NEWS IN BRIEF
22 Apr 09. Budget 2009: ‘Smoke and Mirrors’. In his Budget Statement (22 Apr 09), the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a passing reference to “the courage and professionalism” of the Armed Forces. The Chancellor is “bringing forward £50m to accelerate the modernisation programme” for the MoD’s housing. Budget 2009 (traditionally known as The Red Book) publishes the Defence Budget.
Comment: There is an element of ‘smoke and mirrors’ surrounding the Chancellor’s brief reference to the Armed Forces. The MoD has already announced a £3,100m accommodation upgrading programme and the £50m “brought forward” is miniscule. Buried in ‘The Red Book’, on page 152, the £50m is shown against Armed Forces accommodation for 2009/10 but £25m has to be repaid in 2010/11: making the total ‘extra’ only £25m!
The Chancellor has identified some £35,000m across Government in “value for money savings”. The MoD’s share of these “savings” (as outlined on page 131 of ‘The Red Book’) is £3,150m.
The Table above reflects some unexplained changes from the 2008 Budget and subsequent Defence Plan. The totals for 2008/09 and 2009/10 have been increased, by £5,000m and £4,400m, whereas the 2010/11 total has been decreased by £100m. The two increases appear to be associated with Operations overseas (or they could be accounting adjustments) but they have not been properly explained, either by HM Treasury or by the MoD. Whereas the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Chief of the General Staff welcomed the advance of funding for accommodation, neither Officer remarked on the apparent overall Defence Budget increases.
‘Budget 2009’ (‘The Red Book’) is published as HC 407, for £45:00. The National Audit Office’s ‘Audit of Assumptions’ for the Budget is published as HC 408, for £7:95. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 09/17, 27 Apr 09)
Apr 09. Iraq: OP TELIC. “The role played by UK Combat Forces is drawing to a close. These Forces will have successfully completed their tasks by the end of May 2009 and will then leave Iraq by the end of July”. (MoD Messages, April 2009.)
Comment: Despite the fact that 4,100 UK troops remain in Southern Iraq, official notification of their activities was almost non-existent during the past week. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 09/17, 27 Apr 09)
19 Apr 09. Afghanistan: OP HERRICK. 120 members of 2nd Bn The Royal Gurkha Rifles arrived back in the UK on 19 Apr 09, to be followed by the rest of the Battalion. (MoD, 20 Apr 09.) Members of the Joint Force Medical Group arrived back in the UK on 21 Apr 09. 547 medical personnel deployed to Afghanistan with 3 Commando Brigade, the majority from the Naval Service. (MoD, 23 Apr 09.) 2nd Bn The Rifles took over from 45 Commando, Royal Marines as the Battle Group (North) around Sangin on 18 Apr 09. (MoD, 23 Apr 09.) The British Army was happy to have Czech troops serving as part of Task Force Helmand, contrary to media reports. (MoD, 24 Apr 09.)
Comment: Those interested in the UK’s involvement in Afghanistan may wish to read Stephen Grey’s book, which is now being reviewed. The book is called ‘Operation Snakebite: the Explosive True Story of an Afghan Desert Siege’ and is published by Penguin for £16:99. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 09/17, 27 Apr 09)
30 Apr 09. The Conservatives are scrambling to mend relations with the defence industry, amid fears the party is pencilling in deep cuts to equipment spending should it win power. Industry executives have privately been assured that certain programmes are safe, even as David Cameron, Tory leader, promises to take a hard look at the entire defence budget. Tories plan new degrees to avert jobs pain. The move to reassure industry reflects some of the tensions among the frontbench, as cost-cutters seek savings for the “new era of thrift” promised under a Tory government. Mr Cameron on Thursday said there was a need to review defence spending “across the piece”, admitting that this c