Mr Cameron today set out his Governments plans for the future of UK Defence policy. It has been twelve years since our Government has addressed the issue of Defence in such a dramatic manner. Since the last review we have been involved in conflicts in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan. Not to mention the enduring issues of Northern Ireland and the continued presence of our forces in Cyprus and Germany. In my opinion this review is more than a little over due.
Throughout the build up to the announcements made this afternoon we have been subjected to rumours concerning troop cuts and the slashing of budgets. Commentators have been quick to pass this review off as a cost cutting exercise rather than a strategic exercise and to a certain extent I agree with them. But a review was needed, and in these times of financial troubles decisions must be made!
I’m not going to go into detail of what the Prime Minister announced today as it will be all over the press by now anyway, but I would like to pick out a few choice phrases.
“The MOD must become Smaller, Smarter and more responsible in its spending.” The way we currently procure our equipment has to change. How can an organisation such as the MOD get itself into such a muddle again and again when it comes to procuring new kit for our Armed Forces? When I joined the Army in 1999 as a naive 18 year old, I was already aware of the farce that had been the procurement of the BOWMAN communications system and we were all fully aware that we had a rifle that didn’t work properly. These issues have now been resolved, but what is it about the MOD that makes contractors rub their hands together with glee?
The Prime Minister also announced today the importance of maintaining our Special Forces and keeping them at the leading edge of the world’s elite force, and I couldn’t agree more. But what we must remember is that Special Forces soldiers don’t walk straight into a recruiting office with a copy of Bravo Two Zero under one arm and ask to join the SAS. They have to cut their teeth in the regular Army first. So in order to maintain a globally respected Special Forces capability we must support our regular green troops as well.
Today’s announcements will I am sure will be remembered as cost cutting announcements, but a review was needed and a review we got. I only hope that this time we actually improve on the efficiency of the MOD and especially its procurement cycle. Many of the promises made today concerning a more efficient organisation sounded very familiar to the ones made in 1998.
One last point if I may, Politicians. Please don’t feel you need to start every sentence concerning defence with the phrase; “I would like to at this point say how deeply I respect the men and women of our armed forces etc…” It sounds patronising, false and it’s clearly said just to put a tick in a box, please stop it.
Please feel free to browse the documents in question and give me your feedback.
1998 Strategic Defence Review
2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review