Parliament's Defence Select Committee has now warned that the imposition of defence cuts while British forces are still engaged in operations in Afghanistan could mean the remaining servicemen and women having to deploy for an extra three months. The Daily Mail reports that:
Soldiers face being forced to do extended tours of duty because of savage cuts to troop numbers, MPs have warned.
A damning defence report concluded that a massive cull of 22,000 military personnel will lead to their comrades spending longer risking their lives on the front line.
The findings raise the prospect of servicemen and women deploying to trouble spots such as Afghanistan for an extra three months. But any move to extend operational tours would be greeted with anger by service families, who face being separated from loved ones for longer.
The Ministry of Defence has drawn up controversial plans to slash the size of the Armed Forces by 22,000 personnel by 2015 in a desperate attempt to close a £38billion black hole in its budget. At least 11,000 servicemen and women will be made redundant.
But the Commons’ influential Defence Select Committee warned: ‘If the number of service personnel is to be reduced, without a commensurate reduction in commitments, there must be a risk that the length of operational tours will be increased or that harmony guidelines, which set out what proportion of time personnel may spend away from home, will be breached.’
All soldiers apart from a handful of senior officers currently serve six months on operations followed by two years back at their home base or training. But the committee’s warning renews speculation Britain could introduce nine-month tours or even fall into line with the U.S., whose troops serve 15 months on the front line in Afghanistan...
- Full story, by Ian Drury, Daily Mail - Soldiers face longer tours in Afghanistan because of savage cuts to troop numbers
We believe that the Mail's story is based on this from the House of Commons' Defence Select Committee's recent report on the Ministry of Defence Main Estimates:
If the number of Service personnel is to be reduced, without a commensurate reduction in commitments, there must be a risk that the length of operational tours will be increased or that the 'harmony guidelines' which govern each branch of the Armed Services and set out what proportion of time personnel may spend away from home, will be breached. The Department told us that the scale and timing of the reduction in personnel numbers has been designed to ensure that there would be no effect on tour lengths or harmony for personnel deployed in relation either to Afghanistan or to Libya. We welcome this limited assurance but are aware of the possibility that reductions may have an impact on other personnel. We will continue to monitor this matter.