Major-General Nick Carter, Future Brit Mil

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Kromeriz, Oct 22, 2011.

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  1. The future of the British army: On the defensive | The Economist Future of the British Army.

    [h=3]On the defensive[/h][h=1]Why the resignation of Liam Fox, a flawed but reforming defence secretary, is bad news for Britain’s armed forces—and the army in particular[/h]Oct 22nd 2011 | from the print edition


    [​IMG]
    THE resignation on October 14th of the defence secretary, Liam Fox, almost a year after the publication of the landmark Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), was the last thing either Britain’s beleaguered Ministry of Defence (MoD) or its armed forces needed. Dr Fox leaves behind much unfinished business for his successor, Philip Hammond, who may be a competent cost-cutter but who has no previous knowledge of military matters.
    Dr Fox’s departure followed a torrent of embarrassing newspaper revelations about his working relationship with Adam Werritty, a close friend and self-styled “adviser”. But despite Dr Fox’s poor personal judgment and disregard for the rules (see article), he will be missed. He was a vigorous and knowledgeable defence secretary who, despite implementing sharp spending cuts (about 7.5% over five years), was also engaged in a serious attempt to change the behaviour of a dysfunctional department that had racked up £38 billion ($60 billion) in unfunded commitments under a series of hapless Labour ministers.
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    A year on, the SDSR is still controversial. Its critics say it was a rushed job that neither cut deeply enough to put the defence budget on a sustainable footing nor made the right choices about which capabilities to reduce. Dr Fox argued that given the scale of the MoD’s budgetary crisis there were no easy options and that the SDSR was a work in progress with many details still to be fleshed out. He was perhaps halfway through this process before he left.
    In December he appointed one of the ministry’s harshest critics, Bernard Gray, to bring some realism and order to procurement. And in June he announced a series of radical changes to the way the MoD is structured. The thrust of the reforms was to concentrate strategic leadership at the top of the department and establish a new Joint Forces Command to integrate capabilities such as military intelligence across all three services. The single service chiefs would also get greater responsibility (and accountability) for managing their own organisations, a prospect they welcomed.
    A few weeks later came what amounted to a second round of post-SDSR cuts. Dr Fox revealed that the regular army, which had escaped relatively unscathed with a reduction of only 7,000 by 2015 (the year after it should cease combat operations in Afghanistan), would be cut by a further 5,000 in 2015, and by 20% (from 101,000 to 82,000) by 2020. Some extra money would be found to beef up the reserves into a bigger and more usable force of 30,000. But Britain was going to have to get by with its smallest army for more than a century.
    From the army’s point of view that was not the most worrying thing. Libya provided a timely reminder of the value of air and maritime assets for projecting force at short notice. But the political appetite for operations involving large numbers of boots on the ground may not recover for a generation. The SDSR made no attempt to say, other than in the vaguest terms, what the army might be for after Afghanistan. Given the prospect of a defence budget under strain for years to come, the army fears it will be the target for any piecemeal cuts that may have to be made. Manpower is both expensive and a softer target than big procurement programmes, such as Britain’s future aircraft-carriers, which are protected by tightly drawn contracts.
    Seizing the opportunity provided by Dr Fox’s plans for decentralisation, General Sir Peter Wall, the head of the army, asked Major-General Nick Carter, a former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan and the director-general of land warfare, to carry out a review that would shape the army of the future. Insiders say General Carter is reaching radical conclusions.
    Quick, we need a new plan
    His review starts from the premise that whatever the tactical successes of the British army in Iraq and Afghanistan, those campaigns have not worked out well overall. It also makes a number of other assumptions. The first is that the next few years will be dominated by “getting off the Afghan hamster wheel”—extracting men and equipment from Afghanistan in good order and deciding which bits of kit to keep and which to leave behind. The second is that by 2020, after troops have come home from Germany, the army will be almost entirely based in Britain for the first time in generations. The third is that the army must move to a “contingency” posture rather than a campaigning one, putting the onus on adaptability.
    It looks as if one of the ideas in the SDSR—that there should be five essentially identical multi-role brigades—will be quietly junked in favour of “tailoring the force for the challenge” around two light and two heavy brigades which will draw on other resources as needed. Although a good deal of the army’s heavy armour and artillery will be mothballed or scrapped, investment in tactical-level networking—a key lesson from Afghanistan—will be given priority. Where deep cuts are made, the emphasis will be on preserving institutional readiness by retaining just enough skills, expertise and equipment to regenerate capabilities quickly.
    General Carter’s review is also putting a lot of emphasis on “upstream” conflict prevention and capacity-building. The army already carries out training missions in bits of the Middle East and Africa, but the idea is to go much further, with around 3,000 of its people actively engaged around the world. As well as making future wars less likely, Sir Peter hopes that this will attract bright and culturally sensitive people to an army career. And if the army is called upon to fight in far-flung places, the hope is that it will know more about them than it did when it pitched up in Basra or Helmand.
    Whether the army will get the green light for its plan is uncertain. Senior officers are worried that without Dr Fox to champion them, the reforms aimed at decentralising the running of the single services will wither. As one puts it: “He might have given new meaning to the word ‘hubris’, but we wanted his leadership.”
     
  2. Andy_S

    Andy_S LE Book Reviewer

    SNIP
    As well as making future wars less likely, Sir Peter hopes that this will attract bright and culturally sensitive people to an army career. And if the army is called upon to fight in far-flung places, the hope is that it will know more about them than it did when it pitched up in Basra or Helmand.
    SNIP

    Smart lad. This, in short, is the kind of army we had policing empire.

    But what if we face a "big war?"
     
  3. Don't worry about it, Andy. Dannatt said some similar things ( attaching officers to DFID / Kenyan safari police etc ) in ... oooh ... about 2006 - did / will much come of it?

    Nope!
     
  4. Also not really, Andy_S - our empire was policed overwhelmingly by native regiments, who got involved in any police actions, strictly at the bequest and subsequent control of Political Officers . Ledwidge's book (reviews and recommendations abound) is quite illuminating about "politicals", culturally aware individuals whose promotion was often linked to increased linguistic ability (in the Indian Army, promotion to Major required an individual to learn Urdu or similar). They also served 16 year tours before 1 year leave....
     
  5. Very true - the British Officers of native regiments went out very young and were expected to spend their lives in India, save for popping back every four to six years. Most had to be fluent not only in Urdu for promotion & pay, but also the native language of their troops to actually get much done. They would also spend their ( considerable ) leave in country engaged in character-building field sports... when they weren't sharking among the unaccompanied wives in the Hill Stations during the summer, obviously.

    Add to that the fact that their regiments periodically served on the NW Frontier and were commonly called upon for MACP tasks and you have an officer corps which is pretty culturally aware and professionally competent at irregular warfare. Not that they were necessarily incredibly culturally sensitive - the myriad class systems, expat & native, took care of that - but they had an understanding of their environment which you can't easily match with a UK based Army sending officers on exotic postings.

    In Sir Peter's favour, that degree of awareness isn't necessarily required ( although the comparison with Imperial-era standards is misleading ) and, to be honest, I don't think that the pre-1947 British & Indian Armies were overly bothered with recruiting the most "bright and culturally sensitive"! :)
     
  6. Andy_S

    Andy_S LE Book Reviewer

    SNIP
    Also not really, Andy_S - our empire was policed overwhelmingly by native regiments, who got involved in any police actions, strictly at the bequest and subsequent control of Political Officers . Ledwidge's book (reviews and recommendations abound) is quite illuminating about "politicals", culturally aware individuals whose promotion was often linked to increased linguistic ability (in the Indian Army, promotion to Major required an individual to learn Urdu or similar). They also served 16 year tours before 1 year leave...
    SNIP

    I thought that this was the point General Nick was making: That we should be creating a corps of leaders who are at home working with and/or leading "natives" in combat. Given that we no longer have colonies, 16 year postings are out of the question, but the idea of being culturally adaptable is an excellent one.

    RE: Length of service
    I have not read Ledwidge, but will when he comes out in paperback. However, he may be erring in reading too much into Indian colonial history.

    Many of the best and most successful irregular war party leaders in the history of the British and American militaries - Rogers, Ward, Lawrence, Wingate, Shriver - did not spend their lifetimes among these peoples, they were just there for the duration of the campaigns - French-Indian War; Taiping Rebellion; WWI in Mesopotamia; interwar years and the Jewish "Special Night Squads/WWII in Ethiopia, Vietnam War, respectively.

    SNIP
    Not that they were necessarily incredibly culturally sensitive - the myriad class systems, expat & native, took care of that - but they had an understanding of their environment which you can't easily match with a UK based Army sending officers on exotic posting
    SNIP

    What interests me about the best Anglo-American irregular leaders (see examples above) is that many of them - while, to a man, patriotic, god-fearing men - were actually far more at home among the "savages" in backwoods warfare than among "polite" society.

    Nicholson's famous comment at Delhi Ridge - "Sorry I am late for breakfast gentlemen, I have been hanging your cooks" - bespeaks the ruthlessness of NW Frontier society more than it does British, IMO.
     
  7. Won't four Brigades make it almost impossible for us to ever get involved in a war or enduring op ever again?

    One Bde deployed, one recovering, one preparing to go only leaves one spare for anything that might happen. Either we're never going to do the enduring op thing again (completely flying in the face of almost every single British experience of military actions since the end of the Second World War) or our future force can forget about seeing their families until the op ends.

    It also makes it virtually impossible for us to ever put together a Div sized force for the war fighting stage meaning that we'll forever be stuck as part of a coalition and completely under the control of someone else.
     
  8. Brotherton Lad

    Brotherton Lad LE Reviewer

    I imagine that is the intention, jbm.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  9. I think that you'd be right. There is no political appetite in any party (or potential flavour of government) for sustained expeditionary operations involving large numbers of boots on the ground. If we have to go kinetic, it will be strategic raiding. And BTW, having spent another wonderful weekend at MoD Corsham writing a presentation on FR2020, I cannot for the life of me work out where we will get a TA of 30,000 trained troops from. The only way to reinforce these four Regular Bdes will be via the TA. I might not be Maj Gen Carter, but to me at least, the figures do not add up.
     
  10. I read the article on the Economist and left it for comment. What I went away thinking was how many men would you need in a four brigade sized army. IIRC 5000 is the number traditionally associated with one brigade, how many non attached renfs does a brigade need? Or am I right in thinking that there will be less than the 80,000 espoused in the new model army? Nearer to 60,000?

    To the further additional of a TA of 30,000, I agree with History Man. It has tones of the Russian Shock Army with their umpteen divisions made up of CAT A, but then B and C units which were unmanned. Just like the TA of the 80s and 90s with perhaps a third of the strength showing up for a weekend... if you were lucky.

    However, placing emphasis on the TA will save on budget expenditure and on all the additional costs of pensions etc. However, the domestic consumption of 30,000 will sound good to Daily Mail readers.

    Moving on the cultural conditioning of officer.s and Other Ranks - who actually get on the ground? - sounds great, but the Defence Attaches I have met needed to get out more...

    So sounds like a cunning plan, hope we never have to fight a war...

    Or am I being cynical?

    Kromeriz
     
  11. As a minor partner in the European Army, the only language we will need to learn is French, and adopt their "cultural sensitivties".

    We will not be war-fighting, we will be on constant COIN Ops against "terrorists" attempting to challenge the European Commission and all it's good work.

    Why would you need tanks to ride down cordory and tweed wearing protesters in Parliament Square? ( although I suspect any public order duties in the former UK will be carried out by French soldiers). The soldiers of the former British Defence Force will be posted to the far flung boreders of the EU with the Main Effort being to defend Europe agaisnt the real enemy - The United States of America.
     
  12. My bold and this is the elephant in the room - over the past few decades, the TA has withdrawn from the community and has limited community traction IOT build itself up again. In the county where I live, the TA has one company of infantry and some CSS ( I think), from a population of 1.2 million. The old county regiment has been disbanded, it's barracks turned into a chav housing estate hell and it's TA centre near the high street sold off as well. The location of the infantry company is impractical to get to by public transport.

    But the more telling thing is that few of the locals see it as "their" regiment. The old county regiment was, because family members fought and died for the regiment, the current regiment is just a name that means nothing.

    If this TA experiement is to suceed, then the MoD will need to invest to re-raise county regiments so that the community can engage with them and purchase back the properties that have been sold, so that the TA can have a presence in the community.

    Hiding away TA presence on cheap industrial estates will fundamentally fail.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Quite. How are officers and other ranks supposed to pick up a "cultural conditioning" if they've been in the Army since 18 or so? The Army's "cultural conditioning" is about as real as its "business conditioning" - and look what happens in the military/business world interface....

    UK's Empire armies were effective because many/most of the British officers had actually been born or grown up in a colonial garrison.
     
  14. One of things that does not rear its head is the role of the US in future conflicts. The US powers that be have been signposting that their focus is on Asia... if Europe will not pay its way why should the US

    World power swings back to America - Telegraph

    As America moves towards self-sufficiency and economic stabilization will it want to project power into the middle East for example? Will it wish to be the defender of last resort for NATO? Especially as the European Union will be mired for some time to come.

    So moving to a 4 Brigade sized force seems dangerous in the least. Only France is able to provide ground forces in anyway like enough numbers, the Danes, Dutch and Germans can provide forces and it is true that the Germans are re-organising their land forces, but who will really be able to put bods on the ground for any meaningful time?

    Another question from between the lines article from the Economist is if two brigades are heavy, thus keeping some capability and two brigades are light, are those two brigades just RM and 16AA? Or do we get rid of those expensive helicopters and concentrate on a less expensive brigade? I have no idea - anyone else? Thoughts welcome.
     
  15. Senior scrambled egg have been in denial of reality for a couple of decades. Not sure whether this signifies somebody has at last grasped the nettle or whether it's just another smokescreen.

    Britain deserves a properly equipped, structured and balanced military that best serves the country. It does not need an organisation designed as the recipient of shoddy goods ordered as part of a job welfare scheme, a structure maintained to optimise professional officer career development, or a pool of emergency civil contingency resources. It also doesn't need a senior officer corps who think political submission is the holy grail to maintaining the status quo.
     
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