Defence in the News again

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Letterwritingman, Aug 18, 2004.

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  1. From Todays Telegraph

    "Who will defend our Armed Forces from enemies at home?
    By John Keegan
    (Filed: 18/08/2004)

    The Armed Forces are the most admired institution in Britain. How strange, therefore, that the Armed Forces should have so few friends among our masters. The Prime Minister declares his admiration for our Service people, as well he might, considering how often he turns to them for help in furthering his foreign policy - in the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East - and to rescue him from domestic difficulty, as over the foot-and-mouth epidemic and the fire fighters' strike. When, however, they need his protection as they do in the present cost-cutting climate, he is nowhere to be found.

    Instead, he defers to Gordon Brown. The Chancellor is apparently in charge of domestic policy and assuring the national defence, once judged an especial responsibility of the head of government, has become merely a budgetary matter. Former Chiefs of Staff relate how, after visiting the Prime Minister to persuade him of service needs, they have won his agreement but been told that they must persuade the Chancellor.

    The Chancellor is difficult, if not impossible, to persuade. National defence is not one of his interests, although he protests he has visited the Rosyth naval base.

    His protest is not very plausible, since Rosyth lies inside his constituency and ceased to be of any strategic importance soon after the First World War. He also argues that he has recently increased the defence budget, which he has, by a little over one per cent, the smallest increase of any major department. He says he has made £6 billion available to fight the war on terror, but he has held much of this back, saying existing resources should be used first. He has consequently forced cuts in the number of uniformed personnel, of fighting ships, of Army regiments and of Air Force squadrons.

    One of his justifications is via a new Treasury system of accounting, that penalises the Services for the capital value of the property they own. The Services, particularly the Army, own a lot of property. They need it for training areas. It is difficult to see how the barren acres of Dartmoor might be mobilised to defend the White Cliffs of Dover.

    If the Prime Minister is elusive and the Chancellor indifferent or even hostile, the Services might hope that their own minister, the Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon, would go in to bat on their behalf. Some hope. He does not even put on his pads, let alone emerge from the pavilion. Indeed, like so many of today's sports supremos he deploys fancy language to disguise his failure to maintain his team's position in the league table. Under his care, each of the Services will decline to a size lower than ever before. He calls the process "restructuring" and "rebalancing". His justification is that the nature of modern warfare requires lighter, more agile and more easily deployable forces. In practice, that means an Army with fewer armoured vehicles, a Navy with fewer ships and an Air Force with fewer aircraft.

    The prospects for the Navy are particularly alarming. Because it has been promised two large aircraft carriers, to come into service after 2012 (they have still not been ordered), it must now lose six of its escorts and all its seaborne fighters. Even if the Government stands by its promise to build the aircraft carriers, the resulting fleet would be an oddity - too many big ships, too few small to support them. Other countries have been there before. In the Dreadnought era, Brazil, Argentina and Chile bought state-of-the-art battleships from British yards as symbols of national pride. The rest of their fleets were obsolete and the new battleships had to be kept in home waters because they were too vulnerable to risk on the oceans. Already the Chief of the Naval Staff is warning that Hoon's smaller Navy will have to withdraw from the Atlantic. Where will the big carriers go?

    The Air Force is in almost as parlous a state. While it is probably unavoidable that the squadrons of old Jaguar aircraft should be pensioned off, what will replace them is unclear. The Tornados are getting old and the Eurofighter, years behind delivery, is not a satisfactory substitute. The Air Force should have bought American aircraft, as the Navy will have to do if the carriers appear. Not having done so, it is in a mess, committed to buying a European fighter it does not want and about to lose aircraft it likes because they are near the end of their lives.

    The Army's condition is, however, what should really worry a government committed to strong national defence. Here the role of the generals must be examined. The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Michael Walker, defers to ministers and civil servants. The Chief of the General Staff, Sir Mike Jackson, is the opposite, a clever soldier of strong personality who has a personal agenda. Originally an intelligence officer, he transferred to the Parachute Regiment and embraced its ethos. He wants to remake the rest of the Army in its image. The Parachute Regiment is the largest infantry regiment in the Army, with three identical battalions, between which officers and soldiers interchange. General Jackson wants to force the Army's traditional regiments of the line into a similar mould. He argues that career management and posting patterns would improve if small regiments were reorganised into five or six large regiments of several battalions each.

    The trouble is that a Hoon-Jackson Army would almost certainly prove inferior. Hoon's restructured Army would lose its armour at precisely the moment when tanks and armoured infantry vehicles are proving their worth in urban combat in Iraq. Jackson's more logical Army would lose its local connections and the creativity for which the small regiments are notable. The little Devon & Dorsets is heavily over-represented among generals and the special forces. The small regiments also stimulate exceptional local pride and are important vehicles of community, one of the Prime Minister's most cherished values.

    We are now a heavily taxed nation. A lot of the tax is wasted, on dirty hospitals, rowdy schools and ineffective state employees. Defence economies merely save money to be wasted elsewhere. It would fall on deaf ears to plead that the recent defence cuts be reversed. The pride of ministers and generals is now involved, defying appeals to reason.

    Nevertheless, reason argues that, in the midst of a worldwide military and security crisis, it is not sensible to weaken the nation's defences. That is particularly so when national leaders, including generals, blithely accept an extension of our commitments. Immediately after the announcement of New Labour's reduction of our Armed Forces, General Jackson promised that a brigade would go to the Sudan to check atrocities in Darfur.

    Brigades are not easily come by. Five thousand soldiers, properly organised and supported, are a scarce commodity, and will be all the more difficult to find after numbers have been reduced to fit General Jackson's image of what the Army should be. Moreover, every time servicemen intervene for humanitarian reasons far from home, a new responsibility is created. The expectation that Tommy Atkins will always appear to confront tribal militias or Islamic dissidents brings back the idea of the British Empire. That is scarcely what New Labour wants. If it does, it should be ready to pay."

    We need more of this :twisted: :twisted:
  2. Says it all, really. Perhaps the biggest problem is Bill Clinton's legacy of the "it's the economy, stupid!" philosophy. Bliar's terrified of screwing that up, and the Iron Chancellor's got an iron grip on the purse-strings. With the leadership at stake, Bliar's afraid to cross him and lacks the economic know-how to challenge his policy-making.
  3. X-Inf

    X-Inf War Hero Book Reviewer

    John Keegan has always been the soldiers' friend and long may that continue.

    This is a good well balanced attack on the cuts and points the blame fairly and squarely at G Broon. Again the myth that these custs are not financially based (or Treasury led to use the jargon) is shown up. It also points out the moral cowardice of those unwilling to stand up to Broonie.

    More to the point it shows up the short sightedness of the CGS in trying to fit the army into a 'one size fit all' option.

    Good on John Keegan - once again keeping an eye out for the services.
  4. What do you mean they are afraid of screwing up the economy. They have screwed it. They've just managed to hide how badly they have done it.

    Good article by Keegan though.
  5. Good artical, shame he doesnt carry more weight?

  6. This sort of thing would be in the news more - if the media thought Joe Public was interested. He isn't. And that is why governments of any colour can get away with over using and under funding/resourcing us. Because nobody outside the Armed Forces gives a sh1t about the Armed Forces. If they did, it would be in the top 10 election concerns. Defence and the Armed Forces were conspicuously absent from that list of concerns. Get used to it, it isn't going to change anytime soon!
  7. Even more frightening, Broon reckons he's B-Lairs successor.

    God help the Nation :x
  8. El G, nail on the head, if I may be so bold...

    Said often enough before, but true now as it always was, you're a hero when the brown stuff hits the whirly thingy and UK PLC needs a bit of a morale boost - but for most of the rest of the time you might as well be invisible.

    Defence is treated as a discretionary spend which for the most part merrely eats away at the funds available for the other political feeebies / handouts. Therefore it will always be first up for 'rationalisation' when UK PLC doesn't need said morale lifter / distraction from domestic troubles and etc.

    Trouble is that we're past masters at 'getting on with it'. What we actually need to do is fcuk it up big style in an international arena (like one or two previous Team GB efforts at Olympics past). If Joe Public then gives a sh1t he can lobby for our cash. Lottery money would do.

    Until then it's sadly simply a case of 'targets up - watch & shoot'....
  9. i have to disagree with the idea the general public don't care, we do!
    the problem lies with the fact journos THINK we're not interested unless theres some newsworthy conflict or whatever, therefore we don't get articles like this very often. i think if more journo's took a risk and actually wrote these articles you'd find the public would be behind the forces more than you realise. i'm only one person, and a civvy to boot, but i do believe you'd find a lot of support in the public if we were made aware of these things. i for the most part, only read of your concerns on this forum, ad when i mention stories i've read here, people are often surprised and some shocked. agree with the idea of lottery money. billions of pounds on arts centres and the like? ok, support the arts if thats your thing, but surely the majority could be used more sensibly. i'm not implying that money shouldn't be given to hospices or local charities, but its not all going there.
    this is maybe an argument for a different thread
    however i think if journos can be pestered into producing articles such as the one above, then people will become aware and show you a lot of support
  10. incidentally, gordon brown is an embarassement to most scots. but do you really think it matters which of the 2 evils are in charge of country? if our votes mattered for anything i doubt "they" would allow us a vote!
  11. Storeman Norman

    This is a thread I started last year...........we are just TOOgood at adapting and improvising......something that our Political masters can count on. Sadly I feel nothing will change until there is a tragic and catastrophip feck up :evil: :(
  12. Yep - that's the long and the short of it. A well argued article but was it discussed in any of the news discussion programmes on tv last night? Probably not. Will the CDS, CGS, poli's mount a stiff rebuff? Probably not. They'll do an incoming and keep their heads down.
    "No one at the MoD was available for comment"

    So it was a cry in the wilderness. Personally, I think Joe Public does admire and support the military even if it's a bit distant from his every day worries like crime, education, health, and his next shag.

    Also, defence isn't a vote winner.

    Non serving members of arrse - we've got to write to our MP - make him/her aware that constituents are concerned. You don't have to say a lot - just send a copy the article say it's a disgrace and ask "What the hell's going on?"

    (Of course we could lobby for hard man Broon to swap jobs with marshmallow Hoon)

    On a related topic.

    Was I the only person who nearly smashed his tv when twojags (may his tongue be ripped from his body and cast into the fire of hell) came on at Boscastle praising the rescue services. I bet he didn't ask for a ride in a fire engine or risk being lifted in a helo. C N U T!!!!!!!!!

  13. chimera

    chimera LE Moderator

    A good article by Keegan. But WHY the continual obsession with saving the odd single battalion infantry regiment? It is the bits of the Army that are constantly deployed and overstreched (Loggies, Sappers, Signals, medics) that we need to attend to at the moment, hence the uplifts in these Arms in the recent announcement.
  14. I've written to my MP twice regarding this subject, as well as Hoon care of the MOD (No reply to that one :evil: ) The replies I recieved were basically a patronising "In real terms we are INCREASING the defense budget etc etc etc, everythings hunky dory"

    A guy I work with also wrote to his MP.

    I think you'll find that a lot of civillians are extremely concerned about whats going on with Labour and Defense, although as someone said, the media haven't really twigged onto this yet.

    In recent months in the media, we've seen Body Armour and equipment scandals, undermanning, Complete c*ck ups with Procurement and now large Defense Cuts...It can't be just me and a few other civillian frequenters of these forums that reads these articles in the press and is disgusted by it, surely?
  15. Yes, that's the nature of the best BUT the important thing is you've put something in their minds. "Maybe I should have a word" with the Whip, Minister, etc. Drip drip drip can work.

    Well done for getting off your arrse though.