Forces on verge of damage, Browne admits

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by wooger, Dec 16, 2007.

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  1. Apologies if already posted. I note the aspiration to get married soldiers into their own home. Call me a cynic, but this would mean less demand on service housing, and I believe it will alter some of the allowances available to soldiers that are in MQs (such as boarding school allowance)

    In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, admitted that running parallel "high tempo" operations in Iraq and Afghanistan had come close to permanently "damaging" the military.

    Des Browne: We need to get back to training properly before the damage is done

    He added that defence chiefs had advised him that the reduction of troop levels in Iraq presented an opportunity to ease the pressure on Britain's forces.

    Mr Browne also revealed that troops are to be offered special low-rate military mortgages as part of a new government scheme to improve their quality of life.

    In the wide-ranging interview, the Defence Secretary also admitted that more needed to be done to improve standards of pay, and acknowledged that private soldiers earned "significantly less than policemen", who are currently planning to hold a strike ballot over pay.

    Mr Browne, who has faced a barrage of criticism in recent weeks over claims that the Government has betrayed the Services, said that he had been advised by his "experts" that the British Army needed to get back to training for general war.

    He said the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which 260 soldiers have died and hundreds more have been injured, had come close to damaging the military.

    He added that the reduction of troop levels in Iraq following the handover of Basra to the Iraqis would help to relieve the pressure on British troops and allow the Army to "regenerate".

    Mr Browne added, however, that the need to regenerate did not mean that the military was now in a "degenerated state".

    "The advice to me was that if we maintained this level of operational tempo in the long term, then the Army's skills would start to degrade," he said. "We are not at that stage yet. We need to get back to training properly before the damage that could be done, is done."

    Mr Browne also announced that his personal "ambition" is to offer every member of the Services the chance of getting "a foot on the housing ladder" as part of a new plan to be published next spring.

    The plan, entitled the "Service Personnel Strategy", is part of a wide-ranging cross-governmental project which will look at improving the support given to troops, their families and veterans.

    He said: "We are now at the stage of inviting partners to join with us to see if we can produce a programme to allow members of the Armed Forces to buy houses earlier in their careers.

    "There are banks and building societies who have expressed an interest in working with us. It is likely that we will launch a competition for a preferred provider shortly.

    "I believe we can make some progress in the comparative short term and generate an offer which is attractive to young people joining the Forces. The vision is for all married personnel to have the opportunity to own their homes if they want to."

    The Defence Secretary also gave an upbeat assessment of the security situation in Afghanistan, from where he had just returned after a four-day whistle-stop tour - his fifth visit in 18 months.

    But despite the military successes of recent days, which saw the Taliban routed from its stronghold of Musa Qala, he warned that success in Afghanistan, where 7,800 British troops are now based, was far from guaranteed.

    "It is too early to start talking about guarantees and I've never spoken in those sort of terms about Afghanistan," he said.

    "You can't talk about defeating insurgencies in the same way that you can with a conventional Army." However, Mr Browne did not attempt to disguise his contempt for the Taliban, whom he described as "vile people", and recounted the story of a 12-year-old boy who was murdered for being an informer.

    "In order to intimidate a community, the Taliban will take a 12-year-old boy and behead him," he said.

    "They will then kill the parents when they come to collect the body. That is what we are dealing with."

    Mr Browne accepted that soldiers - who, he admits, earn "significantly less" than policemen - need to be paid more than the £14,000 currently given to newly trained privates. "We are trying to improve that," he said, adding: "We need to try and do more but I have got to get the balance of the budget right."

    Last year the lowest-paid soldiers received a nine per cent pay rise and Mr Browne intimated that a similar figure was likely to be agreed by the Armed Forces' independent pay review body early in 2008.

    He added that a serviceman's reward should be viewed in more than just simple financial terms. The Services, he said, created "mature and rounded" individuals who would be able to demand high salaries when they left.

    The Defence Secretary also accepted that his department had come in for some acute criticism and said that it had been a "tough year".

    In April the Royal Navy became an international laughing stock following the Iran hostage crisis after the Ministry of Defence allowed the captured sailors to sell their stories to tabloid newspapers.

    In the past few weeks Mr Browne has been subjected to an unprecedented attack by five former defence chiefs in the House of Lords, and was forced to apologise to the families of the 14 servicemen who were killed when an ageing RAF Nimrod crashed in Helmand in 2006.

    "It has been a difficult year," said Mr Browne. "I was doing this job for 24 hours when a Lynx helicopter came down in Basra (killing five personnel).

    "I will never, ever forget that phone call. Never. I had just been appointed to the job, I was just drawing my first breath when the call came through.

    "There is no way, no matter how difficult this job gets, that it is anything like what those families (of the victims) had to go through.

    "In this job," he added, "you don't go around feeling sorry for yourself."

    Sunday Telegraph Link
  2. Now if he'll just do something about all of it. But, then, announcing something in a media interview counts as "doing something" for this bunch of mendacious scoundrels.

    But he'll be back to being Secretary of State for Scotland tomorrow.
  3. Mc Broon and Swiss Des couldn't give a tinker's cuss about the Armed Forces.

    Never have,don't now and never will.
  4. Am I just being cynical or does the quote about "all married personnel being able to buy a house" ring alarm bells about more SFA being sold off?

    All well and good helping us onto the housing ladder, but what happens on posting if there is no SFA left?

  5. Hmmmm.

    The armed forces are at the point of breaking. SO we've decided to create a new group of Army Community Support Officers who wont be armed but can do the job.

    Tin foil hat time.

  6. The Chiefs would be seriously stupid and irresponsible if they fall for this exercise in smoke and mirrors.

    If the Government can afford to subsidise mortgages then it can afford that amount as part of a general pay increase. Furthermore it is inherently unjust, as those who do not buy a house will effectively be paid less than their colleagues.

    This scheme would be a step back to the very bad old days of lousy pay but numerous allowances which existed prior to the introduction of the military salary in the early ‘60s. Apart from being impenetrable, the system was expensive to administer and it resulted in Service personnel being paid less than their civilian counterparts as it was impossible to make comparisons and this extended into civvy street when people left the Forces.
  7. "We need to get back to training..." Forgive me if i have missed a trick but Swiss has never done ANY training for the job he part-times at. He wasn't even a graduate of the Parliamentary Armed Forces "have-a-cabby-at-this-boss" scheme...

    According to the MOD web-site, his specific responsibilities are:

    Policy, including nuclear issues and European defence
    Finance and efficiency
    Oversight of major acquisition decisions and defence industrial issues
    Media and communications

    How exactly does a LLB (note, not a Masters which in Scotland usually causes a sharp sucking of teeth, implying a less than adequate intellect) equip him for 90% of THAT?
  8. Must be tought for him having to balance such a difficult job with his responsibilities to Scotland... T*sser...
  9. He graduated IIRC with an ordinary degree in Law, not even an Honours - which is tantamount to a resounding criticism of his intellectual abilities from his alma mater.
  10. The army sold off all off the UK SFA in the lat 90s!!

  11. What a wonderful personal ambition to have, although I note that by the end of the quote he has changed from offering the deal to every member of the services to only married personnel.

    Banks are unlikely to offer an improved deal to soldiers unless they can either subsidise the rate by cross-selling other products (get your 'Army' credit card here), from tax benefits (have you asked the Treasury?) or reducing the risk of the loan and mortgages are one of the lowest risk loans a bank can make.

    Also not sure about the practicality of the proposal given how often soldiers move, although with the 'super garrison' effect, this may be reduced.

    Still it's nice to hear that he's acknowledging that there is a problem and is taking steps to do something about it.
  12. Sorry, what I meant was allowing Annington to sell off more of them.

  13. Read the small print - Swiss Des is looking for "partners" - that is the Banks ....... isn't there a credit crisis happening ????

    So that's a non starter and the nasty Banks get the blame.

  14. The rumours are that an extra £500 million will be added to army housing, of that a third will go on rent, being paid directly to Annington, these deals are all the same, they make some labour/conservative donors a lot of money down the line, allow MPs to get a directorship at these companies and shafts the UK taxpayer. Another one to look at is the 'QinetiQ' sell off, that one reeks more than any other deal the government has done in recent memory and made a lot of MPs, donors and fatcats a lot of money and gave away a lot of our secrets.
  15. I think it is safe to assume that if a labour government minister says the above, we are already a LONG way past the point of 'damage' to the point of serious compromise to operational effectiveness in the short and long terms.

    Does this mean they are accepting the long standing 'overstretch'?