CDS in the DTel 21st October 13

OldSnowy

LE
Book Reviewer
Worth a read, if you want to know what the Top Man in the Armed Forces has on his mind:
A smaller force is not a less capable one - Telegraph

A smaller force is not a less capable one
The Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton argues that an Army that is smaller in numbers will be more capable rather than less

I sense that this has been an emotive week for defence. It has seen parliamentarians, public and press all voice concerns about the demise of a Fusilier battalion; about the prospects for reservist recruiting; and about the management of defence finances – specifically an under spend of the Defence budget. Some have managed to link the issues and suggest that the Reserves project should be abandoned and the supposed under spend be used to buy back the Army’s regular manpower reductions. This has led my own Secretary of State to accuse some senior retired military commanders of financial illiteracy. I judge the circumstances demand some informed comment of my own. The first thing I would say is that, both as a former Green Howard and as the founding Colonel of the Yorkshire Regiment, I fully understand the emotions that accompany the loss of a proud battalion.

But whereas I am with the Fusiliers emotionally, and sympathise with their passion, I cannot side with those who cling to the desire for a larger Army without recognising the realities of costs, capability priorities and the demands of future warfare. There simply is no appropriate allocation of the current defence budget that could protect or sustain a larger regular Army and still realise the sort of Armed Forces that we need for the security challenges of the future. And I cannot agree with those who assess the capability of an Army through the input – metric of physical numbers.
Of course size is a factor, but you need to understand what proportion of an Army is actually deployable, how well it is trained, how well it is equipped and the degree to which modern Armed Forces are supported by civilians and contractors filling roles that were once the preserve of servicemen and women. Even those serving a decade ago would find it hard to imagine the enhanced capabilities of soldiers who are networked by modern communications, who enjoy real-time situational awareness and who are connected to precision weaponry and air support which they have the confidence and training to exploit. You cannot compare the Army of the Victorian age with that of the twenty-first century on the basis of numbers alone. But for those who do worry about size, the future Army Reserve that we envisage provides at least part of the response to their concern. No one is pretending that there is an equivalence between 20,000 regulars and 30,000 reservists: that has never been the argument. But a healthy and vibrant Reserve does give you cost-effective resilience for enduring operations. And it offers part of the mechanism for regeneration if the future security context changes. Moreover, a healthy Reserve offers access to a range of skills that defence struggles to sustain within its regular structure. The Defence Medical Services are very reliant on the civil-sector, but Reserves also supply some of our most talented cyber experts, intelligence analysts, logisticians and civil engineers. And of course there are much wider benefits of a larger and vibrant Reserve. It better anchors the Armed Forces to the society it represents. It safeguards the regulars from professional isolation. And it offers individuals opportunities for professional betterment that are not matched anywhere else. So Defence’s ambition for its Reserve forces will not be allowed to falter. And then there is the issue of the supposed defence under spend. The first comment I would make is one of my own admiration for those in defence who have brought discipline and control to our financial processes.

More widely there is now in defence a collective determination to keep the costs of defence under control and in particular not to return to the historic practice of over-programming which resulted in costly slippages and delays. The Armed Forces need to have confidence that the kit and equipment on order is realistically affordable and guaranteed to be delivered. There is no benefit to the Armed Forces if we are kept waiting for the cutting edge capabilities we need in the future. That is why a significant body of work is underway, in which the military is heavily involved, to overhaul our defence procurement and make sure we get more from the funds available. And for the moment we are being cautious about committing too much of the forward programme to contract, because we want to retain agility in what we choose to buy. And we can exercise that agility because the Treasury has allowed us the ability to roll-forward any under spend from one year to the next. So the money is not being lost, it’s being spent more judiciously. So, in sum, there is no under spend that can be redirected to pay for regular manpower. We need every bit of that money to realise our considerable ambitions for new equipment. But neither should people worry that a numerically smaller Army is automatically a less capable one. Indeed it is our intent that the future Army will be more capable and have wider utility than ever. And, although the future Reserve undoubtedly seeks to add-in levels of resilience to the future Army, it also stands on its own merits as a vital part of the force structure.

And it is a part that I have absolute confidence that the nation can deliver.


Interesting stuff, and I do sincerely hope that the Army Reserve pulls it off, and proves how capable Reservists can be.

One small (pygmy?) elephant in the room, and one that I am sure our Hackle-wearing comrades will soon spot, is that nowhere does he say why 2RRF were selected for the chop, as opposed to any worse recruited Regiment. To class them as "those who cling to the desire for a larger Army without recognising the realities of costs, capability priorities and the demands of future warfare" is at the least disingenuous. I don't think most of those complaining of the treatment of 2RRF would disagree that the Army is too large (well, maybe they would, but that's beside the point) but they would most certainly complain about the process and the reasoning that resulted in one Bn being chosen over another. If CDS had come clean and said it was a political decision, it may have looked better.

But as it was a political decision, he can't. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. Shame really, but he is CDS, after all...
 
Apart from Hansard can already tell you why 2RRF were selected.

More importantly, yet again, CDS confuses 'Army' with 'Defence'. No comment on RN or RAF Force Size or Structure.....
 
'A smaller force is not a less capable one'.


Er, yes it is.
 
But neither should people worry that a numerically smaller Army is automatically a less capable one. Indeed it is our intent that the future Army will be more capable and have wider utility than ever.

So long as those wider utilities never need more than a few battlegroups deploying to carry out, obviously.

Smaller armies with more shiny kit may mean more capable formations, but if you have fewer formations then you can do less with them. No amount of technology can put squaddies (or aircraft carriers, fighters, destroyers etc) in two places at once.
 
Apart from Hansard can already tell you why 2RRF were selected.

More importantly, yet again, CDS confuses 'Army' with 'Defence'. No comment on RN or RAF Force Size or Structure.....

Not a fair assessment - he answered the question posed: "Army force structure". I do agree, though, that perhaps CGS should have been the one answering the question, leaving "defence" to CDS to pontificate.
 
E

EScotia

Guest
One small (pygmy?) elephant in the room, and one that I am sure our Hackle-wearing comrades will soon spot, is that nowhere does he say why 2RRF were selected for the chop, as opposed to any worse recruited Regiment. To class them as "those who cling to the desire for a larger Army without recognising the realities of costs, capability priorities and the demands of future warfare" is at the least disingenuous. I don't think most of those complaining of the treatment of 2RRF would disagree that the Army is too large (well, maybe they would, but that's beside the point) but they would most certainly complain about the process and the reasoning that resulted in one Bn being chosen over another. If CDS had come clean and said it was a political decision, it may have looked better.

But as it was a political decision, he can't. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. Shame really, but he is CDS, after all...

And that illustrates exactly why people get frustrated with (very) Senior Officers. No doubt it will be explained in a forthcoming book on ones' memoires!
 

Auld-Yin

ADC
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
'A smaller force is not a less capable one'.


Er, yes it is.

Seems to be the same principle as the navy with frigates now more powerful than a WW2 battleship; so what we end up with is a very small navy with ships very capable of taking on virtually any large opponent, but with too few ships to actually cover the area required. To replace lots of ships with a more powerful single units means gaps are left as obviously ships can't be in more than one place.

A smaller army will be less capable as it will only be able to take on tasks it can cover: fewer boots on the ground = less ground covered.
 
....and, as the Sailors so kindly keep showing us, when your solitary ship/boat/tug runs aground on an un-cooperative sandback - then your only "mega capable, can engage 234234234234* simultaneous, supersonic golfballs" in the area is rendered surprisingly ineffective**.



* some artistic license may have been involved in the fabrication of certain facts.
** especially so if your unit is a nuclear-powered vessel and requires safety rejustification after a whoopsie.
 
{snip}.... A smaller army will be less capable as it will only be able to take on tasks it can cover: fewer boots on the ground = less ground covered.

Given that wars are won by holding territory , rather than just passing through, your comment is quite prescient and spot on.

...but that doesn't give a positively-spun sound bite, does it now?
 

chimera

LE
Moderator
He doesn't mention one of the fundamental changes to the Army under SDSR 10 and A2020 in that the Army has been designed quite specifically only to be able to deploy 3 roulements of a true "Combined Arms" formation. So in terms of the 2 previous major campaigns, we would have been struggling by TELIC 4 (wasn't that the Shia uprising?) or HERRICK 8* (when things were seriously nasty)

(* - if you assume that 16 Bde's deployment into Helmand on H4 wasn't a planned brigade deployment, so the first planned complete All Arms brigade was H5)
 

bakersfield

Old-Salt
Seems to be the same principle as the navy with frigates now more powerful than a WW2 battleship; so what we end up with is a very small navy with ships very capable of taking on virtually any large opponent, but with too few ships to actually cover the area required. To replace lots of ships with a more powerful single units means gaps are left as obviously ships can't be in more than one place.

A smaller army will be less capable as it will only be able to take on tasks it can cover: fewer boots on the ground = less ground covered.


Spot on. However, his assertion that a smaller Army may be more capable may be a disingenuous way of preparing the ground for large scale contractorisation. For example, on the face of it a lot of jobs are going to go under Gray's GOCO proposal.
 
we would have been struggling by TELIC 4 (wasn't that the Shia uprising?)

Yes, at one point (from a briefing we were given at the time) nothing lighter than Warrior was allowed into the city for a period of two or three weeks. Living in the city centre was very interesting for a while.
 
R

really?_fascinating

Guest
Yes, at one point (from a briefing we were given at the time) nothing lighter than Warrior was allowed into the city for a period of two or three weeks. Living in the city centre was very interesting for a while.

Apart from loggies in completely umarmoured vehicles, obviously.


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