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Who is right on UK defence capability?
7 months ago

Members of 4th Battalion The Rifles

The UK plans to cut 30,000 armed forces personnel by 2020, leaving 147,000

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Prime Minister David Cameron has moved swiftly to counter the criticisms of the former US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, insisting that Britain is still "a first-class player" in defence terms with "the fourth-largest defence budget anywhere in the world".

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Mr Gates had lamented that defence budget cuts in Britain had left it without "full spectrum" or across the board military capabilities. In the future, he argued, Britain wouldn't be able to be a full partner to the US as it has been in the past.

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So who is right? Well of course they both are - they were not really talking in the same terms.

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A quick and informal telephone poll of British defence experts prompted the consensus view that Mr Gates has a clear point. The former US defence secretary cited in particular the decision in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review that left the UK without an operational aircraft carrier until the new Queen Elizabeth is ready for operations in 2020.

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You could add to the list. No dedicated maritime reconnaissance capability; an insufficient number of sophisticated Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV); the gradual withdrawal of Tornado squadrons - by 2020 the RAF will depend, in fast jet terms, upon its Typhoon force with the first of the new F-35 units only just becoming fully operational, and so on.

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Budget crisis

But as Mr Cameron notes Britain remains a major league defence player, certainly when compared to its European partners. He could have noted - perhaps he was too polite - that Mr Gates has also had to make some serious defence cuts of his own.

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Britain's defence budget was in crisis when the coalition came to power. The wider economic situation dictated retrenchment and significant savings.

Changes in numbers of British military ships, submarines and aircraft between 1990 and present

Four things matter to the US in the broad military relationship between London and Washington. Firstly Britain's nuclear deterrent; secondly the strategic partnership between the two countries' intelligence agencies; thirdly the professionalism of Britain's special forces; and finally the capabilities of Britain's conventional armed forces as a whole.

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Barring a decision to renounce nuclear weapons, which does not seem likely, the first two elements of this relationship look in relatively good shape.

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It is the second two that present potential problems. Cut-backs in troop numbers reduce the recruiting pool from which special forces can be drawn. A smaller army still means that Britain can take on important roles, but inevitably its ambitions have been scaled back.

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For example, current plans are based on the ability to deploy an enduring stabilisation mission of some 6,500 men. Before the 2010 Defence Review the ball-park figure for such a deployment was some 10,000.

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P1 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25761506

7 months ago

Reduced ambition

It is this problem of matching ambition with available resources that is key. As Brig Ben Barry - the land warfare expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies said - there is evidence of reduced ambition in many of the decisions that have been taken.

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He noted the reduction in the number of heavy armoured and mechanised brigades, the reduction in size of the Navy's Commando Brigade and the Army's 16 Air Assault Brigade, the growing emphasis in key areas like logistics upon reservists and so on.

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This all has a bearing on the speed with which forces can be deployed and indeed on the size of force that can be despatched in the first place.

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Of course numbers and bits of kit matter. But there are other crucial factors at work too.

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The Chief of the Defence Staff - Sir Nick Houghton - in his Christmas lecture last year to the Royal United Services Institute, made the point that over the last 20 years, western militaries in general had given too high a priority in preparing for conflicts against similar state-based actors.

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This, he argued, resulted in investment in "exquisite technology" but not enough concern with manpower numbers and activity levels.

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This was not, as some simplistic headlines put it at the time, the country's most senior military man just putting down a marker against future troop cuts.

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It was, with the withdrawal from Afghanistan and preparations for the next Strategic Defence Review in 2015, just beginning, a call to widen the debate.

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Strategic review

The list of factors that need to be encompassed in such a review goes way beyond the evidently important matter of available resources and the will of government to spend them on defence.

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David Cameron said Robert Gates ''had got it wrong''

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There are fundamental questions about the changing nature of armed conflict. There is still a debate as to what recent wars have actually achieved? What are the successes and what the failures?

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How much public backing is there for the expansive use of military force as a policy too? There seemed to be a collective national sigh of relief when Parliament refused to back the use of force against Syria for example.

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Are we still geared up as a nation for the risks of armed combat? Gen Houghton seemed to hint at his answer to this question when he referred to the French forces' ability to operate "with a mindset of aggressive risk management".

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Many experts have to an extent written off the last Strategic and Defence Review of 2010 as essentially an exercise in budgetary discipline - a need to force defence spending into the constraints of a grim financial environment.

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Money may not be plentiful, but the next review may perhaps be able to take a more "strategic" view.

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Mr Gates' fears hint at one possible trajectory for Britain's armed forces.

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Smaller is smaller and there is no getting away from that. But wise choices; further steps to grapple with defence inflation; and genuinely strategic decisions about the nature of future threats and the means to counter them, should make Britain a valuable partner to Washington for the foreseeable future.

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P2  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25761506

7 months ago

It doesn't appear that Robert Gates got it wrong; and what I would say to the people in the UK is the same that I say to those in the US, we can't afford, with the world situation as it is, to weaken our military strength.  It is not prudent and it will come back to haunt both countries if they allow this.

The military is one of the few agencies in either country that should be funded and there should be strong support.  That does not mean, in the case of the US, that we can't get become more aware and eliminate some of the inflated cost of goods that defence constractors seem to be charging.  With competitive awards of contracts you will see a more competitive price for these products from clothing, to food to actual equipment such as weapons, ammo, planes, vehicles, etc.  When you have decades of awarding contracts to only union-operated companies you see the gross inflation of prices.  So take away that criteria and you will see a great savings to the government while providing the best possible for our military.  

I would much prefer to spend taxpayer money on this Country's defense than to throw it away on all the unnecessary spending such as vacations by the President and First Lady, dinners at the WH for entertainers and sports personalities; that should be reserved for State dinners when hosting those of other countries that visit the US.  

We can better manage Medicaid as well; there is so much fraud that takes place.  If nothing else, people that are on Medicaid that have no business being there.

I could also give an example, one from many, that I would also like to see addressed by our military.  I have a personal acquaintance that was serving his second 4 years in the Navy.  He had just received orders for a new and special assignment.  He had injured his knee and completed surgery to repair the damage and 6-8 months of limited duty (shore duty) and rehabilitation.  Since it was job related the Navy covered all the expense and he was kept on full pay.  

Within 2 months of transfer to his new duty station, he and his wife decided to do something that the military and especially the Navy frown upon greatly.  Just short of forbidding it, the Navy stops.  This man and his wife go out for a ride on his new Harley motorcycle.  About 5 miles from their home a drunk driver (woman with children in her car) fails to yield to them (all witnessed) and the result is to save their lives he had to put the motorcycle down.  He was so badly injured that it was touch and go whether he would keep his leg; he had to have major surgeries (5 in total) and she had to have 2 on her foot and leg.  All of this was paid by the Navy medical even though it was not duty related; it was off duty time.

Now, that is not the real issue, it is what followed.  Since he was not considered "duty ready" as he had trouble climbing up and down ladders, etc on the ship (air craft carriers), he was given medical discharge.  That is not the end, the Government bought him a vehicle that was similar to those that are paralyzed even though he was not, at a cost of $65,000.  They then gave him $50,000 cash for pain and suffering and, are you ready, the same monthly benefit for the rest of his life that a man/woman that has served 20 years and retired from the military at the rank he was to have been promoted to next, not the rank he currently held.

Now, my question and that of many that have heard this story and served in the military ask is why, when this was not military related at all, and an activity that the Navy had expressly let their enlisted know that they did not approve; why then did he get all of this compensation?  Why did he get this when many returning from active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan that were wounded to the extent of losing limbs, why did he get this and they not get anywhere near this kind of compensation for our Government?

Saddest o fall is that this person is a relative; his father-in-law, my brother, served 22 years in the Navy and does not get retirement benefits anywhere near what his young man is getting, even though my brother retired a Chief Petty Officer and this young man was far shy of that rank.  

This is the question that I know my son and daughter, uncle and a few friends who have served in the military are all asking.  Is this not an abuse of military spending?  And why the inequity?  Even my brother is concerned about this.

7 months ago

this does not take into account that Cameron is also planning to up the TA British Arm- forces by another 30,000 or 40,000, however, work is still to be done on this,

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another part the is not taken into account by Mr Giles, there is, as members may not beaware 54 Countries in the Commonwealth, 15 of these Countires the Queen is Head of State, and therefore as 16 Governments including the UK,

she is also the Commander of Chief of these Arm Forces of these Countires,

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Should a major conflct start these Countries where the Queen is Head of State may at any time be called upon to fight for Queen and Country.

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other Commonwealth Couuntires, where the Queen is not Head of State, I am still awaiting infformation from my MP in Westminster.

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Cameron is looking at EU Countries and not America to size the Britsh Army, Royal Navy and the RAF.  it will be sometime before we know what is going to happen and when,

7 months ago

Please accept my apology, I referred to Robert Gates as Mr Giles, and not Robert Gates, the reason for this I was reading case law in the early hours of this morning, to help in a pending case going to court shortly, after which I posted on Political Derby, I will ensure this does not happen again as it does get confusing not only to other members but also to myself. thank you.



This post was modified from its original form on 22 Jan, 4:49
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