Will they or won't they????

The Scotsman 27/01/2004


Army fears Hutton 'smokescreen' will conceal cuts


MILITARY commanders fear the government might use the aftermath of the publication of the Hutton report to slip out details of an unpopular shake-up of the army which would involve cuts in troop numbers and leave Britain struggling to cope with its international commitments.

An announcement on army restructuring is due within the next month, and there are suggestions that the Ministry of Defence could take the opportunity to bury the bad news with an announcement at the end of the week.

But one very senior officer has told The Scotsman he does not believe the government would be able to cut troop numbers while maintaining its international commitments and retaining the current practice of allowing a gap of two years between deployments, which ensures troops are at their optimum operational efficiency.

"If the government chooses to have less commitments and if it is able to get away with less commitments by whatever means to do with the state of Northern Ireland, the state of Iraq and our other global commitments, then you can have a smaller army," he said.

"But the evidence suggests otherwise and certainly the evidence of the post Cold-War period is of a constantly high level of commitment and a constant willingness of government of whichever variety to commit troops to the new world order."

The publication of the defence White Paper in December failed to dampen months of speculation about possible cuts. Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, spoke of a need for significant changes and an increased reliance on hi-tech systems, but he put off a final decision on the future of the army until this year.

That left open the possibility that savings could be made by amalgamating under-recruited regiments, such as the Royal Scots, undermining attempts to attract new recruits and unsettling serving soldiers.

The government has based much of its thinking on a move away from conventional forces based around heavy armour in favour of lighter, more mobile forces which would be equipped with vehicles capable of being transported by air to the theatre of operations.

But that system - known as Future Rapid Effects System - exists in large part only on the drawing board, and the officer cautioned against a rush to cut troop numbers in favour of technological solutions.

"If you combine Northern Ireland with our commitments in the Balkans and Iraq, what you see is hugely manpower-intensive operations, an aspiration to move to highly technical solutions to all problems, what in the jargon is called network-enabled-capability is not yet deliverable, if it ever is deliverable," he said.

With the MoD haemorrhaging billions of pounds on projects which have run wildly over budget and are years behind schedule, the pressure is on to find savings in other areas.

One possibility is that the MoD could save money by cutting the rest and training period between deployments.

But the officer claimed the army would lose its edge without proper training. "I think it would be fair to say that the army, or defence, can cut its cloth by other means, by reducing training activity. I think that would be a dangerous thing to do," he said.

Army commanders are growing increasingly annoyed with the continuing speculation about the future of the regiments.

Lieutenant-Colonel James Cowan, the commanding officer of the Black Watch, said he had been assured that there was no threat to the future of his regiment, but admitted that such speculation had a potentially damaging effect on recruitment.

"It is annoying when there is speculation of this kind because I know it to be unfounded," he said.

"Of course it has an effect, because we are like the stock market. The stock market relies on confidence to keep on going upwards and we rely on people’s confidence that there is a job to come to."
Let me throw this one into the pot and stir!
Believe no promises made by this so-called Government. It may go by the name of 'New Labour' but that is purely a cosmetic device; 'Old Labour', in the form of the 'Shadowy Scot', is still there. If Teflon Tony goes, Wee Gordy'll be in like Flint. When that happens, watch out!
Traditionally the Labour Party has always been suspicious of the Army because its loyalities have always run counter to their Socialist ideals. I suspect that they, and their apologists within the MoD, are anti the Regimental system, and also old comrades associations, because of the strength that such organisations engender.
Many people have commented on these forums about the lack of after-care for servicemen, compared to that supplied by the USA for its ex-servicemen. True, this situation is not solely the responsibility of this Labour Goverment but the rot goes back as far as the Wilson era and continued with Callaghan's government. The Conservatives have to accept their share of the blame because they simply didn't do enough to redress the balance..
Any more pressure on the structure and manning of the Army and, as I commented on another thread, very soon we will experience a state of meltdown. So many can see that things are going to get worse, that they are leaving before the crunch comes. The pressure increases on those that are left, with the inevitable consequences.
Assuming that this country's Government believes itself to be competent, one can only draw the conclusion that this situation falls within their long-term plans...
Which makes me wonder, whose side are they are on?
In my opinion even if the army don't get hit hard in the next round of defence cuts another another branch of the forces will be hit. Where ever the cuts are it will reduce the operational effectiveness of the armed forces in general. Talk of using high tech equipment to replace man power is all well and good but one cannot hold ground or capture objectives without the soldier on the ground to do the job. No matter what you do in the forces you are all attempting to achive the same aim. That is to put a soldier on the ground with a rifle and bayonet to capture ground and kill the enemy. Admittedly there is much less requirement for manpower in these days of manoverist warfare than was required in the bad old days of attrition warfare BUT, you still need a number of guys on the ground and a whole heap to support them. The only ways in which I can see the errosion of our armed forces being stopped is if one of the following happen.

1) All out conventional warfare. i.e. WW3 less the nukes

2) Limited conventional warfare against an enemy of a similar strength to ourself without support from our allies i.e. Falklands War... BUT we would have to lose for the government to increase spending.

3) The military decided they can no longer support the Governmet and with the blessing of the Crown decide to take action against the civil leadership.

Any of the above actually happening would supprise me greatly but you never know..... (I like option 3 the most)
The obvious flaw in the 'replace men with technology' argument is that they want to get rid of the people now, but haven't yet got the technology, and are unlikely to have it for some years.

As others have already said, this government is simply not to be trusted.

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