The National Audit Office on Army 2020

The National Audit Office has today published their assessment of Army 2020.

Army 2020 requires an overall reduction in the size of the Army and a fundamental change to its composition, with a significant reduction in the number of regulars and a substantial increase in the number of trained reserves. Military judgement played an important role in decisions but committing to moving towards an Army structure with fewer regular soldiers and an increased number of reserves within the planned timescale should have been subject to more rigorous testing of feasibility. The Department and Army must get a better understanding of significant risks to Army 2020 – notably, the extent to which it is dependent on other major programmes and the risk that the shortfall in recruitment of new reserves will up the pressure on regular units.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, 11 June 2014

Summary of the report

The decision by the MOD to implement Army 2020, its programme to reduce the size of the regular Army and increase the number of trained Army reserves, was taken without appropriate testing of feasibility, according to the National Audit Office.

In its report to Parliament, the spending watchdog warns that transition to the new Army structure comes with significant risks which, if they materialized, could significantly affect the Army’s ability to achieve its objectives and value for money.

Under Army 2020, by December 2018 the number of trained regular soldiers in the Army needs to be reduced by around 20,000 (down from 102,000); and, by the end of 2018-19, the number of trained reserve soldiers needs to be increased by at least 11,000 (up from around 19,000). The Department considers that this reduction in size of the Army will help the Army achieve savings of £10.6 billion over 10 years to 2021-22. The resulting Army would consist of 82,500 regulars and 30,000 trained reserves. However, the Department did not test whether it was feasible to recruit and train the required number of reserves by 2018-19.

There has not been a significant growth in the overall trained strength of the Army reserve in the last two years. At April 2012, the trained strength was 19,410. In April 2014 it was 19,400. In 2013-14, a total of 3,020 soldiers entered the Army Reserve.Reserve recruitment targets increase substantially over the next five years. For example, in 2016-17, the Army will need to recruit 9,270 reserves, including 8,000 new recruits. A significant change in performance is therefore required, particularly for new reserves, if the Army 2020 structure is to be staffed in time.

The Army is ahead of target in its planned reduction of the Regular Army to 82,500 soldiers. (As at April 2014, its trained strength was 87,180). However, recruitment of new regular soldiers was behind schedule in 2013-14. The Army recruited 6,366 regular soldiers against a target of 9,715 (a shortfall of 34 per cent).

The Army’s recruitment contract with Capita has been subject to a number of difficulties that have affected recruitment performance, including the MOD’s failure to provide ICT infrastructure critical to the success of the project.This means poor recruitment performance cannot be distinguished from the impact of ICT failings.

The Army has not publicly detailed what aspects of the transition to Army 2020 it needs to achieve by when for it to operate effectively. This makes it difficult to measure progress towards full implementation. The Army has also not set clear trigger points for enacting any contingency plans. For example, if the reserve recruitment shortfall persists, there is a risk of staffing gaps in some parts of the Army structure and increased pressure on regular units.

Other risks include the significant challenge faced by the Army in implementing Army 2020 alongside other substantial ‘change programmes’, such as a new Army basing programme including the return of UK troops from Germany. Army 2020 also seeks, for the first time, to integrate regulars and reserves fully within a single force structure. However, 65 per cent of regular Army respondents to a 2014 MOD survey believe that regular and reserve forces are not well integrated. In addition, achieving the aims of Army 2020 requires additional funding for equipment which is not yet guaranteed.

Read it in full

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.nao.org.uk/report/army-2020/”]

45 Comments
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Ian Hall
Ian Hall
June 11, 2014 1:14 pm

A triumph of political will over common-sense.

Chris
Chris
June 11, 2014 3:23 pm
Ian Hall
Ian Hall
June 11, 2014 3:27 pm
Reply to  Chris

I think I am right in quoting Mandy Rice Davis when she commented “Well he would say that ,wouldn’t he”

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
June 11, 2014 4:27 pm

First of all, I would like to see this document looked at together with the army’s own 2020 document (TD was planning a post on it). That document describes the structure (much of what I agree with, also the drivers given as a rationale) and the process to get “there”. The latter has the normal sugar coating of an official document, and the NAO document now released is a risk analysis that will make the picture more complete.

Having said that, the regular/ reserves ratio settled for is an arbitrage in gvmnt accounting (I blame G Brown for instilling such “new rules”).
– the reserves p.c. cost 20 % of what the regulars (this surely does not account for the unit composition between the regulars and the reserves being different, because that will introduce another difference), and 87% when mobilised (when mobilised as a formed unit, they will cost more, but the report stops short of saying whether the 100% benchmark of the regulars would be breached)
– I seem to remember that the force reserve component would be active 1/8th of the time on average (in the plans, the contract to be offered was at that time still in the making and may have altered the palns), barring some major thing coming along and shooting all units towards full mobilisation… there we go: 1/8 x 87% +7/8 x 20% =
– THAT is not the arbitrage, it is the above the envisaged 1/8th of the time mobilisations that would be FULLY paid from the Treasury Contingency. That is why options are so cheap: who will price in the likelihood of that happening. Here I have sympathy for General Wall’s comment about the report not factoring in (=describing) the austerity under which the structure was arrived at.

Some of the MPs seem to have grasped this, but (as politicians!?)seem to be too lost for words to formuate it… Let’s see what the new Parliamentary Committee Chairman is made of. He will get to make an entry with guns blazing (except that the Parliament is going to take their break).

tweckyspat
June 11, 2014 4:52 pm

ACC
I sense your anger but I can’t follow what you are describing as arbitrage ?

If the plan assumes reserve component are employed 1/8th of the time (which btw means a 6 month tour for anyone signing up for a 5 year stint) then why shouldn’t anything above that level of effort be assumed to be funded from the conntingency ? effectively, that is what has happened until now, has it not ? why assume different ?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
June 11, 2014 5:19 pm

tweckyspat,

I won’t be angry with MoD/Army taking from the Treasury. The real question is will the 20% cost level (pensions, accommodation etc saved) produce effective units/ manpower. And if it does, will that 30.000 level ever be realised.

It is the way things are informed about, like the 2% of GNP for defence…. and that we are going under that norm any minute now. When it has been actually 2.7 according to the accepted NATO definition lately, the last published figure coming out at 2.4%. Even here, between people who take an interest, the difference does not seem to be clear. And that is all down to official misinformation, making the figure look smaller in the wider political discussion.

Compare that with the US Committees and Subcommittes dealing with readiness, procurement etc. They are given hard facts, not wool over the eyes, and most of that information is public.

Phil
June 11, 2014 5:25 pm

There’s no theoretical reason why the recruitment figures cannot be hit. And frankly is the risk that high I ask – the reaction force uses few reserves. Any longer conflict would give us either (a) regular reservists or (b) longer leads to generate deployable reservists.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
June 11, 2014 5:30 pm

The answer is in the force structure
“And frankly is the risk that high I ask”

The structure is far out of the money option – cheap (therefore the probability has been judged as very low, or at least as you say, to have a long lead time taking to develop).

The Limey
The Limey
June 11, 2014 5:32 pm

– because the costs of the regular army when fighting are not shifted from core MoD budget to contingency. ACC is right. This is arbitrage – about shifting costs out of core MoD budget to treasury contingency.

Phil
June 11, 2014 6:06 pm

Yet it is a model used by most first world western militaries. The TA has long been the exception as a largely stand alone second force (not so much in the 1980s but certainly since then until just recently).

x
x
June 11, 2014 6:11 pm

I remember it a bit differently more of a 4 way split. There were Army units declared to NATO (BAOR), TA supporting BAOR, Army not declared to NATO, and TA not declared NATO (though that list chunk couldn’t have been that large.)

I remember my dad in the TA getting all the new DPM kit long time before my uncle who was a regular in the RA.

Phil
June 11, 2014 6:26 pm

From 1947 to 1968 I think the TA was pretty much a second field force as it had been in 1914 and 1939. 8 or so divisions.

From 1968 you had the old TAVR but it was not massively integrated into BAOR (the fighting elements weren’t, the logistical elements were much more so because they stepped into the shoes of the old AER), the infantry and yeomanry and so forth were mainly tasked with MHD.

From the late 70s TA battalions started to get more and more NATO roles and by the 1980s it was integrated far more with 2 Division and most of the TA battalions having a BAOR or UKMF role. At this point it was relatively well integrated.

Then 1992 came and time went backward with the TA fighting units not having much of a defined role at all and the CS and CSS elements were basically the units which made the ARRC a proper fighting Corps. There was a high threshold for use there.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
June 11, 2014 6:26 pm

I think it’s a bit early to be getting worried about the reserve figures, for a start from anecdotal evidence I have received Capita have provided a shocking service that has lost the army of a few recruits just by taking so long to administer applications. Secondly when has the army ever been 100% with manning levels? we hemorrhaged personnel in the nineties and had to go over seas to actively recruit from the commonwealth so it’s nothing new.

x
x
June 11, 2014 7:09 pm

@ Phil

We don’t have a need for a “territorial defence force”, but I wonder, our broader strategic needs to one side, if that was the TA/AR/Reserves/Yeomanry’s role I wonder if recruiting would be a problem? As daft as it sounds is the risk as much as the impact on job/career that drives potential recruits away? And I wonder how many who would join if it was relatively risk free would actually step up to the plate if there was a genuine need? I will hazard a guess and say quite a few. Again I look to Norway, Denmark, both of which seem to have little difficulty in attracting recruits to their respective home guards. I can’t remember which of the Nordic countries it is but they have a sort of ACF on steroids which could help with recruiting adults. I think this experiment will be canned in a year or two and the small savings accrued from not chasing a few decent part timers fed back into the Army’s personnel budget.

Kent
Kent
June 11, 2014 7:54 pm

In the US Army, we have the active duty (AD) component, the Army Reserves (AR), and the Army National Guard (NG).

The Army Reserve units are “tail” to the “teeth,” i.e. maintenance/logistics/training/civil affairs. Members of the Army Reserve not in units are members of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) made up of personnel who have completed their AD time but not their total service obligation or who cannot be assigned to a unit for other reasons.

The ANG is mostly combat/combat support, i.e. infantry/armor/artillery/combat engineers/aviation. ANG units are regularly called out by their state governors for civil emergencies (flood, hurricane, tornado relief) and can be called out for civil disturbances, however they can be called to federal active duty when and where needed. For example, our local NG units (infantry battalions of the 45th Infantry Brigade, “Thunderbirds”) have been activated in the recent past to deploy to train the Afghan National Police. Most counties in the Oklahoma, at any rate have a National Guard Armory (or Joint Reserve Center for the NG/AR/Air Force Reserve/Navy Reserve/Marine Corps Reserve).

I can’t speak for the training cycles of the AR, but the NG generally trains one weekend a month during the year and has a two week training exercise once a year. Some members of the NG units are “full-time,” working as technicians to maintain equipment, etc. Of course, when activated for service with the active forces, NG units train for several months before deployment. NG personnel (not the full-timers) get paid for 4 training “days” a month and their two-week “summer camp.” They are generally equipped with the same gear as active duty forces but maybe not to full strength in the heavy vehicle department (tanks, IFVs, etc.). In my day, some of the “brigade sets” in the pre-positioned equipment storage depots, commonly called POMCUS, were dedicated to ANG units which would have been deployed to Europe if the threat level required it. They may still be so dedicated, but I can’t say having retired almost 20 years back.

If your reserve units get organized like the NG, you can restore/maintain historical local unit names (that may have been lost in past reorganizations) and have personnel and equipment ready to be called up in the event of local/national emergencies. (Perhaps the county/municipal councils/mayors could be the local civilian authority like our governors?) You’d also have units ready (with a modicum of training) to reinforce the active forces in time of war, to prepare to deploy as follow-on forces, or to prepare to defend Old Blighty!

“…we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender,…” – W. Churchill

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
June 11, 2014 8:02 pm

“The Armed Forces are being restructured to ensure they can defend against new and emerging threats to our security. In future, they will be smaller, but better equipped, able to deploy rapidly to protect our interests anywhere in the world and supported by an integrated reserve force.”

Nice work Hammond. How do they deploy rapidly when 3 Commando and 16 Air Assault are reduced and we halve the number of RAF Transport and Tanker aircraft? I never cease to be amazed at the total bollocks sprouted by the people in charge of the military in this country.

Phil
June 11, 2014 8:09 pm

To be fair, the old JRRF wasn’t going to get anywhere without US support. It was a fantasy. At least what we have now is not.

Kent
Kent
June 11, 2014 8:21 pm

– So, under the new plan the 14 paras, two Land Rovers, one mortar tube, and 8 RMs will be able to deploy to any trouble spot around the world, huh? Sounds exciting. :D

Kent
Kent
June 11, 2014 8:29 pm

Sorry, folks, but I read the documents. It sounds like:

“…we shall fight on the beach, at least this bit over here,
we shall fight on the landing ground,
we shall fight in the cricket pitch and in the street just outside,
we shall fight on that hill;
we shall never surrender, unless we must…” – with apologies to W. Churchill

Phil
June 11, 2014 8:35 pm

– So, under the new plan the 14 paras, two Land Rovers, one mortar tube, and 8 RMs will be able to deploy to any trouble spot around the world, huh? Sounds exciting

So much better than pretending we could lob 5 Airborne into glorious battle. Now our politicians will only get us involved in wars that require 28 Paras and 4 landrovers.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 11, 2014 11:00 pm

Wonder what those other 8 structure options were that are mentioned?

tweckyspat
June 12, 2014 6:35 am

because the costs of the regular army when fighting are not shifted from core MoD budget to contingency. ACC is right. This is arbitrage – about shifting costs out of core MoD budget to treasury contingency.

err,, quite a few of the costs of the regular army when fighting ARE shifted to treasury contingency. I don’t think there is any sleight of hand here.

Obsvr
Obsvr
June 12, 2014 8:43 am

@ Phil

there’s a very good reason why the TA was a large and viable force until the mid-1960s. National Service lasted two years with the last leaving in 1962 (having been extended for 6 months). The key point is that NS men then had to serve 4 years with the TA. End of NS = end of TA. By the time the TAVR were created the TA was a very small shadow of its former self. This is somewhat unlike post WW1 when the TA picked itself up fairly smartly, but post-WW2 conscription broke the mold of the TA habit and it has never recovered. Nevertheless MoD and political wishful thinking persist. If you want serious TA the best bet is a conscripted militia. Of course today you’d have to pay regular army rates, the token cash and all-found won’t fly, so the cost would probably be higher than regulars

Monty
June 12, 2014 12:09 pm

The most important thing I would add to this discussion is that, with the way of the world as it is, we now go to war with the army we have not the army we want.

The Army 2020 structure is fine for peacetime deployments. But, should a serious international situation develop, we might find ourselves unable to deploy adequate forces to contain a specific threat and with insufficient time to reinforce the existing army structure.

I don’t think we can have a viable peacetime army with anything less than six deployable brigades with proper armoured support and integral heavy weapons. Italy and France both have 11-12 deployable brigades. As things stand, the Reaction Force Structure gives us just three. The Adaptable Force has no tanks or even a medium armour capability. Some 12 battalions within it have no form of protected mobility whatsoever. As such, the Adaptable Force is merely a pool of replacements for the Reaction Force. 16 AAB and the Cdo Brigade also lack protected mobility vehicles and heavy weapons so could not conduct anything more than a peacekeeping / light COIN roles.

To have six deployable brigades (plus an AAB) you need four infantry battalions per brigade (28 battalions) plus 10 additional regular battalion to provide a readily deployable reserve, i.e. a total of 38-40 infantry battalions. You also need a total of 6 tank* regiments and 6 recce regiments, i.e. 12 cavalry regiments. In other words, the optimal peacetime size of the Army is around 100,000-110,000 soldiers.

The true role of the Army reserve is to provide a third deployable division plus reinforcements. In order to recruit the number of Army Reserve soldiers we need, the Government may have to offer better incentives. By that I mean maybe some form of pension or financial incentive may be necessary to attract people. The question is whether the ultimate cost of doing this will be more or less the same as retaining the existing number of regular infantry battalions.

Personally, I think it is highly likely that the Army 2020 plan, as now constructed, will be abandoned by whomever wins the election.

*I use the word tank loosely. Our needs may be better served by medium armour 8x8s equipped with light guns, cannons and artillery systems.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 12, 2014 1:24 pm

I agree with a lot of what you are saying, Monty; but not necessarily your conclusions.

There isn’t enough army equipped for the big-war scenarios; and too much light infantry.

Not including paratroops, public duties, and garrison units, there are thirty-seven infantry battalions in the integrated army structure of the 2020 force. Only six of those battalions will be equipped with IFV. On the other hand, there’s a division’s worth of light role infantry and further protected mobility units that won’t be of great value in other than for peacekeeping and such roles.

Despite being styled “Reaction Force”, the lack of big guns and fighting vehicles across the rest of the army ensures that the Reaction Force will still have to support the routine tasks and deployments of the Adaptable Force.

So those half-dozen Warrior battalions will be expected to maintain high-readiness for their key reaction role, training at battalion and brigade level for high-intensity armoured warfare; but they will also be expected to train and deploy with the Adaptable Force in support of their year-on-year tasks. While that might be possible for a while, once the next big gulf-style event comes around again, and the Reaction Force division has been extensively utilized, the Army plan is going to be easily broken and the weak Adaptable Force will struggle whilst time is taken to refresh and recover the Reaction Force.

The axis of the Army plan seems to be the relatively small Reaction Force. I think the rest of the Army should have been beefed up for the Reaction Force duty, and the heavy brigades been organized as a specialized and supporting formation.

Monty
June 12, 2014 5:48 pm

Bryan Black,

The revised Amy 2020 plan published at the end of last year is deeply shocking. It allows for only 31 regular infantry battalions:

11 in the Reaction force: 6 x Warrior and 3 x Mastiff – plus 2 x Para in 16 AAB*
15 in the Reaction Force: 6 x Foxhound, 9 x light role battalions

Plus
2 x Cyprus battalions
2 x public duties battalions
1 x Gurka battalion in Brunei

*1 x para battalion now SOF to perform SFSG role

To make matters worse, the Adaptable Force has only 3 cavalry regiments and they are mounted in Jackal – essentially an upgraded land-Rover. That is totally ridiculous in my book.

Rocket Banana
June 12, 2014 6:14 pm

How would these “big guns” be deployed?

France and Italy need only get in and start driving. We, on the other hand, have some water in the way.

By the way. I preferred the original 5-brigade Army design.

Observer
Observer
June 12, 2014 6:57 pm

Simon, amphibious 8x8s? After all, it’s only 35km from Dover to France. :P

I for one would love to see an amphibious 8×8 endurance swim test, UK to France and back, as many times as the vehicle can stand, top up on shore, crew swap, try again. This would make it a test to see if mass deployed 8x8s can simply swim across the channel without waiting for lift.

Ambitious ain’t I?

Phil
June 12, 2014 6:59 pm

I don’t think we can have a viable peacetime army with anything less than six deployable brigades with proper armoured support and integral heavy weapons.

What threat on the reasonable horizon would need 6 brigades of heavy troops? Force structure is not permanent. If the threat levels rise in the future we can raise the force structure. As it is we haven’t deployed more than a division at a time to fight since 1945. We could re-generate a BAOR style heavy corps in a few years – we have done so several times and still can because we have binned precisely none of the big ticket capabilities we’d need to have one.

The force has to match the short-term threat. There’s no need to maintain a structure to match a threat that might develop in 5 years because you can re-generate it. We did it in the early 1950s and to some extent in the mid to late 1980s. That posture certainly bears some risks, but maintaining an overly large defence establishment at cost bears other risks outside the defence realm.

Phil
June 12, 2014 7:05 pm

Yes I agree. But even with NS the kit was getting long in the tooth by 1960 especially since a lot of it was war stocks and not treated too well in the 1940s. By 1968 the blokes were gone and the kit was falling apart of used up.

Personally I think the best model for a reserve force is the Danish one. A dedicated Home Guard for fat weekend warriors and a professional reserve recruited from short term conscripts and given additional full time training of 8-9 months for overseas operations. You have a constant churn of freshly minted reservists. Not going to get conscription though!

Simon257
Simon257
June 12, 2014 7:07 pm

@ Observer

Well Jeremy Clarkson & Co took a 4×4 across the Channel does that count?

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WTVPPTV-bQM

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
June 12, 2014 7:37 pm

“err,, quite a few of the costs of the regular army when fighting ARE shifted to treasury contingency. I don’t think there is any sleight of hand here.”

Ordnance (spent), fuel, UORs… anything else.

If I read the report correctly, the difference of [20% +1/8th of (80-20)%] vs. 100% is maintained all through. This has lead (to fit into the budget frame), oversized and accelerated redundancies and a skewed force structure until at least 2025. Monty gave a good summary of protected mobility within the regular unit mix, wonder when it will get to be the turn of the reserve formations?
– it is not only the force structure, but a further reading between the lines would suggest that accelerating the redundancies (from target) was required to protect the equipment programmes from completely stalling?

I wonder what the generals think when they have made a career soldiering and at the top of their careers they are forced into this kind of massaging of budgets (all departments get their money from the same source… or is this some sort of back door way to cushion the effects of the Successor programme, which will soon hit all the services; and the army had already been hit hard enough?)

Chris
Chris
June 12, 2014 7:52 pm

Ref crossing the channel by wheels – https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2010/04/the-alvis-stalwart/

A second and different tale was printed in The Times on November 24 1965 according to ARRSE.

And then there’s this: http://amphicars.com/ukchancro.htm

Mike W
June 12, 2014 9:16 pm

“The Army 2020 structure is fine for peacetime deployments. But, should a serious international situation develop, we might find ourselves unable to deploy adequate forces to contain a specific threat and with insufficient time to reinforce the existing army structure.

I don’t think we can have a viable peacetime army with anything less than six deployable brigades with proper armoured support and integral heavy weapons.”

I think Monty is absolutely right. It’s all very well for Phil to argue that “The force has to match the short-term threat” but isn’t that threat increasing very rapidly, almost exponentially, at the moment? Not only have we witnessed the recent events in Syria and the Ukraine but Iraq has now been added to the equation.

Huge swathes of northern Iraq are now in the hands of Islamist extremists. Some would argue that the purpose of the jihadist surge is to replace democracy with a caliphate. To me the situation poses immense dangers, with the West apparently losing the ability to exert any influence at all on events in the Middle East. What is particularly alarming is the possibility of a jihadist state being set up on the borders of Turkey (a NATO state) and between Israel and Iran. At the time of writing this, the White House has failed to comment on the crisis, while David Cameron and William Hague have ruled out any British military involvement. (That doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Our military has been so enfeebled over recent years that the question is posed, could we now make any meaningful intervention anyway.)

The Army at the moment is dangerously under-resourced. The plans to increase the Reserve to 30,000 by the end of 2018 are simply not working and the aim appears unachievable. Unfortunately the plan to reduce the regular Army to 82,000 were taken on budgetary rather than military grounds and a few chicken are coming home to roost. One of the most telling ironies thrown up by the National Audit report is that the cuts may not produce the planned £10.6 billion savings and it is even possible that the MOD could end up spending more than if it kept the Regulars it plans to dismiss.

Rocket Banana
June 12, 2014 9:18 pm

Simon257,

Well Jeremy Clarkson & Co took a 4×4 across the Channel does that count?

If they took two across then “yes” as that would be Observer’s 8×8 ;-)

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
June 12, 2014 9:29 pm

While I agree with what you write about the actual topic, why would this “What is particularly alarming is the possibility of a jihadist state being set up on the borders of Turkey (a NATO state) and between Israel and Iran.” be such a bad thing?
– borders of Turkey; well, they get a good chance to beat up these guys for a change (they sat on their hands during the invasion). The fact that Islamists have kidnapped 70 Turks puts Turkish nationalism to the fore, and the quiet coup that the Islamic party has been doingthere for years gets to be reversed
– between Israel and Turkey. Nice, the Sunnis cut off Hizbollah and Hamas from their main source of support/ supplies. Tha Alawites consolidate their own little enclave from Damascus to the sea (Lebanon might be destabilised on the deal, some areas wanting to join across the current border)
– Israel and Iran will find each other (a common interest, that is), and these yahoos without access to sea will be squeezed to a quiet existence

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 12, 2014 9:35 pm

@ Mike W
The force has to match the short-term threat” but isn’t that threat increasing very rapidly, almost exponentially, at the moment?”

Ermm no, the biggest threat would be if HMG were stupid enough to get us involved again in Iraq. Neither the Russians nor these rebels who may or may not hold some ground are going to pitch up at the channel. Have we learnt nothing at all? If we were to become involved at all then the very last thing we should be doing is putting conventional troops (i.e targets) on the ground.
There are plenty of factions opposed to these people, support them through air power, unconventional warfare, ISR etc but do not even think of deploying Brigades.

Observer
Observer
June 12, 2014 10:12 pm

Actually APATs, I don’t think it’ll be that bad if you deployed the brigade smartly, like in a blocking position at the northern Iraq/Syria border. Cut them off from supplies and retreat, let the Iraqi army roll them up from the south. Of course that would expose your people to possible casualties, so if you want the “no loss” scenario, your unconventional support would be best, but for a clean sweep, boots on the ground is the best option. Your worst option is to let them run back across the border. Then you’ll be stuck rearming for a possible round 2, which drains resources.

Just don’t be stupid and end up camped there for years. 2 months max, then get the hell out.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 12, 2014 10:15 pm

@Observer

A deployment with achievable measurable objectives and an exit strategy?

Observer
Observer
June 12, 2014 10:20 pm

APATs, you won’t like me writing the orders :)

CNN will go nuts.

“Kill anyone carrying a weapon heading north or north west.”
“Destroy all vehicles”

Exit strategy is through Iraq once you killed them all.

Monty
June 13, 2014 10:01 am

Phil,

The reason I maintain a figure of six deployable brigades is because that’s what the Army says it needs to maintain a single brigade deployed in the field indefinitely (one of the stated aims of the 2010 SDSR). But it’s more complicated than that. We presently have only three deployable brigades within the Reaction Force. But these are traditional Heavy Armour brigades equipped with Challenger 2, Warrior and soon FRES SV Scout. None of these vehicles could be deployed rapidly by air in our C-130 and A400M fleets as they all weigh more than 30 tonnes.

So we have no expeditionary capability. Moreover, tanks can be overkill in many situations. The inability of the US Army to deploy a brigade plus force to Kosovo in 1999 led to the creation of the Stryker brigade concept. The first time it deployed in Iraq in late 2003, the first Stryker brigade with all its kit travelled 500 miles in three days , was re-tesked en route to its first objective and maintained an operational readiness level of 96%. In other words, the Stryker Brigade concept has more than proved its worth.

A UK Stryker brigade with 8x8s weighing less than 30 tonnes would overcome our rapid deployment problem by having better strategic and tactical mobility, greater autonomy, increased reliability, and a smaller logistical footprint than our tracked brigades. But Medium Armour wheeled vehicles doesn’t replace Heavy Armour tracked vehicles. They are a complementary capability.

If the UK were to have three 8×8 brigades plus three heavy tracked brigades, we would have a true ‘go anywhere, do anything’ capability as well as the ability to support the deployment of a single brigade anywhere in the world indefinitely. The structure of an 8×8 formation would more-or-less mirror that of a tracked armoured brigade, so it would be easy to re-role units between tracked and wheeled roles.

The French and Italian armies are so wedded to the 8×8 concept that they have substantially reduced their tank fleets. The UK has reduced its tank fleet without yet gaining an 8×8 fleet. I am not yet convinced that the tank is dead, so believe we should maintain Challenger 2 and Warrior. In the meantime, I think FRES UV is incredibly important to get right.

Challenger
Challenger
June 13, 2014 12:27 pm

I don’t disagree on Army 2020 being underfunded and their are certain aspects i’d change, but at the same time i can’t see a solid argument for 6x deployable medium-heavy brigades.

As Phil and others have pointed out we haven’t deployed more than a division at a time on active service since 1945. It’s also a valid point about the relative ease of regenerating large amounts of infantry if the big ticket capabilities remain in place. 3 armoured infantry brigades gives us 1 ready for ops at reasonably short notice. As long as 2 of the adaptable brigades can be brought up-to strength and readied for deployment within roughly 18 months then that gives us the overall figure of 5 needed for an enduring commitment cycle.

I’d stick with that 3 reaction + 2 adaptable (when required) arrangement, but at the same time i also think 16 Air Assault and 3 Commando need 3 battalions a piece to provide a high readiness battle-group whilst also accounting for training and rest periods.

Quite like Jedi’s idea to put those 3 cavalry regiments in the adaptable force together as another reaction brigade as well!

1 heavy brigade and 3 other battle-groups (1 air assault, 1 commando, 1 cavalry, either acting independently or in unison) at high readiness with the ability to get a division into action with more notice or keep a brigade on active ops indefinitely. Sounds fairly good to me.

Mike W
June 13, 2014 7:10 pm

@APATS

Sorry APATS, have only just found the time to reply.

“Ermm no, the biggest threat would be if HMG were stupid enough to get us involved again in Iraq. Neither the Russians nor these rebels who may or may not hold some ground are going to pitch up at the channel.”

Almost certainly not but one thing you do learn over the years is, to use a sporting metaphor, that you cannot defend when you are positioned on your own goal-line. We have world-wide interests and trade routes. I am not for one moment suggesting troops on the ground in Iraq and President Obama, in his recent statement on the Iraq crisis, says that he does not intend to put any US troops there. He does, however, not rule out the possibility of using military power and is probably contemplating using some of the methods you mention (“air power, unconventional warfare, ISR etc.”). In that sense you might very well be right about approaches to use in the context of Iraq.

However, to go back to the point about the UK’s interests. The Army is dangerously under-resourced to respond to threats to our national security, which involves more: much, much more than seeing whether enemy forces are pitching up the Channel! Over the last couple of decades we have had to respond to various crises and threats. We have during that time contributed forces to the campaigns in the First Gulf War, the Balkans crisis and Sierra Leone. All three might very well be described as successes and the world might very well have been a worse place if we had not done so.

Perhaps you would be entirely opposed to any kind of out-of-area intervention involving ground troops but the three campaigns I have mentioned did involve such a use of troops. I happen to think that while the UK and the US cannot act as the world’s policemen in every crisis, there have been and will continue to be contingencies where the intervention has been justified and successful. Apart from the arguments about national interests and security, there are bound to be future crises where humanitarian considerations are paramount and intervention would be justified on those grounds alone. It is a very uncertain world and if we expect to play, if not exactly a full global role, but a limited out-of area one, then the Government must stop cutting the means that make that possible.

Sorry that I cannot continue to take part in a dialogue in a really detailed way but there are time constraints, I’m afraid. However, your remarks did intrigue me, as I think that you are partly right and partly wrong!

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2014 7:59 pm

@ Mike W

“We have during that time contributed forces to the campaigns in the First Gulf War, the Balkans crisis and Sierra Leone. All three might very well be described as successes and the world might very well have been a worse place if we had not done so.”

I am not opposed to out of area intervention using ground troops at all at all. All three of those would have had my full support as did Afghanistan. Those three had an objective and international backing.

If we are going to look at out of area interventions then we need to be able to answer a few questions before we commit.

1. What are we trying to achieve?
2. Are there other ways to achieve this?
3. Are we going to make things better?
4. What are the UKs interest here (that may be simply upholding law or preventing a humanitarian disaster)
5. what is the end state that allows us to leave?

If we actually did this we would hopefully retain the Sierra Leone situations and lose some of the Iraq abortions.

” It is a very uncertain world and if we expect to play, if not exactly a full global role, but a limited out-of area one, then the Government must stop cutting the means that make that possible.”

We are retaining the capability to do exactly that.

Mike W
June 13, 2014 8:16 pm

@APATS

Thanks for your reply. I wouldn’t argue with much of it at all, and I think that your list of questions to be asked before we commit is an excellent one.

However, I would take issue with your last statement. The cuts have been far too severe, in my humble opinion. Mass is important when you consider out-of-area interventions, as well as conventional force-on-force warfare. The loss of mass can have very unfortunate consequences in term of sustainability. Anyway, we shall have to agree to differ.

Cheers

Mike