AviationU.K. plans to boost counterterrorism, aviation security significantly

Published 16 November 2015

The U.K. government will substantially increase efforts to counter the threat from ISIS. In the five-year defense and security review, to be unveiled next week, the government details plans to increase the staff of MI5, MI6, and GCHQ by 1,900 officers; at least a double the funding for aviation security around the world; and deploy additional aviation security officers to assess security at overseas airports.

Easy Jet airliner taking off. // Source: commons.wikimedia.org

The U.K. government said it would substantially increase its efforts to counter the terror threat from ISIS in the government’s 5-year defense and security review to be unveiled next week.

New funding will be invested in the security and intelligence agencies to provide for an additional 1,900 officers — an increase of 15 percent — at MI5, MI6, and GCHQ to respond to the increasing international terrorist threat, more cyber-attacks, and other global risks.

In the wake of the increasing number of Islamist terror plots against Britain and the attacks in Belgium, France, Tunisia, and elsewhere, Prime Minister David Cameron has decided to boost resources.

The government is also planning a step change in its approach to aviation security following the Russian Metrojet disaster in Egypt a fortnight ago, which government security experts believe was brought down by a bomb and that there is a significant possibility that ISIS were behind it.

Cameron has ordered a rapid review of security at a number of airports around the world in the wake of the Sinai disaster, with aviation specialists expected to conduct assessments over the next two months at locations in the Middle East and North Africa in particular.

Additional security measures were put in place by the United Kingdom and the United States at a number of potentially vulnerable airports over the past year, and these will now be reviewed to check whether they go far enough. On Tuesday, the U.K. National Security Council will discuss the government’s policy on aviation security.

Ministers are expected to endorse a proposal, already backed by Cameron, to more than double government spending on aviation security over this Parliament.

The new funding outlined in the defense and security review would provide for:

  • Additional aviation security experts to provide regular assessments of security at airports around the world and with the capacity to “surge” as necessary in response to an incident such as the Metrojet crash.
  • More advice, training, and equipment for other countries to increase security at airports in vulnerable countries.
  • Increased research into screening technology and to detect new threats.

Ahead of publication of the Strategic Security and Defense Review, Cameron:

Economic security goes hand-in-hand with national security. Since 2010 we have taken the tough decisions necessary to restore our economic strength and we now have one of the fastest growing developed economies.

That means we can now invest more in our national security and I am determined to prioritise the resources we need to combat the terrorist threat because protecting the British people is my number one duty as Prime Minister.

Our intelligence agencies work round the clock behind the scenes and as the threat has grown so they too have risen to the challenge. Much of what they do cannot be seen by us or talked about but their courageous and determined efforts allow us to go about our daily life.

This is a generational struggle that demands we provide more manpower to combat those who would destroy us and our values.

We will also step up our efforts on aviation security, helping countries around the world to put in place the tightest security measures possible so that we can continue to enjoy places like Egypt and Tunisia and continue with our way of life we hold so dear.

The government said that the airport security assessments are likely to focus on the nature and scale of the threat and the measures in place to reduce vulnerabilities, for example passenger screening; physical security at the airport, and hold baggage and freight screening. They will also prioritize airports with high numbers of British citizens travelling to and from them.

Cameron talked about aviation security with other leaders at the G20 in Turkey yesterday, including in a bilateral with President Vladimir Putin.

The U.K. intelligence agencies (MI6, MI5, and GCHQ) currently have a staff of around 12,700. Current spending on aviation security is approximately £9 million a year. There are currently twenty Government Aviation Security Liaison Officers of which eight are based overseas.