The Coalition government sought today to suggest that the savings package for the national-security sector is all part of a joined-up plan or strategy, which will feature a 'transformative' cyber security force or capability of some type.
This was done by issuing a document today entitled A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The National Security Strategy, which can be downloaded in pdf here.
In it, the government sets out its view that the four biggest threats to the UK (rated as 'Tier 1' threats under the newly-developed National Security rRisk Assessment method) are as follows:
1 Terrorism - including WMD attacks;
2 A cyber attack;
3 A massive accident or natural disaster; and
4 An international military crisis which draws in the UK.
Other kinds of risks (satellite disruption, increases in organised crime etc) are merely Tier 2 or 3. This risk assessment will be updated every two years from now on until some future government replaces it with some other system.
What will the government do about this?
There are no official details yet. However in broad outline we know that the conventional armed forces and police will be cut, and the intelligence community - foreign spooks MI6/SIS, domestic spooks MI5/SS, and most of all cyber/electronic spooks GCHQ - will get budget increases which are significant to them but much smaller than the savings made from cuts in troops and cops.
None of this is in A Strong Britain, however. Instead, the document sets out eight rather meaningless "national security tasks" (for example "tackle at root the causes of instability" ... "work in alliances and partnerships wherever possible"). However it is confirmed that the UK will remain able to "where necessary, intervene overseas".
It is also specified that the UK will "develop a transformative programme for cyber security, which addresses threats from states, criminals and terrorists and seizes the opportunities which cyber space provides for our future prosperity and for advancing our national security interests".
We here on the Reg defence desk suspect that cyber security capabilities - in some parts of the British government at least - remain rudimentary as of today. After we wrote this recent article on cyber security training in the US military, we received a reader message from an MoD IP address and giving a central-MoD return email, signed by a colonel (Royal Signals) who shall remain nameless.
We are looking to set up a similar training facility for our cyberspace technicians and would be really interested to see the modules that you have included in the courseware.
Which tends to argue that some people in charge of setting up our transformative cyber security programme can't tell the difference between the Reg and the US Air Force's 333rd Training Squadron, in charge of generating the new American force of "cyber operations officers". Probably not a good start.
Once the actual details on the Strategic Defence and Security Review are out, we'll pass them on. ®