DEFENCE CHIEF CONDEMNS GOVERNMENT MILITARY CUTS – It could be argued that Britain hasn’t been seen as a military power since 1945 and with the continuous spending cuts and redundancies, General Sir Nick Houghton feels that Britain now has a ‘hollow force’.
Sir Nick’s comments came during his annual speech to the Royal United Services Institute military think tank, in which he declared that Britain was in danger of spending far too much money on ‘exquisite’ state-of-the-art equipment whilst failing to employ sufficient troops to operate it adequately.
Sir Nick accused the Government of negligence in its defence cuts which risks leaving the military severely under-manned; a situation that would inevitably leave Britain at a strategic disadvantage in any conflict.
Sir Nick also warned of a ‘creeping aversion to risk’ and condemned the deployment of Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to what was little more than a vastly flawed military campaign that cost the taxpayer vast sums of money and more importantly the loss of many lives of civilians and British troops.
“Whilst exquisite technology has been protected as the key to operational superiority, manpower has been seen as more of an overhead. Activity levels and training has been squeezed.
The one bit of defence’s future funding that has political commitment to real growth is the equipment programme but the dawning reality is that even if we maintain the non-equipment budget in real terms, rising manpower costs raise the prospect of further manpower and activity cuts in the future.
Unattended, our current course leads to a strategically incoherent force structure – exquisite equipment, but insufficient resources to man that equipment or train. It is what the Americans call the spectre of the “hollow force”.
We are not there yet, but across defence I would identify the Royal Navy as being perilously close to its critical mass in manpower terms.
We must, as we go forward, protect what we have and ensure that there is a balanced investment in our people as well as our equipment.” General Sir Nick Houghton
However, Sir Nick went on to say that Britain must retain caution not to lose it courage in times of adversity that requires military action; even if such action involves putting lives at risk on the battlefield.
Since David Cameron came to power in 2010 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been continuously ordered to cuts cost equating to nearly £4.7 billion annually and to plug the £38 billion black hole in funding for new military equipment.
Not since the Napoleonic War some 200 years ago has Britain experienced such a dramatic fall in military personnel and with further redundancies on the way the armed services could be reduced to just 90,000 troops in the very near future.
Since David Cameron took office the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy has seen its personnel levels axed by a little over 5,000 and both are bracing themselves for even more redundancies.
Sir Nick, who recently obtained the post as Chief of the Defence Staff spoke of how the military was focused largely on ‘capital equipment programmes; these being the building of naval vessels, fighter aircraft and other such military hardware but noted the critical deficiencies in enabling capabilities, such as intelligence, surveillance, logistics and tactical transportation.
Sir Nick gave his concerns over troops that were about to be pulled out from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 as their funding will come from the Chancellor but the cost will be that of having troops on ‘stand-by’ rather that pro-active deployment.
According to Sir Nick, Britain must be braver in its ability to share military capabilities with other European nations within NATO and feels that Britain would be far more active in any UN peacekeeping operations.