SDSR 2015 Sacred Cows


In the prelude the last Strategic Defence and Security Review one of the most memorable soundbites was from Major General Buster Howes RM;

Our current defence aspirations are unaffordable, so very hard choices will have to be made.

Sacred cows make the best beefburgers

It is actually an older saying but the point was well made.

Unfortunately, as we all know, SDSR 2010 was less about making hard strategic choices and more about shoddy last minute interservice horsetrading. I suppose the only real sacred cow was Nimrod MRA4, I don’t count Harrier because there was (and is) a rather Gucci replacement in the pipeline.

I tend to be a bit pessimistic but I simply cannot see any meaningful increase in the defence vote and combined with rising personnel and welfare costs, defence inflation, the PFI bow wave and the heaving wedge of cash that will be demanded by the Vanguard replacement programme.

This means hard choices and by hard choices I mean cancellations, disbandments and withdrawals.

We all understand the overall strategic intent is to maintain balance with a full spectrum of capabilities at ever reducing scale.

My first question in the post is to ask if that remains a valid approach, can we continue to strive for the very best in capability terms whilst accepting the inevitable trade off of decreasing mass?

Are we now at the point where the British Armed Forces are a very sharp but very brittle glass spear?

Instead of this

Copy of equilateral-triangle1

A well supported and sustainable balanced force with resilience and endurance

Are we know this


High end exquisite platforms with no strategic depth or endurance.

In other words, a glass jawed heavyweight (or all fur coat and no knickers if you fancy another analogy)

This leads to the second question.

If this is the state of affairs, overstretched personnel, skill shortages, poor logistics capacity, fleets within fleets and not enough consumable stocks, the what next.?

Would you invert that last triangle with the subsequent reduction in top line capacity?

What that means in real terms is accepted very real cuts in headline capabilities or culling a herd of sacred cows because in the words of my recently favourited author (US Army General Gordon Sullivan);

Hope is not a strategy

Or put another way.

Which leads me to the subject of the post.

Sacred cows.

There are many that could be culled to provide the headroom to make what was left more robust and sustainable.

And so to the final question.

What do you think the sacred cows are, think radical, think bold, think big.

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