Posts Tagged ‘defence review’

The govt must swallow its pride and adapt to the Arab spring

04/07/2011, 09:32:38 AM

by Michael Dugher

The foreign secretary, William Hague, has said that the impact of the Arab spring is potentially greater in significance than even the attacks of 9/11. After 9/11, Labour in government produced a “new chapter” to the 1998 defence review, precisely to face up to the shifting strategic landscape and emerging threats to the UK. A new chapter to the 2010 SDSR is desperately needed today.  This would bring the review up to date and make a full assessment of the impact of the Arab spring on UK security.  As Jim Murphy has said: “It’s not about looking backwards, but about turning hindsight into foresight.”

Lord Levene’s more managerial review into MoD reform was published last week. As far as it goes, it is good. Labour welcomed many of its recommendations. Indeed, Bob Ainsworth, Kevan Jones and others deserve much of the credit, as several ideas in the report stem from the defence green paper, adaptability and partnership, which the previous Labour government produced in February 2010. As the official opposition, it is as much our responsibility to support the government when its proposals are right as to oppose when they get things wrong.

Changes such as a smaller defence board inside the MoD, and greater clarification of responsibilities and the accountability for the individuals within the department, are much needed, not least to overcome the sometimes fractious command structure that has too often been based on inter-service rivalry. As Labour suggested in the 2010 green paper, the creation of a joint forces command in particular should help to change the face of our armed forces for the better and play a crucial role in helping them combat future threats to the UK. It will encourage more joint operations and enhance our ability to integrate out activities across land, sea and air, enabling joined up logistics and better communication.


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It’s not too late for Cameron to learn from his shambolic foreign policy failures

10/03/2011, 11:30:55 AM

by Matt Cavanagh

Over the last fortnight, David Cameron’s approach to foreign policy has suddenly come into sharp and unforgiving focus. Not all his problems have been of his own doing, and veterans of previous crises will have felt sympathy at times. But the public, our armed forces and diplomats, our allies, and even our enemies have been left confused by contradictory messages.

A long-planned trip to the Middle East to promote trade and defence exports was hastily re-branded as a pro-democracy tour. A sluggish and uncoordinated response over Libya was suddenly replaced by unilateral sabre-rattling about no-fly-zones and arming rebels, only to be replaced in turn by another retreat to a more conventional multilateral approach. Even the SAS’s involvement – over-briefed by government sources the weekend before – turned into another fiasco, whether through bad planning or bad luck. And in the background, the government’s handling of defence cuts and military redundancies has continued to look botched as well as badly timed.

Some of the lessons here are about basic competence, both in pulling the levers of government, and in communicating the message. Cameron had already accepted the need to overhaul his Downing Street operation; it must be worrying that much of the new team was already in place, and must therefore share responsibility for the recent shambles. Perhaps he will also heed recent advice that he apply himself a bit harder, rather than trying to get by on intelligence and instinct. But there are more substantial lessons too.

Underneath the inconsistent messages, there has been a real shift in policy – indeed, yet another U-turn. Previously, Cameron had signalled a new approach, arguing that we should “think through much more carefully whether Britain should get involved in foreign conflicts”. Sympathetic commentators were encouraged to interpret this as a rejection of Labour’s “wide-eyed interventionism” in favour of a “new Tory realism”. The foreign office was told to focus on trade rather than geopolitics, and bilateral relationships rather than multilateral organisations. (more…)

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Leaked document reveals that defence review “damaged morale”

06/12/2010, 03:46:18 PM

by James Macintyre

The full text of a controversial and secret internal memo criticising David Cameron’s defence review is published by Uncut today, after the government has refused to make the document public.

The memo, limited extracts of which have been reported, has fuelled speculation that there were major flaws in the review process. The internal document, a full copy of which has been passed to Uncut, outlines a series of severe criticisms of a consultation process which alienated military chiefs and “badly damaged the confidence and morale” of defence officials. Details of the failures have also served to underline disagreements between Liam Fox, the defence secretary, and David Cameron, the prime minister.

The shadow defence secretary, Jim Murphy, has been pushing for the document to be published in full. He has also tabled questions in Parliament asking “to whom his Department’s document entitled SDSR: Lessons Identified, 3 November 2010, was submitted”, and by whom it was commissioned?

On 25 November, Dr Fox made it clear that the government refused to publish the document, saying:

“The document was proposed and a draft prepared by the strategic defence and security review (SDSR) core co-ordination team in charge of day-to-day management of the review, to draw together working-level views from  individuals involved in the SDSR process in the ministry of defence. The draft was a working document distributed to members of the SDSR programme board for comment: The government have no intention to publish it”.

Today Uncut publishes the full document for the first time. The document laments the lack of a “hard-nosed” approach to the “financial challenges faced by the department”, leading to what Labour has claimed is a £4.3bn black hole in the defence budget.

It says: “There was some evidence that the wider department did not fully understand – or accept – the affordability challenge until late in the process…An earlier understanding may have generated more radical alternative ideas”.

Mr Murphy told Uncut:

“The government’s defence review left a £4.3bn black hole in the defence budget, a £15bn overspend, gaps in our military capability and a serious dent in our troops’ morale. The reasons why are clear. A rushed review did not consult with experts or our forces and failed to match security needs to defence strategy.

The government’s defence credibility gap gets bigger and bigger”.

The memo, entitled “SDSR [security and defence strategic review]: Lessons Identified”, was prepared by a board of military officers and senior officials around Dr Fox. It says that “on engaging international partners [a] rapid consultation exercise was carried out during the review. But the responses were received only as decisions were being taken (and collated only as they were being confirmed). It would have been preferable to undertake this exercise in advance of the review, especially with close allies”.

It acknowledged that “the secretary of state…engaged some key academics during the review and offered speeches at RUSI and Chatham House”.  But it adds that “in general, departmental engagement with external experts was much reduced for the period of the review. This reduced the extent to which our ideas were challenged. It also limited our ability to shape expert and media reactions to the outcomes and lost an opportunity to enhance our reputation as an open organisation”.

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CSR analysis: cuts and confusion are the reality behind the Tories’ tough talk on defence

02/11/2010, 03:18:56 PM

by Andy Bagnall

The strategic defence and security review was cleverly timed. By publishing it the day before the comprehensive spending review, one day of bad headlines about defence cuts was quickly eclipsed by reports of the wider savagery being unleashed against our public services.

Casual observers might remember little more than the Tory-Lib Dem government’s perverse plans to build new aircraft carriers but retire the Harrier planes that fly from them, ten years before buying replacements. More interested analysts might even have been musing on the last time a Tory government decided to dispense with carrier strike capability, in 1981. (A year later, Argentina invaded the Falklands and the policy evaporated). But then we were deluged with the news of welfare cuts, arts cuts, housing cuts, any-kind-of-cut-you-can-think-of cuts. And the plane-less carriers disappeared from the horizon. (more…)

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The Tories are handing defence to Jim Murphy, says John McTernan

18/10/2010, 04:00:08 PM

The first rule of spin club is that there’s no such thing as spin club. The
second rule of spin club is that there’s no such thing as spin. Why? Because
the members of spin club, if such a thing existed (which it doesn’t), know that spin never stays spun. It always unravels.

David Cameron and Liam Fox are going to find this out the hard way this
week. Presentationally, the run-up to the strategic defence and security review (SDSR) has been almost perfect. Liam Fox’s leaked letter set out the
prospect of cuts that would be so deep they would devastate our forces.
It also set up a villain – the treasury. With the scene set, the prime minister was able to ride to the rescue. And briefings over the weekend suggested that the defence budget had got a great deal – only an eight per cent cut. (more…)

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