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Sf to be hit by cutbacks

Facing the firing squad, half of Britain’s Special Forces
Elite units could be cut by 40 per cent and SAS regiments ‘demoted’ in restructuring plan
By Sean Rayment

The Special Boat Service has fought in every major conflict since the Second World War

FULL details of the biggest cuts programme to Britain’s Special Forces in almost half a century can be disclosed today.
The elite units could be cut by up to 40 per cent, with two famous Territorial SAS regiments being “demoted” to serving with the regular Army, The Telegraph has learnt.
The restructuring programme is designed to return the Special Forces to their pre-Iraq War footing as a smaller, less expensive, but highly capable covert organisation.
The proposals will be presented by the director of Special Forces – the officer in control of the Special Air Service (SAS), the Special Boat Service (SBS) and other units – to Gen Sir David Richards, the Chief of the Defence Staff, in the next few weeks.
The plan includes:
• Reducing the SBS from four to three squadrons, but leaving the SAS intact;
• Taking the 21 and 23 SAS territorial units out of the Special Forces command and making them part of the regular Army Reserves;
• Major cuts to the Special Forces Support Group, which provides logistics, communications and other support to the SAS and SBS;
• Ending the independent role of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), which was only set up in 2005.
The changes involve the loss of hundreds of posts, and come after a warning yesterday from Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, that further defence budget cuts cannot be sustained.
The restructuring is part of existing savings, but Mr Hammond said that going further would mean “expensively trained troops may not be able to be exercised and trained as regularly as they need to be”. His intervention came before the June spending review and as he pushed for welfare cuts, which George Osborne, the Chancellor, has privately suggested must be the focus.
It is understood that an initial review of the future of the Special Forces Group was produced last year by senior officers in the Ministry of Defence, listing a series of recommendations now being enacted by a team in the headquarters of the Directorate of Special Forces.
The proposals, which would be carried out after Britain’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, have divided opinion, with many seasoned soldiers describing them as “madness”. But senior commanders have ruled that the Special Forces must “share in the pain” of cuts. The current Special Forces Group stands at around 3,500 soldiers and marines, but the cuts could result in a reduction to between 1,750 and 2,000.
Of all the proposals, the reduction in the size of the SBS and the loss of the two territorial SAS units from the Special Forces Group are the most controversial. The MoD is likely to face strong resistance and will be under pressure to withdraw the plans.
The SBS, formed during the Second World War, has fought in every major conflict in the past 70 years. It expanded in 2004 to meet the extra requirement for covert missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Keeping the unit at full strength has been a constant problem, partly because its recruiting base, the Royal Marines, is relatively small.
Equally controversial is the removal of 21 (Artists) and 23 SAS, both territorial units, from the Special Forces Group and their placement within the regular Army.
The relationship between the regular and territorial SAS has become strained in recent years with the TA units seen as the “poor relation” in terms of expertise and equipment.
Although the TA units have not supported their regular colleagues on covert operations in Afghanistan, they play a vital role in intelligence gathering and mentoring Afghan police. Three members of 21 SAS were awarded Military Crosses in 2009.
The SRR, which recruits from all three services, will also have its role diminished in what has been described as a “loss of independence”.
It was created from a covert intelligence gathering detachment called 14 Intelligence Company, which operated almost exclusively in Northern Ireland, and has operated primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan. After 2014, it will reduce in size and support the SAS and SBS rather than conducting independent operations.
The Special Forces Support Group, which is composed of members of the Parachute Regiment with additional troops from the Royal Marines and the RAF, was created in 2006 and has operated primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan supporting the SAS and SBS. After 2014 its strength could be cut by two thirds to about 200 troops.
A senior source with knowledge of the proposals said: “There is still a need for both the SRR and the SFSG, just not in the numbers required. Every unit has to justify its existence and the Special Forces are no different.
“They are not so special that they are immune from defence cuts. The Special Forces Group will still be larger than it was before 2001, just not as big as it is today."
The plan ends the longest period of sustained growth for the Special Forces since the Second World War. The increases began with the response to the September 11 terror attacks.
Initially the expansion was greeted with scepticism, with many senior SAS troops saying the move would lead to a “dilution of quality” required for special operations. But those claims were refuted by a series of combat successes in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as praise from US commanders.
Until recently, the received opinion within the Armed Forces was that the SAS and the SBS, which have notched up an unbroken period of almost 12 years of combat operations, were immune from the defence cuts.
In Iraq, the SAS and the SBS formed part of Task Force Black, the US and British covert antiterrorist unit specifically aimed at al-Qaeda, and played a direct role in the killing of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the group’s leader.
In Afghanistan, they have captured and killed hundreds of middle-ranking and senior members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. British Special Forces have also taken part in, and advised on, hostage rescue operations involving UK and US nationals and helped train Afghan special forces.
An MoD spokesman insisted that the Government recognised the “strategic value and long term importance” of the Special Forces.
He added: “Furthermore, the Prime Minister has committed to significantly increase investment to ensure this elite group retain their cutting edge operational capability.
“As we draw down in Afghanistan, we will review the supporting infrastructure to ensure those front-line units have the support they require."

Surprised no one has mentioned this yet!

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War Hero
Gen Jackson pulled SFSG out of his back pocket (polite term) thereby saving a Para Bn, so its ripe for cuts now. It may well be the RM and RAF Regt PIDs that are most at risk as I note Army SFSG are excluded from the next round of Redundancies.

The demise of SRR has been predicted for some time and there will only ever be one winner in a SBS/SAS pissing contest. It also stands to reason that a reduced Army will have a reduced "elite".


I would have thought with the draw down in Afghan we would need more SF types cutting about???... not the opposite

Not as if all they do is the CRW stuff is it =)
Oh look, 22 SAS wins in a resourcing fight. I wonder what background DSF has......
To me, the term 'SF' means 'Sustained Fire'. Please stop confusing me.

Also, can we please have the word 'heli' back? The word 'helo' sounds like a camp greeting.
Reckon the SAS etc will be able to recruit enough bods, considering the drop in size of the Army/Navy? Or will the slack just be taken up by Germans etc?
SF do indeed have to justify their budget, like all of the other services. I suspect they can do that quite well. Of course, when the civil population of the United Kingdom also start to "feel the pain" because of a lack of capability, and the legal redresses build up because the state has been negligent, there'll be even more grinding of teeth than there is now.


Book Reviewer
Heh. Again, Sean Rayment is taken out and given a Jolly Good Lunch by SO1 Leaks & Corporate Survival from DSF.
Think in terms of a twenty/thirty year "deployment holiday".

Two or three decades during which the British Armed Forces will not deploy outside the UK under any circumstances, bar perhaps minor contributions to police or aid missions.

A period during which the Forces protect Britain from physical invasion and every other eventuality is handled with the spectre of Trident or it's replacement.

That, IMO, is what you're looking at and in that light the current rakes of cuts, the loss of capability and the "2020 Vision" make perfect sense.
Heh. Again, Sean Rayment is taken out and given a Jolly Good Lunch by SO1 Leaks & Corporate Survival from DSF.

Sean's a decent bloke despite being an ex-Para officer! I've hung around places with him waiting for something to happen a couple of times and he knows his stuff. He's does like a good Mi6 story...


Book Reviewer
Sean's a decent bloke despite being an ex-Para officer! I've hung around places with him waiting for something to happen a couple of times and he knows his stuff. He's does like a good Mi6 story...

I'm sure that's the case but he is a preferred route out for the SF community to float its concerns.
I'm sure that's the case but he is a preferred route out for the SF community to float its concerns.

Well he's just got a new book out : 'Tales from the Special forces club' So some trade off maybe? be fair it's actually about the men and women who frequent the Club including a surviving member of Popski's Private Army.