In the previous paper this blog set out some tentative ideas, in the hope of attracting comment more than anything else, and fortunately plenty of comment was received, all of it useful. DominicJ, Jed, Jackstaff and Steve Coltman all have the gratitude of this blogger, much was learned, many ideas rethought, and now its time to have another stab at the matter.
So what is the aim of the exercise, what capability is desired, and how should it be sustained?
Given William Hague’s recent foreign policy speech it would appear that he intends for Britain to keep a premier role in international affairs, we currently have around 35,000 members of the Armed Forces deployed, and it is unlikely given the above that requirement for this commitment will decrease dramatically. Of those 35,000 personnel from all three branches of the Armed Forces ten thousand are engaged in Afghanistan, and a further five thousand are garrisoned in British overseas territories, this leaves approximately 20,000 scattered over sixty plus countries on non-operational deployments such as Germany, as well as numerous training, goodwill and peacekeeping operations in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. The total size of the enlisted forces numbers not more than 175,000, and given that the Defence cuts of 15% are anticipated at a time when units costs are growing at 1.7%/annum RUSI have stated that we should expect personnel numbers to fall in the order or 30,000 after the coming Defence Review. Clearly, having 35,000 members of the Armed Forces on operations and deployed will be unsustainable.
Is it time to consider creating a peace-keeping Corps to work alongside a newly refocused war-fighting Force?
Malcolm Chalmers is the author of the latest RUSI paper on Britain’s Future Defence Review, and his interest in this paper is to seek a balanced force against the tide of coming cuts. His concern would be to de-emphasise legacy skills whilst preserving a regenerative capability on the understanding that while they are not crucial now we live in an uncertain world, and as such we must insure against the unknown.
First and foremost it is recognised that we are overspent, over-tasked, likely to witness Defence budget reductions, and must therefore reduce the scale of our capabilities.