UK defence issues and the odd container or two

Listening to General Sir Peter Wall

Watch the video below kindly provided by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on The Future of the British Army, a discussion with General Sir Peter Wall KCB CBE ADC Chief of the General Staff, British Army and David J. Berteau CSIS Senior Vice President and Director of the International Security Program followed by Q&A with General Wall, moderated byStephen Flanagan, Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Diplomacy and National Security, and Nathan Freier, Senior Fellow, International Security Program.

Lots of sensible stuff and a very reassuring performance, reinforcing and backing up the decisions around SDSR 2010 and the resultant Army 2020.

He has of course had to preside over a drastic downsizing but I think Army 2020 is a bit of smart thinking, although maybe a little influenced by politics, but then that is the nature of these things.

A few takes outs of not (but really do watch all the video)

  • Strong leadership needed and an acceptance of being unpopular internally
  • Army 2020 is an evolutionary process that will change a number of times before it gets to the end state
  • A greater reliance on alliances and resource sharing to solve international problems
  • Any single alliance must not exclude others
  • A greater academic and personnel development culture within the Army that has not been the case previously
  • The UK France joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) will come to fruition in 2016 but will not exclude other joining
  • Need to break out of the ‘Afghan envelope’ and sharpen combined arms manouver skills that have taken a back seat
  • A focus on training
  • Work now to make UK forces ready for Afghanistan withdrawal
  • Exploiting the UOR processes developed in the last decade to the benefit of tradition acquisition
  • Decentralising the acquisition process where sensible
  • More emphasis on developing capacity and defence engagement
  • A recent SF study has taken place to determine a future roadmap that recognised the complimentary combined outputs of the ‘normal’ Army and SF together with a recognition that traditional SF roles are now being done by the wider Army

Nothing I think we haven’t heard before but good to see the emphasis on training, avoiding a two tier Army 2020, decentralisation of some aspects of acquisition, a recognition of the value of the UOR process, education and skills sharing with allies.

 

Once again, thanks to CSIS

 

 

 

I would of course say that given General Wall is a Sapper it is entirely par for the course that he is impressive, his next job will be to leap tall buildings etc etc icon smile Listening to General Sir Peter Wall

 

About The Author

Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

65 Comments

  1. ArmChairCivvy

    Sounds great
    “The UK France joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) will come to fruition in 2016 but will not exclude other joining
    Need to break out of the ‘Afghan envelope’ and sharpen combined arms manouver skills that have taken a back seat”

    What he said in his “brief” to (was it) Gen. Carter is exactly what then happened as a result of that exercise (the structure for 2020)
    – so will have to put the fire on in the evening and listen to the “fire side talk”

    – any bets on others joining? Dutch, Danish? Further out, Canadians and Australians (+ NZ SF)? Depends on the theater, of course, but Australia has come up as a mention at the ministerial level already

  2. Ant

    Good interview from General Wall.
    The whole Army 2020 seems well received. I hope the changes go right to the top of the strategic tree too. Here’s a quote from General McCrystal:

    http://www.defencemanagement.com/news_story.asp?id=21911
    “Asked what lessons Britain should learn from Helmand, McChrystal suggested it would be prudent in future to match political and military ambitions to hard capabilities.”

  3. John Hartley

    I still think dropping the Army below 100,000 strong is taking a major risk of defeat.
    Bridging the gap between normal army & SF, there was talk of an inbetween unit, that could act as SF back up. What happened to that?

  4. Mike W

    @John Hartley

    “I still think dropping the Army below 100,000 strong is taking a major risk of defeat.”

    Of course it is, John. It is absolute madness. However, you try convincing people about the truth of that statement on this blog, or any other , come to that. Most difficult of all is to convince anyone in Government of the fact. With tension mounting over the Falklands, trouble in Algeria, unrest in Ireland, an intervention in Syria mooted, help asked for in Mali, etc. etc., surely people can see the need for strong British defence resources but no, apparently they don’t! Insanity!

  5. Phil

    Mike W

    Don’t take this as a defence of the 82,000 number per se but thinking in terms of absolute numbers is not helpful. What we need to think about is capability outputs and the balance between trigger pullers and deeper level enablers.

    Let us use HERRICK as a case study. We could be MUCH leaner out there on the military side of things.

    I once totted up how many of the 9,500 or so servicemen were inside and outside Bastion and well over half were based in Bastion. Arguably the infrastructure that is out there now to support 9,500 men has become quite obscene and it is overwhelmingly concentrated in Bastion and larger FOBs such as Price and Lash Vegas. We could pare this down significantly and transfer a lot of the deeper military enabling services to civilians and not reduce the number of people out on the ground having an effect.

    I think the military chiefs have recognised that Afghanistan infrastructure has gotten a bit out of hand and become something of a monster not helped by working closely with the Americans who think nothing of making a base very comfortable indeed.

    This isn’t an argument against an all important tail, but an argument that the tail is too often wagging the dog and the tail could be rebalanced. And Army 2020 seems to recognise this, for fast interventions you need all green and you need austere, for longer ops you can turn a huge chunk of the green into contractors because they’ll be working in what effectively is a garrison town.

  6. Martin

    @ john hartley

    I see a move below 100,000 as the right one. A force of 82,000 allows us to do the same as a force of 100,000. That is carry out small scale operations on our own or contribute to medium and large scale operations a part of a coalition. I think our strategy of expeditionary warfare is better served with a smaller but better equiped army.

    Also the only way to pay for an army of 100k is to butcher the other two services which can provide sovereign capability for both us and the EU. We have to get out of the mindset of relying on the USA to provide all the necessary toys for European operations and interventions. The EU has close to 2 million soldiers but only a single air craft carrier. France apparently a leading European military power has had to beg borrow and steal for transport aircraft to support a relatively small intervention in Mali

  7. Mark

    Of course the army isn’t 82000 strong though. The reserves keep getting overlooked they do say to change an organisations mentality 40% of its senior management need to be replaced.

  8. Phil

    “Of course the army isn’t 82000 strong though. The reserves keep getting overlooked they do say to change an organisations mentality 40% of its senior management need to be replaced.”

    Hurrah!

  9. Phil

    “part of a coalition”

    “France apparently a leading European military power has had to beg borrow and steal for transport aircraft to support a relatively small intervention in Mali”

    You have just contradicted yourself. You call for some operations to be undertaken as part of a coalition, but then when a power does so you say they are ‘begging, borrowing and stealing’ transport aircraft. No they are not, they are leveraging their allies.

    I find that a lot on this site. A lip service paid to coalition warfare but if we can’t do something ourselves it is seen in a negative light. There needs to be some clearer thinking on this.

    Mali is exactly how this sort of thing is supposed to work – one country sees an interest threatened and provides the bulk of the forces, other countries also have an interest and so make their contributions to the effort. France in this case is providing the core of the European contribution to the ground force and we provide some small enabling components.

    It isn’t begging, borrowing and stealing – its the system working. Which it normally does despite the public political bickering.

    A set of European states have a converged interest in Mali and we see an effortless and easy (politically speaking) combined effort led by France.

  10. x

    It is surprisingly big logistical tail when you consider the living conditions of the lads (and a few girlies too! :) ) out in the PB’s in bandit country short of batteries, bits of gear, and defecating into holes. I wonder how much of that tail is supporting the tail?

    Um. Going back to what Sven said about countries not needing strategic lift for small interventions. (Which I still don’t get. But I bet everybody has said that about the rhubarb I post!) We need, or perhaps you already do, to start thinking of C17 as combat assets not “logistics” assets in a pure sense. Start viewing them as I view LPD or LPH.

  11. Phil

    “It is surprisingly big logistical tail when you consider the living conditions of the lads (and a few girlies too! ) out in the PB’s in bandit country short of batteries, bits of gear, and defecating into holes. I wonder how much of that tail is supporting the tail?”

    Quite a lot is supporting the tail. The infrastructure of Bastion is absolutely incredible. There are bin lorries, bus stops, numerous shops, markets, gyms and so much more besides. It’s quite silly when the blokes on the ground are living in shit holes. It’s more than silly, its ridiculous. It could be pared back enormously and there would be NO loss of effectiveness at the front.

    If blokes on the ground can fight for six months with no internet, an unreliable sat phone and only the goodies they get in the unreliable mail and what they buy locally from the Afghans themselves then Bastion can get by without what it has.

    We were never short on batteries though, or any other kit. You wouldn’t believe how any batteries there are out there in even the meanest Check Point. Boxes and boxes and boxes of them. I mean BIG boxes, moving house boxes.

    And one defecates into silver bags these days. Deep Trench Latrines are no good when you need to stay in one place for more than a few months.

  12. Martin

    @ Phil – I am not complaint about us helping the French. However it not like the French have these aircraft themselves. Mali is pretty small-scale and it goes to show just how bad EU defence is when it’s biggest spender can’t mount such an operation on its own. If it was really a question of support and not wanting to shoulder the burden alone then they would be asking for troops and not C17’s. I think mali serves to highlight that the UK should be more concerned with having assets like the C17 or Sentinel rather than focused on pure numbers in the army.

  13. x

    @ Phil

    I know about the “silver bags” but it doesn’t sound as dramatic do it?

    The disparity is jaw dropping. There may be problems moving “containerised” support modules into PB bases in these compounds.** And yes it may be the “army” in the “field” being all “rufty-tufty”, but no it is just wrong. It is more akin to the 19th century than the 21st century.

    ** I suppose there are three sets of problems. One) Logistics moving the containers to where they need to be and installing them.
    Two) Having the man power to do the installation and provide FP.
    Three) Paying for modules and men which shouldn’t be a problem if there aren’t masses of men and buildings at the big bases.

    Um. I think I am saying is why isn’t there a RE unit(s) with an attached FP company whose sole job is setting up PB? Or is there? Or is it done piecemeal? And if it is done piecemeal, why? Isn’t this about leverage our 21st logistics/engineering capabilities to gain advantage? Or is engineering and logistics, important as they are, still subsidiary to “combat” just as C130 is something the RAF flies but really only Typhoon is important? It must be or the infantry wouldn’t be defecating into silver bags….

    This sort of thing didn’t bother the Romans or the Normans.

  14. Phil

    “Mali is pretty small-scale and it goes to show just how bad EU defence is when it’s biggest spender can’t mount such an operation on its own.”

    You’re not being consistent. How is it a sign of how bad EU defence is when we’re leveraging alliances?

  15. Phil

    “And yes it may be the “army” in the “field” being all “rufty-tufty”, but no it is just wrong. It is more akin to the 19th century than the 21st century.”

    No it’s not. We’re out there fighting and all that material and all those men needed to maintain a poncy and fluffy infrastructure is men wasted in my opinion. You can have a perfectly comfortable but austere PB. In one of ours we had a generator, a fridge and a TV with a PS3. Those little things made life more bearable, not enormous EFI’s and shops and curry houses.

    “Um. I think I am saying is why isn’t there a RE unit(s) with an attached FP company whose sole job is setting up PB?”

    There is no need for one. Any RE unit can build a PB, and they get organic FP when they do which is provided by a relevant unit. Setting up a PB can be a big or a small operation. PB HAZRAT was a big job, PB PASSAB was not so big.

    “Or is engineering and logistics, important as they are, still subsidiary to “combat””

    So all the PBs and FOBs should have plumbing and a sewerage system like in London or something? What are you saying? Shitting into a silver bag is actually a massive logistical ball ache as they need to be delivered, stored and then burned. They are there because it is more hygienic than using DTLs. The FOB doesn’t end up literally awash in its own shit. We pay a logistical price to maintain combat power. That’s what logistics are for, to support combat power.

    “This sort of thing didn’t bother the Romans or the Normans.”

    Eh? I honestly am not understanding you.

  16. IXION

    PHIL

    The Roman legions (Marius’s Mules),were expected to march 15- 20 miles a day:-

    1)Then when they stopped dig 3ft deep 3ft wide at the to v shaped trench.
    2)Then putting the earth on the inner side in turf reinforced wall, with wooden interlaced X form equivilent of barb wire.
    3)Then lay out tents sort out ‘stagging’ and then and only then brew up and get some kip. some of their more permanant camps even had sewers an baths

    And not an engineer in sight.

    However I whislt curry houses and the like are perhaps taking it too far: I still do not see that decent toilets drainage, hot and cold water and a degree of aircon/heating, as being difficult to ship and build. The calculations are established and simple the engineering conssits of digging holes etc.

  17. x

    I think you went a bit of the deep end there. I wasn’t suggesting modular hotels in every patrol base. More that things could be better. And by

    “And yes it may be the “army” in the “field” being all “rufty-tufty”, but no it is just wrong. It is more akin to the 19th century than the 21st century.”

    I think some who aren’t going through it make a little too much out of austere conditions in the field. More could be done.

    I can’t be bothered to explain myself further to you.

  18. Challenger

    I agree that a 100,000 strong Army is a difficult number in the sense that it’s not large enough to sustain a major occupation force beyond a Herrick sized one which is totally ineffective without coalition support, and yet is too large for the expeditionary stance we want to take after 2020.

    An Army of 82,000 will hopefully meet our needs with a higher degree of quality relative to it’s larger predecessor. As others have said it will hopefully ‘rebalance’ our forces to be more teeth and less tail which is what we should need 90% of the time, with base troops and the logistical train being provided by re-deployed and flexible reserves, civilian companies (where appropriate) and regular units themselves when it’s required.

  19. Think Defence

    Didn’t Army 2020 specifically make the decision to retain the teeth and reduce as much of the tail as possible, at least in regular units? So a lot of the support functions will be done by reserves and contractors which I don’t think is an altogether bad strategy.

    RE units will be organised in any number of ways but they will always be in short supply as they have been since they were formed. Force protection improvements, bridging and roads, life support, geo, infrastructure and everything else they do will be done on a priority and contingency basis so although x’s idea of having a unit that does nothing but facility upgrades is great in theory its rather wasteful of a flexible resource.

    One area where I think x is correct though is the disparity but this is not because of a lack of organisation or resources but because we don’t take a systems approach to deployed infrastructure so everything is ad hoc and made up on the hoof. This approach is incredibly inefficient meaning that much of the logistics effort is in effect, wasted. Everything from transporting bottled water to running generators outside optimal loads makes the problem worse. Or put another way, you need more logistics ‘stuff’ than you should, hence the tail bloat.

    Hence, FOXEX and the generic base architecture but this is far too late and with the drawdown from Afghanistan I expect it to be on the back burner

  20. Martin

    Phil I am being perfectly consistent, Mali shows how France does not have the capability to conduct even a small scale out of area operation. Put in a broader context of the EU it highlights the lack of expeditionary capability in many nations. Sure we can all band together and supply assets to support a battalion or so but what if a much larger force is required.

    Countries like the UK and France should not be expected to conduct solo large scale operations but should be able to do an intervention on this scale alone. I don’t believe that the French have requested this support from us to allow us to show political support but rather from military need. Again I am happy to help them out and I think this type of support is something the UK should focus more on but we can’t do that and have 100k + guys in the army.

  21. Challenger

    @Martin

    ‘I think mali serves to highlight that the UK should be more concerned with having assets like the C17 or Sentinel rather than focused on pure numbers in the army’

    Absolutely! Bringing to the table the stuff that’s in short supply such as Amphibian’s, heavy lifters, surveillance aircraft and top notch special forces.

    Leave the Army just about big enough to do what we want it to after 2020, which is provide expeditionary rapid reaction forces, contribute to a coalition with a little notice, and make one big all out effort with quite a bit more notice.

  22. Mike W

    @Phil

    “Don’t take this as a defence of the 82,000 number per se but thinking in terms of absolute numbers is not helpful.”

    You may be right in a limited sense. There are some very good small armies and there is an adage which says that what matters is the quality of an army and not its size. I would certainly prefer to work in an organization which was slightly undermanned rather than one which was grossly overmanned. However, we are talking about something rather different here.

    It used to be an axiom in the Second World War that for every man in the front line, ten more were needed behind it (RCT, REME, etc. etc.) to provide support to the fighting troops. Now from what you say about the situation in Afghanistan, not nearly that generous ratio is needed today and I very much take your point about the waste involved.

    However, a considerable number of soldiers IS needed in the support roles in order to make the “front-line” function efficiently. The Army is used to concepts such as “Action this day” and “Things need to be done not today but yesterday” and no one, just no one, can persuade me that contractors or civilian support personnel can get things done as rapidly as troops (who are prepared to work through the night etc. etc.) can when the chips are down.

    @Martin

    “Also the only way to pay for an army of 100k is to butcher the other two services …”

    Or butcher the foreign aid and welfare budgets. Cliche coming up, Martin – Defence of the Realm is the first duty of any government! It’s been said many times before but is nevertheless a tried and tested truism. Take your point about “a better equipped” Army, though.

  23. Phil

    IXION

    You’re right they did. When they stopped for short period of times. When they planned to be there for some time they built forts.

    You’re both just being obtuse for the sake of it. Shall I dig out my manual telling you how long a shit pit is good for before it has to be moved? The sanitation you’re talking about was easily built and made available where it was possible to get the kit physically there. But at the end of the day you’re in the Army sunshine your REMF like view is poison to combat effectiveness. You’re clean, you’re dry you have food and water and stores. It’s all you need to fight.

    And x don’t worry I wasn’t expecting you to follow through a thought.

  24. x

    Phil said “And x don’t worry I wasn’t expecting you to follow through a thought.”

    To be honest I was typing out my original post in good humour I thought to myself it is a waste of my time. “You watch she will go off on one of her little supercilious tantrums…” And you did exactly expected too.

    @ TD

    Isn’t enough we have one ex-Army man displaying a complete lack of knowledge of Roman warfare without you adding to that number?

  25. John Hartley

    In the 1970s, Britain was broke, we had to get a bail out (repeatedly) from the IMF, yet the Army was 160,000 strong, the RN had 50 escorts & over 30 submarines, the RAF had over 400 combat jets.
    However, we did not have the 500,000 non jobs the economic genius Gordon Brown took on. We had not given 70 years of National wealth to the bankers. We had not imported 5 million third worlders living on UK benefits. Oh & we still used to have a balance on manufactured goods. Mostly. We were not paying through the nose for PFI.
    The money is there. It is what we choose to spend it on.

  26. x

    TD said “this is not because of a lack of organisation or resources but because we don’t take a systems approach to deployed infrastructure so everything is ad hoc and made up on the hoof.”

    Yep. As country we are quite happy to spend £300m on a frigate and £100m on a FJ. Browse through the catalogues of any of the modular building manufacturers and you will see a whole of solutions. If each PB had £50k of modular buildings and we had 100 PB (makes the numbers nice and easy) that is what £5million? Or 50 bases with 100k of modules. Hardly buys 2 modern MICV. I don’t see anything glorious in living at just above “camping” standards for 6 months. Flying things in would be problematic. Taken in by truck. Blowing compound walls as need to gain access before replacing entry points with Hesco. A company to cover the building site and then on to the next. Even the Romans had a systematic approach to camp building.

  27. IXION

    Phil and TD

    I think you both get me wrong

    TD

    Lots of dead romans I suspect. But by the standards of their time they were well fed, fit and had a sanitation level regarded at the time by their enemies as just plain weird.

    What I was trying to say (and making a pigs ear of)was: –

    Soldiers are remarkably homogeneous lot, young fit and in combat bases mostly male. It is relativly simple to calculate the following for any given size of unit:-

    1) What they will need to eat in terms of calories etc per day. and over how long a period, and the need to vary the diet for health reasons.

    2)Given the ambient tempretures etc what they will need to drink.

    3)Given they have eaten and drink how much of what is going to come out the other end.

    4) Soldiers who do not wash themselves and their personal clothing properly don’t just stink they get ill, and concentration and combat effectiveness is lost. They worry about trench/athletesfoot/ crotch rot lice etc etc.

    5) A soldier who does not have the opportunity to swith off when not on active opperations at the end of the day etc will suffer psycholgical harm of varying degrees. so some form of steam letting off facilities should be supplied for as far as conditions allow,

    Add a reaonable margin for error add 1 and 2 together and you have basic life supporting sustainment requirements.

    In order to avoid disese and really unpleasent living conditons make proper arrangement to deal with 3 and 4 for the supposed duration of their stay: – again err on the side of caution.

    Recognise that as with 3 and 4 extremes of heat and cold partcularly when trying to sleep, will induce excessive physical and mental tiredness and effect combat opperations.

    Make calculations for the proper cooling and or heating of sleeping quarters and if possible eating facilities.

    With 5 that can be anything from a fridge full of cold beer, and some paperbacks, to a TFI fridays and a multiscreen, and yes some way of talking to ‘home’be it BFPO or Skype!

    NOW add the likely mission requirements for the actual fighting kit they require, like ‘this mission requires a sqadron of tanks’ or, a ‘landrover and bedford’ plus all the boring stuff like bullets.

    If you know 1 to 5, then all of that is a near mathamatical certainty and for any given planned deployment, can be calculated in advance by any logistics practitioner worth his or her salt.

    AS TD has posted endlessly everything required to that is available pretty much off the shelf largely in ISO Container form, which requires only necessary kit to haul it, and the know how to install it.

    It is farcical to send troops be it 50 500 or 5000 of to fight and potentialy die, and then express surpise that they want to drink, eat sh*t, and wash.

    Frankly if we want to send a planned group of soldiers number x to y base for z length of time; then unless it is going to be for few days, pre determined, easily calculatable, requiremnents should be sent with, or even before them, if not then it should be a no’1 priority afterwards.

    Not rushed up afterwards on a add hoc basis.

    One of my hero’s is Monty, (OK I know I know) not the worlds greatest millitary genius. However along with Wellingotn his secet of success and of the enemies he made amoungst his piers, was that he told them to stop doing things in such a half arsed ad hoc manner relying on the quality of the troops to carry you through.

    Many people say he only won his battles because of he had material and numerical supperiority. Neatly forgeting he refused point blank to fight until he had.

    Cries of

    “you shouldn’t have joined if you haven’t got a sense of humour”

    Are no substitute for well rested, well fed, clean(ish), relativly relaxed soldiers.

  28. IXION

    If all the above sounds ‘bleedin obvious’ frankly given some of the published info and ‘on the ground documentaries’, it ain’t bleedin obvious to a lot of commissioned officers, or MOD officials.

  29. Phil

    “And you did exactly expected too.”

    So happy to oblige.

    “Isn’t enough we have one ex-Army man displaying a complete lack of knowledge of Roman warfare without you adding to that number?”

    A complete lack of knowledge indeed.

  30. Phil

    “However, a considerable number of soldiers IS needed in the support roles in order to make the “front-line” function efficiently.”

    It depends on the context Mike.

    In Afghan you can reduce the number of green people doing the support and you can also increase the number of reserves doing it since they are more likely to be operating in a permissive environment. When I say permissive, I mean garrison town. The Battle for Bastion excepted that place is stupid now. It’s literally safer than Aldershot because the blokes can’t go on the piss and the Razz man can make them wear luminous belts at night which he can’t down the Shot.

    In a sharp intervention you need mostly green to do everything, but in that environment the requirements are more austere and hopefully there isn’t a modularised EFI trundling behind the Armoured Brigade selling pies to RLC.

    The tail is vitally important, it is completely fundamental, but there is more than one way to skin a cat on this front.

  31. Phil

    “Even the Romans had a systematic approach to camp building.”

    Yawn. Big massive yawn.

    We didn’t have modular walls (HESCO), we didn’t have modular hardened accommodation (HAB), we didn’t have a modular shower unit, we didn’t have a borehole providing all the water you needed, we didn’t have field generators and we didn’t have a field kitchen that could feed 80 blokes 3x times a day with hot scoff and we didn’t have lots of ISO containers on the FOB.

    Everything was a back of the fag packet job and we suffered terribly in our filthy disgusting hovels fighting disease as much as the enemy who laughed at our wretched living conditions and the overflowing shit pit.

    Of course an Army at war should have at least a modular Pizza hut per PB right and the Badge should have tucked us into our feather beds before we went off on patrol to fight with a hot chocolate from the modular Starbucks. Otherwise it’s SO 19th century right? All those British soldiers dying of disease, why we just threw them in our overflowing shit pit and chucked some lime over them – and then we shivered under our lice ridden blankets crying that it was all so hard and miserable.

  32. IXION

    Phil

    Well if it was that bad I’m surprised you did not complain:)

    Seriously that ‘tucked up in bed with drinks etc’ comment does betray a certain, attitude. I have found common in Jnr and middle ranking army officers..

    Conversations with ‘other ranks’ about SOME patrol base conditions are somewhat less humorous.

  33. Phil

    Some of the places are shit. I remember laughing heartily at the CP where the bloody mud wall had fallen down in the incessant Feb 2011 rain exposing all the occupants to enemy fire. But very often the CPs especially are where they are because they need to be there. And they are quite often inaccesible to wheeled transport for practical purposes.

    We built a CP just by man-packing the kit. The CP had to be where it was for very good reasons including the compound having enormously thick ready made walls and weather proof structures which is a bonus. No road access, couldn’t even get a Quad down there.

    I’ll have to put up the Google Earth view of our AO one day – perhaps things will look differently when you can see the terrain and layout. Be interesting to see if people suggest doing things differently.

  34. Challenger

    @John Hartley

    ‘In the 1970s, Britain was broke, we had to get a bail out (repeatedly) from the IMF, yet the Army was 160,000 strong, the RN had 50 escorts & over 30 submarines, the RAF had over 400 combat jets’

    I think you fail to take into account the enormous increase in complexity and sophistication that makes our current military kit far more expensive beyond natural inflation.

    ‘We had not imported 5 million third worlders living on UK benefits. Oh & we still used to have a balance on manufactured goods’

    How much do you think welfare benefits really cost? I’m not saying it’s peanuts, but you’re rather vague number of 5 million, if they were all utterly reliant on the state and claiming the whole range of benefits would barely touch the sides of defence budget, let alone the entire fiscal spending for the county!

    Oh and British manufacturing was propped up in a decaying and stagnant state for years by the government. Whether a person is Tory or Labour you have to admit that if a business isn’t making a good product and selling it competitively then it negates the whole point. Unless of course we are talking about a Socialist system, which is a whole different kettle of fish…

  35. Martin

    @ re butchering the Foreign aid budget

    I don’t disagree with the sentiment but I am working in the real world where thats not going to happen no matter th colour of the government. Even if DFID was to be butchered there are a dozen political priorities beyond defence from tax cuts to pension increases and the NHS that would get the money first. People just don’t give a s**t about the military until the really need it and our government is not grown up enough to ignore public opinion n the respect. Sad but true

  36. Martin

    @ John Hartley

    Since the 70’s the NHS budget has nearly doubled as a % of GDP. The cost of providing state pensions has also gone up massively. Everything else in terms of HMG spending is some what irrelevant. However I am sure that you like me and everyone else will be the first to expect cutting edge medical treatment not even dreamt of in the 1970’s if you are ill not to mention a bigger pension when you retire. Not sure where you get your figure for 5 million third worlders in the UK claiming benefits. Could you post a link or give some proof of this. Quoting figures such as this is quite a dangerous thing to do in our current weak economic and political state. It was notions like this that tipped Germany over the edge in the 1930’s

  37. Martin

    Don’t get me wrong I am all for increasing defence spending but if I get diagnosed with cancer and the doctor tells me that I can either have a life saving drug or the navy can get an extra frigate I know where my vote will be going. Its easy to talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul until you discover that you are not Peter but infact Paul. At that point defence of the realm being HMG’s god given priority goes out of the window.

  38. Phil

    “Mali shows how France does not have the capability to conduct even a small scale out of area operation.”

    I don’t think it necessarily does. It would be interesting to know what came first the offer of help or the request for it. Because if someone offers you C17s you take them obviously. There’s no evidence to show France couldn’t have done this herself but have done it in a different fashion.

    “Its easy to talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul until you discover that you are not Peter but infact Paul.”

    Completely agree. We have to accept that in times of peace the military will be pared back. And we’ve never been so at peace – we don’t have a single state threat at the moment. Now that could easily and possibly change in 3-5-10 years and then after some lag we’ll re-arm as we have done in the past. You could argue that defence cuts increase the likelyhood of a war but I am not convinced of that and even if true you’d be pissing into the wind as society never seems to be able to see beyond the end of its nose in any endeavour, ever.

  39. John Hartley

    The welfare budget takes one in three pounds the government spends. Google it if you do not believe me. Roughly £200 billion + out of the £700 million the government spends.
    If UK industry got the investment German industry gets, then there is no reason why UK industry should not be as healthy as Germany’s. UK short termism, in board rooms, Treasury & the City.
    Uncontrollled, large scale immigration, is the elephant in the room. Nobody nice likes to talk about it, but it swamps any provision you make. It cannot be ignored. Somehow we need to deal with it sensibly, without going down the BNP route.

  40. Phil

    There is no more uncontrolled large scale immigration.

    We have a points based immigration system since 2008 based on the Australian model. Many businesses are actually arguing that it is now too strict.

    EU immigration and emigration numbers are roughly level.

    The welfare budget does indeed take up a lot of money but there is no reason why any money saved there should and will go to Defence.

  41. IXION

    Lots of people do not seem to ‘get’ that benefits and NHS are part of the defence of the realm.

    Defference- Has largely gone, thank god. A big shock to the banks and ‘establishment’ after the crash was fury it was met with from ‘the people’. Likewise the theiving tossers in parliament, were completely gob smacked over the reaction to their, outrageous behavior, over expenses.

    We are not going to return to a Hogarthean time when the super rich travel arround in luxury, whislt the great unwashed huddle under bridges and starve. The great unwashed will have something to say about it. Cut benefits to far for ‘the deserving poor’ and you can look forward to riots civil, unrest, social collapse, breakdown in Law and order etc, and economic ruin.

    My Missus spends some time watching property porn, Location Location etc. Last week was a South african couple who have a large luxurious house in South africa who were chucking it in for a 3 bed semi on the south coast. Why? Because despite the guard dogs the armed security guards for their gated community, etc. Houses around them had been attacked, people raped and murdered. So all those damanding ‘cut benefits and buy frigates. How safe will you feel if you live behind barbed wire and guards, in constant fear of personal attack? Are you going to be ok driving in your nice car past the hovels of the poor with their malnorished, scurvy ridden, TB carrying offspring throw stones at you?

    So you ‘buy off’ the poor with benefits- its cheaper than the million man army you would need to keep shooting them. It’s an old bargin- bread and circuses like the Roman Emperors did.

    A lot of the ‘cut benefits crowd’ are old and high end users of the NHS. I know several hangers and floggers who are of an age that within 10-15 years they will be in homes using NHS and local govt care homes etc, wonder what they will say then?

  42. John Hartley

    Phil welfare is £208 billion this year.
    If you think immigration is limited, just take a ride on a London tube train.
    14 EU nations demand immigrants pay into the system before they can claim. Britain does not. This is why immigrants flock to the UK. All I want is for Britain to copy the other 14 EU nations.

  43. Mike W

    @Phil

    “In a sharp intervention you need mostly green to do everything, but in that environment the requirements are more austere and hopefully there isn’t a modularised EFI trundling behind the Armoured Brigade selling pies to RLC.

    The tail is vitally important, it is completely fundamental, but there is more than one way to skin a cat on this front.”

    Yes, I see the point you are making and have taken it on board. Thanks for the reply.

    @Martin
    People just don’t give a s**t about the military until the really need it and our government is not grown up enough to ignore public opinion n the respect. Sad but true.

    Sorry, Martin. Had not understood your basic philosophy concerning the military.

    @IXION
    “Cut benefits to far for ‘the deserving poor’ and you can look forward to riots civil, unrest, social collapse, breakdown in Law and order etc, and economic ruin.”

    Don’t really get the last part of that. Wasn’t Greece facing “economic ruin” precisely because its people were rejecting the necessary cuts and rioting on the street instead? Isn’t the fact that they were facing economic ruin the reason why they have now accepted the cuts?

  44. Martin

    @ John Hartley

    The majority of that 200 billion goes on pensions and child benefit. Hardly given away to undeserving people. Would you cut child benefit or pensions then.

  45. Martin

    @ mike w

    I would like to see a bit more spending going to the MOD. Especially if they would not piss it up the wall. However we must realise that our view is in the minority. There are many even more deserving aspects of government spending. It’s easy to talk of cuts if they don’t affect you. As we are not likely to get any more money in the mod any time soon we better look at some better way to spend what we do have which at nearly 40 billion per year is still a fair amount of money.

    @ John Hartley

    Do you have any actual figures or sources for what EU migrants who claim benefit that never worked in the UK actually cost. I know the daily mail makes a lot of noise about this but I am not sure what it actually costs. You seem quite agree end about it so I am guessing your have some facts that I don’t.

  46. IXION

    John Hartley

    One of my clients was a ‘gangmaster’ in East Anglia. He was quite clear he liked poles etc because ‘They were grafters’ even at wages of 7-8.50 PH he could not get Englishmen to do 12 hours shifts in the middle of a fen field picking sprouts in December.* Infact I know there are more Old Estonians, in the Fens than Old Etonians, but they are there to graft and they graft. T

    The vegetable producution on the uk, and the hotel industry in London would collpase without Immigrants willing to work for wages, the Brits won’t.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eBT6OSr1TI

    *(By the way you may have lots of stories about the coldest places you have been, Some USAF forces transfered in from Alsaka to Lakenheath, were openly contemptuous of the supposed British weather. One winter in the fens and they were openly confessing they had never been felt so cold in their lives complaining about the damp etc.)

  47. Phil

    I know immigration is controlled because I know work on an aspect of it. The Points Based System is tight, probably too tight.

    As for EU people claiming benefits and not working. To claim benefits they need to be a qualified person, a worker, self employed, student, job seeker or self sufficient. They also have to be habitually resident. So no they don’t get benefits chucked at them. Also, anyone under immigration control is outright banned from claiming public funds. I can quote you the Acts, statutory instruments and not statutory guidance down to the paragraph if you don’t believe me.

  48. John Hartley

    Due to a bizarre deal at the local one stop, I ended up with a copy of The Sun on Sunday, for 2p. Not my usual read. Pages 4 & 5 have an article on a Lithuanian single mum living in the UK who has taken legitimately under current rules, £ 50,000 of taxpayers cash. She gets £279 a week. Makes sure she works under 16 hours a week & gets an extra £125 a week from that. She says she would not give up benefits & take a full time job unless it pays at least £ 25,000 pa. She has an unemployed friend in Lithuania who only gets £ 20 a month plus a little subsidy on fuel & housing. This is why she will not return to Lithuania.
    Also a Sun “were clueless” headline. “Every Whitehall department was asked to work out the bill for the net influx of 3.2 million people during Labour’s 13 years in office. But none could put a figure on the extra burden. Ministers found stats were simply not collected for estimates to be made”.
    Sun leader, page 14, “A surge of up to 350,000 more is expected when we open our doors to Bulgarian & Romanians next year. That will put new strain on schools, hospitals, jobs… and the welfare system”.
    Page 24 “Immigrants are to be banned from taking driving tests in foreign languages in a bid to stop cheating…being told what to do by back seat translators. The free service, introduced by Labour, costs the taxpayer £ 250,000.”
    Page 34 “Ministers will this week step up the war on benefit cheats after false claims hit a record £ 5.3 billion.”

  49. Mike W

    @IXION

    “he could not get Englishmen to do 12 hours shifts in the middle of a fen field picking sprouts in December.”

    It happens in my part of the country too. One local farmer near me could not get local labour to work even normal shifts in bad weather.

  50. Phil

    Ah The Sun. If you’re that bothered move to another EU country and you can do exactly the same over there.

  51. Simon

    John Hartley,

    What is the smiley for “sort it out or we’ll revolt”?

    How crap is our system! I know there are reasons but there are too many ways to scam money out of my pocket because of utter utter stupidity.

  52. Challenger

    @John Hartley

    Well if you’re taking you’re ‘facts’ from the Sun then you have only yourself to blame!

  53. Chris.B.

    In regard to finding English people to pick sprouts (or in any veg for that mattter), before the EU rules came into force, someone picked those sprouts. Someone picked the cabbages. The carrots. And so on. I’m not sure I entirely believe the argument that only polish people will work hard in a field for money. I suspect it has more to do with Polish people etc being willing to work for a lot less than the authorised minimum wage.

    I knew one fella from Albania. He and his cousins used to do brick laying. Essentially one or two of them, I forget now, were the official wage earners and the rest were there “just to help” if you see what I mean. So effectively they were all working (five fellas I think it was) for one or two wages.

    A lot of the “you can’t get British people to work hard for a good wage” is bollocks. What they mean is, they’re not prepared to compete and pay a decent wage above what someone like Tesco does, who can offer young lads a roof while they work, tea breaks and an easier shift.

    That aside the whole benefits thing is, generally, poorly understood.

    The number of immigrants claiming benefits is not really that high, certainly not as high as the percentage of domestic Brits claiming. A lot of immigrants don’t come here to sit around and live the high life. They need money, as much as they can, because they send great chunks of it home to their family to help improve their lives back in wherever it is they live. Going back to my Albanian friend again, what he and his cousins wanted was enough money to start up a swanky restaurant in their home country.

    Back to benefits. Around 40% of the Social Protection spending goes to penions, with another £8bn on pensions credits, plus another £5bn on paying for home help for older people. By comparion, Job Seekers allowance is worth less than £5bn a year.

    The only complication to that is that Personal tax credits and child benefits are paid by HM Revenue and Customs, which kind of hides some benefits.

    You can argue that benefits are too high and I think there is a valid argument in that, especially for middile income earners, but the benefits system is not as bad as perhaps the tories (and the Sun) would like to make out.

  54. Gloomy Northern Boy

    I’ve said it before, but I might as well say it again – over a period of time we could re-balance our overall approach to public expenditure in ways that would help people out the various welfare traps (which do exist) and free up cash for the Defence of the Realm – within which I include world-class education, decent infrastructure,energy and food security et al…and also play to the best, most adventurous and most outward looking elements of our national character…

    However, it would require political leaders with a vision that extends beyond “winning the next election” and “beating the other lot”…and who use the Sun as lavatory paper not a how-to guide.

    In the absence of the above, I remain Gloomy!

  55. John Hartley

    GNB
    Yup, welfare traps.
    Outrage over taxing billionaires at 50%, so it was cut to 45%. Meanwhile some low paid can lose 93% of any pay rise, as various benefits are lost. Hardly an encouragement to work hard & get on.

  56. IXION

    Chris B

    Don’t get me wrong Im not of the ‘the unemployed are all lazy bastards’ frame of mind. In my time I have been employed unemplyed and employer.

    Just remember the relative cost of things like hotels and vegatables are kept as low as practicable by paying low wages as they are and remain labour intensive industires. My client the gangmaster once shut up shop for 4 days over an extended weekend, and took the available and willing office staff rose patching in cornwall, including himself because he couldn’t get any polish or otherwise to go and do it an £9.50 an hour.

    I was merely trying to bat down the invading hoards of forign benefit scroungers bollocks peddled by the daily amil and the SUN

    John Hartley.

    Not the old

    “I don’t buy the Sun, but I was given/found a copy’

    line, go on you got it for the tits didn’t you..:)

    As for the old current bun as a paper of record, How many Hamsters did Freddie Starr Eat?

  57. Andy

    Some simplistic “G3 does logistics” in this thread. Some thoughts…

    Size of the tail in Bastion – many of those people “in” Bastion spend a lot of their time out of Bastion – the CS Sqns in the CSLR, the repair teams from the CS Bn etc. So the picture isn’t as simple as depicted. Everything that can be contractorised, given the force cap, has been, to the extent that a discrete military surge element has had to be created to cover peaks in activity. Furthermore, there are several functions that you could only place in Bastion – the R3 hospital, the deep ES functions, the log hub provided by the TLG etc

    Contractors -all well and good but let’s not get fixated by Afghanistan. If the Army ever has to manoeuvre above Coy level more than 50kms from a log hub then we will need a support element that can move and protect itself in a sporty environment.

    Reserves – beware the simplistic “logs is easy, not much collective training required, obvious role for reserves etc etc”. The combined arms nature of resupply (Combat Logistic Patrols)in a non-linear, 360 degree battlefield suggests a much greater range of skills required by loggies (compare the skills and drills of todays CLPs with the relatively mechanical loops run through the RCZ by our predecessors, where the emphasis was on convoy timings, packet spacing and C2 by DR and flags). While there is a role for reserves, the issue is balance -the current or anticipated FR2020 construct does not suggest that many reserves will be available for the first couple of rotations on an op, nor at the required NTM for contingency.

  58. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @JH – completely agree; exactly my point; but “Taxing the Rich until the pips squeak” is also a politically expedient illusion which – empirically – makes “no more money”. At that end of the spectrum I would advocate those who choose to live here to pay hefty taxes on property, but get tax relief on investment in interest-bearing fifty year “Rebuilding Britain Bonds”; at the other the living wage and a full on tax/credit system…and expenditure on infrastructure projects with an explicit job-creation aspect.

    But that is a whole other discussion…

  59. Chris.B.

    @ Ixion, fair play. I’d only say that agricultural workers doesn’t seem to be one of those jobs that gets advertised a lot. You never seem to see many in the papers or shop windows, and not at the farm gate either. And this is coming from someone who lives a little out in the sticks, surrounded by farms (albeit mostly ones that grow wheat etc).

    The Sun is good for page 3 and the crossword though.

  60. Phil

    It’s not the amount of benefits paid its how it’s paid and why. That Lithuanian chick. Lets take the Sun at face value. There is a regulation that says if people are depriving themselves of income you can treat them as having that income. It would be entirely proper for the DWP to now treat her as having a full time 40 hours a week job at her part time hourly rate. It’s in the regulations clear as crystal. It needs proper enforcement though. So often governments announce benefit initiatives that are already written in the law but just aren’t enforced!

  61. IXION

    Chris B

    I’m cool with that.

    You don’t see the gang jobs advertised as they all now go out thru gangmaster – register with a gangmaster and you will soon see what work there is out there.

  62. martin

    @ John Hartley

    “Due to a bizarre deal at the local one stop, I ended up with a copy of The Sun on Sunday, for 2p. Not my usual read. Pages 4 & 5 have an article on a Lithuanian single mum living in the UK who has taken legitimately under current rules, £ 50,000 of taxpayers cash.”

    You want to stop[ reading the sun mate it has alll sorts of mental health consequnces :-)

    To be honnest though the article sums up much of the right wing media. Find one EU citizen out of 400 million who is claiming benefit and use it as an extrapolation to say the entire country is over run with such people. It also does not point out that she is raising a child here who if they stay will become British. This means our population rate stays healthy in relation to countries such as Lithiunia and Germany and means we can all keep claiming our pensions in the year 2050. You also indicate that she works part time which is no mean feet for a single mother.

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