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ROLE OF UK RESERVE FORCES INCREASED TO COMBAT TERRORISM

12 Jun 02. Following the events of 11 September, the UK Secretary of State for Defence announced that the MoD would look again at its defence posture to ensure that the UK has the right concepts, the right forces and the right capabilities to meet the additional challenges it faces from international terrorism and asymmetric threats. He described this work as a New Chapter to the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) published in 1998.

In February, the MoD published a Discussion Paper on the work, and Mr Hoon invited views from the widest possible audience on the way the overall work on the New Chapter was evolving. It was indicated at this stage that the MoD were considering carefully the contribution that Reserves could make. Any changes involving the Reserves would be discussed with the Reserves themselves, in view of the additional commitment that any such changes might entail, and with their employers whose understanding and co-operation is essential to the Volunteer Reserve. That is the aim of this second Discussion Document, builds upon a significant amount of work to consider:
* How much the Armed Forces as a whole, whether Regular or Reserve, should be involved in support of the civil authorities in the response to attacks on the United Kingdom.
* Whether there are ways in which military support to the civil authorities in a crisis can be improved.
* What organisational arrangements would help deliver these improvements.
We have concluded that there is scope for a greater and, in some respects, additional role for the Volunteer Reserves in home defence and security tasks. This would, of course, depend on the willingness of Reservists to add such a rôle to their existing commitments. Initial soundings indicate that they are. But this Discussion Document is designed to explain our outline concept for their rôle and to invite comments.

Comment: The announcement yesterday that the reservists would be deployed in local area forces of around 600 strong was explained by the MoD. They said that local people would welcome local faces when disasters occurred rather than faceless experts arriving in force. The deployment and organisation of these forces was queried by a number of experts with regard to the problem of organisation of all three services under a joint command for Homeland Defence as in the USA. The answer was that the UK has a long history of terrorism with regard to the Irish problem and the Home Secretary was the natural head; the current threat posed more problems than Ireland has veer done was one retort. However, with new threats of chemical and dirty bombs, more needs to be done, as in the US, for the pre-positioning and training of NBC and nuclear threats locally with acquisition of specialist equipment such as detectors and suits speeded up.

However, it now looks likely that the Spending Review to be announced next month with the New Chapter of the SDR will see some improvement in spending which was asked for yesterday in line with the new role for the Reserves (See ‘DON’T MENTION THE WAR, BATTLESPACE Leading Article, April 02).

The other likelihood is an increase spends on C4ISTAR assets. Dr Lewis Moonie confirmed to the Houe of Commons that, “ISTAR remains a priority area for future investment.” In addition there is the likelihood, (See Parliamentary Questions below) that there will soon be a requirement issued for the replacement of the capabilities provided by the Canberra PR9, quote, “We are currently looking at ways in which the aircraft’s particular capabilities can be provided in the future. Our thinking will be informed by the Strategic Defence Review New Chapter work.”

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