A More Flexible Army - The Hoon Speech

Much of what SofS said in his speech has been doing the rounds for some time in Army circles and also in some topics in this forum. For those who did not hear the speech, a version is here:


To condense his speech to a couple of points:

- We need a more a flexible and deployable medium force.

- There is no more money. Therefore what are we going to cut to fund it ?

I have to say that I agree with much of what SofS says. It is logical and based on our experience to date. If we want to influence then the best way to do it is to stay with the US and influence them by being a partner.

I am very anti cutting more Regiments - because once done they can never be replaced and we also lose some flexibility.

There is no doubting that the future Army will have to be very deployable. Operational tours abroad will now be the norm rather than a rarity. This can only be good for the Army and the nation.

Jobs for the boys
Research spending padding
Software companies that couldn't be trusted to make Noughts and Crosses work on the Spectrum, never mind develop a Multi-Million pound JIT system
Closer scrutiny of supplier costs
Sack one Supercarrier
Political spending/Buying votes on worthless projects
Contract overspend with no penalties or clawbacks
Greed and corruption.
OK - thanks for the replies. Lets say - nothing from the RAF or Navy and the money must come from the Army budget. There is going to be pain whatever is cut but for starters how about the foll in priority order:

- UOTCs - do we really need them ?

- TA Inf Bns - reduce again ? TA specialists have real utility but do we really need all the TA Inf Bns ?

- MRAV ?

- one Inf Bn and one RAC Recce Regt
I'm sorry Ramilles, but I have to disagree with most of what you said.

I can't see how they can reduce our numbers and make us more flexible.  If I understand this correctly, they want us to have more 'medium' capability - wouldn't that be the first thing adversely affected if we lost 1 Inf Bn and 1 RAC Recce Regt?

If operational tours abroad 'become the norm' and not a rarity (had to chuckle at that, as they've seem to have been pretty normal since aboutr 1992!), cutting TA Inf Bn's makes no sense, as that is often the source of manpower for understrength units going on those tours in the first place.

The simple truth here is that the government, whilst recognising the need to increase our capability, will NOT increase our funding accordingly.  This is a very strange attitude for a government which has developed a habit of deploying its military on operations since it came to power.  

It is also thoroughly mind boggling that they can talk of being more flexible whilst cutting the numbers available to actually provide that flexibility. In civvy street they call it 'doing more with less', in the military we generally recognise as overstretch, or in extreme circumstances, being outnumbered!

You would think that with us recently having been recently stretched pretty much to breaking point (Firemans strike / Iraq / publicly pi55ed off CGS etc) the government might have realised this.  I guess they are a lot more stupid than I gave them credit for! (Hark, do I hear Options for Changes 2 approach?!)  ???


Ramillies said:
To condense his speech to a couple of points:

- We need a more a flexible and deployable medium force.

- There is no more money. Therefore what are we going to cut to fund it ?
How come Defence is always the one to get cuts? Health, education and even the fekking railways and car industries get millions thrown at them, so they can hire more managers/heads/ wasters.

I would say that mostly "cuts" are made to increase profits.cut losses etc. but seeing we (MOD)are not in it for profit, it does not make sense to me? If manpower is short why are we still in the Balkans,Falklands, Cyprus et al, maybe we as a nation should keep our noses out of other nations problems. :'(

As for optiion for change, The HMG and MOD have not really learnt their lessons since the Falklands and before

Thanks for the reply and comments. I like you and no doubt all of us here, know that of course we want more money for defence and there is every justification that we deserve more.  However we are also all well aware of the dire financial situation we are in as an Army and as a nation. Afford some of the impending estate and eqpt programs is taxing many in the corridors of the MOD well into the night !

We want more capability through better eqpt and technology but we have no additional money to pay for it. Therefore what do we do. Continue as we are or through radical reform, get us to an end state where we have this additional military capability. Yes it will hurt and yes there will be an outcry, but unless we do it, no additional capability.

Lets have some ideas in this forum as to what we can cut. I have mentioned some - cutting some areas which do provide benefit but perhaps do not impinge on our core tasks, and reducing or delaying some of our eqpt programs. I agree that reducing Regiments is the last thing we should do but if this means more Regiments fully manned and through savings, a more deployable Army, then it is worth thinking about.

As far as TA Inf Bns are concerned - yes they provide augmentee manpower but compare the strength of the TA Inf and then the numbers of augmentees they provide against the no of TA specialists augmentees(RAMC, RE or R SIGNALS) against their strength, and it can be seen that the TA Inf provide a very low %.

Far better we decide the measures to take then to have the scrutineers or bean counters decide for us.  :)

Anyway - food for thought

How come Defence is always the one to get cuts? Health, education and even the fekking railways and car industries get millions thrown at them, so they can hire more managers/heads/ wasters.
Yes with you and with all the points you make. However we are where we are. Only by us making the decisions about making best use of our meagre resources, can we hope to continue to make our Army the best in the world.


So you want to know what to cut-

a. Parachute Regiment- They wont jump in anywhere anymore- that what the 101st and 82nd AB Divs are for. So just make them Light Inf Role and save millions on the training etc.

b. DMS- We are already cut to the gristle so sell off Keogh Bks and 2 of the Med Regts in the south- that should save millions. Disband all the Regular Fd Hosps and make them a Sqn of a CS/GS Med Regt. Disband the TA AMS and put the one you want into a big specialised Unit like 306 and cherry-pick what specialists you need as you need them. Do away with TA Cbt Med Techs as they have no role in the Regular RAMC.

c. Use other NATO countries Medical assets on deployment, like in Bosnia and Kosovo- Dutch, US and Canadian. In Iraq- US facillities.

d. Stop MMA claims for car travel and issue rail warrants every time.

e. Stop Boarding school allowance.

That should save BuffHoon some cash.
- UOTCs - do we really need them ?
That question has been revisited at just about every defence review, and all 19 are still standing.

So, that's a "yes, they're useful". Not just for persuading doubters to join the green machine, but also to provide the future captains of industry with some understanding of the Army other than that provided by Hollywood or Ultimate Farce.

As for TA Inf, well our local Bn has just seen 140ish off to TELIC, and a sensible way of looking at it might be to say:

"look at the %age takeup for FTRS, and the %age FFR for mobilisation. Look at the strength of the Regular Infantry, compared to WFE. Compare one with other, do some multiplication, arrive at how big the TA Inf needs to be to provide warm bodies at the desired rate for PSO and the occasional war."

Last I heard, that one resulted in the current figures.

Finally, the TA Inf provides probably the cheapest Army presence in areas of low population density (e.g. line_grunt's recruiting area) because all you need at worst case is a Portakabin, a PSI, and some rifles/PLCE. No big DROPS wagons, Engr plant, huge maintenance efforts, or crypto issues.

Unless, of course, you want the large swathes of country beyond Catterick to have little or no connection to the Forces, with the attendant drop in recruiting for an arm still suffering.....

Some excellent points made and I don't disagree with any of them.

However we still have a problem as there is no money to fund the medium force. Now if I was a betting man and without being too specific . . .

- disband 2 x RAC Regiments incl the CR2s or Recce Vehs with them.

- disband 2 x Inf Regiments (in particular the poor recruited ones from low population density areas of the UK)

Not that I agree with this but with some other reduction measures in the eqpt programme and the associated RN and RAF cuts, we really are now talking about the type of savings required as Hoon mentioned.
Couldn't the R Sigs 'White Helmets' go...?

Do we need the AWS?

Couldn't the RMP/RAF(P)/Navy Regs combine...?
Couldn't the R Sigs 'White Helmets' go...?

Do we need the AWS?

Couldn't the RMP/RAF(P)/Navy Regs combine...?
White Helmets are self financing and would save little.

AWS - legally bound to provide

RMP etc - yes possible.. but little savings.

1. - Fairy 'nuff, but still think they serve little purpose except comedy value when crashing into each other (and the crowd) at the RASS (like the last show)

AWS a legal requirement - not ALS?

Combined Service Police - I disagree.  Some 4000 service personnel, same training cente/school/ IT / etc should surely save a few quid?

Drop in the ocean I know, but 'look after the pennies...'
Personnally i believe that the focus on lots of new shiny bits of kit is a blind alley.  It is a very poor carrot, as the kit that is being talked about is the same as mentioned as a sop in the last review.

The forces needs the right kit, built to the correct quality specifications, in the right numbers.

The point that politicians, and i'm sorry to say some of those high up in the MOD fail to remember is that you can only take and hold ground + project force with soldiers - not air power alone or fancy electronic gizmos.  

The British forces are almost stretched to breaking point - yes short term recruitment will be up due to GW2 - this will not last though.  

There is also the issue of the TA post TELIC - this is a serious potential minefield in its own right and a discussion has been started in the TA forum.  Again short term recruitment will be up, but what about retention longer term - employers will put a lot of pressure on any of their employees to leave the TA or just won't recruit new staff who are members - never mind family pressures.

The forces and government spend millions of pounds on advertising and promotion - these budgets should be seriously looked at - especially the spend going to the COI (which effectively is lost money as they add an extra layer of management and cost onto any project with very little added value).  Certainly when working on projects for both the Army and DfEE I was always advised to add at least a 15% contingency above and beyond the project costs to deal with COI issues.

What kind of message do you think cutting more of the Army or forces will send out??  

I still remeber clearly a sketch done by Rory Bremmner during the last "review" - it had an 18-20 year old bloke lying on a sofa looking bored, the voice over kicked in saying:

"Want to do something different and bit more exciting than drinking away your weekend?"
"Well, don't join the TA cos their FUCKED"

The MOD and Government needs to get real, look at what you have got and by all means restructure some things to make them work harder and smarter - but first of all make sure that there are the troops and the kit to do what is required + a quite few spare - This is just good business practice and plain common sense - JIT (Just In Time) techniques work for certain types of car manufacture (though the japanese are dropping it) and computer manufacturing - they don't for the Armed forces.

The other aspect is that Education, Health and all the other governmant departments need sorting too - there is now more paper work and financial and personnel waste in the system than prior to this bunch of muppets coming into power - They should do a bit of personal house keeping before going out to the key departments asking for cash.

Seriously pissed off with this :mad: :mad: :mad:
The forces needs the right kit, built to the correct quality specifications, in the right numbers............ that you can only take and hold ground + project force with soldiers - not air power alone or fancy electronic gizmos.  
I agree however with technology it is possible to get additional capability that is greater than is possible just with manpower alone. We need the manpower but technology is a force multiplier that signifanctly adds to it.

I agree with remainder of what you say. Of course it is depressing but we have to think - we have x amount of capability now - what can we cut so that through technology we have even more capability giving us x + a very big y

The difficult thing is trying to find what we can cut and do smarter to give us the y !  :)
Ramilles - ref your last.  That is the point - why do we need to cut manpower?  If there is one lesson I would hope even the most militarily incompetent f*&ckwit could take on board, ref the army especially and the military in general, it is that less is NOT more!!

Why the need to cut?  You could talk to me (and lots of others) until you were blue in the face, but there is no chance you will persuade any of us that cutting manpower is going to actually increase our flexibility.

There are two problems that cause this misplaced belief that less is more:

First, the attitude, (which I am ashamed to admit began with the Conservatives) that you can compare, and thus treat, the military at large in the same manner as any civilian industry. It is from this attitude that politicians generally believe that if you apply the best civilian practices you can improve the efficiency of the military.

The second is a much older, and more deeply seated attitude problem, which will consequently be harder to deal with to do with money.

Going back to the first problem - There are some similarities between the military and civilian sectors.
IE - the need to recruit quality staff, to avoid unneccesary expense and ....well, to my mind that is it.  What you can't do is cut manpower to the bone.  The military needs its 'fat' (civilian terminology for manpower not neccesarily every working day) and there are reasons for this.  We do not 'produce' anything, by civilian standards.  

But, when we are called on, there's an excellent chance that you're going to need to replace a lot of your work force on very short notice (casualties) and simaltaneously be required to carry out more than one function (fire strike / Iraq prep / NI / Bos / Kos / train recruits).  There is NOTHING in civvy street that can have so many different demands placed on it at once.  

I'd like to point out though, that there are ways of doing things the civvy way logistically, demand and stock control/movement wise that we could adopt that would make us much more efficient, but I do not know if this would save us any money.

The second problem is actually the worst, though.  Throughout the history of our country, the governing power (democratic or otherwise) has instinctively been tightfisted towards the military.  

The earliest example I am aware of is the Battle of Stirling Bridge (of Braveheart movie fame).  It was a battle the English could easily have won, if the military commander had been allowd to do as he wished.  As is it was, the real commander was the bloke with the purse strings, who said Stirling Bridge was a much cheaper place to have a battle - only if you win mate, which you didn't!

Since then, by and large, the British Military have lived on a shoestring and the guts of its soldiers, sailors and airmen.  Wellingtons armies contained many criminals, or failing that, people who the army got pissed and conned (a trick the Navy were also fond of).  The armies of the Empire were predominantly local and, consequently, much cheaper to pay, if nothing else.

At the start of the last war, the country was lucky to have had senior officers who campaigned very hard to modernise the forces, across the board.  We could have trashed the Nazis in 1940, if only the military had been budgeted realisitically.  Nazi tactics were almost entirely based on Capt Liddel Hart's theories, which the Army were unable to fund.

After Options for Change 1, senior military personnel advised against cutting back manpower.  They were ignored.  So far, they have been lucky.  We have been luckier.  I suspect that our involvement in Iraq will end that run of luck and our smaller numbers will begin to tell.  Soon, units will begin rotating through Iraq quite a lot and then it will all go to rat shit.

NI experience or no, we will take casualties and the more you send units into a no win situation, the more men who will sign off before they are deployed, or as soon as they get back.  

Don't believe me?  Well check out Jack Straw's statement - we're in for the long haul, and it will not be nice, at all.  We're now in the rather incongrous situation of rescuing the Americans - from themselves!Well, their Army is so much smaller than ours.......or is that so much larger, better funded and better equipped?(What happened to 'We will keep our men there for a day more than is neccesary' then?)

And just when they give us not just another open ended commitment, but the messiest yet, they say we need to cut back manpower?

Sorry Ramilles, but those f&*ckwits need to check in with reality (it'll never happen) and anybody who thinks otherwise should look in the mirror.

Anyone who thinks we should cut numbers now should come out in the open and nail their colours to the mast, so that when it all goes tits up, we will know who was on what side and where the blame lies. :mad: :mad:

And if the government can't afford to fund the manning needed to do the job, they shouldn't f*&cking keep volunteering us for every war/scrap/humanitarian mission the Americans think about.  They could, however, consider the plight of our own Commonwealth and stop talking big and doing sh1t!
Ramillies, I do not dispute or disagree with you that technology can be a successful force multiplier- when used effectively and in the right situations.  

What i do strongly disagree with is the view coming from the government and the MoD that technology is the answer to all ills, that it can solve all troubles - when plainly it can't. (This is true for Health, education, policing etc etc)

I still stand by the truism that you can't beat having soldiers (in significant numbers) on the ground to influence events.  Or police men for that matter......

A good example of the failings of technology is the Apache helicopter - The apache was supposed do do away with armour and be the answer to the future developments on the battlefield for dealing with enemy armour - don't think so! It has performed extremely poorly in GW2 and Kosovo.

Also what is being discussed, from what i have heard, re new/ cleverer kit is the introduction of the kit that has been being promised since the mid 90's - THERE IS NOTHING NEW here.

Before taking the easy option of cutting yet more soldiers (Regular or TA) or sailors and airmen the MoD and the Government need to look internally at their spend on advertising, photocopying, hotel bills etc etc.  This might not save much in the short term - but it will in the longer one.

Thinking about it -  

this is almost like history repeating - After the Boer war was over the Government of the day took a short sighted approach to defence and cuts the forces - promising new kit and training + learning from the lessons of the War (sound familiar??) - net effect was that the Forces morale was shattered, the armed forces were cut way back and the government congratulated it self on a job well done in the sure knowledge that nobody would want to have a go at Britain. A few years later the 1st World War came troting over the horizon and we all know how that panned out.  :mad: :mad:

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