War too Expensive?

Bad CO

It must be true - The Telegraph said so:

Brown warns defence chiefs war on Iraq is 'too expensive'
By Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent
(Filed: 02/11/2002)

Gordon Brown has told the Ministry of Defence that Britain cannot afford to send ground troops to the Gulf to take part in a war against Iraq.

The Treasury has ordered military planners to come up with new strategies after it worked out that the contribution to a US-led war would cost £3 billion, about £.5 billion more than the British deployment in 1991.

Defence chiefs are furious over the suggestion that they might have to cut the force numbers they believe they need to fight a war in order to fit into a Treasury-imposed "straitjacket".

Half of the Treasury's £3 billion figure was for its estimate of the cost of deploying an armoured division to Kuwait to oppose Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard.

"They have told the planners at PJHQ [Permanent Joint Headquarters] to go away and come up with a plan that does not involve deploying ground forces," a senior defence source said.

"People at the very top are extremely angry about all this," another source said. "Instead of working out what you need to do the job and then costing it, everything has to be costed first and the job tailored to fit the money."

Military planners put the cost of a British contribution to an operation that lasts more than a year and involves a post-war occupation force as high as £15 billion.

"The Treasury said we can't afford it," a senior source said. "Well that will look great for Tony Blair, the only allied leader who has actually been asked to send ground forces.

"What are we supposed to tell the Americans who have planned around us sending our troops?"


Bad CO

And the editorial:

Poorly equipped for war
(Filed: 02/11/2002)

How ready are the Armed Forces for any forthcoming war with Iraq? The question has been thrown into sharp relief by reports that the Army's Apache helicopters will not be operating to the maximum of their potential until 2012, 13 years after the creation of 16 Air Assault Brigade, and that nearly half of the Royal Navy's surface fleet is out of action.

Partly, this is because of a combination of accidents and routine refits. But it is also because the Government has decided to use naval personnel to make up for a potential shortage of firemen. In the Government's own terms, this is a quite logical step, in the sense that the Royal Navy has a large pool of trained firemen. It is, however, often a bad sign when Servicemen are reassigned to other duties on the home front, instead of their primary functions, owing to lack of money. It incarnates a sense of broader decline that no amount of prime ministerial tributes to the skill of the Services can remove.

The lack of fully capable Apaches is of greater immediate importance to the war effort, since they would be of particular use in providing cover to units of 16 Air Assault Brigade coming under attack from Iraqi armour.

The implicit bargain in the modernisation of the Army following the end of the Cold War was that while the great, heavy armoured formations would gradually be wound down in the absence of a Soviet threat on the central German plain, they would be more than compensated for by enhanced hitting power of air mobile brigades which are especially suitable for "out of area" contingencies.

For all of the fashionability of helicopters, the end results have been disappointing. The Army cannot put a full Armoured Division into the region any more, as it did during the Gulf War of 1990-91; yet helicopter pilots still receive vastly less than they need in terms of flying time per month and in some cases one tenth of the amount. These are levels of training and maintenance of which the North Koreans would be proud.

Why this underfunding? Partly because the Ministry of Defence as an institution remains remarkably unwilling to challenge the Treasury. Consequently, Geoff Hoon's relationship with Gordon Brown is little different from that which obtained, say, between Malcolm Rifkind and Kenneth Clarke; and Mr Blair, like John Major before him, is insufficiently willing to intervene against a powerful Chancellor.

The political effects of over-stretch are becoming increasingly apparent, as exemplified by the recent withdrawal from Nato's ACE Mobile Force that triggered its collapse. This has occurred at the very time when the Americans are pressing the Europeans to do more collectively. British influence remains quite high during this diplomatic phase of the war on terrorism. But whether it will remain so once the military phase begins, and facts are created on the ground, is more open to question.


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