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The National Security Strategy: Implications for the UK intelligence community

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Author(s):  Sir David Omand GCB
Published date:  09 Feb 2009
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This policy brief, prepared as a submission to the current ippr Commission on National Security in the 21st Century, seeks to extend that analysis into an examination of the implications of the National Security Strategy for the UK intelligence community.

On 9 March 2008, Gordon Brown presented a White Paper to Parliament that served as the first comprehensive attempt to distil a 'National Security Strategy' for the United Kingdom. The starting point for the strategy is the existence of a fixed and unwavering obligation on the part of government to protect the British people and the British national interest. However, the strategic analysis then goes on to assert that the nature of the threats and the risks the UK faces have changed beyond recognition in recent decades, so confounding all the old assumptions about national defence and international security.

As the strategy makes clear, new threats demand new approaches. A radically updated and much more coordinated response was called for by the Prime Minister and sketched out in the White Paper in relation to both international and domestic defence and security concerns. This policy brief, prepared as a submission to the current ippr Commission on National Security in the 21st Century, seeks to extend that analysis into an examination of the implications of the National Security Strategy for the UK intelligence community.

The paper is organised into three sections to try to answer the following questions:

  • First, what are the big picture messages from the National Security Strategy that the members of the UK intelligence community might - and should - focus on as most relevant to their work?
  • Second, how might the future development of the work of the intelligence community, and the organisation of that community, be influenced not just by those demands but by the challenges of operating in a 21st century environment and with new technologies?
  • Finally, how will these developments affect public perceptions and public trust in the work of the intelligence community?