Swiss Tony seeing the light?

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by hansvonhealing, Dec 22, 2006.

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  1. The Times
    December 22, 2006

    Army too small, too busy and has no time to train, minister says
    Michael Evans, Defence Editor

    Defence Secretary listens to warnings
    Battle-group exercises cancelled

    Falling manpower
    Military comment and debate from Mick Smith
    ( )

    Des Browne, seven months into the job of Defence Secretary, is confident that the Army can still sustain the two major operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But for the first time he has voiced his fears about how much longer the Army can cope with the commitments without there being the risk of serious consequences.

    Speaking to The Times, he said that he was fully aware of the concerns expressed by military commanders — notably the outspoken remarks of General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the Army, in his newspaper interview in October — that with so much focus on Iraq and Afghanistan, insufficient time and resources were being devoted to training.

    Exercises have had to be cancelled and crucial battle-group formation training, involving the full panoply of tanks, artillery and armoured personnel carriers — carried out regularly during the Cold War — have been severely reduced.

    General Dannatt said in his interview with the Daily Mail that his troops were stretched to capacity and that everyone was going to end up serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. He urged a withdrawal from Iraq “sometime soon”. He also referred in another interview to the Army “running hot”.

    Mr Browne told The Times that he had given the service chiefs permission to speak out in public about their concerns. “I told them that constitutionally I was happy for them to speak in public, but I reminded them that we all work for the same management board and have the same responsibilities for policy,” he said.

    Although General Dannatt was obliged to make a number of clarifications to draw his remarks closer to the accepted government line on Iraq, Mr Browne has clearly taken his warning to heart and now believes the Army might be too small to keep up such an operational tempo at the same time as trying to hone its basic skills.

    Faced by even bigger troop deployments, President Bush indicated this week that the size of the US Army and US Marine Corps might have to increase to cope with the global commitments. The US Army, including reservists, stands at about 596,000 and the US Marine Corps at 185,000.

    The Defence Secretary said that there were no plans at present to increase troop numbers. However, he revealed a likely change in one commitment. He said that the 600 troops still in Bosnia — 14 years after Britain first sent soldiers there — were just carrying out a policing role. “That’s inappropriate,” he said.

    He indicated that many of these troops would be pulled out next year. Other positive moves, also next year, would be the planned drawdown of troops in Northern Ireland, reducing the garrison to 5,000, and the hoped-for cutback in numbers in Iraq. But the timing and the size of the cuts depended on security conditions, he said. If these cutbacks all went ahead, the extra troops available would “bring back a degree of flexibility”.

    Despite the potential for a reduction in the numbers of troops assigned to overseas commitments, releasing them for other duties, Mr Browne said his main concern was to ensure that additional time was provided to train troops in a broader range of skills in between the operational tours.

    Under the Government’s present strategy, the Armed Forces are supposed to be configured to take on two simultaneous medium-term overseas operations, although defence sources said planning was underway to keep troops in Afghanistan for at least ten years. This projected operational commitment will keep thousands of troops tied up in six-monthly rotations. More than 100,000 troops have already served in Iraq since 2003.

    Under a series of manpower cuts, the Army has fallen from 112,000 when Labour came to power in 1997 to today’s trained-strength of 95,560.

    Mr Browne pointed out, however: “Army numbers were cut from 156,500 in 1990 to 112,000 [by 1997] and these reductions took place during the term of the last Government.”,,2-2515740,00.html
  2. So two wrongs make a right then?

    Its enough to make you weep.
  3. spike7451

    spike7451 RIP

    You know,the govenment has the uncanny knack of stating what is obvious to everyone else but still fails to close the gate until the horse has bolted!!
  4. Other positive moves, also next year, would be the planned drawdown of troops in Northern Ireland, reducing the garrison to 5,000, and the hoped-for cutback in numbers in Iraq.

    Ah! An opportunity for Brown to demand more cuts.
  5. I cannot help being cynical, and find myself musing that this "additional troop allocation" due to committment downsizing will be followed by further cuts when projected Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are considered with the appropriate exit strategies.

    Will this be another "peace dividend" the Armed Forces will be burdoned with.

    As for the comment that "troops were cut from 112,000 by the Tory Government", what absolute balderdash. The Tories didn`t commit us to Operations in Macedonia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and long term committments in both Afghanistan and Iraq knowing the sustainability limits of the Armed Forces they inherited!! Indeed, this current "poor excuse for a Government" reduced the Infantry even further!!!!!!

    If troop levels could be determined by the former Government based on current and future asessments of Operational committments, then this should have been reconsidered when Liarbour took power in 1997 to take into consideration Bliars goal of "world policing".
  6. The size of the Army may need to be increased to help it cope with long-running commitments overseas, Defence Secretary Des Browne has said.

    To paraphrase basically they have wrecked theForces which are now undermanned, under trained and overstretched. Oh and by the way Happy Christmas from Des.
  7. Humble pie for the government this Christmas then......
  8. Excuse my cynicism but have there not been discussions to pull troops from Bos for some time now, and the force reduction in NI has been in discussion for some time also.

    This would seem to be another smoke and mirror exercise by HMG to capitalise on planned force reduction levels in two operational theatres and present it as an increase in operational capability.

    I believe the government was warned (can't say which one but labour likely) that the size of the British Army is a critical mass at 100,000 and cannot sustain its manning levels. Advice it duely chose to ignore.

    "The Defence Secretary said that there were no plans at present to increase troop numbers."

    Oh that helps then, what a decision- we'll pull the troops as planned.
  9. Of course the British Army is too small................the last time it was so small was pre-1913 and then it had the Indian Army to do heavy lifting in the Middle East.

    Either Britain accepts its role as being akin to that of Germany or Italy and loses one of the three 1950s legacies that give it status in the world - (1) Military (2) UN Security Council (3) Nuclear Weapons - with the risk it loses all three and returns to the mediocre position it had as a pre-industrial power

    It has a certain irony as a post-industrial power
  10. Of course they could just be copying Bush, it was only yesterday that he was talking about increasing the US forces by 10%
  11. This sounds like a lead up to bad news in the New Year when, although not cutting manpower, they'll impose 'spend holidays' on certain capabilities (i.e. mothball them) similar to the 'no parachute training' policy for the Paras. You'll see Regiments 're-rolling' to ease the Infantry's burden (just watch some of the RA regiments), there'll be no new money just a classic case of 'robbing Peter to pay Paul'!
  12. The only thing you get with less is, er, less.
    Spend holidays may solve very short term funding issues, but have a detrimental cumlative effect in the medium to short term; as any large Pension fund manager or railway infrastructure maintainer will tell you.

    I picked this story up in my morning "Times" which ran a very interesting graphic showing how the Army has shrunk over the last 50 years. The real shocker was "Options for Change" with a loss of around a 3rd of the total strength. And of course the recent axeing of 4 Inf Battalions is completely Dagenham East* with the current commitment and tempo.

    We could do with those guys now

    * Four stops short of Barking
  13. I think you are right. Face it if Paras stopping jumping saves money the men with the spreadsheets will just follow the logic and Gunners won't need to fire, the Sappers won't need to build, the RAC can mothball their tanks etc, etc. Face it the theoretic opportunities for cost reduction are massive; if you are a civil servant who has never been further than the Victoria line but wants a nice shiny MBE to go with those campaign medals he 'won' in main building. FFS Blair must have qualified for a few by now with all his airbase visits, perhaps he will hang on until next November so he can wear them at the Cenotaph..
  14. I look at this from another view point, and see it as four stops beyond Barking.

    There's no way, of course, that this is another case of burying bad news under Heathrow's fog and the charging of the Suffolk Stripper.
  15. I think you could have a good point there W
    You can almost hear the spin doctors rubbing there hands together thinking what other bad news/Labour U turns they can release and hope no one will notice.