Part I highlighted some of the issues in the present government’s approach to defence. Obviously their original document covered policy as a member of the EU and complied with (so they claimed) spending requirements stipulated by NATO. As in many other policies they were not prepared for life outside the EU. Here and in Part 3 I will suggest some changes to that approach necessary as an independent sovereign nation in a changing world.
The NATO requirement to spend 2% of GDP on defence might suit their requirements for an affordable and equitable sharing of commitments across a broad spectrum of countries. In reality how can effective (rather than “affordable”) defence spending possibly be governed by GDP? That policy in respect of the defence of an independent sovereign nation is nonsense. It needs to be replaced by a rigorous and realistic analysis of threats and the means to overcome them. This is clearly going to be a battle of necessity against perceived affordability.
I don’t believe that Russia is our prime enemy any longer; they would have nothing to gain and much to lose through a war with the US and its allies. Hopefully Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will agree a sensible “live and let live” policy where each side minds its own business. China remains an enemy but an insidious one; I doubt that direct aggression is on their agenda and their insidious efforts have worked well enough for them in the past.
On the other hand the expansionist policies of the EU do present a danger which might yet trigger a limited response from Russia. If that happens we need to stay out of it. The breakup of the EU is now likely and will lead to disputes between its former members. I’m sure the people do not want another war in Europe but if it happens we need to take a defensive stand without direct involvement.
Thanks to Obama and his naive deal with Iran that situation needs to be monitored carefully. There is no enemy as unpredictable and unstable as one controlled by religious zealots. Hopefully if necessary their nuclear facilities may be destroyed with heavy conventional weapons and limited nuclear fallout should it become necessary.
Our main enemy now is another controlled by similar religious zealots, the rapidly expanding Muslim communities in our own homelands. Unfortunately they are assisted by our recent and present governments who have ignored the issue to the extent of providing what is effectively tacit support.
The threat of civil disobedience has probably been heightened by the recent decision of the Supreme Court and no doubt there will be more shenanigans to stoke the flames of dissent. We must not forget the threats posed by globalisation either; no doubt its march towards ever greater control and suppression of our freedoms will continue but cannot be addressed by conventional means.
Gaps in Capability
The decision of government to scrap the last of our aircraft carriers (Illustrious, decommissioned August 2014) years before their replacements were scheduled for completion was a gross act of stupidity. Even worse was to sell it, allegedly for “recycling”, to Turkey, a potential enemy. Of course the remaining Harriers had been retired too. The destroyer fleet has been halved and the replacements have not been reliable in service.
Nine Nimrod AWACS aircraft, along with tooling, were scrapped; one was completed, two nearly so and the project had cost the taxpayer £4.1 billion. It seems that the scrapping process had already commenced by the time the government announced its decision. That decision was much criticised by the military chiefs but to no avail. It has created a serious shortfall in our surveillance capability and making that good will likely cost more than completing the original project.
The Royal Navy, despite having fewer ships to man, still have a serious shortage of sailors, insufficient to man all the vessels which should be on active duty. By July 2015 Cameron (aided by those scoundrels Fox, Hammond and Farron) had cut the army by more than 20,000 to 81,700 full time personnel. The RAF has also suffered cuts said to be 2,700 on Fox’s watch but could be more now. The RAF has even been severely limited on training flights.
Our border control has been a spectacular failure; no-one knows how many illegal immigrants have managed to penetrate it. The numbers of Muslim immigrants, who resist any form of integration, in their ghettos has increased massively through the adding of more incomers and high reproduction rates. From what I see many do not work so have time to make and execute their evil plans.
I have no doubt that manpower needs to be restored at least to previous levels and probably significantly more. The numbers can only be determined by proper analysis.
Employment, skills and training
An effective military would surely make a significant contribution to employment. They always had good apprenticeships for support personnel so could provide jobs for school leavers not seeking higher education. The skills of support staff would normally be transferable to civilian jobs, whilst retraining / rehabilitation for front line fighters would enable them to take on civilian roles when too old for their front line duties. The stories we hear all too often of ex-military guys on the streets, sometimes with mental issues or disabilities which rule against their finding employment is simply unacceptable. It needs to change.
The Defence Industry
Procurement of defence equipment always seems to have been overly expensive and equipment rarely delivered on time; sometimes (Type 45 Destroyers) the issues have been serious and expensive to put right. It seems that there are often inexcusable errors in specifications and failure to incorporate needed performance requirements in contracts, leaving the taxpayer to pick up the bill. All in all there is a serious failure (or lack of) proper project management (p* poor planning = p* poor performance). Risks should not be routinely carried by the taxpayer.
Some might say that our defence contractors have too cosy a relationship with government and that overseas competition is needed. However we need to be careful in the choice of who we become dependent upon. Those industries can create many skilled jobs which we need; better to employ our own people where practicable, even if it costs a little more.
That’s enough for Part 2; Part 3 will suggest some specifics.