Is the Army improving?

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Mr._Average, Feb 9, 2007.

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  1. An odd question, perhaps, and one which, in the light of much publicised equipment and manpower shortages, may seem counter-intuitive; but it seems to me that the performance of the Army (and the forces in general) grows more capabale and impressive by the day.

    I have never been in a military organisation (nor have I ever dressed up and played at paintballing) so this is as pure an outsiders view as you may get and is formed by reading and watching reports in the newspapers and on television.

    But even from such a second hand perspective, I have to say that the way in which the British military conducts itself is genuinely impressive.

    There is quite extraordinary courage (riding on the outside of helicopters to rescue fallen commrades) allied to a thoughtfulness about the nature and application of the sort of force that needs to be applied to achieve the required objectives (the difference between the British approach in Basra and that elsewhere in Iraq, for example, and now in Afghanistan).

    I've never doubted the professionalism of the British forces but wonder now if the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan have amplified and increased it, despite the unclear political aims and the shoddy resourcing.

    I guess what I'm asking is do you think the best have gotten better?

    I'd be interested in other people's views.
     
  2. Be prepared for some very diverse answers on this one.

    For my money, we are doing okay. The operational experience gained over the last few years has made improvements inevitible in areas such as tactics and individual soldiering skills. The same period though has not seen the backing from HMG in terms of funding, infrastructure or manpower (the Army is too small for what is expected of it), so in that respect we are treading water.
     
  3. Just like the saying in adversity act like a duck, look calm and unflustered on the surface, underneath paddle like fook. That sums it up
     
  4. I would think:

    Good for the Army/RM - gaining combat experience, kit shortages recognised and some even being dealt with, high public profile;

    OK for RAF - many shortcomings identified and aircraft wearing out but may lead to more funding for new helos/transports e.g. more C17s

    Disasterous for RN - not in public eye, little visible (to public) contribution to ops, funding slashed to pay for RAF/Army.

    Which is all fine until another Navy-led Corprorate type Op comes along and we suddenly realise we need a navy after all.
     
  5. They need to sort this problem out first or they wont have an army to improve.

    ________________________________________
    Welcome words...
    The Sunday Times
    December 10, 2006

    God help our poor bloody soldiers
    Minette Marrin

    In China under Mao Tse-tung the families of condemned men were forced to pay for the bullet that would kill their father or their son. I was reminded of that exquisite little cruelty by the government’s confession last Monday that the bereaved families of troops killed in Iraq have been forced to pay hundreds of pounds to get access to the official records of their children’s deaths.
    These documents are freely available to the army and to the coroner, but shocked and grieving families had to find the money. Apparently these large sums were to cover the cost of photocopying done by the coroner’s officials; one man had to pay £600. It is not enough, clearly, to sacrifice one’s husband or child: one has to pay to learn about their deaths. Harriet Harman said she was “surprised”.

    It would be nice to think that this was an unusual error — a bureaucratic blip — and that the armed forces and their families are normally treated with the respect and gratitude they deserve. Not so. In fact the way that servicemen and women are treated is almost an object lesson in how to mismanage and demoralise what was once one of the greatest military forces in the world. This has been obvious for a long time but we seem to have reached some sort of tipping point.

    The newly retired General Sir Mike Jackson emerged from years of discretion to say on Wednesday in his Dimbleby lecture that our armed forces are underpaid, under-equipped and poorly housed; they are shabbily treated and absurdly overstretched, attempting impossible tasks with inadequate means. We do not offer enough of our treasure for their blood.

    Many people think he should have said this while he was still in charge of the army; the internet is awash with comments from angry soldiers. “Shame he didn’t remember this stuff before he started drawing his pension,” said one. “Too late to go grubbing about for credibility — now we’re four infantry battalions down . . . and have lost the regimental system for the infantry . . . you hypocritical old wino,” said another.

    One could argue that despite his duty of discretion he should in extreme circumstances have spoken out, as has Sir Richard Dannatt, his brave successor. For these are extreme circumstances. Even though this country is involved in two difficult wars, there seems to be a cultural agreement in Whitehall that our troops can be fobbed off with second or third best. According to John Keegan, the military historian, there is an anti-military clique in the Treasury.

    Gordon Brown must answer for this; it was the chancellor who personally took part in cutting the army’s infantry battalions at a time when infantry was urgently needed to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. But generally, too, there seems to be a remarkable lack of understanding or sympathy for the armed forces.

    If the government had deliberately set out to demoralise them and undermine recruitment it could hardly have done a better job. Only a couple of weeks ago the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had to admit that it had supplied British soldiers in Afghanistan with duff ammo. Shortly after our charming prime minister had been out to schmooze the troops fighting the Taliban, it emerged that they had been sent cheap and defective machinegun bullets made in Pakistan or the Czech Republic instead of the usual more expensive stuff. These cheap bullets kept jamming their machineguns during heavy fighting. British soldiers had to scrounge rounds from the Canadians and Americans. It was only when the Paras kicked up a fuss that anything was done.

    Then there was the body armour scandal of 2003. The government sent troops into Iraq without enough enhanced body armour, having ignored requests from the army for two months. Sergeant Steven Roberts was killed by bullets on the fifth day of the invasion; he had selflessly given his own body armour to a colleague because there was not enough for everyone in his regiment. With body armour he would have survived. It has taken three years for the MoD to accept liability. Such prevarication only adds insult to bereavement.

    The same goes for the delay in holding inquests into army deaths. There is, incredibly, a backlog going back to 2003, meaning that families have to wait years for an account of what happened.

    One hardly knows where to begin with the substandard treatment offered to the armed forces. Dannatt has been bold enough to speak about this. So many military hospitals have been closed (largely under the Conservatives) that servicemen and women have to go into civilian wards and take their chances. One wounded paratrooper in uniform was screamed at by a Muslim visiting a patient. “You have been killing my Muslim brothers in Afghanistan,” he shrieked at a man who should have been enjoying a hero’s welcome. Another wounded soldier was told to remove his uniform for fear of “offending” anyone.

    Lord Bramall, former chief of the defence staff, has reported claims that wounded soldiers face long delays on general National Health Service waiting lists and poor aftercare. This lack of respect is astonishing. If anyone has been brave enough to risk death and injury in the service of our country, the least we could do is to provide top-quality specialised hospital care in dedicated military hospitals or wards, as the Americans do. We don’t.

    As for what servicemen and women are paid, it is pitiful: £1,000 a month is hardly an incentive to risk your life in Iraq. And it is pointless perhaps to compare the derisory £2,400 bonuses offered to combat troops with the £41m paid to MoD civil servants over the past four years. As for what service families live in, it can in many cases only be called slum housing — “frankly shaming” as Jackson said. Our government — and our society — cannot seriously be bothered with our armed forces.

    This is not just wrong. It is decadent. For if we lack the will to defend ourselves, or rather to defend those who are there to defend us and to fight for us, then we are simply rolling over to display the soft underbelly of decadence to the world’s predators and scavengers. Those who think that our armed forces don’t matter will soon discover that other people’s do
     
  6. Mr Average
    Does that help?
     
  7. There's been an obvious reduction in certain parts of the Defence budget though. We've 'downsized' from Swans.
     
  8. I can't remeber if it was Clausewitz or Sun Tzu who said that war is the best preparation for war but this is rather like the Wooster position on foxes and policemen.

    Improved in British political terms means being made more cost effective. This has involved some minor innovations such as trashing the regimental system.

    The British Army has a superb record of thriving in adversity but there are limits. Continue to abuse it like this and we'll have a real military disaster like the Spion Kop. You don't get much more improving millitary experiences than the Kop.
     
  9. Hello Skynet,

    Thanks for posting that article; I hadn't read that particular piece before though I have seen many of the issues widely discussed.

    Its interesting that it seems that the greater the efforts of those actually serving the more the Governemnt seems to feel it can discount those efforts when it comes to supporting the family and personal aspects of military life. It beggars believe that the forces should be treated so badly and with such casual disdain.

    As I said earlier, I've never been in the military so many aspects of military life are a bit hazy to me; none-the-less even I can see that there is an implicit contract between the country and the armed forces which doesn't seem to be being honoured by the Government at the moment. (And there is a personal dimension for me to all this in that my son, currently at university and in the TA, is very keen to pursue an army career).

    The lack of care exhibited by the MOD towards the personal life of soldiers seems difficult to understand, given that many in the MoD must be ex-servicemen / women.

    It is even more perverse given the exceptional performance of the British forces on operational duty.
     
  10. Hi Mr Average
    Its very sad but true in many respects and it is a pity that things have been allowed to get to such a low ebb. Your son could do no better than spend three years or so in the army. The leadership and management training is second to none and he will be given responsibilities far beyond anything he would get in a similar position in a civilian career. The problem is that many young officers stay in just to get that experience but then see little future and depart for better pastures having been given a first class training which of course is bad for the army being unable to hold onto its good young Captains. If it can't do the latter it won't get good Generals! The other factor which is increasing the loss at this point is that many will be thinking of marriage which of course is a bleak prospect for the other partner with heavy operational commitments with an army too small to manage them effectively. This of course means lots of separation and in reality one parent families. If they are to retain good people the conditions of service must improve considerably. First class for a young single man but with with decreasing attractions! You may find the following of interest.

    IMMORALITY OF FORCING THE MILITARY
    24/01/2007
    Britain had 72 helicopters in Northern Ireland at the height of the IRA; but only 28 in Iraq last year. Over the past decade the government has failed the one public service that never fails the country
    In Iraq and Afghanistan, British troops are confronted daily with the shameful fact that they are now, more than ever, the best-trained but worst equipped advanced military in the world. Serviceman's lives are regularly and unnecessarily put in harm’s way as a result of the use of obsolete or defective equipment and weaponry, in an unforgivable dereliction of duty on the part of the political classes towards those who put their lives on the line.
    Given the current state of the world, the belief that there remains a peace dividend to be spent is utterly misguided. One vivid illustration of this short-sighted and destructive policy – one of the great but still largely untold disasters of the Blair years – were the devastating pictures published last week of two British soldiers clinging to the sides of an Apache helicopter on a rescue mission. An RAF Chinook was two minutes away, but it is a flying bus and an easy bulls-eye for the Taliban; the soldiers were safer hanging on the side of the Apache than inside the Chinook. Had the Canadian, American or Dutch forces been on a similar mission in enemy territory to rescue a fallen comrade, their troops would not be dangling from the outside of a helicopter but travelling in one: probably a Huey, a Eurocopter or one of the many troop-carrying helicopters which their governments have furnished them with.
    The extent of the demise of the British military is truly shocking. Britain’s defence spending has been steadily falling from a Cold War peak of 5.3% in 1983-84 to a paltry 2.3% today; while this might be enough for a country with no geopolitical ambitions or one content with sheltering under America’s nuclear umbrella, it is far too little for a country that still hopes to punch above its weight in international affairs.


    By Nato’s own figures, British spending on defence as a share of national income is now smaller that that of Turkey (3.2%), Greece (3.1%), Bulgaria (2.5%), and even France (2.4%). An analysis by the US Department of Defence showed that every single US ally in the Gulf devotes a greater percentage of its gross domestic product (GDP) to its military than Britain.
    Perhaps most damningly of all, military spending in Britain has now collapsed to its lowest level as a proportion of GDP since 1930. Because of the way it exposes him as the wrecker of the British military, Chancellor Gordon Brown bridles at the use of this GDP measure, even though he will relentlessly use it to assess spending in health and education.
    But the Chancellor is right to say it does not give the full story, albeit for the wrong reasons. Canada’s military spending is a paltry 1.1% of GDP – yet its troops are better-equipped than Britain’s. In Afghanistan, the Canadians use G-Wagon armoured cars and the heavily-armoured LAV-3 whose 10 inches of armour can withstand rocket propelled grenades. By contrast, the British must rely on the deeply inadequate WIMIK jeep and the “Snatch” Land Rover designed for service in Northern Ireland, exposing servicemen to great peril.
    The British government spends $809 per capita on defence compared to $1,604 in the United States, $1,403 in Israel and $1,025 in Saudi Arabia, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Britain spends only $16.8bn on military personnel compared to France’s $26.8bn. Even Germany, with its strict constitutional limits on deployments overseas, spends substantially more than Britain on its soldiers, sailors and airmen.
    Even more disturbing, spending on military personnel declined in 2005 after only staying steady in 2004. Spending on equipment declined every year between 2000 and 2004, which helps to explain why 2,200 troops were sent to war in Iraq without sufficient body armour. The state of the current shortfall is brought home by the fact that Britain had 72 helicopters in Northern Ireland at the height of the IRA’s terror campaign; but only 28 helicopters in Iraq last year. Amazingly, more than a third of British helicopters are not operational and it now takes eight years to bring a new version of a helicopter into service, a rate of change which wouldn’t have been much use during either of the last century’s World Wars.
    The government likes to boast that it has presided over the “largest increase since the end of the Cold War” in defence spending. This is not much of a claim. Defence spending in real terms fell by 0.3% a year between 1979 and 1997, led by cuts in the later years as the then Tory government made the most of the peace dividend following the collapse of the Soviet Union. During Blair’s first term defence spending grew by 1.7% a year in real terms; but during his second term – which included 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq – it increased by a mere 0.4% a year in real terms. Spending will have risen by a paltry 1.4% a year in real terms between 2004 and 2007.
    Labour’s shameful neglect of those who are prepared to sacrifice all for Queen and country is made clear by the fact that under Labour spending on the NHS has risen by 6.1% a year, transport by 5.1%, public order and safety by 4.9%, education by 4.7%, and social security by 2.3%. For all its meaningless rhetoric, and reckless use of the British armed forces around the world, defence is not one of this government’s priorities.
    There is little hope of reinforcements arriving when Mr Brown finally enters Number 10: the Chancellor loathes the military as an institution and considers it to be culturally Tory. His henchman, Des Browne, has been a predictable disaster as Secretary of State for Defence, blithely insisting to aides that the military is stretched, not over stretched. Mr Brown once famously told the Prime Minister that he could have more money for education “if you didn’t spend so much on defence”. One trembles at what the Chancellor will do if he thinks that Blair has been feather-bedding the forces. The other great danger is that Prime Minister Brown will consider replacing Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent to be a proxy for equipping troops in the field of battle, or housing them.


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    IMMORALITY OF FORCING THE MILITARY
    24/01/2007
    Britain had 72 helicopters in Northern Ireland at the height of the IRA; but only 28 in Iraq last year. Over the past decade the government has failed the one public service that never fails the country
    There is little hope of reinforcements arriving when Mr Brown finally enters Number 10: the Chancellor loathes the military as an institution and considers it to be culturally Tory. His henchman, Des Browne, has been a predictable disaster as Secretary of State for Defence, blithely insisting to aides that the military is stretched, not over stretched. Mr Brown once famously told the Prime Minister that he could have more money for education “if you didn’t spend so much on defence”. One trembles at what the Chancellor will do if he thinks that Blair has been feather-bedding the forces. The other great danger is that Prime Minister Brown will consider replacing Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent to be a proxy for equipping troops in the field of battle, or housing them.
    Britain’s generals, men not prone to whingeing, are deeply worried. As General Sir Richard Dannatt, head of the Army, said last September: “We are running hot, certainly running hot. Can we cope? I pause. I say ‘just’.” A report by the National Audit Office offers further evidence of this. It found that the guidelines for how much rest servicemen should get between deployments have been routinely broken during the last five years. It also discovered that in a multitude of key areas the forces were perilously short-staffed.
    The armed forces will have even more to do in the coming months. This terrible overstretch is only going to get worse. The surge of US forces into Iraq is likely to lessen the strength of the Shi’ite militias in Baghdad. They will choose to demonstrate their continuing force in Basra: a city that is overwhelmingly Shi’ite, close to their Iranian patrons – and garrisoned by the British