Wednesday, 04 August 2021
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UK defence cuts

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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Today the UK Treasury announced that two projects were being suspended pending urgent review.

1. Successor deterrent extension to concept phase long lead items 66 million. Its future will be included in the Trident value for money review.

2. The biggie - the joint MoD/Department of Transport Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter, announced with some fanfare a few months back. Cost (lifetime cost?) 4676 million from MoD, 2338 million from Department for Transport. This single project makes up the bulk of the 8 billion suspensions. Its review is said to be a matter of urgency.

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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.


By Ben Lombardi
Defence Research and Development Canada CORA


In June 1952, amid a balance of payments crisis and a deepening Cold War, Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden presented the Churchill government with a memorandum on Britain's role in the world. Titled "British Overseas Obligations," the paper sought to "consider the tasks to which the United Kingdom is committed overseas and to examine where if anywhere our responsibilities can be reduced so as to bring them more into line with our available resources." That type of stocktaking would seem eminently reasonable for any government. In postwar Britain, however, advocating such an accounting immediately meant a much broader consideration, for it entailed an agonizing reappraisal of the country's already reduced international posture. Eden was aware of the implications of the argument he was presenting:

The essence of a sound foreign policy is to ensure that a country's strength is equal to its obligations. If this is not the case, then either the obligations must be reduced to a level at which resources are available to maintain them, or a greater share of the country's resources must be devoted to their support. It is becoming clear that rigorous maintenance of the presently-accepted policies of Her Majesty's Government at home and abroad is placing a burden on the country's economy which it is beyond the resources of the country to meet. A position has already been reached where there is no reserve and therefore no margin for unforeseen additional obligations.

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Dr Robert Crowcroft

The Strategic Defence Review process is underway, and already the signs are ominous for the UK and its role in the world. It is clear that the outcome will see the UK's military capabilities significantly, and probably permanently, diminished. It is an 'East of Suez' moment, a watershed. The Armed Forces will either have to undertake a radically different range of missions or, if the outcome of the SDR is a fudge whereby choices are avoided, the UK's military will be overexposed in future crises perhaps disastrously so. What's worse is that there appears to be little clarity of thinking in Government about the general international strategy of the UK. Before policymakers work out how many soldiers, ships, and aeroplanes we need, they need to decide what world, or regional, role London will seek.

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