Saturday, 23 September 2017
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UK politics

It should have been a good news story, for which the MoD is usually desperate.

Tucked away in the Defence Contracts Bulletin daily alert was an announcement that SGS UK Ltd at Camberley in Surrey had won an 83,000 contact from Central TLB in Glasgow for the verification of MoD sites under the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme.
Green, small contract being placed direct, good news all round.

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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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The BBC has reported that the Gray report on defence procurement report is being acted upon by Govenment despite them saying in the last few days that it is not ready yet. It seems that the Ministry of Defence is setting up a new unit to buy military equipment and implement Gray recommendations, despite Quentin Davies saying as late as yesterday that report was in draft form only yesterday. Lord Drayson will oversee the new unit.

Commissioned by then Secretary of State for Defence John Hutton last year, he had said it should be published in July. Downing Street wants it as part of wider defence review. The MoD was very keen to get it out in July because they knew it would be fairly critical, but it had good news story of this new unit under Drayson.

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The clock is ticking at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton. Maybe - or maybe not - for Gordon Brown's government. But certainly for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

As at lunch time today 5,565,257.17 was what it was indicating as the running costs of the current Trident deterrent since the start of the conference. That's the equivalent of 3,700 per minute (excluding AWE Aldermaston, once described by ex Defence Secretary Des Browne as a world class "decommissioning laboratory").

Trident overshadowed the first full day. Could the sacrifice of it (or more likely its replacement) bridge the nation's debt chasm ?

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Extract from speech by Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton 29 September 2009

"The heroism of our fighting men and women is unsurpassed and we owe them a debt we can never fully repay.

"The British armed forces truly are the finest in the world. All British forces will always have all the equipment they need and the best support we can give.

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It is clear that George Osborne (a man with no known defence experience or background) cares little for defence issues and is likely to wield his axe that way if the Conservatives win the next General Election. So all the present team are tainted they've stood up for defence spending, escort vessel numbers, armoured vehicles and so on.

They've mostly been in their jobs for some time. They've mastered their briefs, they've talked to industry. Just imagine Sir Humphrey whispering in Cameron's ear to that effect... "Really, Prime Minister, they've gone native. You really can't depend on them to deliver swingeing cuts quickly. Don't you have some other credible candidates?"

As it happens, there are. The best Secretary of State they'll never have is James Arbuthnot. He knows even more, so must be a definite no-no.

So Defence Viewpoints, after its post political conference bath to soak off the travel grime and the general odour of politics, puts forward the following for consideration (and by doing so probably dooms them).

Defence Secretary: Andrew Robathan, currently Deputy Chief Whip. Coldstream Guards and SAS, fought in Gulf War I. Previously part of the defence team.

Minister for the Armed Forces: Keith Simpson, Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister. Former special advisor to two Conservative Defence Secretaries George Younger and Tom King. Honorary Colonel in the TA. Former senior lecturer in War Studies at Sandhurst. Author, RUSI member. Previously part of the defence team.

Minister for Defence Equipment and Support: Mark Hoban, Shadow Minister for the Treasury. Osborne's man and a chartered accountant with an economics degree. Will have his hands firmly round the throat of careless spenders.

Minister for Veterans: Mike Penning, Shadow Minister for Health. Former Grenadier Guard

Minister for Security (joint with Home Office): Baroness (Pauline) Neville-Jones. Currently shadowing this position. Ex spook.

Minister for Defence Diplomacy (jointly with FCO and DfID): Lord Hamilton of Epsom. Former Coldstream Guard and Minister for the Armed Forces. Recently been working in the defence industry. Member of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development Policy committee in the House of Lords, so well attuned to the value of the proposed "comprehensive approach".

Sorry Lord Dannatt, you don't get a Ministerial limousine, but maybe there's a role for you as an adviser to the new National Security Council.

 

A senior and much respected UK Conservative figure recently set out some of the criteria which will underpin that party's defence and national security policy, including their proposed defence review (SDR). Delivered under the Chatham House rule, some of the key points are worth reporting for the light they throw on some of the detailed thinking that is being carried out by some thinkers in the Party. The proposals have not been formally included in Conservative Party policy but they should be.

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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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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.

 

Figures showing that the UK Armed Forces are currently at 99.5 per cent of their full time Trained Strength requirement have been released today by the MOD. This is up from 97.2 per cent a year ago and shows a continued upward trend in retention.

21,800 new recruits have joined the UK Regular Forces in the 12 months to 31 March 2010.

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In a speech to the Royal United Services Institute in London this morning Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox has said that the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) will make a clean break from the thinking of the past and will be 'ruthless and without sentiment'.

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As part of the previous Administration's financial settlement with the Northern Ireland Executive linked to the Devolution of Policing and Justice, it was agreed that four defence sites in Northern Ireland which are no longer required by the Ministry of Defence and which would normally be disposed of on the open market should be gifted to the Northern Ireland Executive in order to help boost development and to provide a secure financial future for Northern Ireland, both generally and specifically in relation to policing and justice. The four sites in question are:

St Patrick's Barracks (and related housing), BallymenaSt Lucia Barracks, OmaghShackleton Barracks, BallykellyLisanelly Barracks, Omagh

It is intended that legal transfer of title will complete by 31 August 2010. The disposal value of the sites is estimated at 21 million at 31 March 2010.

In addition, three further disused sites will be sold by Defence Estates in 2010-11 with the proceeds of the sale being passed to the Northern Ireland Executive. These sites are:

Forkhill, ArmaghDrumadd Barracks, ArmaghLaurel Hill House, Coleraine

The Ministry of Defence will transfer to the Northern Ireland Executive 5.5 million.

Source: Departmental minute dated 24th June 2010 concerning the gifting of defence sites to the Northern Ireland Executive.

 



Distinct interests sparked the European involvement in Libya. The United Kingdom and France have issued vociferous calls for intervention in Libya for the past month, ultimately managing to convince the rest of Europe with some notable exceptions to join in military action, the Arab League to offer its initial support, and global powers China and Russia to abstain from voting at the U.N. Security Council.

U.S. President Barack Obama said March 21 that the leadership of the U.S.-European coalition against Libya would be transitioned to the European allies "in a matter of days." While the United States would retain the lead during Operation Odyssey Dawn intended to incapacitate Tripoli's command and control, stationary air defenses and airfields Obama explained that Odyssey Dawn would create the "conditions for our European allies and Arab partners to carry out the measures authorized by the U.N. Security Council resolution." While Obama pointed out that the U.S.-European intervention in Libya is very much Europe's war, French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91) and Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi (551) arrived in waters near Libya, giving Europeans a valuable asset from which to increase European air sortie generation rates and time on station.

Before analyzing the disparate interests of European nations in Libya, one must first take stock of this coalition in terms of its stated military and political goals.

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By Dominic C. MacIver

Barely addressed by Western media, over recent months Lebanon has seen an escalating political crisis that threatens regional stability. Confrontation continues between the two major political blocs. Put simply, one is the broadly pro-Saudi faction led by Saad Hariri whilst their opponent in the fragile power-sharing agreement is the broadly pro-Iranian faction led by Hassan Nasrallah. Nonetheless Lebanese politics are fluid, complex and unpredictable as regional and international powers ally with internal factions to gain advantage.

The argument between the two camps focuses on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) which is strongly opposed by Hizbullah. Their covert armed strength is growing, and is balanced only by assorted national and regional actors uniting to act as a counterweight to them and their Iranian patron. Notably included in these united powers balancing Hizbullah have been Syria and Saudi Arabia, who have not seen eye-to-eye for a long time. Their cooperation is central to the Arab Peace Initiative for Israel-Palestine and must not be jeopardized.

The STL is an impartial UN Tribunal with Lebanese and international prosecutors cooperating to bring the assassins of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri to justice. Hizbullah protest that it is compromised, calling it an Israeli plot because it refused to investigate the possibility that Mossad organized the assassination. Meanwhile the son of the assassinated Hariri, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, withdrew his former accusation of Syrian involvement. It is now expected that Hizbullah operatives will be indicted. Hizbullah have vetoed the funding that the STL receives from the Lebanese government, splitting the Cabinet and returning Lebanon to paralysis and crisis.

If this internal argument results in communal violence, with Hizbullah taking their arms to the streets (as they did in 2008) or provoking Israel into war (as they did in 2006), it would adversely affect many issues important to Western interests in the region. Although there are vastly too many variables to solidly predict outcomes, the list of endangered elements would feasibly include the Saudi-Syrian rapprochement, the Israel-Palestine peace track, and US-led attempts at Iranian containment, not to mention the precarious existence of the pro-Western governments in Lebanon and elsewhere.

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