A report for the UK National Defence Association by Admiral The Lord West, General Sir Michael Rose and Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon
04 Jan 13. Introduction
The most recent official review of defence and our armed forces, their capabilities and needs, was laid out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010 (SDSR10). However, this Review was neither strategic nor truly about the nation’s security. In fact SDSR10 was largely an exercise in justifying cuts to the defence budget, the Treasury’s argument being that all the major departments of government should share equally in the financial sacrifices aiming at reducing the UK’s budget deficit – irrespective of whether the department in question had already been cut year on year, as was evidently the case with defence. This fallacy of ‘equal cuts for all’ (all except, that is, the ring-fenced NHS and overseas aid) is illogical and ill-conceived. Over the past two decades, defence has been the Cinderella of the public services. Whilst the share of public expenditure devoted to health and welfare has skyrocketed, the proportion granted to defence has shrunk.
Defence has for far too long been a sacrificial lamb. The security of the United Kingdom is being severely compromised by the continued swingeing cuts to our Armed Forces. Indeed, as these three reports on the Navy, Army and Air Force show all too clearly, our armed forces have already lost many of their essential capabilities. The Royal Navy will have no aircraft carriers or Fleet Air Arm fixed wing aircraft for at least the next six (probably more) years, or long range maritime search aircraft to sweep the world’s oceans. The Royal Air Force has been cut from 30 squadrons of fast jet aircraft to a mere 11, and the Army is being reduced to just 82,000 full-time personnel – a record low – with huge reliance on part-time Territorials to plug the gaps.
Since its formation in 2007 the UK National Defence Association has led the way in endeavouring to advise the people and politicians of this country of the risks and weaknesses that have been forced upon our armed forces. These have been very clearly highlighted in the reports written by three very experienced and knowledgeable retired senior officers: for the Royal Navy, Admiral The Lord West of Spithead; for the Army, General Sir Michael Rose; and for the Royal Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon. We commend them to you all.
Cdr John Muxworthy R, Chief Executive UKNDA
THE ROYAL NAVY, TODAY AND TOMORROW
By Admiral The Lord West
The ability of our military to protect the nation from the shock of the unexpected has diminished to a perilous degree. The Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2010 (SDSR10) hammered the final nail in the coffin as, notwithstanding that in the 1990s and early part of this century defence spending was the poor relation of welfare, health, education and overseas aid, all of which increased dramatically, it was based on narrow financial grounds and not the strategic needs of the nation. Whilst the nation’s financial position was admittedly parlous, defence should have been ring-fenced by the government if they really believed, as David Cameron has stated, that defence and security are ‘the highest priority’.
I have no doubt that today the Royal Navy is too small to meet all the commitments expected of it by the government and the British people. That does not mean that the Navy cannot be proud of its amazingly dedicated and well-trained people and some impressive kit.
So what of the Royal Navy/Naval Service today and in the future? I will break it down into our ultimate safeguard, the Deterrent, and three core offensive capabilities. These allow the nation to influence events worldwide; help prevent war; and if war is unavoidable, fight and win at arm’s length from our home territory.
Since 1968 the Royal Navy has kept a ballistic-missile-firing submarine (SSBN) permanently at sea provi