Conservative Defence Policy

#1
Given how little detail they seem to have been giving about their defence policy, I was (pleasantly) surprised to see the content of this speech by Soames at RUSI the other day. Transcript is below - comments?

It is impossible to start any speech on defence without paying the warmest tribute to our servicemen and women and also to their families of whom so much is asked a today and who keep the homefires burning.

Today’s servicemen and women, like their forebears, have a reputation for excellence that is unrivalled throughout the world.

The Armed Forces have never let Britain down. In the last few years, quite apart from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have quite literally saved Sierra Leone from certain self-destruction; they helped to secure peace and good order in East Timor; and they brought freedom to Kosovo.

At home they bailed out the Government from its endless incompetence in dealing with foot and mouth and the fire strikes.

But quite apart from the national importance of defence, it is, of course, a massive enterprise.

We assess there to be:
Defence Constituency of around a million people;
There are about 450,000 regular personnel and dependants;
A Regular Reserve of 50,000;
A Volunteer reserve of 50,000; there are 130,000 cadets;
The MoD is one of the largest landowners in the UK;
The services are the largest training organisation in Europe;
They are the largest consumer of UK industry;
They recruit from and return to the community 30,000 people each year.

Defence is a truly enormous undertaking and needs to be treated as such.

Strategic Picture
The post-Cold War shift from traditional threats of conflict among states to local, regional and internal conflicts plagued the 1990s. However although different from Cold War security issues, these conflicts were variants of traditional wars waged by conventional methods.

Today’s threats and the threats to come are indeed different.

For as we have seen over the last few years, the nature of the 21st century threat is not nearly as clear. Geographic distance today grants no protection to our country. The threat is indeed global in extent … organised in nature … directed straight at us and manifesting sustained capability.

Globalization has created new opportunities but also serious vulnerabilities that failing and failed states as well as non state actors could and will exploit.

Indeed the most serious current security threats today stem from problems that defy borders. September the 11th provided a warning of future dangers.

Defence matters
Thus today, more than ever, it is vital that we ensure that our Armed Forces, the main pillar of our nation’s security and defence, are properly equipped, properly trained and thoroughly sustained in every way.

I regret to say that this Government, in our judgement, has failed and continues to fail our Armed Forces in almost every significant respect.

There has never been a period in the modern history of the MoD when the department has been so frequently and bitterly criticised in the House of Commons; by the Labour dominated Defence Select Committee and by the National Audit Office in such harsh and authoritative terms :

Report after report has laid bare the serious mistakes in procurement;
Of the reduction of personnel;
Of the abysmal and unforgivable failure to adequately equip our Armed Forces for operations in Iraq;
Of the availability of desert clothing and boots during combat operations in Iraq,
Of the unbelievable and unforgivable lack of chemical and NBC protection equipment in the face of a clear threat;
Of the lack of a coherent plan for post conflict Iraq with all its attendant consequences.
Of the shortfall in battlefield helicopter lift capability

And most recently over further emerging capability gaps and the whole question of the Duty of Care.

The list is endless, it is shameful and it represents a picture of the unacceptable management of defence.

With all the operations that the Armed Forces are undertaking, with all the deployments required of them, they are today significantly and severely undermanned, severely overstretched, and in some areas inadequately equipped for the task they face.

But despite all the Government’s failings, on every occasion our truly exceptional troops at all ranks and in all three services have managed to bridge the gap between this Government’s wishful thinking and the realities on the ground.

Problems
And there are profound and proper concerns:
The capability gap is clearly getting wider
The cuts are becoming more damaging to effectiveness, to critical mass, and to service activity
The procurement programme is genuinely in crisis

With the last of the Sea Harriers taken out of service soon[1], the Royal Navy will have no close air defence until 2015; the Joint Strike Fighter is now two years behind schedule and shows every likelihood of being even later. The Type 45 destroyers do not enter service until late 2009[2].

Incidentally, by that time we will have only five attack submarines - half the number that we have now.

The early withdrawal of the RAF Jaguars by 2007 will also leave a capability gap before Typhoon enters full operational service at the end of the decade.

And now at a time of increased threat the Government plans to further cut our already overstretched and undermanned Armed Forces:

They plan to take four front-line infantry battalions out of the line at time when they have never been busier. These men are urgently required for operations.

They are taking six warships from the Royal Navy, when there are already fewer ships of the line than the Task force we sent to the Falklands. The Government seem to have forgotten that Britain is still a maritime power with substantial global trading and strategic interests and a declared need to be able to project power and influence.

They also plan to cut aircraft and manpower from an already depleted RAF.

Procurement
This government’s record on defence procurement is lamentable. The sums wasted on cost overruns are staggering[3];

Despite the launch of the Smart Procurement initiative in July 1998 under the mantra of ‘faster, cheaper, better’, there has been little evidence of success.

Ministers claimed that Smart Acquisition would save £2 billion from the equipment programme in the ten year period 1998 to 2008. After seven years, the evidence of these alleged improvements is yet to be produced.

The National Audit Office’s Major Project Report 2004 was devastating in its criticism, finding that the Ministry of Defence’s 20 largest projects recorded a further £1.7 billion cost increase over the previous year and were delayed by another five years.[4]

We agree with the Defence Committee’s damning verdict that "…our armed forces have been let down by the organisation tasked with equipping them".[5]

At the same time the MoD remains a cumbersome labyrinth, with too many non operational headquarters; an incompatible and incorrect balance between a vast bureaucracy and a depleted front line, and the abiding impression that it is a department lacking in agility.

An incoming Conservative government plans to get to grips with the management of defence, and do more to ensure that the Government is better coordinated to deal more coherently with military, industrial, social and economic issues.

We will merge the Defence Procurement Agency and the procurement elements of the Defence Logistics Organisation. Only by making sure that those procuring equipment are also responsible for the costs of maintaining it can whole-life costs be managed effectively. The remaining elements of the DLO will form the basis of a defence logistics command, focused on supporting deployed forces.

We will instigate the process to undertake a Quadrennial Defence Review covering goals, tasks, methods and resources of the Armed Forces, in other words an outlook, output and capability based review every four years, to make sure we are on the right path and to encourage continuous and better new thinking.

Defence Spending
There has been a great deal of misinformation from the Labour Party about Conservative defence expenditure plans and I am grateful for this opportunity to put the record straight. My party is committed to spending £2.7 billion in cash more than the present government on frontline defence.

The James Review has identified an additional £1.6 billion of efficiency savings over and above those identified in the Gershon Review and the Shadow Chancellor has agreed to reallocate a further £1.1 billion to defence from James Review savings in other departments.

I recognise the James target is an extremely challenging one and the MoD has indeed laboured under continuing efficiency initiatives since the end of the Cold War so I am pleased to confirm that an incoming Conservative government has no plans for further departmental-wide efficiency exercises once the James Review concludes in 2007/08.

Our increases in frontline spending will see to it that our forces are better equipped, better trained, and better protected and will thus help with recruitment, retention and moral.

Shamefully, under this Government too many of our servicemen and women now feel taken for granted and undervalued.

To that end we shall resolutely oppose any cuts in Infantry numbers – we cannot support the reduction of the size of the Army and in particular the number of infantrymen, who are the very people we need for current and future operations.

We do agree that there is a need for our Armed Forces to be more usable.

We accept that the Arms Plot is disruptive to families and to the operational needs of the Army and we approve of the big basing concept.

But we cannot accept further cuts in infantry numbers and we will therefore reverse the decision to cut the regiments.

We shall retain 3 out of the 6 RN frigates marked for disposal and thus ensure and thus better ensure that the Royal Navy is able to carry out its onerous and demanding duties far from our shores.

Since the Strategic Defence Review our Armed Forces have effectively been conducting continual concurrent operations, deploying further afield, to more places, more frequently and with a greater variety of missions than was ever assumed.

We still have our obligations in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, and Cyprus. And the Government’s own White Paper anticipates that around the world these obligations will increase.

Even as we speak our soldiers on operations in Iraq, where they are expected to remain for some time. We may well need to increase our commitment to Afghanistan and possibly elsewhere.

To meet some of these burdens since 1999 approximately 30% of the TA have been mobilised to support the regular Army on operations overseas. But the Volunteer Reserve Forces who have incidentally covered themselves in glory are not an infinite resource and cannot be treated as such.

There is therefore a serious military case for more infantry, not less. We will expand the TA where we can and where it is deemed to be most effective and we will vigorously support and encourage the Cadets.

As the CGS recently said "I would much prefer increasing the size of the Army but that's simply not on offer.[6]

Indeed, what on Earth has happened since 1998 to convince this highly interventionist Government not only to reverse the SDR plans but to introduce further cuts? Has the threat decreased since then? Are our Armed Forces experiencing a smaller and less frequent range of operational demands than they did in the 1990s? Has the average interval of 24 months between tours for the infantry been achieved?

We shall continue with our commitment to the nuclear deterrent

We shall review military law as it applies to military operations, and the conduct of soldiers on operations short of war. When soldiers are undertaking these kinds of operations we must ensure that the legal position recognises the operational realities on the ground.

The forthcoming Tri-Service Armed Forces Discipline Bill represents an opportunity for corrective action which must not be missed.

We shall restore a dangerously depleted training programme across the three services and reinstate service activity.

We will introduce a Service’s Families Charter and we will also investigate the possibility of establishing, in partnership with the private sector the creation of an armed forces housing trust to give further stability and opportunity to hard working service families.

We will vigorously support the development of our defence industry and our extremely successful scientific base. The defence industry has given us a great degree of independence, sovereignty, technical expertise and huge wealth creation. We must not let it decline.

Deepcut
In the light of the very unfortunate events at Deepcut and of the Defence Committee report, I want to say a few words about training and discipline which, I hope, will give a hint of the whole direction of our thinking on defence matters and our determination above all to put the Armed Forces first.

It is not an idle boast that the British Armed forces are man for man the best fighting force in the world. In the Falklands, in the Gulf and most recently in Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq both their enemies and their allies have been profoundly impressed at their determination, their courage and their professionalism. The question is, why they are so good?

The answer is simple and not, I suspect, well understood much outside the Armed Forces. In no other Army in the world can a soldier depend on the men around him in the way they can in the British Army. From Waterloo to El Alamein, from Goose Green to the Euphrates, from Kosovo to Basra, British servicemen and women in all the three services have proved their worth time and again in the most difficult and dangerous of circumstances.

It is therefore a matter of the first importance that the system that produces the young men and women of this calibre must not be altered in such a way that it will produce pale imitations of what is required.

By all means take longer to produce the finished article but don’t interfere with the material … Of course the training must be humane and be seen to be fair. I know that the Services take their obligations in this regard very seriously. It is therefore all the more shocking and indeed unforgivable when it goes wrong and the services need take all necessary steps to prevent such failings in the future.

But Ministers must not drag the Armed forces into being a mirror image of the society they serve. For the services have a totally different ethos: one of discipline and service, and Ministers must realise that however disagreeable it may be to contemplate, the whole essence of military training is to prepare soldiers to fight in a bloody, frightening and exhausting war.

Servicemen and women may need to call on all their reserves of physical and mental stamina.

They therefore require intense and rigorous training and discipline.

Some will not be able to take it and will leave - that has always happened. And it always will happen but amongst those who remain will be those who will be able to cope with the exceptional demands of modern combat.

We truly believe that the Armed Forces desperately need a Government that understands that health and safety regulations should never be elevated over combat readiness; a Government that understands the importance of primacy and essential nature of military discipline and the chain of command; and a Government that puts the frontline first.

For the serviceman and woman of today, the fundamental character and nature of war and all that they have to train for will remain unchanged.

These young men and women may have to take part in a terrifying contest of wills, which inevitably can lead to death, terror, bloodshed and destruction.

For the servicemen of today, and tomorrow, as for their formidable forebears, warfare will continue to represent the ultimate physical and mental challenge.

They will encounter a combination of extreme danger in rapidly changing circumstances, amid conditions of chaos and uncertainty.

Their skills: the quality of their leadership, of their weapons and equipment, would be very severely tested indeed.

Ministers must understand that as Lord Wavell said in his lecture on Generalship, that in the last resort, the end of all military training, the settling of all policy, the ordering of all weaponry and all that goes into the makings of the Armed Forces is that the deciding factor in battle will always be this: that sooner or later, private so-and-so will, of his own free will and in the face of great danger, and chaos, have to advance to his front in the face of the enemy.

If all that goes wrong, after all the training, the intensive preparation and expenditure, the system has failed.



It has never failed so far, but the present Government are taking unnecessary and unwise risks in this vital area and we intend to set this right in every respect.

NATO – EU
The bitter divisions over Iraq led to one of the worst periods of transatlantic relations over the past 60 years. As we try to get the relationship back on track, the question we need to address is whether those divisions were simply another family disagreement, or whether they indicate deeper challenges in our relationship that will continue.

With the Soviet threat - the traditional glue for the sporadic transatlantic cracks - now gone, the centre of focus attention has shifted from the stabilization of Europe to so-called "out of area" crises - challenges beyond Europe.

Following recent profound disagreements it is, of course, unclear how soon the transatlantic partners will be able to finally overcome their differences and to fully and practically reaffirm their basic common interests. There is clearly some way to go but many reasons to persevere.



The years since the Cold War have marked one of the most intense periods of transatlantic economic integration ever. Our mutual stake in each other’s prosperity and success has grown dramatically since the end of the Cold War. The economic relationship between the United States and Europe is the deepest and broadest between any two continents in history.



All the European partners, the allies and the friends, need to think very carefully and honestly as to the vital importance of the transatlantic link as an essential, workable and proven part of our security.

Is it really sensible for our future to be one of strategic rivalry? Do we want to create a counterweight or do we want strategic cooperation? Is our future to be one of competitive blocks or is it one of strategic cooperation?

Today European nations working through NATO have an unprecedented chance to prove their military credibility. Europe should be able to do much more, and I welcome the EU’s defence efforts under NATO auspices.

But the truth remains that many continental forces have only the most basic, logistics and communications capabilities and can hardly operate at all, at any distance from home.

Few can sustain operations credibly and in almost every respect these forces have to rely almost entirely on the United States for intelligence, strategic support and military muscle.

It is therefore essential that our European partners make real and swift progress in dealing with the questions of operational capability and effectiveness within their force structures.

I am convinced that the creation of duplicate structures would dilute NATO and profound changes of thinking in America could eventually decouple the United States from the defence of Europe.

Indeed it possible that this may have already started.

Neither Europe nor America can afford the loosening of these bonds.

The danger of weakening NATO at a time when it needs to provide readily available, well trained and interoperable forces for Afghanistan and Iraq is obvious. NATO has a vital ongoing role to play which must not be diluted by the EU on the one hand, or rendered irrelevant by the US, on the other.

We wholeheartedly support increasing European defence capability but emphatically not at the expense of NATO.

Without national security which defence capability provides, plans to secure long term economic growth, to improve health care and our children’s education, rest on sand. These are objectives which can only be pursued in peace and freedom.

Conclusion
In conclusion I want to say only this of the men and women of our Armed Forces:

By their bravery, by their steadiness in the most difficult and hostile circumstances, by their determination and above all by their humanity, they have proved yet again how irreplaceable and important they are in our national life and for our international interests.

Thus it will be for us an article of faith that when we come to power again, as surely we will, we will reaffirm by our actions that our Party regards the defence of the realm as the first duty of Government and that we will do right by our superb Armed Forces.


Source is: http://www.rusi.org/events/ref:E4226ECBF3A7FA/
 
#2
Thanks for that. Good presentation to RUSI, better than I would have expected from Mr Soames if I was to go by his usual fat boy image. And some commendably specific policy undertakings.

I think the other main party defence spokesmen have also addressed RUSI, could we see their lectures too please?
 
#3
Labour's policies of over-commitment, underfunding and betrayal speak for themselves, not surprisingly the Lib Dems don't even appear to have an armed forces policy (search their website) , so well done to the tories for being so specific about their policies. This particularly hit a chord...

By all means take longer to produce the finished article but don’t interfere with the material … Of course the training must be humane and be seen to be fair. I know that the Services take their obligations in this regard very seriously. It is therefore all the more shocking and indeed unforgivable when it goes wrong and the services need take all necessary steps to prevent such failings in the future.


But Ministers must not drag the Armed forces into being a mirror image of the society they serve. For the services have a totally different ethos: one of discipline and service, and Ministers must realise that however disagreeable it may be to contemplate, the whole essence of military training is to prepare soldiers to fight in a bloody, frightening and exhausting war.
 
#4
hackle said:
Thanks for that. Good presentation to RUSI, better than I would have expected from Mr Soames if I was to go by his usual fat boy image. And some commendably specific policy undertakings.

I think the other main party defence spokesmen have also addressed RUSI, could we see their lectures too please?
Yeah, I was quite impressed too. Shame he can't tell the difference between a Frigate and a Destroyer!

Labour haven't addressed RUSI yet (TCH is due to speak on Wednesday the 13th - transcript will probably be here when he does) but the Lib Dems have. Speech is below - far less impressive.

Changing the International Security Environment

Today, the United Kingdom faces a complex array of defence and security challenges. Fifteen years after the end of the Cold War and it is obvious that the world is an unpredictable and perilous place. It is also obvious that the peace dividend we so eagerly sought in the West was an illusion.

With the recent events that have unfolded before us, it is clear that we face new and evolving threats such as global terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the dangers caused by failed and failing states.

At the same time, threats of a more ‘traditional’ nature have not vanished from our radar – and inter and intra-state conflict now exist alongside new destabilizing factors such as environmental crises on a global scale, civil strife and pandemics.

Simply put, the lines between security and defence have blurred, if not in some cases disappeared altogether. Today’s front line stretches from the streets of Baghdad, to the rail lines of Madrid, to cities across our very own land.

And this is having a fundamental impact on how we approach our domestic and continental security, our relations with our closest allies and partners, and on how we protect – and project – our interests and values abroad.

High Operational Pace
The increased volatility of the international security environment has also produced greater demands on British Forces. The statistics are well-known but telling: since the end of the Cold War, the number of operations in which our military has participated has increased three-fold compared to the period between 1945 and 1989. At the same time, British Forces have been called upon here at home on an unprecedented number of occasions over the past decade.

We know this unforeseen demand has had an impact on the men and women of the British Armed Forces and their families.

What is less obvious to the casual observer is the impact it has had on the broader degree of organization: on our ability to train personnel, to provide equipment, and on our capacity to deploy troops domestically and internationally.

Changing Nature of Operations
As we all know, international operations are not only increasing in number but they are also changing in nature.

The days when peacekeeping operations meant deploying static observers along a cease-fire line have, for the most part, passed.

As a nation, we can – and should – be very proud of the role our country played in developing, and putting into practice, this traditional form of peacekeeping.

But equally, as a nation, we must be prepared to play a leadership role in the next generation of peace support and enforcement operations that have become more common over the past decade.

Today's operations are more dangerous and demanding, frequently taking place in regions where tensions are still strong or where there is little peace to keep.

Today's operations are also more complex. In the grey zone between war and peace, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between friend and foe; and new tactics are required to deal with terrorists and suicide bombers, who are increasingly sophisticated.

Our militaries often find themselves working alongside international organizations, humanitarian workers, the media and NGOs, and are often called upon to fulfil a much wider array of responsibilities.

And I am proud to say that, with the experience and skills they've acquired throughout the years, the men and women of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces are better at this than anyone in the world.

NATO and the Common European Defence Policy
Instability in regions such as North Africa, the Caucasus, South-Eastern Europe, the Middle East and beyond can affect stability and security of Europe. Terrorism and international crime pose an increasing security concern. Responding to these threats will require an effective military capability, conflict prevention investment, defence diplomacy policies and enhanced intelligence gathering, with a higher level of inter-state co-ordination.

The Liberal Democrats have long argued that the development of a European Security and Defence Identity would be best served by the institution of a co-ordinated and comprehensive ‘European Defence Review ; a kind of European SDR. Such a review would assess the capacity of EU Forces to fulfil the peace support and other operations required by the Petersberg Tasks incorporated in the Amsterdam Treaty.

In 1999, NATO members agreed to address many of their deficiencies through the Defence Capabilities Initiative (DCI). The following year, the EU at Helsinki agreed on a set of military capability goals which could improve its ability to act. Many of the areas of weakness are common to both the NATO DCI and to the EU Helsinki Headline Goal processes. Progress on the DCI has been disappointing and does not bode well for parallel EU progress.

The Liberal Democrats want to maintain a strong NATO which can address future international security challenges. This will require further support for the transformation process already underway, to generate more deployable, responsive forces.

The possible development of a Comprehensive Political Guidance currently under discussion at NATO, which aims to build on the strategic concept, presents an important opportunity to secure the future of the organization. Equally, NATO must seek to expand its potential for dialogue on political and security affairs, and to enhance its co-ordination with the European Union, which extends little beyond the Berlin Plus arrangements.

At the same time, European nations must be prepared to take on a fairer share of the security burden, particularly in their own region. Both of these requirements argue strongly for support not only for the immediate Helsinki Headline Goal of a deployable force of up to 60,000 operational personnel from member states but also for longer term approaches to improving European contributions to NATO and the UN.

Improving EU Military Effectiveness
In total, the 25 members of the EU spend some 150 billion euros each year on their military capabilities. While this is around half the US defence budget, it has to meet a much more limited regional range of tasks. Nevertheless, the EU population of 450 million is 40 per cent larger than the USA, and the GDPs of both are virtually the same.

Yet duplication of headquarters, training, research, military hardware and logistics means that overall EU military effectiveness is substantially lower than that which should be expected from such a level of financial investment.

Put simply, we do not get enough bang for our buck. Or as I would like to say, enough bang for our Euro.

The Liberal Democrats believe that the institutions for developing Common Foreign and Security Policy within the EU are still in an early stage of development. But there are a number of areas where sharing or pooling of capabilities could be done without risk, to considerable advantage in effectiveness, but which would not impinge or impair the sovereign power and prerogative of the UK government to determine its foreign policies.

The Liberal Democrats also believe that there is a need for European co-ordination where nations decide to change their force composition. While it may be some years before EU members feel confident enough to go down the route of military role specialization, there is a degree of unco-ordinated specialization by default taking place as nations give up capabilities under resource pressures. EU members should discuss their future defence planning options early enough to achieve a more coherent approach.

The transformation of European security arrangements has begun. Liberal Democrats believe that there is still much to be done. The UK should take a lead in developing proposals for the long term, whilst maintaining a strong UK commitment to NATO, which without doubt remains the foundation of our collective defence.

Restructuring of the Armed Forces
While I have focussed my remarks thus far on Britain's role and contribution internationally, I should like to say a few words about the recently announced restructuring of the Army.

There is no doubt that to achieve a strong, fast and effective army, capable of fighting simultaneous and diverse operations at distance, reform is required.

The creation of a new light brigade and, in the Infantry, a reallocation of support personnel from divisional to brigade level, as well the acquisition and development of advanced weaponry and communications systems, are welcome moves towards the achievement of greater force flexibility and capability.

The creation of a tri-service ranger unit, dedicated to Special Forces will complement these moves, although the precise implications of the plan are at present unclear.

Liberal Democrats believe that the phasing out of the Infantry Arms Plot system, which involves the geographical and functional rotation of battalions, is also welcome. In terms of operational deployability, role continuity, career development and, significantly, family stability, the new system will be advantageous.

The Government has of course also proposed a major reshaping of the regimental system, which will involve the disbanding of four Regular battalions and the amalgamation of six centuries-old regiments of Scotland into one new Scottish regiment. Over 1,500 personnel will be lost; indeed, 400 soldiers from throughout the Army will soon be made redundant – predominantly, as I understand it, those with over 12 years service, many of whom will have served in Iraq.

We believe that these proposals are profoundly unwise. The Scottish regiment reforms will sweep away centuries of tradition and esprit de corps, and could rupture deep-rooted connections between regiments and their communities. As regards cuts in manpower, the Army is already overstretched, given its very high number of overseas commitments. (The target of 24 month intervals between operational tours is now wishful thinking.)

As several former Chiefs of Defence Staff have agreed, the changes will leave our Army dangerously small. The scaling down of our presence in Northern Ireland has been used to justify the cuts but the peace there is far from secure; violence is ongoing in Iraq, and more and more countries are withdrawing their troops; Afghanistan remains unstable; and the peace in Kosovo is uncertain. Only last week, we sent 500 extra troops to Kosovo.

Further demands may arise in trouble-spots like Darfur, where the violence is unabated. Indeed, in the context of increasing international interdependency, military support or intervention may be required in a greater number of circumstances in which UK interests are not directly threatened.

The Liberal Democrats believe that overstretch undermines morale, impairs operational effectiveness and reduces response capability.

This is no time to be making cuts.

High-tech weaponry and network enabled capability can never replace soldiers on the ground. We must adapt our forces so that they are better able to respond to new and emerging threats to UK and international security, especially from weak and failing states, international terrorism and the proliferation of WMD.

But this must not be at the expense of manpower.

As Iraq has demonstrated, future operations, especially peacekeeping, peace-enforcement or reconstruction support roles will be manpower-intensive.

I say again, Liberal Democrats believe that this is not the time to be making cuts in manpower.

As a priority, the Liberal Democrats believe that we should be supporting our troops, whose dedication and professionalism is, with very few exceptions, respected throughout the world. We need to ensure that they are properly trained, highly motivated and well equipped.

Equally, Liberal Democrats believe that the issues of job security, pay, pensions, accommodation and family concerns are of fundamental importance if the Army is to improve recruitment and retention rates.

We all know that our commitments have far exceeded the levels envisaged by the Strategic Defence Review, and our front-line forces are now under-resourced and overstretched. These proposed cuts can only make the situation worse, whilst severely impairing our ability to respond to new or unexpected demands.

Set against major reductions in the number of Royal Navy warships and massive cuts in the RAF, very serious questions must now be asked about the coherence, wisdom and effectiveness of this Labour Government policy.

Nuclear Forces

The UK has reduced its nuclear forces to those deployed in four Trident missile submarines. All tactical nuclear weapon systems have been taken out of service including freefall bombs and depth charges. Compared with other nuclear powers, the UK now has fewer operational warheads than the USA, Russia, France and China. It may even have fewer than Israel. The major procurement costs of Trident (£13 billion) have been spent. The basic annual cost of the nuclear force is some £687 million or about 3% of the defence budget.

We live in an unstable world where threats to our security can arise quickly and unpredictably. The technology in the production of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, continues to advance and to proliferate around the globe. Against this background, the Liberal Democrats would retain Britain’s nuclear deterrent until real progress can be made for the multilateral elimination of nuclear weapons.

However, we accept that for nuclear non-proliferation and weapons reduction to be achieved, nuclear armed countries such as Britain, must be willing to participate in any disarmament process. Britain must seek to achieve multinational engagement in this process.

Liberal Democrats believe that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty remains at the heart of nuclear weapons control: without sustained efforts to ensure international adherence to its provision, the Treaty itself could be placed in jeopardy. The Review Conference to take place this May is of enormous importance.

The Trident system has been designed for a 30-year deployment. A decision on any replacement deterrent system will not have to be made until the end of the decade.

Liberal Democrats remain to be persuaded that any life-extension to the Trident force will be justified. And Liberal Democrats believe that any decision to commit any research or other funding for the preparation of any successor to Trident that may be required must be first approved by Parliament.

Procurement
The MOD’s recent failures in procurement, for both weapons and equipment, have been deeply regrettable – poor performance, cost-overruns and delays appear to be endemic, as successive hard-hitting select committee reports have testified. Virtually very major project, not currently under contract, has been delayed.

As many of you already know, the Liberal Democrats have already announced that we would scrap the third tranche of the Eurofighter programme. Not only is the residual Eurofighter programme an extravagant and outdated commitment, but scrapping it could save the UK some £2 billion of defence spending.

The facts are that the order for the second tranche of 236 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft was signed on 14th December 2004 of which 89 are for the UK. Deliveries of this second tranche do not start until 2008. With an 'in service' life of 25 years, with all which that means for servicing, upgrading and general support, this is not about job losses. Given the changes in the strategic environment from when the Eurofighter was first conceived in the 1970s, and the future changes in air defence capabilities, which no one can predict with certainty, and the project’s very high cost, it would be grossly irresponsible for any government not to review the need for the third tranche.

Yesterday in the House of Commons, we asked Geoff Hoon if there would be enough pilots to crew all the Typhoons that he planned to buy – he would not answer us.

Yesterday also, he once again claimed that we would scrap the two new carriers. Let me let you into a little secret – as a boy I wanted to be in the Royal Navy – to fly fast jets off carriers. It was because Denis Healy scrapped CVA01 that I never joined the Navy.

The Carriers are safe with us – we remain committed to building them, and so long as I speak for us on Defence that commitment stays.

Continue to Look After Our People
Regardless of the sophistication of modern military equipment, we will not be able to meet our commitments if we cannot count on quality people. Our people – military and civilian alike – remain our most valuable resource.

They are the best piece of kit in the British Armed Forces.

And ensuring we take care of them is a priority for me and my fellow Liberal Democrats.

It is for this reason that I was personally incensed to hear of the degree of sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and bullying in the RAF earlier this year. It is deeply disturbing that nearly half of all women in the service have experienced sexual harassment.

Other cases, which have been well publicised, raise concerns about the level of bullying and abuse that takes place in the Army. This is, at any level, simply unacceptable.

As I have mentioned, we believe that fundamental reform of the complaints system is required, which is profoundly inadequate. As complaints are handled within the chain of command, individuals who complain risk jeopardising their career, and often those who consider complaints have an interest in the outcome.

We propose a comprehensive review to consider the establishment of an independent Complaints Commission within the MOD. Military personnel would have the option either to pursue a complaint with their immediate superior or commanding officer within their own units, or to lodge the complaint with the Commission.

So we welcome that part of the Defence Select Committee report yesterday. But it is also right for an independent element to be included in any future complaints body – for an issue that will not go away.

A Liberal Democrat Government would institute a full independent enquiry into events at Deepcut Barracks – nothing short will do.

And as for the age of recruiting – yes, 16 and 17 year- olds should not be sent to fight – yes, they should not guard bases with loaded rifles, but to stop them joining the Armed Forces could block our greatest source of recruitment. We would not do it.

Let me be clear, I propose these reforms in the interests of our military. It is in recognition of the contribution, commitment and sacrifice to our country of our servicemen and women that drives me in my role as the Liberal Democrats Shadow Defence Secretary.

Iraq
So let me say a word about the dominant issue of this Parliament – Iraq.

With regard to the war itself, our views of course are well known. We took a stand in Parliament against the war. The Conservatives backed Tony Blair.

We believe that Tony Blair took us to war in Iraq on the basis of the supposed threat of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Mere weeks before the war the Prime Minister was still telling Parliament "I detest his regime...but even now, he could save it."

Now, because it has been shown that there were no weapons of mass destruction, the Prime Minister says that the removal of Saddam justifies the war in itself – not what he was saying just before it. And today - if he is so confident of his case - why will he not allow the Attorney General's legal advice to be published, as the Liberal Democrats have consistently demanded?

The Prime Minister wants us to move on - but we cannot until we know the full facts. He should publish - and if necessary be damned.

Of course Britain should honour its legal and moral responsibilities with regard to the situation in Iraq: to maintain stability in the Southern sector, to further train and enhance Iraqi security forces, who should incrementally take on more responsibility, and to support the reconstruction process, and restoration of public services.

But we now need to focus on a proper exit strategy - as we warned at the outset. That should mean adopting the objective of a phased withdrawal of British forces by the expiry of the United Nations mandate at the end of this year.

It was not easy to vote against a Government on the eve of war - and we were roundly criticized for it by some. One Tory Defence spokesman shouted at me in the House - "You should trust our Prime Minister - he knows what he is talking about". I wonder if that Conservative still believes that now.

But it is precisely on the issue of war and peace that the Opposition should exercise the highest degree of scrutiny of Government policy. As history shows, the role of Parliament at such times is of enormous significance; look at 1940.
So to the future. We believe there is now a balance to be struck in our military expenditure between high tech equipment that is often over budget and behind schedule - and the more mundane personal equipment that troops need on a day to day basis.

I am proud that it was the Liberal Democrats who discovered before the Iraq War that US troops were calling our troops "The Borrowers". That expose led to yet further Urgent Operational Requirement orders being placed - some of them just in time.

I am proud that it was the Liberal Democrats who fought for the rights of individual service men and women - against discrimination and bulling, and for equal rights.

It was the campaign we raged for Anna Homsi, whose partner Brad Tinnion was killed in Sierra Leone, that forced the MoD to change the rules to allow partners to be treated as spouses when our soldiers pay the ultimate price. That change was opposed by the Tories - tell that to the partners of at least a dozen men killed in Iraq, who now benefit from what we did.

And I am proud of the part we played in that tremendous victory for the Gurkhas when they were finally granted citizenship rights. For years, the Government had refused to listen, producing endless excuses as a substitute for action. Never in the history of this Labour Government has a Liberal Democrat policy been adopted so quickly. Only 9 days after this issue was debated at our Party conference, the Prime Minister finally saw sense. But citizenship should not be something that former Gurkhas should have to apply for. It should be granted to them as a right.

As you know, the high operational pace of modern operations and very high level of overseas commitments is placing considerable strain on our men and women in uniform and their families. Our troops must be properly trained, equipped and commanded, but equally, as I have said before, they need – and deserve – proper treatment.

Their welfare is of enormous importance to the Liberal Democrats. Although our Armed Forces have always delivered when called upon, we are committed to doing a better job in balancing operational deployments with family life, rest, training and welfare needs.

Conclusion
I am proud that the Liberal Democrats have placed Defence at the forefront of its agenda.

I can think of no portfolio whose challenges are of such significance to Britain and the British people, and I recognize the challenges and responsibilities that this job entails. And for that reason, I am proud to be here today.
Source is: http://www.rusi.org/events/ref:E4224800A44454/showpast:true/
 
#5
I could find only two clearly stated commitments to a very vague speech on Defence policy it is surely not?

The Carriers are safe with us – we remain committed to building them, and so long as I speak for us on Defence that commitment stays.
Defence procurement is a bit of a problem though at the moment.

A Liberal Democrat Government would institute a full independent enquiry into events at Deepcut Barracks – nothing short will do.
Specifically quoted as this is after all an Army Forum although I know other Services were named.

Everything else remains a little bit wishy washy.
 
#6
Letterwritingman said:
I could find only two clearly stated commitments to a very vague speech on Defence policy it is surely not?

The Carriers are safe with us – we remain committed to building them, and so long as I speak for us on Defence that commitment stays.
Defence procurement is a bit of a problem though at the moment.

A Liberal Democrat Government would institute a full independent enquiry into events at Deepcut Barracks – nothing short will do.
Specifically quoted as this is after all an Army Forum although I know other Services were named.

Everything else remains a little bit wishy washy.
......And lots of talk of committees, and letting Europe/Nato take the strain.
 
#7
Sounds intresting, and good to hear someone actually wants the forces to become better , rather than shrimping on the cash injection they so desperatly need.

It also sounds as though someone has been reading arse about all the thread with B Lair in them
 
#8
Letterwritingman said:
I could find only two clearly stated commitments to a very vague speech on Defence policy it is surely not?
Yeah, like I said I wasn't impressed with it. About the firmest commitment in the Lib Dem speech was to not replace Trident when it comes up for replacement...
The other dumb bit is claiming that there wouldn't be enough pilots to crew all the Typhoons the MoD is buying - of course there won't, the attrition reserves have to come from somewhere! If that's the calibre of the Lib Dem defence spokesman I'm fairly glad they won't get in power.
 
#9
How did that song go.............you know the Robson and Jerome thing?

arrrrrrrrrgh

'I believe for every'

ironically, the statement appears to be unequivocally committed to being non-commital........safest way I suppose blame it all on the 'bloke who was here before me' :wink:

Lib-Dems a bit this a bit that

Edited for Gramma :wink:

love you gramma
 
#10
As many of you already know, the Liberal Democrats have already announced that we would scrap the third tranche of the Eurofighter programme. Not only is the residual Eurofighter programme an extravagant and outdated commitment, but scrapping it could save the UK some £2 billion of defence spending.
Hmmm he does know we have to pay for them whether we take them or not? So not entirely sure where this 2bn saving is coming from. His justification for not needing the aircraft is just sound bite bollox with no basis in fact.
Let me be clear, I propose these reforms in the interests of our military. It is in recognition of the contribution, commitment and sacrifice to our country of our servicemen and women that drives me in my role as the Liberal Democrats Shadow Defence Secretary.
He doesn’t propose any reforms at all, other than canning the 3rd tranche of Typhoon and paying anyway. Does this guy get out much? Mans a muppet. And the Lib Dems claim to be a quality party and a credible opposition – I wouldn’t trust them with cleaning my windows if this is the calibre of people they have……. :roll: :roll: :roll: Thank god they have no hope of being in government - I think I would prefer labour over them and that is saying something.
 
#11
Labour has a plan for the Armed Forces..weaken them to the extent that joining a common European Defence Force is the only viable option left.

The Lib/Dems just prefer to believe it appears.
 
#12
I would take the Tories statement with a pinch of salt, I was recently at a meeting which happened to be the one where Howard Flight made that statement about cutting spending and subsequently got sacked by that twat Howard. While I was only there for the free bar and an attempt to get into a young ladies favour... honest. Flight, when asked about defence claimed that the Tories would save money by cutting "back office" staff and civil servants and moved very quickly onto annother extremely boring subject. I got the distinct impression he was glossing over any further cuts and the Tories would save the day by cutting civil servants?????

Lets not forget a recent post on Arrse in relation to Oliver Letwin being a member of a group advocating the right to not pay taxes which would be used as part of the defence budget... total twat

While I will always have more time for Soames in that at least he gave some brief service and he continues to be proud of this, the Tories as a party are bad for the military just not as bad as the flower children of Labour and the Lib Dems.
 
#13
I am confused by all this political waffle regarding Tory Defence spending. Bunter says:

Defence Spending

There has been a great deal of misinformation from the Labour Party about Conservative defence expenditure plans and I am grateful for this opportunity to put the record straight. My party is committed to spending £2.7 billion in cash more than the present government on frontline defence.

The James Review has identified an additional £1.6 billion of efficiency savings over and above those identified in the Gershon Review and the Shadow Chancellor has agreed to reallocate a further £1.1 billion to defence from James Review savings in other departments.

So overall then Fatty we what have you got, will the Tories give the MOD got more or less than the present Lab plan - it's as clear as....mud ?

The James Review WAS a Conservative initiative. Tories (Letwin) said last year that they would cut overall Defence spending, has this changed ? Where ARE these "efficiency savings" ? - discuss

I would not trust any of the Red, Blue & Ginga leaders on any Defence issue. We are the cheapest, easily disposable, uncontentious reduction in public expenditure that (unless there is a conflict) Joe Public will readily accept this painless saving.

Ony another month of this crap to go - the election result is over, Lab maj of 50-80, no chance of the required Tory swing in one election unless photographic evidence shows TB sharing a shower with Michael Jackson (the famous American pop star!).
 
#14
Forces are always an easy option to hit, no doubt whoever gets in will hit us once again, with the catch phrase's....streamlining, new concepts of operations, more technology to assist the soldier blah, blah, blah :roll:

We can only be stripped so far before we become ineffective, and that is not so far away :evil:
 
#15
Conservative Defence Policy points...

1) Criticise Labour
2)Talk a good war
3)Find out it is a very bad and long war
4)Hide
5)If found, prevaricate
6)Go for walk around St James Park...
7)Do nothing very different much at all...
8)Whinge...
9)Cut the RAF, they are a soft touch.

(Found in Fatty Soames In-tray by secret Cuddles intelligence assets)
 
#16
Sounds like we are caught between the proverbial rock/hard place......

However, still am voting for regime change.......so get people out there and get them voting!
 
#17
Spanner said:
However, still am voting for regime change.......so get people out there and get them voting!
I'm quite tempted to vote for a hung parliament, on the grounds that if they can't get any work done then at least they can't pass any defence cuts :(.
Being as I'm in what has been a safe Tory seat through the last two elections my vote is unlikely to make much difference anyway...
 
#18
pdf27 said:
Spanner said:
However, still am voting for regime change.......so get people out there and get them voting!
I'm quite tempted to vote for a hung parliament, on the grounds that if they can't get any work done then at least they can't pass any defence cuts :(.
Being as I'm in what has been a safe Tory seat through the last two elections my vote is unlikely to make much difference anyway...
A hung parliament ? I'll bring the ropes and a ladder...seems like the best way to sort out the wheat from the chaff up in the House. I don't care whether they are blue, red, fetching lib dem primrose or whatever...but there isn't a man in there who I would trust as far as I can throw him. Self-serving is the least offensive term that springs to mind...
 
#19
Cuddles said:
A hung parliament ? I'll bring the ropes and a ladder...
Now that sounds like a plan :D
Actually, I wish they'd bring back the tradition of Ostracism from the early Greek democracies - there are several people I'd love to apply that to.
 
#20
Budget cuts...lack of equipment...going to war unprepared...irresponsible procurement policies..no post-war plan...sounds like the last two Conservative government to me. Labour, Tories, Lib/Dems, they'll all screw us, because in war as in peace, we're expendable.

There's only one kind of party that would actually increase our budget by a large amount:

Don't be Stupid,

Be a Smarty,

Come and join the Nazi party


Springtime for Hitler and Germany

Goose-step's the new step today

Bombs falling from the skies again,

Deutschland is on the rise again


Springtime for Hitler and Germany

U-boats are sailing once more

Springtime for Hitler and Germany

Means ... that ... soon we'll be going ...

We've got to be going ...

You know we'll be going to ... WAR!


Germany was having trouble, what a sad, sad story

Needed a new leader to restore its former glory

Where oh where was he? Where could that man be?

We looked around, and then we found, the man for you and me,

And now it's ...



Springtime for Hitler and Germany,

Deutschland is happy and gay.

We're marching to a faster pace,

Look out, here comes the master race.


Springtime for Hitler and Germany,

Winter for Poland and France.

Springtime for Hitler and Germany,

Come on, Germans, go into your dance ...


Whoa, what happened there? The entire forum broke into a song and dance routine...
 

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