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Is our Army still an Army (More cuts)


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Big Army Cuts

Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, will signal the most revolutionary change to the structure of the British army in decades with a speech to the Royal United Services Institute.

He is expected to tell delegates gathered for the annual Land Warfare Conference that Britain's reserves and allies will provide more of the "tail" in terms of logistics and other support while the regular British forces concentrate on being the "teeth".

The army, which will soon be scaled back to 82,000 from 102,000, will "rethink the way we deliver every aspect of military effect in order to maximise capability at the front-line".

There is no question, of abandoning the regimental system. But that does not mean that we can avoid difficult decisions as the Army gets smaller.

Defence secretary Philip Hammond

Mr Hammond will tell the generals and academics attending the conference that they will have to be "thinking innovatively".

That will include "using more systematically the skills available in the Reserve and from our contractors".

It will also mean "working closely with partners to operate logistics more rationally through Alliance structures" and "looking to others to provide the tail, where Britain is concentrating on providing the teeth".

The speech comes a few weeks before the publication of the Army 2020 report by General Sir Nick Carter into the shape of the army in the decades to come.

Britain's army barely qualifies for the name. At 82,000 it is a large corps, three of which would normally make up a full blown army.

Changes expected from General Carter will mean that some regiments will face amalgamation or vanish.

Philip Hammond appeared on Sky News recently to talk about spending strategy

Scottish regiments have been especially vulnerable as they are failing to meet recruitment targets in their native areas and rely heavily on soldiers from the commonwealth to bulk up their ranks.

The Guards regiments are understood to have been spared the axe as it would have fallen in the Diamond Jubilee year when they were on parade in London, and in action in Helmand.

The Royal Marines, Parachute Regiment and Brigade of Gurkhas are also likely to avoid the cuts.

But line regiments like the Mercians, Yorkshire Regiment, The Royal Irish, Welsh and others may find that they have to give up some cap badges in favour of what Mr Hammond sees as a more efficient army.

Logistics units, intelligence specialists, mechanical engineering support and other "force enablers" are likely to be concentrated in the Army Reserves, or opened up to private contractors.

The Royal Marines are likely to escape cuts

And he warned that some units "inevitably will be lost or will merge".

He will add: "There is no question, of abandoning the regimental system. But that does not mean that we can avoid difficult decisions as the Army gets smaller.

"And in making those decisions, the military voice must prevail; ensuring that the Army remains the capable and agile force envisaged."

He will announce a £1.8bn spending package for the reserves spread over the next ten years.

They will be expected to concentrate on cyber warfare, intelligence and medical support.

"The integrated Army concept means that light infantry battalions will be reinforced on deployment through a permanent partnership with reserve battalions."

His speech should be seen as part of the political road building that must be done to prepare for the inevitable backlash which will follow the Carter report's announcements of cuts to regiments.

Much of this will be generated by old guard traditionalists who cling to the tribal traditions of regiments which have carried men at war through vicious fighting over many hundreds of years.

But younger soldiers with combat experience of Iraq and Afghanistan are less sentimental.

As they face heavy cuts their priority is in maintaining units which are effective and making sure that they have the resources that they will need to operate in the future.

Some have even joined a small but growing number of analysts and military theorists who have argued that the army, navy and air force should be wrapped into one defence force, with one structure, modelled on the US Marine Corps.

So we have aircraft carriers with no planes and now this! What next? Uniforms purchased from Matalan!

Just how vunerable is this country becoming, if anything the world is more volatile than it was 20 years ago so god help us. No disrespect to the TA as I was in it for a few years but you can not rely on a part time fighting force as much as you can a full time one.

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My brother just joined the royal engineers doing the 2nd phase of his training now at gibraltar barracks

When i went to his passing out parade down bassingbourn there were hundreds of military personnel hard to believe some of them will be out of a job soon

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"Doing more with less" is a logical fallacy, but in relation to the Armed Forces it's been a phrase loved by politicians of every stripe since the end of the Cold War. It's utter horse shit, obviously.

The politicos have no idea what they are doing unfortunately and as in many other critical areas, HMG is suffering from 'deficit blindness'. This is almost guaranteed to bite us in the arse before the fabled Future Force 2020 takes shape, but by then it will be someone else's problem and their turn to promise pain today for jam tomorrow.

I don't know why those serving today even bother anymore, it's like a joke with no punch line.

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Oh no! We might get invaded by...um...hm.

Of course, because situations where we may need to project military force in the national interest are limited to defending Brighton pier, aren't they?

FFS.

You don't need chaps with guns to do the damage anymore, as the US is all too happy to demonstrate.

"Chaps with guns" certainly help, try holding ground with a cyber weapon or a UAV.

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Oh no! We might get invaded by...um...hm.

Of course, because situations where we may need to project military force in the national interest are limited to defending Brighton pier, aren't they?

Well, I dunno. Maybe they are.

What examples of "national interest" did you have in mind? Not being sarcastic, genuine question.

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Oh no! We might get invaded by...um...hm.

You don't need chaps with guns to do the damage anymore, as the US is all too happy to demonstrate.

You can't think like that in military terms. You have to be prepared because it's not possible to react to changes faster than they happen.

We don't know the future. We don't know what will happen in 10 years. The EU could fall apart and the continent could return to it's traditional state of actors fighting for dominance (many argue that Germany, for example, is basically destined to do this forever, to strive to be the continental hegemon). We will need an army then, even if it's just a defensive force. We would need boots on the ground - you can't win a war solely with UAVs.

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Oh no! We might get invaded by...um...hm.

Of course, because situations where we may need to project military force in the national interest are limited to defending Brighton pier, aren't they?

Well, I dunno. Maybe they are.

What examples of "national interest" did you have in mind? Not being sarcastic, genuine question.

Please see Chindie's succinct post above this one for the pefect answer to your question.

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It is right to be cautious, so a larger reserve army would do a job. It is right to maintain an active army, but it should be smaller and it should make use of the technological advantage it has over the 'opposition'.

It isn't right to pile in billions of pounds to fund wars that haven't acted in 'national' interest for.a long, long time.

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It is right to be cautious, so a larger reserve army would do a job. It is right to maintain an active army, but it should be smaller and it should make use of the technological advantage it has over the 'opposition'.

It isn't right to pile in billions of pounds to fund wars that haven't acted in 'national' interest for.a long, long time.

Pretty much the way I feel.
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as technology takes a bigger & bigger part in wars nowadays, you probably don't need as many actual people.

82,000 army members is still a sizable force, 410,000 military personnel in total.

We're also the 4th highest spenders on defence in the world, $62 BILLION per year.

Personally, i think defence spending should be cut to half that level (for starters).

and only get involved in wars that directly affect defence of our country.

then we could probably cut the amount of people required in the army by another half?!

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Playing devils advocate, it is arguable, in a realpolitik way, that pretty much all the wars we've waged recently were in our interest. Immoral, illegal... but have benefits to us. Iraq, if you accept it was about oil and oil alone, made sense for those involved - wage a war in the name in humanitarianism to gain access to a commodity we simply need, either by simply taking it or, to save face, in the hope of creating a 'client' nation we were able to trade with more easily.

Afghanistan allowed similar, we hoped to remove an avenue for a threat to us (albeit a threat that, on the scale of things, isn't that dangerous), and also afforded us an opportunity to try to combat the supply of drugs, as well as hopefully provide an avenue for stability to grow in that region which would, perhaps, prove to prop up the region a little. Afghanistan whoever also represents a folly, but hey - we're nothing but arrogant.

And so on. As said, a devils advocate. I don't personally believe that justifies it all but some would argue otherwise.

As for technological advantage bridging the gap left by a smaller force... it doesn't work like that, more often than not. We use technology to solve problems (bunker busting, for instance) or to improve efficiency (the PR side of 'smart bombs' is that they reduce collateral damage, something important for modern wars waged in civilian populations (unless you're the Israelis, but never mind), the reality is smart bombs theoretically let you do more damage more effectively with less effort, i.e. less ordinance). Even if you argue 'Oh, but UAVs mean you don't need a pilot! Thats less men!', you'd be wrong - all the drones flying over the Pakistan border are piloted by some chaps in Virginia (our ones are often flown by guys on the ground 'nearby'). The only difference is he's not sat in the thing. Even the logistical edge doesn't really change - the thing still needs maintenance, it needs fuel, the man still needs feeding and care.

We already make use of the technological advantage we have... but you still need a large force behind it. The US army is the most advanced on Earth - it's the only country able to put out a 5th Generation fighter plane, no-one else thus far as been able to, for example (our 'best' plane, the Eurofighter, is a 4.5 gen plane and rather flawed), and it leads the way in 90% of the worlds military technology. They also still maintain one of the largest armies on Earth, too... because you need those men. You cannot win a war from the air alone. A ship cannot hold territory alone. You need men on the ground, and the more you have the more capability and flexibility you have. By reducing numbers, we risk what we can do, ultimately. And eventually, we will regret that.

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I just wonder whether or not you are planning for the last war, as is traditional.

That is an excellent question, Mike. Is state on state conflict (i.e. proper indutrialised warfare) a realistic scenario in the future? My answer would be that yes, it is possible and maybe increasingly so.

Additionally we need the capability to conduct small scale interventions unilterally in defence of our own interests, form part of broader coalitions when required to do so by treaty obligations and participate in counter-insurgency ops of varying intensity to mitigate the threat of non state actors.

As a keen student of WW2 you will be well aware of the vulnerabilities of supply that are inherent in our island geography. As such intervention may be based on securing exisiting fuel or food supplies from a country that has been invaded by a neighbour. For example 25% of our LNG comes from Qatar and the Gulf region is perennially volatile. Equally we may need to perform a strategic raid on a nation containing terrorist training camps, a task which draws on the full spectrum of military capability. As Chindie rightly says this can't simply be done on the fly as and when required.

Yes new capabilities are becoming increasingly relevant and need serious investment, however the core of any military force remains infantry units trained primarily to close with and kill the enemy. There is simply no getting around that and these cuts show once again the government's approach to defence is simply about budgets. On strategy and/or capability they get a straight FAIL.

An army of 82,000 is dangerously small, strategically foollish and incredibly short shighted vis a vis the threats that may or may not unfold over the next decade.

Holding up the political idiocy of invading Iraq as some kind of reason to rip out our military teeth by the roots is a little naive, imo. Diplomatic power is nothing more than the shadow cast by military power, and it was ever thus.

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Good answer, awol, thanks.

My gut feeling though would be to concentrate defence spending more on the RAF - with a small but well-equipped and trained army.

Glad I don't have to decide though.

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My gut feeling though would be to concentrate defence spending more on the RAF - with a small but well-equipped and trained army.

The more radical thinkers are talking about splitting the RAF between the army and the RN!!

Glad I don't have to decide though.

We may not agree about many things but with your background knowledge I'd rather it was you than that bean counter Hammond.

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The thing that gets me with all the bean counting cost saving is that the money we do spend, we tend to spend less than smartly. We've known for a while, even before the government cuts, that military spending had to be curtailed.

But then we do things like get into a series of wars in a desert environment against a guerilla force using IEDs. Our kit wasn't particularly prepared for the roadside bomb, given how much we've relied on the 'Snatch Landrover' over the years (and with good reason, it did the job we needed it to and it was comparatively cheap), so we spent an absolute fortune on land vehicles that had improved protection against IEDs, to the point that over the next couple of years a large swathe of our infantry carrier vehicles (recon etc included) will be these exact devices, like the Mastiff, and the Foxhound.

And that sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing to do - we had something that we'd used for years, it came up against a problem that it had no answer to, so to save lives we invested in vehicles that go some way to answer the problem. Unfortunately, you can't really think like that. In 10, 20 years, when these vehicles are all still in service, we could be up against a proper armed force on frozen tundra. In which case all the money spent to solve that problem went to waste. We'd have a force of exceptionally heavy vehicles with no benefit to their designs, as we'd be unlikely to face hidden tankshells rigged to blow, or fertilizer bombs hidden in ditches.

What makes this a little worse, and it reveals a couple of things about the way the military should think and also a problem with having a smaller force, is that we made this decision on a comparatively minor problem. IEDs are dangerous, we've lost a lot of troops to them, the biggest threat to troops in fact in Afghanistan. But the losses are nothing compared to the ones you'd find in a 'proper' war, the numbers would be incomparable - we've lost 400 troops in 11 years in Afghanistan, for example. We were losing that per day in other conflicts. But because the numbers are small enough to get the publics head around, it was poisonous for morale (not helped that mines are morale sappers amongst troops anyway, thats part of their point) for a war we didn't particularly care for anyway, so they felt forced to do something about it. And they were further forced to do so because, with our force shrinking, each loss, each casualty, hurt us more than ever.

It's a decision a military wouldn't have otherwise made, especially given the cost when compared to how much money we have, imo. Militaries rarely react to to problems that are so specific. Had we discovered that... Iran lets say, had chanced on a new type of missile that completely flummoxed our defences, you can be sure we'd be justified in spending money across the board to upgrade and protect against that threat. IEDs are a different story, they're a very specific threat and not one likely to be encountered in every war.

Other examples are the obvious like the aircraft carriers - we build massive aircraft carriers, then are unable to properly use them because we run out of money to put aircraft on them (to the point we can't even decide what fittings these carriers need for said planes), and are unable to provide the 'flotilla' of support the things need, because an aircraft carrier without support craft may as well have a big target painted on it. The carrier itself isnt the bad idea there, power projection is fantastic. The problem is subsequently bottling it making the investment pointless.

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