DEFENCE GREEN PAPER – NO JAM TOMORROW
By Yvonne Headington
04 Feb 10. The Green Paper, Adaptability and Partnership: Issues for the Strategic Defence Review, covers well-trodden ground in terms of commitments and resources. “Looking forward, we will need to make decisions about the role that we want the United Kingdom to play in the world and about the capabilities that our Armed Forces need to support that role” said Secretary of State for Defence Bob Ainsworth, presenting the Green Paper on 3 Feb 10. “We will need to balance those considerations against financial implications in what will inevitably be a resource-constrained environment.”
While Afghanistan “is the main effort” for the immediate future, Government thinking maintains that a “stable international order” is vital for UK interests since the UK economy relies on the free passage of goods and services. Thus “our ability to project force to counter threats will remain crucial to our national security”. To this end Bob Ainsworth confirmed that the decision to replace Trident would not be revisited and that the Government remained committed to the acquisition of two new aircraft carriers. It is worth recalling that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) asserted in 2006 that: “The investment required to maintain our deterrent will not come at the expense of the conventional capabilities our Armed Forces need”.
However, there are “hard choices and important decisions” which will be addressed by the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) after the forthcoming General Election. The Green Paper sets out the MoD’s “emerging thinking” and reaches two overall conclusions.
Firstly, the Armed Forces need to be flexible “and better able to respond quickly as and when new threats emerge”. This includes a more adaptable approach to how Forces are structured, equipped, trained and generated. Studies are being undertaken, for instance, into the MoD’s current management model and whether “the number of senior civilian and military personnel is justified”. The military is considerably over-staffed at the senior level, even against current needs. As at November 2009 the Royal Navy had 120 one-star Officers and above (against a requirement for 90), the Army 250 (against 230) and the RAF 130 (against 100).
It is also proposed to enhance the “authority” of the Chief of Joint Operations (CJO). CJO is a three-star appointment answering directly to the Chief of the Defence Staff (effectively leap-frogging six single-Service four-stars). On paper, at least, the current higher-level command structure looks cumbersome. The idea of deleting one of the Services altogether has generated much media excitement but it is unlikely that such a radical step would be taken.
Procurement is the subject of a separate document, released at the same time as the Green Paper. The Defence Strategy for Acquisition Reform addresses some of the criticism contained in the October 2009 Gray Report which concluded that the MoD “has a substantially overheated equipment programme”. Following an adjustment of priorities in December 2009, in order to concentrate efforts on Afghanistan, acquisition reform is to be focused on ensuring that equipment plans are “strategically aligned, affordable and achievable”. Legislation is being introduced to guarantee that an SDR is conducted “early in every Parliament” and kept under review. The Government also intends that a statement of the “costs and affordability” of the equipment and support programme, against a 10-year planning horizon, should be presented to Parliament annually. (For those with a long memory, this sounds remarkably like a Statement on the Defence Estimates!) Oversight of the equipment programme is being strengthened by the creation of a new (another?) committee, led by the MoD’s Permanent Secretary.
Specific procurement proposals include more use of mature technologies, in order to reduce programme cost increases and delays, as well as greater use of spir