|Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
issues from and for policy makers and opinion leaders.
By Dr Jeffrey Bradford
Today saw the release of The Ministry of Defence (MoD) Defence Plan including the Government's expenditure plan for 2008-2012 (Cm 7385). The document reflects the outcome of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review where all Government departments make their bid for resources based on needs and performance. A senior group of Ministers arbitrate over these competing demands to determine ultimately who gets what. For the Ministry of Defence, there are a number of interesting nuances in the Defence Plan which illustrate the evolving defence priorities of the Brown adminstration:
Defence Policy (Pages 18-19)
* The Defence Plan suggests a much greater focus on Africa, no reference to America's Global War on Terror (GWOT) and in terms of current commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan "Support work to deliver a downtrend in the number of conflicts globally"
Future Capabilities (Page 23)
* FRES (Future Rapid Effects System) seems to have been renamed (Joint Medium Weight Capability) or else abandoned from the list. A long term threat to the programme?
* Carrier Strike (CVF) remains the only large new platform system on the list which is just entering the manufacturing phase.
* The successor nuclear deterrent is the only significant (in expenditure terms) programme on the list reflecting budgetary pressures.
Defence Industrial Strategy (Page 25)
* The two paragraph discussion draws a line under the valiant efforts of former Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Lord Drayson and the Ministry is now moving onto a more 'tactical' programe for dealing with its suppliers under the acronym PACE - a take on one of Cabinet Secretary's descriptors for Civil Service ethos.
Spending plans - the numbers (Page 49)
* The blanks in the planned budget for peace keeping and operations reflect a combination of information classification plus no quantum on the likely costs, however 2008-09 is likely to be 50% higher (£2.2bn versus £1.5bn in 2006-07). Extrapolating these numbers, without changes in commitments, suggests that the costs of operations by 2010-2011 would be in the order of £4.8bn which would be unsustainable.
* The budget for Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) is anticipated to rise through the period with little cuts in the other Top Level Budgets (TLBs) suggesting that either more money is available at a time fo economimc hardship, or it is a political sop, being the only spending category which can be rapidly changed to meet the prevailing political winds