Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010

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

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One response to “Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010

  1. jamesjeffrey2010 November 22, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Just to say, very much agree with two of your points – procurement is king, as far as the impact it has on budgetary issues. I think it is in a farcical state at present and needs addressing. To cut the MOD a little bit of slack, I imagine the process must be ridiculously complicated and hard to keep on top of, hence we see these projects running billions of pounds over and taking too long. However, people are getting paid to deal with the matter and there are some smart people rattling around in those MOD offices, so they need to sort it out. Sort out procurement and you then don’t have to penny grab from the front line resources.
    Second point about politicians and their cheesey intro line – totally agree. The words are meaningless, when placed against lack of action.
    My final point, Banksie, you should blog about veterans issues, such as: lack of veterans ID card, lack on resources to go back to education (the U.S. GI Bill shames us)- enhanced learning credits are a joke overall, perhaps some reduced public transport rate might be one gesture. We are very shoddy in giving our veterans anything other than a “handshake and a gold wrist watch.” (I’ll admit, if you make pension points, that is decent, but if not – there is little out there). I am biased clearly, but I see what the U.S. veterans get over here in Texas and it is comically generous compared to what we get. Two doors down from me is a four year ex-medic Sgt., going to the same Univeristy and living a “good life,” compared to his scruffy, dime saving 9 year ex-Captain neighbour (me!).

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