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UK Parliament

Secretary of State for Defence Dr Liam Fox has this morning announced the strategy for reforming the Ministry of Defence which will include the formation of the Defence Reform Unit that will lead in the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence into three 'strategic pillars'.

Speaking to an audience at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in Westminster, Dr Fox announced that he is launching a full review of how the Ministry of Defence is run and how the Armed Forces can be reformed to "produce more efficient provision of defence capability, and generation and sustainment of operations".

In his speech Dr Fox began by describing the background to the changes, highlighting the fact that the country faces a legacy of debt - the interest on which for the next year alone will exceed the budget of the Ministry of Defence.

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Gy Great North News staff reporter

It seems the MoD still wants to play its cards close to its chest over the development of RAF St Athan. Witness the following, taken from a recent FOI request for the Minutes of Board meetings on the matter,

"The last Programme Executive Board (PEB) Minutes (dated 16 June 2008) contain some sensitive Programme information which could undermine the confidentiality of the MOD's position in advance of continuing negotiations with the Metrix Consortium. Such information is of a restricted nature and underpins our negotiating position, disclosure of which could hinder the MOD's ability to achieve value for money. It is not in the public interest to have this position eroded and therefore these Minutes will not be published. The Minutes will be withheld under section 43 (Commercial Interests) of the FOI Act."

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While UK MP Kevan Jones rails about entertainment carried out by senior UK army personnel with the help of enlisted staff, in the US the scandal is money diverted from the Global War on Terrorism by the U S Air Force to leather bound home away from home "comfort capsules" to be installed in transport aircraft. Read the Washington Post story at

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/17/AR2008071703161.html?referrer=emaila

 

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"

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By a special correspondent

The military covenant was a very new phenomenon, the Defence Select Committee were told today.

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29th July – 2nd August 2007

1. We note that Taiwan consciousness and sense of identity is considered to be continuing to rise, and there is a strongly held view that this trend will not change. Substantial numbers of Taiwanese are working (de facto settled) elsewhere in South East Asia, and Taiwanese are said to be significant achievers in some Chinese cities.

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Former UK CGS General Sir Mike Jackson, tempted to play a little fantasy defence spending, came out solidly in favour of retaining the carriers, vital to preserving the UK's operational independence.

Speaking at the House of Commons as the guest of the All Party Group on Transatlantic and International Security and the Henry Jackson Society on 28th April, the General stressed that he would like to keep all the sweets in the sweetshop, but, if really pressed, saw the retention of the carriers and the renewal of the nuclear deterrent as indispensable to the defence of the realm.

If cuts are unavoidable, the first out the door may be the air power. 232 Eurofighters – which do not operate from carriers. So we purchase the Joint Strike Fighter, which does, giving us over 400 fast jets. These may represent capabilities whose worth is disproportionate to their expense; ditto our submarines.

The General says that we are making strategic airlift work, with the exception of the C-17, and questions the retention of the DC10 and Tristar, vintage 1962. They are becomingly increasingly, and increasingly expensively, unreliable.

Financially squeezed, US defence spending and procurement is trimmed to deal with today's counterinsurgency requirements at the expense of planning for future conventional conflicts.

The UK, whose long term strategic interests historically coincide with those of its North American ally, has not matched commitments with resources. In the economic crisis defence spending has been bumped to the bottom of the pile. What are the implications of short term responses to immediate crises at the expense of long range planning, and what can be done to balance often contradictory requirements in the face of an unpredictable and ominous future?

The General largely avoids overt prescription, but asserts that the 1998 Strategic Defence Review still underpins defence planning assumptions posited on a world now fundamentally altered by the events of the last decade.

A new administration could and ought to conduct a new SDR to weigh up the new realities and balance our defence spending accordingly. (Speaking today Opposition Leader David Cameron, seen briefly at a defence event yesterday, the parliamentary Welcome Home for the Royal Air Force, said we must "review all commitments across the piece" and while there were good cases for defence spending, in the age of austerity we must "live within our means for the longer term".)

Critical of the current procurement processes (but enthusiastic about Urgent Operational Requirements), the General observes that multinational projects tend to cost twice as long and cost twice as much. If we do not buy British, our industrial and skills base will not be maintained.

This might cost around 50% more than buying abroad; but the excess should not be paid through the defence budget, but through Business and Enterprise.

After all, the General points out, defence of the realm is the first and fundamental duty of any government; but the propping up of British industry is also the job of government – not of defence.

 

During a recent Parliamentary trip to Afghanistan, the British Army was keen to demonstrate the process by which wounded soldiers are flown in to Kandahar on a Hercules (based at RAF Lyneham) and swiftly transferred across the runway to a C-17 fully equipped with the latest medical equipment.

Members of Parliament were all shown on to the C-17 and posed for photographs with the medical staff on board, were then ushered back to the terminal to watch the incoming Hercules.

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The rumour mill has been churning at maximum revolutions since the Cabinet and Ministerial reshuffle. Speculation wasn't abated by the unwillingness/ inability of both No. 10 and the MoD Press office to confirm the titles and responsibilities. The (anonymous to protect the guilty) No. 10 non-spokesman, who on being asked about Lord Drayson said "oh equipment and support" without further enlightenment, threw a good dollop of fuel on the fires of speculation.

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Taken from the House of Commons debate, 13th January 2010

National Security Strategy (Joint Committee)
Ordered ,

That  the Lords Message of 7 January communicating a Resolution relating to National Security Strategy (Joint Committee), be now considered; this House concurs with the Lords in the said Resolution; and the following Standing Order be made:

(1) There shall be a Select Committee, to consist of 12 Members, to join with the Committee appointed by the Lords as the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, to consider the National Security Strategy.

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Underneath is the executive summary taken from the recently published Gray Report on MoD acquisition, and part of the response of the Secretary of State for Defence.

Procurement and support of military equipment consumes around 40% of annual defence cash expenditure and is of immense importance to the nation. The dedication of a wide group of individuals in attempting to deliver a complex programme of future capabilities while supporting our Armed Forces in current combat was apparent to the Review team throughout this work. The Department's commitment to improvement in acquisition is genuine and progress in some areas has been significant.

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A fairly innocuous question you might say, however when coupled with an email we've just received stating that Bill Rammell MP, Minister for the Armed Forces, could no longer attend an event he was due to speak at owing to "an unforeseen matter arising at the MoD", it does raise an interesting question. What are the MoD planning for Tuesday? Check back then to find out!

 

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On the 23rd February Parliament set the maximum numbers of personnel to be maintained for service with the Armed Forces during the year ending 31st March 2011. The figures break down accordingly:

Service Regular Reserves Total
Royal Navy/Marines 42,550 19,205 61,755
Army 124,030 97,355 221,385
Royal Air Force 47,400 13,680 61,080



The total combined number of Armed Forces personnel expected to be in service during the financial year ending 2011 stands at 344,020.

A number of observations can be made from these figures. In terms of the regular Armed Forces, the combined total represents an extremely modest increase in personnel compared to the previous year. By 2011, it is anticipated that 213,980 regular personnel will be serving in the Armed Forces, compared with 212,430 in 2010.

By comparison, the number of reserves anticipated to be serving with the Armed Forces is much more alarming. The combined total of reserves anticipated to be in service for the year ending 2011 is 130,240. This figure represents a continuation of the decline of reserves since the beginning of the 21st Century. According to The Military Balance, the number of reserves within the Armed Forces throughout the decade was:

Year Total
2000 302,850
2001 247,100
2002 256,750
2003 272,550
2004 272,550
2005 272,550
2006 241,520
2007 199,280
2008 199,280
2009 199, 280

One of the key messages of Andrew Murrison MP's Sixty Second Soundbite is that the reserves have played a significant part in operations in the not-so-distant and will continue to do so in the future. Whilst the Ministry of Defence may dispute The Military Balance's figures, the declining number of reserves is likely to impact on the scope of all future operations, including the regular Armed Forces.

Andrew Murrison MP on the changing role for reservists and the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme.

 

cenotaphA national service of commemoration to mark the 65th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) was held at the Cenotaph on the 8th May. TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, senior government representatives and Defence Chiefs, were joined by representatives of World War II associations, veterans of the conflict, current Service personnel whose grandparents fought in WWII and members of the public.

The service was attended by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

VE Day marks the official end of hostilities in Europe for the Second World War on 8 May 1945, following the formal unconditional surrender of German Forces. It was an occasion of national celebration, yet also one of sombre reflection for those who would not return.

Wreaths were laid by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, PM Gordon Brown, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, The Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, The First Sea Lord, General Sir David Richards, Chief of the General Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, Chief of the Air Staff, and Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely, National President of The Royal British Legion.

Following the service, a reception was hosted by the Royal British Legion for the veterans at Horse Guards Parade, attended by HRH The Prince of Wales.

 

The Government believes that we need to take action to safeguard our national security at home and abroad. We also recognise that we need to do much more to ensure that our Armed Forces have the support they need, and that veterans and their families are treated with the dignity that they deserve.

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Under new procedures being introduced in the UK Parliament, a Chairman will be elected for the House of Commons Defence Committee on Wednesday 9th June (and for other Departmental Committees too). Nominations will only be accepted for Conservative candidates for HCDC but the whole House will vote. The incumbent is Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP. Westminster rumours indicate there may be a challenger or two.

 
 

Latest from the Ministry of Defence

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