Is SDSR being hastily re written as we speak?

SDSR 2010 was was widely reported to have been beset with last-minute horse-trading, backroom deals and a general air of inter-service backstabbing that, ultimately, benefited neither the services or the nation. This time around there has been a wide recognition that the same behaviour cannot be repeated and so far, the leaks, rumours and fighting seem to have been contained or nonexistent.

Whilst there would have been likely some finishing touches the bulk of the decisions and their underpinning financial and operational analysis would have been completed some time ago.

The SDSR is a political document first and foremost, and anyone that thinks other is naive. SDSR 2010 was primarily about the deficit the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition had inherited from the previous Labour Government. The narrative was the need to fiscal discipline, filling the £37 Billion black hole (that incidentally, 5 years later, has still not been adequately identified) and closing the book on Afghanistan chapter. Painful decisions like the withdrawal of the Harrier fleet and cancellation of Nimrod MRA4 were couched in financial terms, drawing a thick black line to the deficit.

The political narrative for SDSR 2010 was clearly different.

Underlying it all was still the need to reduce the deficit but it was much less a powerful voice in the ensuing debate. Crimea, Ukraine, our Baltic NATO allies, security across NATO’s Southern borders and ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Africa were seen as equal challenges.

Challenges that did not require the deployment of ground forces in the Middle East, the thinking was, the public had got that T-Shirt, and didn’t want another thank you very much.

SDSR 2015 was going to balance the need for deficit reduction with multiple threats, each of those threats requiring a very different approach. Security was back on the agenda, despite the dubious manner in which the NATO 2% of GDP spending would be met, the political intent was clear, it would be met. The big ticket MMA, Carrier Strike, Successor and Frigate projects were seen as likely winners and the Army, big losers, despite the commitment to not reducing regular Army strength.

Then Paris happened.

Two women stand outside the Petit Cambodge restaurant, a site of last Friday's attacks, in Paris, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. France made an unprecedented demand on Tuesday for its European Union allies to support its military action against the Islamic State group as it launched new airstrikes on the militants' Syrian stronghold, days after attacks in Paris linked to the group killed at least 129 people. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

As Harold McMillan might have observed;

Events dear boy, events

Events mean that it is looking increasingly possible that some form of accommodation with Russia will become a political reality, in return for a joint approach to ISIL. Russia’s intervention in support of Assad (mostly) and against ISIS has to coin a phrase, been a game changer. They have demonstrated political and strategic ambition and boldness that has eluded the West in the region, no doubt, the bear is back in town. They have also amply demonstrated military agility and reach beyond what many Western analysts and politicians though possible. It may all be a bit glass jawed, but one cannot fail to be impressed.

If France manages to get a UN Security Council resolution through, with the support of Russia and China (now both victims of ISIS), then the political and military landscape for Syria and Iraq will look very different than they do now.

A post-Paris UK poll suggested that over 60% of the people asked would now support a ground offensive to destroy ISIS, in France, applications for the armed forces have tripled, and even senior USAF officials are now publically stating the air war can only go so far in achieving the goal of an eradicated ISIS. Although ISIS are shrinking due to improving coordination between the Kurds, Iraqi and other groups, and the ongoing support from NATO and Russia, they are now at their most dangerous.

Which brings me back to SDSR.

As I mentioned above, SDSR is a political document and a political process.

There may be a few digs at the clown show that is the current Labour Party defence team but any more would be misjudging the mood of the nation considerably.

An ongoing attack in Mali, considerable loss of life in Africa, Yemen and Libya serious problems and continuing threats to Europe from ISIS mean Donetsk or Riga is not on the public mind.

Russia is seen to be a considerably lower threat than Islamic terrorism.

If SDSR does not address this public perception, it will be seen as out of touch and a pointless exercise, it may well already, in fact, it would be inconceivable if it didn’t.

My question though, to what extent is it being revised, decisions reversed, tweaks made and priorities changed?

Some, none, or a lot?

Normal jogging or weekend working?

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November 20, 2015 11:57 am

Last one was 75 pages long from cover to back. Maybe more pictures?

November 20, 2015 11:58 am

I agree with you. For example, An aircraft that is expensive and percieved to be aimed at Russian submarines, might not be as useful as one which can switch roles to support the anti-daesh campaign.

November 20, 2015 12:11 pm


The events in Paris are a Security Services concern not a defence one, they will have no impact on a defence review (despite what the Politicians will say) that was already heavily influenced by the anti-IS operation.

November 20, 2015 1:05 pm


All three branches of the armed services, and all three branches of the intelligence services, serve to protect and defend the lives of British citizens.

They all fall under the umbrella of, ‘defence’.

November 20, 2015 1:15 pm

It’s Likely to be the big failing of SDSR. No doubt it is being hastily re written and we will be full of announcements of spending billions to deal with a practically non existent threat of ISIS while cutting conventional forces as the Russians are now the good guys again and we have nothing to fear from them.

Meanwhile Putins military build up will continue and the next time we find ourselves going head to head we may lack the superiority we have enjoyed for 30 years.

November 20, 2015 1:30 pm

Any pre-release or “official leak”… does that make it the BBC(?) would focus on the rationale of the new packaging of Intelligence/ Security Services into and within the 2% defence expenditure… makes good sense, just wondering what will be added to these pre-releases (if anything):

“ministers have said the security services will get another 1,900 personnel while there’ll be an extra £1.9bn for cybersecurity and another £2bn for Special Forces.
The RAF will see the size of its drone fleet double to 20”

The Monday thing will be the usual give and take; however, the bean counters may have been left into a corner to mumble about cost of capital and that of carrying inventory, and perfectly good stuff will actually be used. The give is the manpower for doing that, and the take will be slowing down the rate at which new kit will be rolling out. What new kit is there?
– Typhoon Tr.3
– army supporting vehicles
– something relating to MPA/MMA/SAR

Vessels already in build have been made as slow-mo as one possibly can (paying extra for that, rather than for capability, mind you!)

November 20, 2015 1:38 pm

Very little has been let out, this has been kept very close hold.

What has made it out does raise a couple of questions:

Army, nothing has been said, hopefully this means the Army will be cut to fund more useful forces
ISTAR, silence, despite big questions over several key platforms
Navy, silence, lots of silence- even silence towards people who usually get told things.

November 20, 2015 1:49 pm

If you had run a poll on the 14th sept 2001 there would have been a high percentage agreeing to an invasion of just about anywhere linked to the attack maybe even agreeing to reduce are nuclear Arsenal one missile at a time. Run the same poll 14 sept 2009 and ask about the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq you would of got a significantly lower percentage thinking invasion was a gd idea.

Polling after a major event produces bad policy.

November 20, 2015 4:43 pm
Reply to  Hohum

Strategic Defence and SECURITY Review?

November 20, 2015 5:32 pm

“The events in Paris are a Security Services concern not a defence one” – things may be differently organised in your country, Hohum, but here in the UK the armed forces, especially the army, have historically been quite involved in domestic counter-terrorism.

November 20, 2015 5:38 pm


Only in NI. And as much as I would like to see clear and hold operations in Leicester, Birmingham, Bradford and Tower Hamlets I can’t see such a policy making it into the SDSR.

Unless you were referring to the magnificent deployment of cavalry against anarchists, leftists and other undesirables at St Peters Field?

Mike Wheatley
Mike Wheatley
November 20, 2015 6:56 pm

“Then Paris happened.”
– A surprise because, apparently, not one person in Westminster was able to predict that something like this was going to happen.
No, really, not one of them.

November 20, 2015 9:47 pm
Reply to  ArmChairCivvy

Tranche 3A has been previously decided at 40 and Tranche 3B has been dropped. This was with all partners so seems highly unlikely to be able to be changed. This leaves the only ‘option’ open is the retaining of Tranche 1 which was scheduled to go in the next few years.
This would be the best choice ( along with my other proposal of shifting the F-35B to only an RN aircraft)

November 20, 2015 9:50 pm


Despite ACC’s sometime concerns (or it seems to be so when I drop by longish threads) that he might be some sort of false-flag presence, I’m pretty sure it *is* Hohum’s country. Everything I’ve read of his indicates a classic field-and-garden domestic invasive, species Contraricus Maxhastingsii (there are times I wonder if it’s the old boy himself, stopped by to vent steam.) Out of Disgusted in Tunbridge Wells by Wotsisname the Amerophile defence-tech columnist many of us round here (and with good reason) love to hate to the degree I can’t think of his name on what is here still an unseasonably sunny Friday afternoon. Including what I would bet is a fair absence of sarcasm wrt Peterloo. And you’re quite right, from the Gordon Riots to the Battle of Cable Street to Princes Gate (and it was Army regulars, most of them veterans of what was then referred to as the Great War, who stepped in and stopped the worst of the Manchester yeomanry’s bloodletting at St. Peter’s Fields, just as their service granddads had slowed down the Lowland Calvinist loyal militias gleefully bayoneting the wounded on Culloden Moor.)

It could, however, perhaps stand some rejiggering. More emphasis on collection and detection, and on breaking the organisations’ banks as per what finally got the PIRA in a vice. *Not* a lot more arming of ordinary police, it doesn’t add much value and can, as various other countries on several continents have shown, lead to deadly abuses. Better to provide a more intensive quality of training and clear organisation of SFOs — as a regionally-distributed national resource under the Home Office, manned out of some big cities but a cohesive body as close as one can get to the GIPN model for example — and it might be worth looking at some of those SAR Sea Kings going out of service to see if you could get a dozen or so seeded out among those regional SFO centres to improve response time with the police services.

Elsewise, living as I do these days on the same continent as both the Canadian Forces Reserves and the United States National Guard, and a firm believer in the virtues of both, here is the sort of thing that perhaps the Reserves should be geared towards (besides casualty replacement for the shrunken regulars.) Regionally based capability, with units attached to the area who come from and know its culture and granular details, to do emergency capacity-building, put sweeps of leg infantry on the streets in a Paris/ 9/11-style crisis rather than twitchy beat-police with sidearms, and civil affairs personnel who can reinforce or, in areas of actual combat in a Paris/Bombay-style event, substitute for their civilian civil and emergency affairs compatriots. That’s a dual-use capacity as well: in lengthy combat situations of the future, one is more likely to need those resources to carry through a long-term, large-footprint effort than in, say, the potential peer-ish conflicts of the future where you’re mostly going to need just rapid casualty and equipment replacement to deliver a decisive result prior to reaching a point of nuclear standoff.

November 20, 2015 9:51 pm

Mike W,

You might think that. I couldn’t possibly comment ;-)

November 20, 2015 10:34 pm


I am charmed at your presence. Sarcasm aside, nice to see some intellect here, do hang around.

November 20, 2015 10:54 pm

Apparently Dave will get his VVIP aircraft ( a modified A330 Voyager), its touted as ‘saving money’
An ex British Airways B777-200ER would be ‘cheaper’, as they have very little value after a busy life, and flying the royals and politicians around wont add much hours.
But I suppose they want to pretend its available for ordinary use by using an existing plane.

November 20, 2015 11:03 pm

8,000 dead so far in the War in Donbass. 2,500 of them civilians.

I guess it’s nice to see that it’s not just that white lives matter more, it’s white lives in places we like to go for a holiday?

November 20, 2015 11:15 pm


David Cameron, worse than Hitler.

November 21, 2015 12:42 am

The ‘tweaking’ probably relates to the redistribution of funds previously allocated to some big ticket items – slow the delivery of Type 23s? Only 2 x squadrons of F35s for the carrier? While I am a big fan of very large toys that can fire very large bullets, I concede that a ‘well aimed blow’ can do far more damage to an enemy than a flurry of poorly aimed punches. More funds allocated to the collection, collation and analysis of intelligence combined with a suitably deadly knock blow sits okay with me.

November 21, 2015 2:34 am

for fucks sake….

November 21, 2015 2:57 am

Had enough of of this bullshit….being a working class nobody who works on a car production line in the north west ….who is also a paid up up member of the UNITE trade union …. believe me everyone and i mean EVERYONE wants the govt to kick off against IS … look at where all the ANTI Corbyn MP;s are from all north of the Primrose hill ,student politicos……. ,Fuckin Wasters, Twats who know nothing of the sacrifices our grandfathers did to eradicate fascism from the face of the Earth.

November 21, 2015 3:04 am

Sorry TD had enough of pisssin around abouyt time the NORTH

November 21, 2015 3:06 am

Shows its true colours

November 21, 2015 6:50 am

How Paris changed things? Is this a defence or security issue?

Simplistically, this was a lack of Leadership issue. Putin has Leadership qualities in spades, whilst Russia’s involvement hasn’t and won’t stop terrorist attacks, it does at least make it certain ISIS will not win.

The USA and UK have failed in slightly different ways. The UK Parliament has failed to back the Government and rightly or wrongly it feels it’s hands are tied. The reasons for this probably need further examination, but more importantly despite the effort the US Forces are putting in to eradicate ISIS, they have a President who shows no conviction in his Foreign Policies.

Obama was probably right when, in Libya, he told the Europeans that they should carry out their own operations and stop using the US Forces. That point needs to be reinforced, and incidentally should affect the SDSR, but Syria was more complicated and was wholly unsuitable for a half-hearted approach.

Finally the common strand of failing in Syria, Iraq and Libya is a failure to win the peace. This is largely down to two things 1. Plans to establish and maintain Law, Order and Create Opportunity, Redevelop the country, turning war fighters into working men and women. This was inconsistently and ineffectually planned and implemented. 2. Ultimately, 1. was always going to be very very difficult and maybe Lawrence of Arabia’s in this world are as rare as hens teeth.

I didn’t include Afghanistan in the above because the other three have educated, functioning economies and societies that make Afghanistan much more challenging and actually I believe the strategies I suggest above have been applied there.

So maybe the SDPSR? P for Peace

Brian Black
Brian Black
November 21, 2015 7:23 am

We’re often being told how many terrorist attacks have been prevented, and we’ve had the Tunisia attack already, and we’re regularly told how the Home Secretary needs to be allowed to read our emails, Christmas cards, and minds in order to keep us safe; why should the Paris attacks change anything?

Expected attacks from an identified enemy who we are already fighting.

Beyond superficial presentational changes, stressing certain security risks and highlighting certain spending, there shouldn’t be a need to change anything.

November 21, 2015 7:48 am

“SDSR 2010 was was widely reported to have been beset with last-minute horse-trading, backroom deals and a general air of inter-service backstabbing that, ultimately, benefited neither the services or the nation.”

The SDSR10 was the moment where we faced up to the fact that being a US-lite was no longer possible on the funds available.
Our future was as a narrow-spectrum ‘great’ power, and the ‘narrow’ meant making choices about where we focused our remaining capability for strategic power projection.

Yes, by press releases and newspaper leaks alone, it would appear this battle was fought pretty much to the line. But a choice was made.

Keep an army of 100,000 focused on enduring division scale deployments and the 15%/2IC role, or keep naval power projection and a brigade level rapid deployments.

I doubt that is being revisited, so SDSR15 will be essentially a more boring affair focused on refining the implementation.

November 21, 2015 10:02 am

Well said “The SDSR10 was the moment where we faced up to the fact that being a US-lite was no longer possible on the funds available.
Our future was as a narrow-spectrum ‘great’ power, and the ‘narrow’ meant making choices about where we focused our remaining capability for strategic power projection”
but let’s not forget the big (global) footprint of our soft power. The worst aspect of the recent past, in my eyes, has been the undermining of the latter by the unrealistic portraying of missions (relative to resources, of all kinds, actually committed) and not being cohesive as to seeing things through.

November 21, 2015 10:44 am

I wonder what happened to the regional alignment of some AF bdes that was advertised in the previous SDSR?

Was reminded by this news (and background) piece from breakingdefence
“While the public spotlight focuses on US airstrikes in the Middle East and US ships challenging Chinese-claimed waters in the Pacific, the Obama administration strongly prefers small-scale and non-violent support to local partners. That approach was pioneered by Army Special Forces but is now embraced by the “Big Army” as well, which assigned conventional units to partner with given groups of countries as “Regionally Aligned Forces.”

The first regional brigade was assigned to Africa Command, which has neither the resources, the authorities, nor the political backing to go in big, guns blazing. The hostage rescue in Mali’s capital of Bamako, with a small US contingent supporting the Malians and perhaps the French, is a microcosm of the kind of cooperation required.”

November 22, 2015 12:08 pm
Reply to  Hohum

Wrong im afriad. The SDSR does consider, amongst other things, the SIA (UK intelligence community), special forces and elements of counter terrorism policing which self evidently will be defined by Paris as well as the conventional armed forces. Seperating intelligence, humanitarian aid, foriegn policy objectives, capacity building, and national policing from conventional forces is an outdated and crude approach to strategic security policy.