The delayed national security capability review was raised again in the House of Commons this week, with Members of Parliament on all sides concerned about the uncertainty the delay is causing and the potential for further cuts to the already stretched armed forces.
The questions were raised after another former defence chief spoke out over the Government’s plans.
General Lord Dannatt’s comments made national headlines as he reacted to reports that elite units of paratroopers and Royal Marines could be combined to save money as part of major cuts to Britain’s military. The proposals – which included a suggestion that would see a cut in the armed forces’ strength by more than 14,000 – were published in The Times.
In a letter to the paper, the Lord General Dannatt said: ‘The reported cuts to our defence capability represent an appalling reduction in our national ability to defend our sovereignty, protect our citizens at home and abroad and uphold our values. The Ministry of Defence may dismiss The Times reports as merely options under consideration, but options can quickly become decisions – in this case disastrous ones. Mr Hammond, as a previous defence secretary, oversaw a catastrophic reduction in defence capability during his tenure at the MoD – he must not be allowed to do it a second time. History would not judge him kindly.’
The capabilities review is meant to be examining the policy and plans which support implementation of the national security strategy, to ensure the UK’s investment in national security capabilities is as joined-up, effective and efficient as possible, and address current national security challenges.
Stephen Morgan MP said:
“Reporting over the weekend revealed a number of options put to the Defence Secretary to make cuts to get the MoD budget. Some of the proposals included a significant reduction to the Army, merging the Paras with the Marines and reducing our amphibious capability.
Whilst I understand the need to modernise our Armed Forces and update structures to reflect changing circumstances and threats, the driving factor for changes should not be cost alone and must start from a strategic position of what we want our Armed Forces to do”.
Reports also suggest that the review may be delayed in favour of a fuller review in 2019 or that the “security” elements of the review will be separated from the “defence” elements.
“The MoD and our Armed Forces cannot be left in limbo because the Government can’t get their act together. There needs to be a clear strategy for the security of our nation and it would be reductive to separate the security and defence aspects which support and reinforce each other”.
Nia Griffith MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, responding to the Urgent Question on the National Security Capability Review in the House of Commons on Monday, said:
“It is completely unacceptable that the Defence Secretary cannot answer the most basic questions about the Government’s defence review, which many fear is just a thinly veiled attempt to force more cuts on Britain’s Armed Forces.
Under this Government, we have seen a dramatic fall in the size of the Army and there is a gaping black hole of £20bn in the defence equipment plan.
The simple fact is that you cannot do security on the cheap and the British public expects the Government to ensure that defence and the Armed Forces get the funding that they deserve.”