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19 Oct 21. Secret plans to reduce the size of the British army have been revealed: the British army will be smaller than Germany’s. Top-level plans could see the British Army shrink to just 63,000 soldiers, making it smaller than Germany’s, sources said last night.
It comes as experts warn the state of current cuts, due to be confirmed next month, have already rendered the service incapable of defending against Russian aggression. One ex-general said they would leave Britain “sticking up its bottom and inviting anyone who wishes us harm to park their bike in it”.
Under last March’s Defence Command Paper the 80,000-strong Army will shrink 11 percent to just 72,500 troops by 2025 with tanks, and artillery scrapped and land sold as it attempts to meet the challenges of future warfare.
While the Royal Navy, which recently provided the new Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, is firmly at the centre of the government’s largely maritime Global Britain ambitions, the Army ‑ once so dominant in Afghanistan and Iraq ‑ has now firmly become “the runt of the litter”, said Gen Sir Richard Barrons.
In terms of equipment, the writing is already on the wall.
The scrapping of 227 Challenger 2 tanks will leave just 148 more capable Challenger 3 tanks; hundreds of AS-90 artillery guns will go with no replacement; 600 Warriors ‑ essential for allowing infantry to operate with tanks, are due to go by 2025; 200 Scimitars, still being used, will go.
A contract for 400 US-made Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JVLT) has been cancelled and Ajax ‑ a deep reconnaissance and strike vehicle heralded as the cornerstone of the British Army’s new posture ‑ is mired in technological problems and may be also be scrapped.
Plans to reduce the army’s size to around 65,000 had already been floated before the publication of the Defence Command Paper, but were rejected because of a £16.5bn cash boost.
However that money, spread over the three years, is said to be the amount needed to fill the Ministry of Defence’s “funding back hole”.
The new proposals have already been briefed to commanders and will be discussed by senior brass at a meeting held by Chief of the General Staff Gen Sir Mark Carleton-Smith next month, following what is anticipated to be a “harsh hand” by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the budget on October 27.
The plans ‑ which were not denied by the Ministry of Defence ‑ caused one. “Brinkwire Summary News”. (Source: https://en.brinkwire.com/)
27 Oct 21. Cuts to MoD spending ‘could hit soldiers and their families hardest.’ Military personnel could bear the brunt of reduction in day-to-day defence spending, government sources warn. The Ministry of Defence was the only department to face a cut in its day-to-day spending over the next four years in the Budget, raising fears it will be soldiers and their families who suffer most.The Chancellor’s autumn Budget set out that the MoD would experience a decrease of 1.4 per cent in average annual real-term growth from 2021 to 2025 in day-to-day departmental spending. Last year, Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, secured a £16bn spending increase for the department. However, government sources warned that the cuts announced in the Budget would mean that while the department had cash to spend on big ticket items such as frigates, military personnel would bear the brunt in terms of salaries and pensions. It also comes at a time when the Government will cut the size of the Army by 10,000 troops, taking it to the smallest size in 300 years. Other defence sources were quick to point out that the 2019 Conservative manifesto pledged to increase the defence budget by at least 0.5 per cent above inflation every year.
John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, said: “Ministers talk about the rise in capital funding, but not the real cut in revenue funding over the next four years.
“This is the Achilles’ heel of defence plans. No other department has a cut in day-to-day spending between now and 2024-25. This means less money for Forces recruitment, training, pay and family support. The Defence Secretary never should have agreed it.”
Treasury sources suggested that the cut was in fact a real-time rise of 1.5 per cent “when you take into account their capital settlement”.
‘Striking’ cuts criticised
Prof Malcolm Chalmers, the deputy director-general of the Royal United Services Institute, called the cuts “striking”.
“Last year, the MoD got the advantages of certainty in relation to its capital budget, which was then in deep crisis,” he said.
“But this year, it has become clear that the MoD budget as a whole is growing more slowly than any other major department over the five years to 2024-25, apart from FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office], which is being hit harder.”
The Budget document also showed other departments had suffered in annual real-term growth from 2019 to 2025, with the Foreign Office facing cuts of eight per cent, although Treasury sources said the provision to move 2.7 per cent of Official Development Assistance takes the figure into the positive.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is also set to have cuts of 1.5 per cent over the period, however this was explained as a consequence of a switch in the focus of youth provisions from resource spending to capital spending. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
26 Oct 21. Allies sign letter of intent on NATO Innovation Fund. Seventeen allies signed a letter of intent (LOI) to develop the EUR1bn (nearly USD1.2bn) NATO Innovation Fund on the second day of a 21–22 October defence ministerial meeting in Brussels. The LOI was signed by the defence ministers of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom. Announcing the signing of the LOI on its website on 22 October, NATO said the multinational fund would help it “retain its technological edge by enabling investment – worth EUR1bn [nearly USD1.2bn] – in dual-use technologies of potential application to defence and security. It will also facilitate closer and trusted co-operation with deep-tech innovators, which may otherwise be unable to develop successfully the innovative solutions most needed for the protection of the alliance.”
NATO expected both its innovation fund and the DIANA network to be fully in effect by the time it holds its summit in Madrid in 2022. (Source: Janes)
22 Oct 21. NATO allies to confront 21st century threats with new multidomain approach. NATO defence ministers agreed on the first day of their 21–22 October meeting in Brussels to fundamentally change how they protect their collective territory against attacks, especially from Russia and terrorist groups. Their newly approved Concept for Deterrence and Defence of the Euro-Atlantic Area lays the groundwork for new sub-regional military planning in the coming months.
Noting that the concept calls for “the right forces at the right place at the right time”, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on 21 October that it will involve “significant improvement to our air and missile defences, strengthening our conventional capabilities with fifth-generation jets [and] adapting our exercises and intelligence”, among other changes.
NATO sources said the framework concept will shift the alliance’s defensive thinking away from protection against single-source or isolated geographic threats to multiple threats and entry points, with a stress on using cross-domain responses to counter 21st century technologies such as cyber attacks, hybrid warfare, hypersonic missiles, or automated weaponry.
“Whereas NATO has traditionally looked at defence in terms of piecemeal chunks of its territory, the new approach will centre around the knock-on effects of how pressure on one region could affect other NATO regions and the need to shift integrated operational resources across the alliance,” one European national defence planner told Janes on 18 October. (Source: Janes)
26 Oct 21. AUKUS Must Deliver UK Jobs. Government must secure work for the UK under deal – using national security procurement exemptions if necessary, says GMB Union.
GMB, the defence manufacturing union, has written to the Prime Minister telling him the AUKUS agreement must secure hundreds of UK manufacturing jobs.
The trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States could maintain create and secure jobs at Rolls Royce in Derby, BAE Systems in Barrow, Babcock sites, and throughout the wider supply chain, the union says.
In the letter, GMB General Secretary Gary Smith calls on the Government to secure work for the UK under the AUKUS agreement – including through the use of defence and national security procurement exemptions.
Gary Smith, GMB General Secretary, said:
“As Australia’s requirements are assessed during the next 18 months, I call on you to secure work for the UK, including through use of the defence procurement national security exemptions if required.
“It is regrettable that the public debate on AUKUS has – in part – been based on misinformation.
“As a shipbuilding union, GMB spoken out against alarmist claims, and we are clear about the potential industrial benefits. But those benefits must now be realised.
“Over recent years, our members have suffered redundancies and yard closures and they have watched as the Government has sent orders worth hundreds of millions overseas.
“The current uncertainty over the domestic share in the construction of the £1.6bn Fleet Solid Support vessels is a further illustration of how much more the Government must do to back our industry and its supply chain.
“You have said that you want to make the UK a ‘shipbuilding superpower’ and that AUKUS could create ‘hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the United Kingdom – including in Scotland, the North of England and the Midlands.’
“Both the AUKUS agreement and our domestic shipbuilding contracts must be utilised to the full if those ambitions are to have any currency at the next election.
“I urge you to act to safeguard the future of the defence shipbuilding industry upon which our own national security depends.”
25 Oct 21. Amazon strikes deal with UK spy agencies to host top-secret material Cloud contract for GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 with US tech group aims to speed analysis but likely to ignite sovereignty fears. The UK’s three spy agencies have contracted AWS, Amazon’s cloud computing arm, to host classified material in a deal aimed at boosting the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence for espionage. The procurement of a high-security cloud system has been championed by GCHQ, the UK’s signals intelligence body, and will be used by sister services MI5 and MI6, as well as other government departments such as the Ministry of Defence during joint operations. The contract is likely to ignite concerns over sovereignty given that a vast amount of the UK’s most secret data will be hosted by a single US tech company. The agreement, estimated by industry experts to be worth £500m to £1bn over the next decade, was signed this year, according to four people familiar with the discussions. However, the details are closely guarded and were not intended to be made public.
Although AWS is a US company, all the agencies’ data will be held in Britain, according to those with knowledge of the deal. Amazon will not have any access to information held on the cloud platform, those people said. Jeremy Fleming, GCHQ director, has previously said that making use of AI will be “at the heart” of his agency’s transformation to keep the country safe as spying moves into a digital age. The new cloud service — designed to host top-secret information securely — will enable spies to share data more easily from field locations overseas and power specialist applications such as speech recognition which can “spot” and translate particular voices from hours’ worth of intercept recordings. It will also allow GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 to conduct faster searches on each other’s databases.
GCHQ told the Financial Times it would not discuss its business relationships with technology suppliers. AWS declined to comment. Recommended Cyber Security GCHQ to use new cyber force to hunt ransomware gangs Ciaran Martin, who stepped down last year as head of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, a branch of GCHQ, said the cloud deal would allow the security services “to get information from huge amounts of data in minutes, rather than in weeks and months”. However, he dismissed suggestions that the system would affect the amount of information held by intelligence agencies. “This is not about collecting or hoarding more data,” he said. “The obvious business case is to use existing large amounts of data more effectively.” Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International and an expert in technology and human rights, said there were “many things” that parliament, regulators and the public needed to know about the deal. “This is yet another worrying public-private partnership, agreed in secret,” he said. “If this contract goes through, Amazon will be positioned as the go-to cloud provider for the world’s intelligence agencies. Amazon has to answer for itself which countries’ security services it would be prepared to work for.” While the agreement is a first of its kind for the UK, Britain’s security apparatus is lagging behind its US peers in use of commercial cloud services. The CIA signed its first $600m cloud contract with AWS in 2013, on behalf of all the US intelligence agencies.
This cloud provision was upgraded last year under a new deal with a consortium comprising AWS, Microsoft, Google, Oracle and IBM. Admiral Mike Rogers, former head of the US National Security Agency, said the move to cloud storage had helped intelligence officers zero in on potential suspects. “It gives us speed, it gives us flexibility and by being able to aggregate more data, it increases the possibility that you’re going to identify that needle in the haystack,” he said. The UK’s move to contract a US company surprised some experts. “Sovereignty matters and there’s a reason why, historically, security technology has always been built and maintained in-house,” one security veteran said. GCHQ initially wanted to find a UK cloud provider but it became clear in recent years that domestic companies would be unable to offer either the scale or capabilities needed, said two people familiar with the deal. Recommended UK politics & policy Secretive MoD ‘banking’ unit helps UK wage economic warfare Martin acknowledged that contracting an overseas vendor meant that “controlling and restricting vendor access to data is extremely important”. “But as long as the company is from a reliable country, with technology you understand, there are ways of doing this which will enable the agencies to manage the risk,” he said. The French government this year backed the creation of a new “sovereign cloud” which will be used by the country’s public sector to handle sensitive data using government-approved security methods. Dubbed Bleu, it is expected to join the Gaia-X project, which aims to foster a European cloud industry capable of competing with US companies such as Google and AWS. (Source: FT.com)
23 Oct 21. UK forges closer defence and security partnership with India, October 2021. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is forging stronger UK security and defence links with India on her visit to the country, as she visits HMS Queen Elizabeth in Mumbai today.
- Foreign Secretary to build stronger security and defence links as she visits HMS Queen Elizabeth in Mumbai
- Liz Truss discussing developing security and defence tech, and strengthening defence-related trade with India during her trip
- The visit of the Carrier Strike Group underlines the UK’s increasing defence, security and maritime co-operation with India and the wider region.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is forging stronger UK security and defence links with India on her visit to the country, as she visits HMS Queen Elizabeth in Mumbai today.
The ship is the spearhead of the Carrier Strike Group (CSG), a symbol of the UK’s world-leading defence capability, whose visit to Mumbai is a clear sign of our growing defence and maritime co-operation with India. While in India the CSG is taking part in the most demanding exercise ever between undertaken between the UK and India, involving all three military services.
During her visit the Foreign Secretary will progress talks to ramp up defence and security ties and boost strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. It will take forward joint work agreed by the Prime Minister and Indian Prime Minister Modi in the landmark 2030 Roadmap on maritime security, cyber security and counter terrorism signed earlier this year.
She will also discuss developing innovative security and defence tech with the Indian government to tackle common threats and will talk through strengthening defence-related trade between the two countries.
The Foreign Secretary sees developing this security and defence relationship with India, the world’s largest democracy, as a key part of the UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt. She wants to strengthen such links with fast-growing economies and like-minded partners in the region and build “a network of liberty” around the globe. The Foreign Secretary sees India as essential in ensuring a free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said, “Closer defence and security partnerships between the UK and India underpin deeper economic ties and make both countries, as well as the wider region, safer. We need to protect our sea and trade routes and, operating from a position of strength, be hard-headed in defending our interests and challenging unfair practices.”
The arrival of the Carrier Strike Group in India this weekend represents the UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt in action. This is a true symbol of Global Britain, working closely with like-minded partners like India.
The Foreign Secretary will join the Queen Elizabeth Carrier at sea to tour the vessel and observe live exercises involving UK and US F35B fighter jets.
Chief of Defence Staff Sir Nick Carter is also visiting Mumbai to see the Carrier Strike Group in action. He joined his Indian counterpart General Bipin Rawat in Delhi to discuss regional security and laid a commemorative wreath at the National War Museum.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “A strengthened partnership with India is a key pillar of the UK’s tilt to the Indo-Pacific. Our Carrier Strike group visit represents an important step towards our goal of establishing a maritime partnership with India in support of mutual security objectives in the Indian Ocean.”
The Foreign Secretary will also visit the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai today to lay a wreath at the memorial for those killed in the 2008 terrorist attacks.
This evening, she will welcome senior business leaders and guests from the world of education, film, sport and politics onto HMS Defender, a Type 45 Destroyer, where the UK will showcase its world-leading tech and innovation in defence, healthcare, science and climate. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
22 Oct 21. NATO Leaders Stress Unity at Conclusion of Defense. Both Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed alliance unity at the end of the defense ministerial meeting in Brussels today.
The meeting — the first in-person ministerial since the COVID-19 pandemic — emphasized the alliance is adapting to new, more complex security challenges and looked at the lessons of the 20-year war in Afghanistan.
“NATO remains the central forum for consultation, decision making, and action on trans-Atlantic security and defense issues,” Austin said at a news conference after the ministerial. “Our meetings this week only reinforces that NATO’s strength doesn’t come just from its military might; it comes from its unity and its sense of common purpose.”
The secretary emphasized that the United States’ commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty establishing the alliance in 1949 — an attack on one nation is an attack on all — is “ironclad.” He echoed President Joe Biden’s words that this commitment is “a sacred obligation” to the U.S. government.
“We’re committed to working with our allies to ensure that NATO is ready to face the future,” he said. “Our countries face an increasingly complex security environment. And, so, this alliance is opening a new chapter in the transatlantic relationship.”
Deterring Russia is a focus of NATO, and the defense ministers approved a number of initiatives to improve the readiness and availability of forces and capabilities.
But the global security environment is changing, and the wind of changes blows from the east. China — while not a focus of any one part of the NATO ministerial — is a concern to the nations of the alliance.
“Regarding China, let me just say … that alliances like NATO are one of our greatest strengths,” Austin said.
The 30 nations of the alliance have concerns about China’s disturbing activities in the past, and Austin mentioned the 2019 Summit where the leaders agreed to address the risks posed by China. “And at the summit in June, we elaborated on the ways that China’s ambitions and behavior present challenges to the rules-based international order,” Austin said.
U.S. leaders see increasing interest from allies and partners — not only in the Indo-Pacific, but around the world — to work collectively to ensure the Indo-Pacific remains free and open and that the international rules-based order remains in place, Austin said.
He also noted that the North Atlantic Council issued a statement on Chinese cyber behavior. “So, there’s an increasing interest in checking that kind of behavior, but also to build resilience throughout our own infrastructures,” he said.
In a news conference yesterday, Stoltenberg also addressed the problems raised by China’s actions. “What we did today was to address and also make important decisions on how NATO should respond to a more competitive world where we see more state-to-state rivalry and where we actually see the whole global balance of power shifting because of the rise of China,” he said. “When we address this whole new security environment with new threats and new challenges, of course, part of that picture is China.”
China is modernizing its military capabilities, including advanced nuclear systems and long-range missile systems, and this concerns NATO allies as well as nations in the Indo-Pacific, Stoltenberg said.
But the alliance was established to provide collective security for the trans-Atlantic region, and the ministers discussed developing and maintaining credible deterrence and defense, Austin said. “It requires all of our fellow allies to share in that responsibility and to procure, prepare and provide capabilities and forces that are ready and have the resources that they need,” Austin said.
Austin also said the alliance members will learn from the experiences in Afghanistan and “apply some lessons to NATO’s current and future operations to ensure that we can most effectively use our collective strengths.”
Austin harkened back to the founding of the alliance, noting that the first ministerial was at the Pentagon. “At that ministerial , my predecessor, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson, said that they had gathered to strengthen the ramparts of peace,” Austin said. “That’s what NATO has always done. And that’s what it’s going to continue to do.”
Throughout history, the alliance has grown and changed and adapted to new threats and challenges. “But we will always be stronger tackling them together, and consulting together, and working together,” Austin said. “NATO remains the strongest alliance in history because it unites countries that share powerful values. And it continues to serve as a vast force multiplier for our individual capabilities and strengths. The Euro-Atlantic area is most secure when we work together through NATO.” (Source: US DoD)
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