21st Century Defence review – Part 3

DEFENCE DECISIONS TAKEN BY THE GOVERNMENT TO DATE

  • Reduce civil servant numbers by 25,000 by 2015, with further reductions set for 2015-2020
  • Reduce RAF manpower by 5,000
  • Reduce Navy manpower by 5,000
  • Reduce Army by 20,000 by 2020 (SDSR announced 7,000 redundancies; in July 2011 the Secretary of State announced that the size of the Regular Army would decrease to 82,000 by 2020, a further reduction of 13,000)
  • Reduce the surface fleet from 23 to 19
  • Decommission a Bay-class amphibious support ship
  • Immediate decommissioning of HMS Ark Royal and deletion of the Harriers, meaning a carrier strike capability gap until 2019
  • Immediate cancellation of Nimrod MR4
  • Scrap two squadrons of Tornado
  • Downgraded the planned order of Chinooks from 22 to 14
  • Reduce our planned number of Joint Strike Fighter aircraft
  • Withdraw the Sentinel airborne ground surveillance aircraft

The SDSR process was flawed, with insufficient focus on strategic goals and requirements. This has led to a significant gap between ends and means, capability shortfalls as well as strategic shrinkage, despite assertion to the contrary.  Defence is a ‘big ticket item’, but, as we are learning, failure to prioritise defence is costly too.

The Defence Select Committee has said that the Prime Minister is wrong to state that the UK retains a full-spectrum of military capabilities.  Furthermore, the SDSR has left a number of key capability gaps and it not clear how they will be filled or regenerated in the future. Anti-Submarine Warfare and ISTAR are the most obvious. Without these capabilities it is as yet unclear how the armed forces can carry out many of the key tasks outlined in SDSR. The result of the decisions taken is that key skills have been and will be lost and budgetary uncertainty has increased.

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One thought on “21st Century Defence review – Part 3

  1. I am a Labour Party member and have been since 1983.

    The government has also (foolishly, I think) laid up HMS Albion until 2016. At that point, they plan to re-commission her and place HMS Bulwark in reserve. Is it a valuable use of the defence budget to utilise (or not utilise!) expensive vessels in this way, so leaving gaps in our amphibious landing capability? Similarly, we should surely be looking to utilise BOTH of the QE-class carriers when completed? The Coalition’s aircraft carrier policy is, i accept, a complete joke and I know that we all know this!

    We know that the two QE-class carriers are large vessels. Does Labour think that we will still need the capability provided by HMS Ocean or a similar-size LPH/helicopter carrier, even with the two carriers? I would have thought that we will.

    More immediately, the Coalition plans to withdraw HMS Illustrious in 2014 to leave us not only with no fixed-wing capabilty, but also with just one LPH/helicopter carrier, HMS Ocean. Surely this is a gamble and false economy when the relatively small cost of maintaining both during this decade is calculated. We should retain both?

    Best wishes.

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