Thursday, 14 June 2012

Phillip Hammond

Yes Phillip Hammond , not the wee fellah from Top Gear but the Mr Bean lookalike that inhabits the MoD
has decided that the army will face some serious challenges. He has also declared according to the tommorows fish wrapper that;
"Defence secretary reveals wide-ranging shakeup that will cut number of troops by 20,000 in next eight years

Whole regiments could be axed or merged, and infantry battalions and armoured units disappear as the army faces its biggest shakeup since the end of the cold war, Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, will say on Thursday.

The army will be cut from 102,000 to 82,000 by the year 2020 and will have to rely more on reserves and private contractors, he is expected to say.
But it will continue to provide the "teeth" in future military operations as Britain's European allies provide the logistics backup, Hammond will say at a London conference on land warfare run by the Royal United Services Institute thinktank.
Defence officials emphasised that more functions of the army would be "outsourced" – potentially to include more training and logistics as well as backup security work.
Restructuring the British army will "rethink the way we deliver every aspect of military effect in order to maximise capability at the front line". In future, he will say, the army must be "thinking innovatively about how combat service support is provided. Using more systematically the skills available in the reserve and from our contractors. Working closely with partners to operate logistics more rationally through [Nato] alliance structures. Looking to others to provide the tail, where Britain is concentrating on providing the teeth".

Hammond will stress the importance of the regimental tradition – "maintaining the ethos, traditions and connections that are part of what makes the British army so effective – particularly, a regimental system and regionally focused recruiting", he will say. But he is expected to emphasise the point that a regular army of 82,000 will have a very different structure to one of 102,000. "Some units inevitably will be lost or will merge," the defence secretary will warn.
Hammond will say there is "no question of abandoning the regimental system... that does not mean that we can avoid difficult decisions as the army gets smaller." History and heritage deliver "tangible military benefits in the modern British army".

The speech comes at a difficult time for the army as it tries to work out a role for land forces after most UK soldiers leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The likelihood is that future conflicts will rely more on drones, precision missiles and small groups of special forces on the ground, rather than large numbers of ground troops.

No final decision has been taken on what regiments and other army units may go, defence officials maintain.

There has been speculation that Scottish regiments, including the Black Watch, are being targeted because fewer recruits are coming from the local population.

Commonwealth recruits, now accounting for about one in 10 recruits in some regiments. Armoured and artillery units will also be hit as the number of heavy guns and battle tanks are reduced to make way for more agile and lighter brigades.

Reserves will take on a greater role. Hammond is expected to refer to plans to transform the role of reserve forces in frontline military operations. The Ministry of Defence plans to invest an additional £1.8bn in the reserves over 10 years.

"The future reserves must be structured to provide, as they do today, some niche specialists capabilities that aren't cost-effective to maintain on a full time basis – for example in areas of cyber, medical, or intelligence", Hammond is expected to tell Thursday's conference.

"The integrated army concept means that light infantry battalions will be reinforced on deployment through a permanent partnership with reserve battalions", he is due to say.

However, there are fears that plans to increase the number of reserves, and their roles, by so much are far too optimistic.

His reference to UK's allies providing the "tail", while the British supply the "teeth" reflects increasing frustration in London with the failure of many European countries to adapt or modernise their forces against the background of budget cuts and conflicts — actual and potential — very different from anything imagined during the cold war."

Also tucked away inside his speech was a reference to the cultural identity of the armed forces and a reference to units that cannot recruit an ethnic mix representative of the current UK  population will face the axe.
Whilst this may cause more than just a few harrumphs amongst the Daily Wail readership I should like to point out that all of the current British Regiments and Corps recruit widely including many foreign and commonwealth recruits however the one that has consistantly failed to change its ethnic make up has also tripled its running costs in recent years and a forecasted legacy cost to the treasury which now far outweighs its usefulness.
Not worked it out yet?
Step forward St Joanna Of Lumley, for it is she who hast cast the mold that will break upon the strapped for cash hardened floor of the treasury.
The Gurkhas who by forcing up the cost to the MoD and the DWP for themselves and their dependants have brought about an  end to the centuries old tradition of crown service.
If an army unit cannot be integrated it must face disbandment and that I am afraid means the Gurkhas fit the bill. The Gurkhas should however be given the same chance as every other F&C recruit, serve in a mixed unit or take the redundancy package. We dont have the First Fijian Regiment on our books despite what followers of navy Rugby may claim, they serve in a mixed unit. They do mix with their friends but when I served you would find single county groups as much as single company groups out socialising, the army is its own tribe and now the Gurkhas must join it or face leaving!
Lets not forget that the MoD, the organisation (if they could be called organised) charged with providing defense has failed to control its budgets and under Labour its headcount of civilian posts grew by a third.
Perhaps correspondingly these posts will be cut now? I cant see it myself. Also the armed forces whilst still involved operationally in 4 areas outside of the UK is cancelling leave and asking TA to volunteer to be mobilised to provide the security for Lord Coes sports day aka the Olympics which is without a doubt a huge pointless black hole on par with the millenium dome!
So whilst I hate to admit that we should be cutting our cloth tto suit our purse, the cuts should be fair and across the board from top to bottom.
It should start with the nations leadership showing the way.
No pay rise or expenses for MPs for the next 10 years. No free travel for MPs, after all they can be put up in the former barrack blocks they will be asking soldiers to leave soon. they will of course have to pay for it as the soldiers who serve do, after all the chose to serve!

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