We have been running the FDR series for a while now and I think there has been some great debate and sensible ideas, plus one or two hair brained schemes just for the hell of it (sorry) but the real thing is approaching and whilst we all try to make a case for a slight increase in funding AND better spending we all know what is coming.
Whatever anyone says the Defence and Security Review will be about money, of course it will be camouflaged with all manner of strategic justification, capability led arguments and visions of the future but that will not alter the fundamental and unavoidable fact that defence will be hit with a budget reduction.
There will be a political element as well, so don’t expect any reductions in anything to do with ‘our brave boys’ TM in Afghanistan and there will likely be a strong commitment to iconic items like armoured vehicles, helicopters, UAS, injury compensation and housing. Former members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition made some pretty damning remarks about the previous governments commitment to for example, the Support Helicopter fleet so have to avoid being hoisted by their own petard on those high profile issues.
Politicians invariably fail to take difficult and bold decisions so whilst the RUSI options may serve to crystalise thinking, none of their options will be explicitly committed to, expect a fudge.
They might be making noise about contracts like the FSTA PFI but the alternative is a large capital investment so however ludicrous the FSTA PFI is (make no mistake, it is as mad as a box of frogs) there is no low cost alternative.
I thought a prediction post might be interesting, so here is my take on the likely Defence and Security Review…
Air: Typhoon T3 options not taken (no capability improvement), F35 significantly reduced, FSTA retained, additional Chinooks ordered, E3 Sentry fleet reduced, accelerated withdrawal of Harrier and Tornado, more UAS and more contractor outsourcing
Land: FRES delayed, Challenger 2 regiments into whole fleet management, AS90 regiments withdrawn, big hit on Royal Signals, RLC and REME. More outsourcing of maintenance, logistics and communications capabilities, ceremonial remain at current levels, TA seriously reduced, training cut, Warrior capability improvement deferred, Rapier withdrawn
Sea: Trident submarine replacement confirmed, Type 26 design and evaluation extended, 2 CVF’s confirmed but second will replace Ocean, MCM and survey fleet withdrawn, Type 45 pegged at 6, 7th Astute deferred, MARS will buy some second hand tankers
Other: Agencies sold, increase in welfare budget with some headline grabbing initiatives, yet more staff movement from London to Bristol, reduction in research spend, reduction on training and spares holdings