Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The shocking state of the Strategic Defence Review

I was honestly optimistic about the SDR, I thought it might be something Conservatives would do right and take some honest steps towards restoring the military covenant.

It looks like they'll fail that spectacularly.

Robert Fox has this excellent article over at The First Post which has this to say:

Firefights are breaking out across Whitehall between the three services and the MoD, the Cabinet Office and the NSC (national Security Council). Some of the details leaked to the Sunday Times about Army numbers, and to the Financial Times about the row over aircraft carriers and Trident's replacement, are clearly accurate. But things seem to be getting worse.

One of the plans, supported by most senior civil servants, was to slash service numbers - by up to 40,000 by one account - in order to preserve some of the big-ticket industrial programmes, principally the aircraft carriers and the order for four new Trident submarines to be placed in 2014.

Civil servants have argued that personnel are expensive – making up about 30 per cent of the £37 billion annual budget – and are relatively easy to fire compared with breaking major equipment contracts, which incurs huge penalty payments.

But Cameron has now been persuaded by the head of the Army, Gen Sir David Richards, to spare 20,000 of those troops. As a result, the RAF and the Navy can expect deeper cuts.

Well now, can't we all be delighted that only 20,000 soldiers from across the various services will be kicked out. Its not like we needed them as we support open ended commitments across the globe.

What we really need are some huge aircraft carriers and nuclear weapons. No techno-fetishism there at all.

In case it wasnt clear, I was being sarcastic there. With a hint of bitterness.

The military creates jobs, it saves lives across the planet, and performs tasks which no one else can. We need it, we need to support it, and we need to be proud of it. Watching a Conservative Government, one I campaigned to get elected, look at slashing numbers of troops is abhorrent to me on a fundamental level.

I have been returning to my Boyd recently, re-reading things and continuing to hone my understanding of his work, and I'm moved to wonder what the great 20th century strategist would have thought about this.

I like to believe he would look at the types of wars we are fighting, against networked, flexible ground forces and thought what we might need is an equally effective networked flexible ground force of our own, one well versed in 4GW, able to win wars, hearts and minds.

I'm still investigating why it is that the Public Administration Select Committee is hosting the "Who Does UK Grand Strategy" discussion. As far as I can tell this is a pretty transparent move to keep this important debate as far from the eye of the media as humanly possible.

The Party I voted for promised this:
We are committed to succeeding in our mission in Afghanistan and will not leave our Forces without the resources they need to fulfil this goal. We will repair the Military Covenant with a series of measures to support service personnel, their families and veterans.
Where did that Party go? Can we have it back please?


  1. Chris, I think the PASC is just looking into this because no one else would. I agree it should be given a higher profile, but at least someone had the initiative to do it.

  2. If thats the case then my comment is retracted. Its a pretty sad state of affairs if thats the only committee which can be brought around to actually discussing the issue. I guess its better than not having it at all.