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New defence review will be completed in ‘less than a year’, defence secretary says

John Healey said a top priority for him will be the grinding but crucial work of reforming how the Ministry of Defence and all of its various branches function – something that will take time and “earns you no political bonus points”.

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Speaking on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Washington on Wednesday, he also signalled that helping NATO defend Europe from Russian aggression will be deemed a higher priority than sending military ships, jets and soldiers on exercises to Asia.

A “tilt” to the Asia-Pacific had, by contrast, formed a central plank in the thinking behind the last government’s defence review.

Mr Healey was asked by Sky News how long the Strategic Defence Review – due to be formally launched next week – will take to conduct.

“We will do that in less than a year. We will do it properly. We will do it at pace,” he said.

“We will do it so that we can get to grips with difficult decisions that need to be taken early and then defence can become the foundation for a mission-led government that is at the heart of the security of the country and the economic growth and prosperity of the country.”

He continued: “That gives you an indication also that it isn’t just a question of what we do – how ready our forces are to fight – but also the deep reform that is required in defence that is certainly not a day one, week one and even completed in year one job.

“But for the first time it will be one of the priorities for me as defence secretary – that grind of internal defence reform that is essential but earns you no political bonus points… but must be done.”

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On where to focus the UK’s military resources, the defence secretary said too often the UK “promised to do everything everywhere”.

He added: “First and foremost with a war in Europe, with wider Russian aggression and with our treaty commitments to NATO, this is where our first priority must lie and this is what will be at the heart of the strategic defence review.”

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