Welcome to the second MDI Working Group Monthly Blog, a short communication document designed to bring insights and additional perspectives to the pursuit of Integration across the Defence Enterprise.

Our MDI Working Group blog builds on the February Blog, continues to offer strategic insights, and provides a link to valuable reference material.

Three important themes are examined in this blog:

  • The UK’s Integrated Review
  • The Strategic Command annual conference
  • The Importance of digital skills and culture.


The UK’s Integrated Review

The Prime Minister unveiled the Integrated Review Refresh (www) on 13th March (IR Refresh 23). The Integrated Review Refresh was commissioned to respond to emerging geopolitical threats, from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine to China’s economic coercion and increased competition between states. The IR Refresh included an additional £5 billion of spending for Defence over the next two years.

The Prime Minister said that the increase in funding will allow the UK to meet the challenges of an increasingly volatile and complex world, in an update to the 2021 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy. The Prime Minister also set out an ambition for Defence spending to reach 2.5% of GDP in the long term.

An update to the Defence Command Paper will give further detail on the implications of the Integrated Review Refresh and the Spring Statement and will set out Defence’s vision to modernise the Armed Forces ahead of a NATO summit this summer.

The increase in spending will also help the UK replenish and bolster its ammunition stocks as our support to Ukraine continues. The extra funding amounts to £1.98 billion extra this year and £2.97 billion next year. Of this money, £3 billion will be invested in Defence nuclear activity, including expenditure on industrial infrastructure, nuclear skills, and support to in-service submarines. The remaining £1.95 billion will replenish and bolster munitions stockpiles to replace items donated to Ukraine.

The £5 billion increase follows a £24 billion four-year uplift in Defence spending announced in 2020 – the largest sustained increase since the Cold War.


The Strategic Command Annual Conference (23rd March 2023)

The conference examined challenges that Strategic Command has to tackle now (for example support to the campaign in Ukraine), next (the next 2-5 years) and in the future (preparing for the next 10 years)…. #NowNextFuture on twitter.

The event saw experts from across Defence, Government, industry, and academia come together to explore how we address the immediate threats facing Defence.

It was General Jim Hockenhull’s first conference as Comd UKStratCom. He took to the stage to open proceedings with a keynote speech discussing, amongst other things, the purpose of UKStratCom, the importance of living up to our values in everything we do and lessons from Ukraine. He also reinforced his pride in the work UKStratCom does in delivering greater integration for Defence, stating:

“Strategic Command is crucial for generating integration for Defence. And Integration Wins.”

Throughout his speech, he emphasised the importance of learning and adapting, not just as a Command, but also as an important element within Defence:

“Our learning and adaption must be at the heart of how we do our business. If we cannot learn and adapt, then we are going to lose. My fear is that we often identify lots of lessons, but we very rarely pull them through into our organisation. Learning and adapting lessons ought not to be a thing which is done on the side of Defence, it ought to be at the heart of Defence.”

General Jim also pushed home the importance of living up to our core values of; innovative, progressive, and inclusive when delivering our core purposes as a Command; supporting campaigning, driving integration, and leading the cyber and electromagnetic domain.’ Describing himself as an ‘accidental four star,’ he also stressed his pride in being Commander of Strategic Command and reiterated his passion for the work we do, concluding his keynote with:

“Strategic Command is crucial at generating greater integration for Defence and integration wins. That integration journey is very hard but I’m so proud of what we have at Strategic Command, which I view as being the jewels in the crown of Defence.

“When you look at the Permanent Joint Headquarters, Defence Digital, Defence Intelligence, Special Forces, our Joint Force Development, our education, the National Cyber Force, Overseas Bases, and all of the things that we do – it is just an incredible array of capabilities, which do the most remarkable things. They help the nation stay safe, they help the nation prosper and our charge is to maximise the impact of all of that.”

You can read a full transcript of General Jim’s keynote on Strategic Command’s Gov.UK page.

During his keynote speech, General Jim also called on personnel from across Strategic Command, including Defence Medical Services and Defence Digital who shared their personal reflections on supporting Ukraine since Russia’s illegal full-scale invasion. Speaking on his experience, Flight Lieutenant Ayden Feeney, Defence Support, said:

“Within two weeks of the invasion we had delivered just under 500 tonnes of military aid, including weapons systems, protective clothing, and wider lethal and non-lethal aid, along with approximately 740 people to and from Ukraine. Going into work, planning and re-planning tasks, then coming home to see our work on the evening news. It has been an extremely rewarding process”.

Before breaking for lunch, the conference broached the topics of war in Europe, future threats and technology and global strategic trends. Lieutenant General Yngve Odlo, Chief of Norwegian Joint Operations, began by discussing the ‘Now.’ Speaking on the immediate threats facing Defence, he shared his views of war in Europe, highlighting the problems we currently face and the threats to European peace and stability including horizontal escalation, unintended consequences, and western war fatigue.

Christopher Ahlberg, Co-Founder and CEO of Recorded Future, then addressed the ‘Next’. Talking on the rapidly growing importance of technology, Christopher highlighted the role it will play in allowing Defence to tackle the threats of tomorrow.

Our Co-chair Chris Parker, in securing a MOD perspective, asked the high-ranking panel led by Dep Comd UKStratCom on behalf of our MDI Working Group, ‘What effect does the MOD want industry to have for MDI?’ The replies were from each panellist: Partner on Skills Gap, Interoperability, Iterate and Converge, Trust, Defend as UK Defence.

Lastly, Commodore Peter Olive, Head of Futures at DCDC, emphasised that we do not have long to address emerging challenges and that global demographics, climate change, critical mineral dependencies in exchange for fossil fuels and a move to more urban living, not just technology, will shape our long-term futures.

General Jim drew the conference to a close reflecting on the need for immediate action. He remarked:

“What we’ve got to do is use what we’ve discussed today to make a difference and make a change. Now is the moment.”

The Importance of Digital Skills and Culture.

Building on our MDI Working Group culture work, the TD-Info Support Acquisition Management Workshop (29th and 30th March) provided impactful and thought-provoking evidence of our collective need to focus on digital skills for the benefit of UK prosperity, plus to equip defence to meet its obligations.

The presented Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) commissioned YouGov skills-for-a-digital-future-survey reinforced the learning imperative raised by General Hockenhull at The Strategic Command Annual Conference. The survey highlights the critical importance of ‘digital skills’, upskilling and reskilling, supporting emerging tech skills, improving leaders’ understanding of the value of a digital strategy​ and the drive to use cutting edge technology.

Complimentary to the IET insights is our MDI Working Group cultural reform assertions. Our MDI Working Group consultations concluded that if MOD and the Defence Enterprise is to fully exploit this significant digital challenge and digital enhancements, then culture change is needed to enable a new dynamic relationship which supports the strategic imperatives exposed above and the co-creational aims of Defence and Security Industrial Strategy (DSIS).


Consulting widely, the MDI Working Group produced ‘4Integration’ (cultural reform), 4 guiding principles Comments and feedback are encouraged to improve adoption and cultural reform action.

We hope you gained value from this MDI Working Group Monthly Blog. Your thoughts, and additions for future blogs, to be forwarded to steve.worsnip@teamdefence.info

MDI Working Group Leadership (Graham Ball, Chris Parker, and Steve Worsnip)