Launching the Integrated Security Fund: An Address by Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG

Integrated Security Fund Launch event at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)

Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG

I am Lucy Neville-Rolfe the minister in the Cabinet Office responsible for the Integrated Security Fund, working with the Deputy Prime Minister to bolster the UK’s National Security. My portfolio also includes cyber, borders, public appointments, fraud and in case that seems narrow the Covid Inquiry and Government statistics.

I would like to thank RUSI for their hospitality today. We need analysis and thought on all subjects, not least security.

What with Putin’s War in Ukraine - that on Saturday passed the two-year mark - conflict in Israel and Palestine, threats from China, North Korea and Iran – and constant danger from serious organised crime, cyber and fraud, it is increasingly apparent that our national security is threatened in numerous ways. As a consequence over medium term I expect defence and security spending will increase significantly here and elsewhere. We must respond to these threats and the significant challenge they pose. And that is why I am proud today to discuss one of our responses by launching the Integrated Security Fund (ISF). 

The Fund will take effect from 1 April, and will retain the many strengths of its predecessor, the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). It operates a unique cross-government approach and is characterised by its integrated, agile, catalytic, and high-risk approach.

The new Integrated Security Fund that replaces it provides for the bringing together of domestic and overseas considerations and allows us to tackle those national security threats which require a whole of government response, wherever those threats are. It responds to the findings of the Integrated Review Refresh last year. In his foreword, the Prime Minister pointed to the challenges to our national security:

He said: “Against the backdrop of a more volatile and contested world. Its main conclusion is that unless democracies like our own do more to build our resilience and out-cooperate and out-compete those that are driving instability, the global security situation will deteriorate further, to the detriment of all states and peoples.”

The ISF will build on the excellent role that has been played by the CSSF in helping to deliver the government’s national security objectives

It will have the same four principles of: Integration, agility, catalytic effect and high risk. 

A catalytic principle may puzzle some. The idea is that the Fund initiates activity, which is then taken on elsewhere, whether inside HMG or by our external partners.  As an example, The Partnership Fund for a Resilient Ukraine (PFRU) is a UK led-multi-donor stabilisation mechanism developed to strengthen Ukraine’s resilience against Russian-led aggressive tactics.  The mechanism led by the UK is now supported by the USA, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden and Finland. So, our approach and the initial resources it brings has been multiplied to great effect. 

Examples of work begun under the CSSF that we will build on under the ISF:

The ISF is, I believe, unique in the extent of its cross-government approach. It brings together the UK’s defence, security - both international and domestic, including UK policing, diplomatic and development capabilities. It will thus complement and amplify the work of several departments: FCDO, MOD, HO, DfT, DBT, DLUHC, DSIT, DWP, HMT, DCMS, DEFRA, DfE and others.

Let me describe some examples of work begun under the CSSF that we will build on under the ISF:

Take Nigeria, I was in Abuja a week ago and saw how the CSSF blends diplomatic, development and defence activity through ODA and non-ODA to deliver a UK offer that sets us apart from others.

I arrived a week after the conclusion of the annual security and defence partnership talks, a pillar of our strategic partnership with Nigeria.

I met with the Minister of State for Police Affairs ahead of her visit to the UK. We discussed the institutional and structural challenges that Nigeria faces in developing a modern police force, responsive to the needs of Nigerian citizens. We discussed police reform, including next steps on the implementation of the Police Act 2020, a piece of legislation that the CSSF helped to bring about. I noted that during my time in Nigeria, the Federal Government announced a review with the objective of creating State Police Forces. The CSSF recently began working with the Ministry and the Nigerian Police Force, giving the UK a key role in supporting these wider reform objectives, a good example of a high risk project. 

The CSSF is also funding work on digital evidence handling for judges and prosecutors as part of our partnership with Nigeria to tackle cybercrime. Threats to the cybersecurity of the UK and its partners are a growing global menace that have the potential to jeopardise economic growth and gift advantage to those who seek to do us harm. Under the ISF, the UK’s engagement in this area is set to expand in Africa, including through the new Africa Cyber Programme, which will support the recently signed bilateral MOU.  These activities demonstrate one area of the Fund’s contribution to addressing emerging threats to the UK’s national security, as set out in the Integrated Review Refresh.

A week after the security and defence partnership talks, I heard from our military and civilian teams working with the Nigerian Government to tackle transnational threats of extremism in the north of Nigeria and across the Lake Chad Region. I also attended the Defence Intelligence College and met the first graduates from a CSSF funded and UK Military supported Defence intelligence course. This interservice and inter-agency approach is a comparative advantage of the UK and the CSSF, including work in non-combat settings, assisting the military in working effectively with Nigerians and their communities.

A key priority for the ISF will be countering disinformation. Work to guard against disinformation has never been more important than in 2024; a year that sees elections in over 70 countries with a combined population of half of the world’s total. We did some great work in Ukraine two years ago demonstrating exceptional agility to build the resilience of the Ukrainian population to disinformation through, Filter, a national media literacy project. We also gave the Ukrainian Government vital support at the outset of the invasion through a £7 million cyber security programme to deal with Russian attacks. 

We are also countering the cyber threat elsewhere for example by supporting the National Security Council of Georgia to implement their new national cyber security strategy and identify and respond to threats from those seeking to undermine Georgian and wider European Security. 

Earlier this month our Fund supported “Defence Cyber Marvel 3” in Tallin, Estonia. The UK led a live-fire cyber exercise involving 17 NATO allies and key regional partners. The exercise was co-funded through MOD and the CSSF and was delivered by British Army cyber reserves.  It utilised Europe’s largest cyber range and involved a ’cyber force’ defending, contesting and constraining an adversary. Lessons from Ukraine were used to upskill participants. 

The exercise used more computers than any other cyber defence exercise and involved a quantum computer for the first time, as well as AI. It highlighted the strong links between the UK and its international and industry partners. The exercise also benefited from cooperation with law enforcement and industry. Teams were tested on how AI could be used for cyber defence of different systems vital to critical national infrastructure. This impressive effort pushed the boundaries of technological capabilities. The integrated HMG team projected strategic UK cyber skills and leadership. They brought together NATO allies and key global partners to deliver a cutting-edge exercise with direct learning for all participants. This had clear defence and deterrence value and huge diplomatic impact too.

In Asia we are working to build resilience to a wide range of threats, including cyber and disinformation, as I saw first-hand when I attended the International Cyber week in Singapore last October.  We have programmes delivered by UK multinational and defence supplier BAE systems. This is being carried out in countries such as Thailand and under the ISF we will be extending it to the Philippines. 

By addressing the threat of terrorism overseas we are making the UK more secure.  For example, the CSSF-funded Counter Daesh Communications Cell undercut Daesh propaganda through communications that reached 40 million people across the Middle East leading to a tangible reduction in support for Daesh which makes the world - including home in the UK - a safer place. Recent months have shown all too clearly how world events, be they in Ukraine or in the Middle East, impact our domestic security.  

The truth is that many of the threats identified in the Integrated Review Refresh, like cyber-attacks, terrorism, disinformation and people smuggling, originate outside of the UK. So, we need to act internationally as well as nationally.

The security challenges we face do not respect borders, they can happen anywhere and come from any place, at any time. For example, Serious Organised Crime Groups operate in multiple countries inside and outside the UK.  We need to be able to work across borders and that is what the ISF is designed to do.

There is a need for change and a new strategic framework has been developed by Ministers from across the Government.  

Bringing together the CSSF, the National Cyber Programme and the Economic Deterrence Initiative we have created a single fund approaching £1 billion a year. 

There are six headings in our new strategy which reflect the priorities set out in the IRR:

  1. State Threats: combatting threats to the UK and its interests from state-level actors.
  2. Non-State Threats: combating threats to the UK and its interests from actors below state-level, including terrorist groups, violent extremists’ organisations, and organised crime groups.
  3. Cyber, Emerging and Disruptive Tech: Defending against malicious activity in the cyber domain, like AI and quantum computing, including by protecting critical national infrastructure, key international dependencies and shaping international rules and standards.
  4. Maritime Security: Improving understanding of the maritime domain and combating threats to the UK, key allies and partners. We are also promoting awareness of, and adherence to, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Another crucial area for the ISF that involves Maritime Security is the Arctic where developments are of critical importance to the UK’s security, environment and energy supply.
  5. Economic Deterrence: developing, deploying and overseeing effective economic tools to deter and respond to hostile acts. 
  6. Conflict & Instability including women, peace and security: Combatting drivers and enablers of conflict and instability including enabling effective delivery on women, peace and security priorities to prevent and resolve these issues. 

We have also sought supplier feedback on how we run the Fund. We renewed the Contract Framework in the autumn adding new suppliers and trying to make life easier for them, for example by reviewing policies and processes to foster a culture of continuous improvement and maximise efficiency. We are increasing the regularity and depth of our engagement with suppliers, to ensure that areas for improvement focus on subjects which have the greatest positive impact. 

I am told the Fund compares well with Government procurement in some other areas, but I would like to hear confirmation of this from today’s audience.

I have also heard that a year can be too short a time to deliver results in a cost-effective way so we will try to tip the balance more in favour of longer, multi-year projects whilst maintaining some flexibility to deal with crises and new priorities that arise.

And I want to address the concerns I have heard from the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy that the Fund’s identity will be diluted and that domestic political pressures will take priority. I hope I have set out clearly that we will retain the Fund’s distinct identity. The transformation from CSSF to ISF will ensure the Fund is aligned with the IRR objectives in a coherent way. The Fund will be able to work domestically as well as internationally and it is not envisaged that it will become a predominantly “domestic” fund given that many of the threats identified in the IRR originate outside of the UK. The success of this Fund is something that is of utmost importance to this government.  

We chose to launch the new Fund here at RUSI in the presence of such an esteemed audience for a reason. We are at the very beginning of something great. I have outlined some of our plans for year one, but we need your help for year two and beyond.  We want your thoughts on how we can best join-up domestic and international activity.  And we welcome your views on how best to stay true to the four principles of the Fund – to be integrated, agile, catalytic and high risk.  

I welcome your thoughts, ideas and questions….

Thank you for listening.

Cabinet Office
Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG