Defence Cuts and NATO’s Reaction Force On The Line

I was delighted this week when the Defence Secretary echoed my description of the British Army being hollowed out in his pronouncement about the need to increase Defence Spending.

The implied financial attack on the Chief of the General Staff’s budget comes from three directions. First, the other Services (Royal Navy and Royal Air Force) which have done very well in the past decade as long range stand-off weaponry has been politically more acceptable than close combat. Second, the Intelligence budget (including GCHQ, Cyber capabilities and counter-terrorist programmes) that has absorbed a huge chunk of the money destined for the Armed Forces. And third the rival domestic departments, including the Health and Education that have squeezed the allocation of money that previously was spent on Foreign Policy objectives.

Standing above all this is the Treasury, which scrutinises departmental spending and plays one off against the other. They have special agents inside the Ministry of Defence and many of these RP staff are contemptible for the way they cut programmes on a whim. I was involved in several fights for money between 1994 and 2014 and was astonished how badly some uniformed officers behaved when it came to hollowing out Defence capabilities. The truth is that it was 2005 when the Army could no longer afford its planned activity; I had to write the Review Year Study that year, which was based on the Key Equipment Issues List; an outstanding computer modelling system which was closed down soon afterwards for telling it as it was.

Rather than preparing wisely for the future, the Government now prefers to pay for emergencies through its Contingency Fund (Royal Air Force for the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Royal Navy for the migrant problems in the English Channel and British Army for training Ukraine soldiers on the front line). Due to this poor management, our leadership of the NATO Reaction Force is on the line and it’s no wonder that the Chief of the General Staff has been reported as threatening to resign!

Challenger Main Battle Tank – When The Army Was Fully Supported


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