Sunday, August 01, 2021

The cross-party House of Commons Defence Committee has issued a hard-hitting report following its inquiry into the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) and the National Security Strategy. In the report's 46 conclusions and recommendations -

  • The Committee paid tribute to the UK Armed Forces and associated civilian staff. They had continued to serve their country "with distinction and dedication, especially operationally in Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere, during an unsettling period of a major defence review and the major reform and restructuring of the Ministry of Defence."
  • If the UK's influence in the world is to be maintained, the Committee is concerned that the impact of defence cuts on the UK's defence commitments and role within NATO and other strategic alliances "does not appear to have been fully addressed. UK defence does not operate in a vacuum and decisions taken in the UK have repercussions for the spending commitments and strategic posture of allies and alliances."
  • The Committee disputed "the Prime Minister's assertion that the UK has a full spectrum defence capability". It noted that this view has been rejected by the single Service Chiefs. "Indeed the Armed Forces Minister acknowledged that the UK has not had a full spectrum capability for many years, speaking instead of delivering a wide spectrum of military capabilities in the future. We remain to be convinced that this aspiration can be achieved. We also have serious concerns about whether a full spectrum defence capability can be maintained by co-operation with our allies given the challenges of aligning political with operational needs."
  • The Committee questioned how the Libya operation fits into the Defence Planning Assumptions in the SDSR.
  • The MPs acknowledged the planned 1% real terms increase in the defence equipment and equipment support budget between 2015-16 and 2020-21, but were concerned that this increase is simply a reallocation of resources and does not represent the real terms increase in funding required to deliver Future Force 2020.
  • Regarding equipment, the Committee supported the decision to proceed with both the Queen Elizabeth class carriers and to develop the JSF carrier strike capability. Ibelieved that for an aircraft carrier to be held in a state of extended readiness it must be fitted with catapults and arrester gear. It called on the MoD to publish its work programme and final requirements for the conversion of the carriers and JSF by the end of 2012.
  • The Committee regretted the removal of the Harrier force from service, but had been convinced that it was too late to reverse that decision. The Committee also "deeply" regretted the decision to dispense with the Nimrod MRA4, and had serious concerns regarding the capability gaps this has created in the ability to undertake the military tasks envisaged in the SDSR.
  • On personnel, the Committee said "We are conscious of the uncertainty that the basing review has created for Service personnel, their families, local communities and businesses. We will monitor the outcomes of the review. We call on the Government to outline its proposals to assist the Service personnel, families and communities affected at an early stage in line with the obligations outlined in the Armed Forces Covenant."
  • Finally, the Committee repeated its "admiration" for the Armed Forces and the civilians who support them - "We must ensure that the implementation of the current SDSR and future SDSRs does not fail them."

See the Report

The report of the Defence Committee's inquiry into the Strategic Defence Review and the National Security Strategy can be accessed here:

Media coverage

Jim Murphy, the shadow defence secretary, said on Tuesday night: "As the report makes clear, and as Labour has repeatedly said, events have exposed the mismatch between policy ambition and the resources provided by ministers."

However, the defence secretary, Liam Fox, defended the government's policy, saying cuts were not just a problem for the armed forces in the UK.

He said: "As we have seen in the US, no country is immune to the global financial problems and even the world's biggest military power is now grappling with how to make defence cuts and reform for the future."

The Defence Committee's report is also attracting strong interest in overseas media.