The defence budget is getting smaller.
The 2005/06 Defence budget is Â£30.9BN, with the 06/07 budget set to be Â£32.1bn. The 2004 Spending Review increased the Defence budget by 1.4 per cent above inflation per year â a real increase of Â£3.7bn from 2004/05 to 2007/08. As a result, real terms planned defence spending in 2007/08 will be 7.5 per cent higher than in 1997/98.
However what proportion of that figure represents procurement and how is the manpower budget currently looking divided between serving soldiers, civil servants and pensions?
Soldiers routinely buy their own kit and cannot do their jobs without it.
Soldiers are free to personalise elements of their standard issue kit if they wish to meet the needs of fashion or personal taste, but all British soldiers are fully-equipped for the jobs they are asked to perform.
There are always improvements to be made to equipment, but the facts show that only a small minority of the Army are unhappy with their fighting kit. The vast majority of the Army - 94% of serving officers and 87% of serving soldiers - have confidence in the fighting kit provided. (Army Continuous Attitude Survey 2004)
About 50% of the Army do not buy any additional personal kit. 95% of the Army believe that they do not need to buy additional kit to do their job. (Army Continuous Attitude Survey 2004) We disagree with the remaining 5%, but do follow up work on these surveys to find out why they think this. If this additional work uncovers commercially available kit our soldiers prefer to service issue (e.g. because it is more comfortable) then we can add it to service issue.
For example, in the last two years we have: a) introduced into operational service Individual Hydration Systems (Camelbak) and shemaghs (head-scarf); b) made standard issue GPS systems and torches, where the operational commander identifies a requirement; and c) issued improved ballistic eye protection and warm weather combat gloves d) introducing silver-lined anti-bacterial underwear. In-service kit is also continually improved; the third generation of desert boot will come into service next year. All good but when will it be issued and will there be enough to go round. Plus, are the historical shortfalls on things like ballistic protection being addressed?
Army Morale is low
Army morale is good.
91% of officers and 82% of soldiers rate their own morale average or high.
95% of officers and 72% of soldiers rate their working life as satisfying or more satisfying that their civilian peers.
91% of officers and 86% of soldiers are satisfied with the quality of their training.
87% of officers and 82% of soldiers are satisfied with the quantity of their training. (Army Continuous Attitude Survey 2004) If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck it is probably a duckâ¦people are signing off NOW. Not when some dodgy survey was compiled by the boys and girls from Upavon.
The Army is under strength
As at 01 July 2005 (the most recent available figures) the British Army is 97.5% manned against its target Full Time Trained Strength. Officer manning is at 98.2% of its target. Other ranks are at 97.3% against its target.
However the numbers stack up at aggregate level, are the right bums on the right seats? No, I thought as much.
The Army is experiencing a recruitment crisis
Despite the current challenging recruiting environment - high employment, a prosperous and strong economy and Further Education opportunities all compete with the Army for young men and women - the Army Training and Recruiting Agency (ATRA) is currently forecasting that it will achieve 85% of its 2005/06 Field Army target. It is taking action to attract more high quality recruits and to keep retention levels steady.
Oh yes it is but unfortunately the government is taking action which discourages people from signing on.
Hundreds of British soldiers may face criminal charges as part of a review of âunresolved deathsâ during the troubles in Northern Ireland.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland is conducting a review of some 2,000 unresolved deaths in Northern Ireland during 'the Troubles', including those of security personnel, terrorists and civilians. All deaths involving members of the security forces were investigated at the time and it is unlikely that the review will lead to new prosecutions. Soldiers who are questioned by the PSNI will receive appropriate assistance. The RMP will assist the PSNI by, for example, providing documents and tracing serving or retired members of the Armed Forces. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has said that members of the security forces should not suffer any discrimination compared with those involved in paramilitary activity who benefit from the proposed 'On The Run' legislation - the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill - and come out on licence. I wait to seeâ¦
Soldiers being investigated are âguilty until proven innocentâ.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Military law. Like civilian law, has no presumption of guilt and soldiers are innocent until proven otherwise. Hmmâ¦what about politically motivated prosecutions though?
Army rules prevent soldiers subject to court-martial proceedings from being paid.
Soldiers who are subject to court-martial proceedings continue to receive full pay. Their pay is only stopped if they are convicted and receive a custodial sentence. Their prospects for promotion and their career development stops when they are charged howeverâ¦
Decisions to prosecute Army soldiers are politically motivated.
The decision to prosecute is taken by the Army Prosecuting Authority (APA). The APA acts as prosecutor in all Army courts-martial and has a similar role to that of the Crown Prosecution Service in civilian courts. The APA is statutorily independent of the Army chain of command and of Ministers; neither of which have any influence over its case-management or decision-making process. Grow up and catch yourselves onâ¦
The MoD has accepted the existence of Gulf War Syndrome.
Gulf War Syndrome is a commonly used term, but the consensus of medical opinion, which the MoD supports, is that there are too many different symptoms reported for the ill-health displayed by Gulf Veterans for the illnesses to be characterised as a discrete medical syndrome. The MoD has not changed its position. Nor will it..think of the impact on defence spending thirty years hence if they do!