A brief news post to recommend the coverage given to the CDS’s Xmas speech by The Thin Pin Striped Line & UK Armed Forces Commentary defence blogs. The full text of the speech can be found on Thinkdefence here.
Some highlights follow.
Being a public-spirited sort your blogger chose, in the months leading up to the publishing of the SDSR, to take part in the public consultation process that preceded its public release. I have no idea now what I said but it no doubt involved a lot of wittering about sovereign and strategic power-projection, and how this aim was best achieved in the coming years of austerity by a greater emphasis on naval and expeditionary forces. The reply arrived last month.
What are the Armed Forces for, and how is the SDSR supposed to help them achieve this end?
This post is the latest exploration of how one might structure an army for a future guided by the RUSI doctrines; Strategic Raiding, Global Guardian and Contributory, as compared to both the RUSI balanced force from FDR7 and the Future Force 2020 from the SDSR. The analysis is based around what RUSI perceived to be a balanced force structure in the event of a 12-15% cut in Defence spending, which they didn’t advocate per-se, merely putting it out there as a useful indicator of trend reductions. The purpose of the exercise is to show the trend of reductions, using the RUSI balanced force as a baseline that allows us to juggle the numbers further in creating a more asymmetric force structure as they recommend.
So what do we end up with?
This blog has noted before that the indications are that come 2015, with the withdrawal from Afghanistan, a new SDSR will look to reduce the army from its current planned weight of 95,000 to a lower figure closer to 80,000, and while it is impossible to confirm the rumour it just keeps on popping up. This time it is an article in the telegraph discussing manpower problems within the SAS, and how this would be exacerbated by a still further reduced army.
Maybe there is an element of truth within all this rampant speculation?
The telegraph made headlines this week with an article claiming that the Army would be facing a cut of up to 20,000 troops after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving manpower cut to circa 80,000 in the period following 2015. This has come as a surprise to some quarters given the vagueness of the SDSR itself, not least because of the constant reference to the heavily quoted number of 94/95 thousand troops alongside repeated references to the ‘aspiration’ of the 2020 force structure. It should not have been a surprise.
Notwithstanding ambiguous quotes in the SDSR document there were plenty of caveats.
It should not be news to anyone that the Defence budget was a shattered ruin by the beginning of 2010, when the Gray report revealed an unfunded 10% budget deficit over the coming decade, in addition to Treasury insistence on Defence funding of the acquisition costs of the Trident replacement which represents a further 2.5% cut, and, a Treasury demand for a 7.5% reduction as part of the Defence contribution to balancing the country’s shattered public finances. And yet people are surprised at the huge number of capabilities and platforms that got axed at the SDSR……….
Why? Did we not all spend the preceding twelve months consuming a non-stop diet of horror stories?
The Think Defence site has begun a series of articles looking at new ways of structuring the forces with the aim of achieving the best bang for the buck, or Capability Plus in TD parlance. The first service to attract scrutiny is the Royal Navy. The articles are packed with informed detail, cast a harsh spotlight on many long accepted assumptions about what the Navy should do, and provide a number of excellent solutions for preserving and enhancing capability. The purpose of this article is first and foremost a recommendation that people should read them.
Additionally; both thanks and awe that TD has remained such a prolific writer throughout.
The SDSR was never going to be satisfactory, the perpetual wars during declining budgetary prominence was always going to result in a car-crash, and sure enough that crash arrived with the financial crisis in 2008. This has resulted was a lot of unsatisfactory decisions, mostly due to the (correct) commitment to the Afghan mission conflicting for the desire for a force structure for 2020 and beyond, but did we avoid making the difficult choices demanded by RUSI in the FDR paper; capability cost trends?
What that is recognisable can we pull out of the rubble?
“To understand why we have ended up with the SDSR we have, we need to see how these pressures came to be arranged just so. Doing so also explains why a fundamental strategic choice is necessary for Britain. We then to realistically see what the structural impacts of such a choice will be, and where this will leave Britain’s world role as a result. Britain’s armed forces will be transform over the course of the next five years, and that process will be governed by the SDSR, whether or not it has been the worthy exercise it could have been………………”
My thanks to the Critical Reaction team for the opportunity to write for their excellent site.
Another roller-coaster week in Strategic Defence & Security Review, with a parade of headlines in the news, that if considered chronologically, draw an interesting picture of the evolution of ideas that is occurring at break-neck pace inside the offices of government.
And it all started with the following headline: “Navy to reduce to smallest size ever to save carriers”