The MOD spin machine has been busy

MoD Combats 'Urban Myths' About Defence And The Armed Forces

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Source: MoD News

Over the last few months a number of erroneous stories in the British media have taken on a life of their own, becoming "Urban Myths". The Ministry of Defence has today set out a list, not exhaustive, of the most prevalent of these myths, together with the actual position.

The defence budget is getting smaller
The 2005/06 Defence budget is £30.9BN, with the 06/07 budget set to be £32.1bn. The 2004 Spending Review increased the Defence budget by 1.4 per cent above inflation per year – a real increase of £3.7bn from 2004/05 to 2007/08. As a result, real terms planned defence spending in 2007/08 will be 7.5 per cent higher than in 1997/98.

Soldiers routinely buy their own kit and cannot do their jobs without it
Soldiers are free to personalise elements of their standard issue kit if they wish to meet the needs of fashion or personal taste, but all British soldiers are fully-equipped for the jobs they are asked to perform.

There are always improvements to be made to equipment, but the facts show that only a small minority of the Army are unhappy with their fighting kit. The vast majority of the Army - 94% of serving officers and 87% of serving soldiers - have confidence in the fighting kit provided. (Army Continuous Attitude Survey 2004)

About 50% of the Army do not buy any additional personal kit. 95% of the Army believe that they do not need to buy additional kit to do their job (Army Continuous Attitude Survey 2004). We disagree with the remaining 5%, but do follow up work on these surveys to find out why they think this. If this additional work uncovers commercially available kit our soldiers prefer to service issue (e.g. because it is more comfortable) then we can add it to service issue.

For example, in the last two years we have: a) introduced into operational service Individual Hydration Systems (Camelbak) and shemaghs (head-scarf); b) made standard issue GPS systems and torches, where the operational commander identifies a requirement; and c) issued improved ballistic eye protection and warm weather combat gloves d) introducing silver-lined anti-bacterial underwear. In-service kit is also continually improved; the third generation of desert boot will come into service next year.

Army Morale is low
Army morale is good.

91% of officers and 82% of soldiers rate their own morale average or high.
95% of officers and 72% of soldiers rate their working life as satisfying or more satisfying that their civilian peers.
91% of officers and 86% of soldiers are satisfied with the quality of their training.
87% of officers and 82% of soldiers are satisfied with the quantity of their training. (Army Continuous Attitude Survey 2004)

The Army is under strength
As at 01 July 2005 (the most recent available figures) the British Army is 97.5% manned against its target Full Time Trained Strength. Officer manning is at 98.2% of its target. Other ranks are at 97.3% against its target.

The Army is experiencing a recruitment crisis

Despite the current challenging recruiting environment - high employment, a prosperous and strong economy and Further Education opportunities all compete with the Army for young men and women - the Army Training and Recruiting Agency (ATRA) is currently forecasting that it will achieve 85% of its 2005/06 Field Army target. It is taking action to attract more high quality recruits and to keep retention levels steady.

Increasing numbers of soldiers are buying themselves out because of Iraq
Soldiers who joined after 1 January 1991 cannot buy their way out of Service. Once they have been in for three years they can give 12 months notice of their intention to leave at any time.

Soldiers recruited before 1991 can still buy their way out - but the numbers who still do this is very small as most are career soldiers at middle/senior NCO rank.

Over the past three years, the number of trained infantry soldiers voluntarily leaving the Army has not been high by historical standards. In recent years, outflow has remained fairly constant at about 1,350 a year. To demonstrate, over the past six years the voluntary outflow has been:

Voluntary Outflow







Hundreds of British soldiers may face criminal charges as part of a review of "unresolved deaths" during the troubles in Northern Ireland
The Police Service of Northern Ireland is reviewing all of the 2,000 "unresolved deaths" of security personnel, terrorists and civilians. Because all the deaths involving members of the security forces were investigated at the time, it is unlikely that the review will lead to new prosecutions. We cannot speculate further on details of the so-called "on the run" legislation, as it has not yet been published by the Northern Ireland Office.

Soldiers being investigated are "guilty until proven innocent"
Nothing could be further from the truth. Military law, like civilian law, has no assumption of guilt and soldiers are innocent until proven otherwise.

Army rules prevent soldiers subject to court-martial proceedings from being paid
Soldiers who are subject to court-martial proceedings continue to receive full pay. Their pay is only stopped if they are convicted and receive a custodial sentence.

Decisions to prosecute Army soldiers are politically motivated
The decision to prosecute is taken by the Army Prosecuting Authority (APA). The APA acts as prosecutor in all Army courts-martial and has a similar role to that of the Crown Prosecution Service in civilian courts. The APA is statutorily independent of the Army chain of command and of Ministers; neither of which have any influence over its case-management or decision-making process.

The Army has not given proper support to the soldiers from 3 Para
The four servicemen and three ex-servicemen were defended by a QC funded by the Army Criminal Legal Aid Authority. Each of the accused was appointed a Unit Defending Officer who acted as a link to their defence team. The decision to prosecute, and the requirement to provide appropriate legal support in such a serious case, should not be based on cost. The accused were given full welfare support throughout the period up to and including the trial. This support continues post-trial.

The threat of investigation by the RMP has caused "battle stress" in soldiers serving in Iraq
None of our military mental health specialists or our military specialists responsible for medical support to operations in Iraq recognises this claimed report. According to the most recent visit to Iraq of a senior military consultant psychiatrist (in Aug 2005) the operation has not resulted in an increase in mental health problems among our troops. The percentage of personnel who are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of operations in Iraq is between 0.1 and 0.2% of those deployed.

The MoD has accepted the existence of Gulf War Syndrome

Gulf War Syndrome is a commonly used term, but the consensus of medical opinion, which the MoD supports, is that there are too many different symptoms reported for the ill-health displayed by Gulf Veterans for the illnesses to be characterised as a discrete medical syndrome. The MoD has not changed its position.

My, my, the spin doctors in the Whitehall PR Office have been busy haven't they?

Anyone would think they were feeling the pressure somewhat

So is this all correct/fair comment or more New Labour spin at its worst?

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