The biggest international crisis since World War II is increasing pressure for a rethink of national security policy that redefines sovereign risk and elevates the importance of non-military challenges. Despite its terrible toll, the pandemic provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to unite the country around a security agenda that will reshape how we live in a post-COVID-19 world.
How this agenda will be constituted and implemented is for debate. But security experts increasingly believe national security policy should be more holistic, integrated and focused on making us resilient to such shocks.
In recent weeks, there have been calls for “smart” sovereignty, less dependence on global supply chains, rejuvenating our vanishingly merchant navy, building a non-military system of national service, hardening the nation’s infrastructure and adopting the idea of total defence.
All these ideas have merit, and bringing the best of them together in a revamped security strategy won’t be as difficult, or expensive, as traditionalists think. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, provided governments are willing to learn from our mistakes, build on the national security machinery already in place and work across the political divide to build a new strategic consensus.