served as a consultant on Afghanistan to the United States Department of Defense and the United States Department of State.