David Cameron went into the 2010 General Election promising a larger Army for Britain. Since then, over 12,000 personnel in the Regular Army have been made redundant.
In 2010 he presided over a Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) that was not strategic at all. Instead of focusing on ensuring we had a strong, high-tech forces equipped to address the threats of the 21st century, it began by asking what could be cut. The failure of that SDSR left us with significant gaps in our military capability and gaps in the Government’s figures and we saw military operations that relied on capabilities that Conservative Ministers told us they had planned to scrap.
We were promised a big increase in highly trained reserve forces. But, between 1 October 2013 and 1 October 2014, the number of trained Army Reserves increased by just 20 – a far cry from David Cameron’s pledge to double the number of Army Reserves to 30,000 by 2018.
All the while, procurement projects continue to be hampered by severe delays and their cost continues to soar, with the taxpayer seemingly picking up the bill for contractors’ failures.
With all of this and then significant reductions in personal allowances and pensions, it is little wonder that morale amongst members of the Armed Forces is declining. A quarter of serving personnel now say they have either handed in their notice or that they want to leave the forces as soon as possible.
Another financially-driven SDSR will result in an even greater strategic vacuum and widening gaps in our military capabilities, and a further erosion of Britain’s role in the world. It is not surprising that our allies are questioning our resolve as well as our capability.
It is clear that the new Conservative government should conduct a strategic review with an open and inclusive national debate on the security and defence challenges facing the country. The review must strategically-driven but financially affordable, focusing on the skills we need as well as the obstacles that impede our Armed Forces from effectively responding to the threats we now face.