“Leaving aside the admitted expense of it, I can say that the Nation cannot choose between having an Army and not…”
– or something like that, the Duke of Wellington, circa 1842.
Hard times beckon at the MoD, where there will be even less tough,tough toys for tough, tough boys.
The Strategic Defence Review, part of the regular business of Government, kicks off amidst an atmosphere of panic and demoralisation in the higher echelons of both the MoD and amongst service chiefs. After years of overstretch caused by too many operational commitments abroad, and a continuing procurement policy that fleeces the state whilst delivering few bangs per buck compared to other western countries.
And here is the problem, in an uncertain world, with new power blocks emerging, it is vital that our interests are safeguarded, and that international law is respected. We need forces that are well trained, well equipped and well led – not only for ourselves, but for the defence of Western Values in general. Those men and women need to believe that they will be looked after for putting their lives on the line. Already, front line helicopter numbers are set to be cut – at a time when such mobility is vital in Afghanistan.
In an increasingly unequal world, a GI-Bill style settlement for outgoing soldiers, airmen and sailors would be a vital step forwards. PFI has been a disgrace in MoD provision, and must be ended. We need to take a long hard look at priorities – we cannot uninvent the Nuclear bomb, but do we need Trident? Is it flexible enough? Can we defend these islands from threats? Or the Falklands? Are we kitted out for future threats most probable to occur?
NO, NOT THAT DR FOX…
Sadly Dr Fox(no, not that one), who may or may not still be at his desk today, is unlikely to look at cutting the long-term gordian knot of defence procurement. This review is most likely to leave all our conventional forces undermanned and under equipped for current operation, let alone any future entanglements. As the major Coalition partner is still profoundly Europhobic, we are unlikely to be furthering European Defence integration, whether via Nato or the EU – one policy that could very well reap definite dividends for not only the UK, but also France, Italy, Spain and Germany.
Once again, the Treasury will have its way, and we will be picking up the pieces for years to come. Not a solution that Major Attlee or Ernest Bevin would have welcomed…