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Strategic Defence Review

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Stratigic Defence Review - a very polite way of saying 'Defence Cuts that are about as subtle as ethnic cleansing and a lot less discriminate'.

The phrase/premise used at the time to explain the need for cuts was "There will never be another shooting war".

This premise stuck until the Army was sent to a shooting war five years after SDR. See Operation TELIC.

Staff Guidance on Defence Restructuring


1. This guidance is being issued to remedy a perceived difficulty experienced by Staff at all levels in understanding the rationale behind recent Defence re-structuring. In particular many Staff Officers seem not to understand how reducing the numbers of aircraft, ships, tanks, artillery and soldiers results in a more flexible, robust and effective fighting force.

2. In particular it seems that much of the confusion stems from a systemic misunderstanding of the correct use of military terminology. A list of common terms and actual meanings follows.

3. In addition there follows an explanation of the key assumptions embedded within the Defence Review. All Staff Officers are encouraged to seek clarification through their Chain of Command if they still have any questions.

Staff Terminology used in the new Defence Plan

Term MoD Meaning Secondary Meaning
Flexible Smaller Unable to operate unless under US protection
Robust Smaller Lacking reserves or regeneration capability
Networked Smaller, but still unable to talk to each other
Capable Smaller
Agile Really, really small
Deployability Method of making the Forces, primarily the Army, able to send higher percentages of their manpower to a distant location. This is achieved by reducing the overall numbers involved, i.e. “In future the Army will be able to send 50% of it’s manpower to Africa in the back of a Cessna, thus achieving greater deployability”.
Reach The distance the American’s are willing to fly us
Efficient Much, much smaller
Streamlined Just unbelievably small
Just in time For the funeral
Integrated Process by which all three services get to brief against each other in public leaks, attempting to justify and defend their own budget against cuts, thereby doing the Treasury’s work for them. Taken to extremes by the Army in which Corps and Regiments fight each other, and perfected within the Infantry.
Technically Ambitious Slang, as in “He was being a bit technically ambitious when he tried to drive that car through the wall” (cf, “To propose a Bowman”) Description of the far future
Reserves Integral part of current Operational Manning.
Rationalisation Cuts Psychological term, meaning to use complicated arguments to avoid facing unpalatable truths, i.e. , “we don’t need to pay for both expensive servicemen and equipment, because we will be networked, agile, and technically ambitious” .
Rapid Used in a comparative sense, as in “The rapid erosion of the Himalayan Mountains…”
Modernisation Cuts
Radical Deep Cuts
Transformation Really Deep Cuts
Sustainable Assuming zero casualties, no leave and no emergencies.

4. Sentences such as “these proposals capture our aim for a speedy deployable, agile, joint and integrated, technically ambitious defence capability” will make more logical sense to the experienced Staff Officer once the above definitions are applied.

Planning Principles

5. It will also help if Staff Officer’s bear in mind the following Planning Principles. Point 3 will be of particular relevance in explaining the rationale behind restructuring to Junior Staff.

  • Use of Special Forces. No one in the general Public has a clue how many there are, so they can be announced as deploying to every country in the world.
  • Aggressive use of terminology can compensate for lack of actual forces. For example in the past effective deterrence of a reasonably capable Maritime threat would require the despatch of a task force, consisting of destroyers, frigates, submarines and possibly even a carrier. In the future this task will still be achieved by a task force; but task-force will be the new description for a mine-sweeper.
  • The new Defence Plan was not resource driven. A comprehensive strategic estimate was conducted, from first principles, identifying the current and potential threats to the UK and it’s interests, allowing a reserve for the unexpected, and also allowing for recurrent non-warfighting tasks such as Fire Strike cover and Foot and Mouth disease. Against the tasks identified an ideal manpower establishment and Task Org was then identified. By an amazing coincidence it happened to fit almost exactly within current Treasury MOD expenditure plans, and even allow the MOD to carry half the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Legacy Equipments. Much of the current crisis in Defence Spending can be directly traced to the high costs of legacy equipments. These were ordered at a time of ignorance in the past when Planners naively seemed to believe that the threat they identified as imminent would remain the same for the 20-30 year service life of the equipment they were ordering. The assumption in the 1980’s and 90’s that tanks, artillery, and aircraft would be needed in the future was ridiculous, as none of these equipments have been used by the British Armed forces to any degree since the Falklands war. However, current planners possess better foresight and are able to predict future threats for at least the next 40 years. We are therefore able to be certain that Britain is unlikely to need any tanks, aircraft, submarines etc. past about 2015.
  • The ASW Capability. Britain no longer needs a significant anti-submarine capability. No other nation possesses submarines in any numbers, submarine technology is unlikely to advance at all over the next few 30 years, and should anti-submarine technology or skills be required at any point in the future they can be reconstituted overnight from the reserves. (Once the reserves have been reconstituted). In any case by 2020 the UK will be fully integrated into mainland Europe, and will therefore no longer have a coastline to defend or be reliant upon sea-supply.
  • Air Defence. No.
  • The Regimental System. In the past the Regimental System has been seen as the corner-stone of British Military success, creating a system in which the individual is made to feel part of a greater family, often stretching back hundreds of years, in which he is nurtured and developed, and to which he feels such great loyalty that he is inspired to sacrifice himself if need be for his Regimental comrades. However, the British youth of today are so naturally self-sacrificing and community spirited that additional incentives are now unnecessary, and in any case the threat to soldiers on the ground has been assumed away. There is therefore no further need for a system whose main purpose is to generate fighting spirit, and it can be safely emasculated to achieve administrative efficiency (see “Efficient” above).
  • Marriage is Important. High divorce rates within the Services will solve manpower crises, by ensuring all service personnel will be happy to conduct back-to-back tours forever, as no one will have any families or friends to miss.
  • Wars on Rotation. Savings will be ploughed into the purchase of large numbers of hats. This will be essential as in future everyone will be at least treble or quadruple hatted. Wars will be fought in rotation on a strict “first come, first served” basis.
  • New role for Service Chiefs. Future savings will be made by abolishing all training for the Chiefs of Staff. After all they haven’t proven remotely as effective at manoeuvre warfare, disruption, dislocation or divide-and-rule as the Treasury.
  • Successive efficiency measures can be made to reinforce each other. For example, each time troop numbers are cut, a unit can then be tasked to conduct the same jobs as before. Provided there are no actual massacres of Friendly Forces, the new troop numbers can be seen to have been fully as effective as the previous numbers, and so can form a baseline for achieving efficiency cuts to new troop numbers. Savings can then be invested in new equipment, in the same way that British Airways fires half its pilots every time it needs to buy a new plane. The ultimate aim is to have one man, but equipped like Dr Octopus. He will sleep with one eye open at all times to replicate full manning.
  • Key Assumptions. Current levels of operations are an aberration, will never be repeated, and should form no guide to current manning requirements, let alone future ones. Gerry Adams has embraced peace, there is no more requirement for crowd control in Northern Ireland, the FBU have forsworn strikes along with all other key public workers, Osama Bin Laden is about to hand himself in and the Easter Bunny will be providing Area Air Defence for London.

6. Further Direction. More detailed guidance can be found in JSP 4708- “Magic Mushrooms, their consumption, effects and results in the MOD” and Des Browne's Autobiography “What Colour is the Sky in My World?”