He starts by evoking the memory of Richard Haldane and his reforms in the early 1900′s, making reference to the fact that he was a liberal politician, lets brush over the fact that Lord Haldane became a Labour Party member in 1923 and served in a Labour Government for many years.
What else did he say?
the Conservatives proposed a Strategic Defence and Security Review – an SDSR. We proposed a Strategic Security and Defence Review – an SSDR. But coalition is all about give and take so we got electoral reform, and an SDSR it is!
Ha, ha, I am sure the ranks of the armed forces ranged out in front of him that are looking at cuts in capability and numbers thought that was hilarious and were rolling in the aisles laughing.
We have to fulfil our operational commitments in Afghanistan, but we must also adapt our Armed Forces to face the changing international outlook and the future character of conflict, making a clean break from the mindset of the Cold War.
I hate the term Cold War in this context because it casts a sneering and ill informed gaze over capabilities that might be inconvenient or an easy target because we might not have used them that often recently. The Tornado is a good example of such a Cold War relic, designed to penetrate Warsaw Pact air defences at ultra low level and deliver anti runway munitions and other strike weapons yet what is it doing today?
Providing ISR and Close Air Support to forces in Afghanistan. It delivered air defence, strike and CAS in Iraq and other operations, so far from being a relic it is actually rather useful. The same might be said of those unseen SSN’s that were designed to protect the Trident submarines from Russian submarines for example, today they can deliver precision strike on land or stand off and provide vital intelligence information in support of a raid on a terrorist location.
It is a fundamental and quite deliberate obfuscation to provide a platform for cuts.
Of course there are capabilities that can be de-emphasised, as they always have been but lets not start spouting this ridiculous nonsense.
Sadly, the speech didn’t recover from that point
After 12 years without a defence review, when our Armed Forces have at times been overstretched, with legacy equipment programmes from the Cold War that are of less relevance today, and in our current economic and financial circumstances, an SDSR is long overdue. I’ll come on to the SDSR later, but let me be quite clear from the outset: change is coming.
Quoting Liam Fox he highlighted five key ways in which the world has changed since the last review
Economic power and opportunity shifting to countries like Brazil, India, and China; the widening circle of international decision making; the increased complexity of protecting our security; the changing nature of conflict; and the emergence of a networked world. These five changes will shape our clear, focused, and effective foreign policy, and will also shape the role for Defence and Security
Creating a strong link between Foreign and Security policy is of course eminently sensible
I would like to share some of our early thinking.
Taking forward the work of the Green Paper published under the last Government, the early indications are that our Armed Forces will need to be:
- More agile and adaptable.
- More mobile – strategically, operationally, and tactically.
- Better integrated across land, air, and sea with improved access to ISTAR.
- Better integrated with the other levers of national power and influence, at home and abroad
But they will also have less emphasis on weight, and more on accuracy of firepower. They will need to be less focused on scale when contributing to multinational operations, with the emphasis moving to quality. And we should have less duplication of capabilities held in large numbers by our NATO allies.
Like world peace and an end to the Coke v Pepsi debate, we would all like our forces to be more agile and adaptable but I would argue that the armed forces are incredibly adaptable. We have Royal Navy personnel serving in Afghanistan, soldiers acting as aid workers and RAF personnel training Afghan helicopter pilots.
Pretty adaptable and agile I would say, what else would you want them to do, shove a broom up their arses and sweep up the Houses of Parliament as well?
More mobile; you or I might think that this would mean more transport aircraft or ships but in the context of a cutting review this simply means a reduction in systems that are difficult to move, no matter how useful they might be.
If you work in a Armoured division, best start looking for another job. Hang on a minute, they are in Afghanistan, not driving Challengers but driving Mastiffs, could we class that as agile and adaptable?
Given the MoD has just let a £500million contract for FRES Scout, a 34 tonne vehicle that is due to replace an 11 tonne vehicle one might wonder what the term mobile actually means. FRES Scout may be many things but it is not strategically mobile.
Here is another thought, instead of making our forces lighter and therefore more strategically mobile but less useful, why don’t we as a really novel idea, improve our transport capabilities?
Better integrated with improved access to ISTAR, yes, again of course this is a good idea but this must be more than simply creating tri service functions and issuing better binoculars.
Less emphasis on weight and more accuracy of firepower is as interesting as it is nonsensical.
More accuracy of firepower, what does that mean, more precision guidance perhaps?
If you look at all three services the instances of non guided weapons are reducing all the time. There are in fact very few systems, in all three services, that don’t have guided options. Small arms, crew served automatic weapons, 60/81mm mortars and CRV7 rockets are the only ones that spring to mind so unless the Government plan on developing a guided underwater knife fighting systems the only thing left in that argument is naval guns and 105/155mm artillery.
Less emphasis on weight means in a nutshell, a shrunken armed forces.
One might argue that one of the reasons we had so many problems in Iraq and are currently having the same problems in Afghanistan is precisely because we don’t have the weight needed and no amount of accuracy is going to change that.
Reduction in duplication with NATO allies, which conveniently of course, includes our EU partners, is another transparent way of saying we will be having less things that France and Germany have.
Hello EU Defence Integration
Now bear in mind the audience, there will have been lots of Admirals and other naval types so there will of course been an element of playing to the house. No doubt at the next conference on land or air operations there will also be subtly nuanced arguments, remember speeches will have been poured over by special advisers and every word will have a target.
I got bored with reading it after that, its just the same old horseshit as the last SDR and the one before that.
It will be a great read, full of the right words that everyone can agree with but at the end of the road will be a reduction in capabilities, service personnel clutching brown envelopes in one hand and their OSM in the other and finally, a greater integration with the EU and the emasculation of foreign policy.
It’s all quite depressing really.