Tuesday, 17 May 2022
Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
issues from and for policy makers and opinion leaders.

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UK Parliament

Figures showing that the UK Armed Forces are currently at 99.5 per cent of their full time Trained Strength requirement have been released today by the MOD. This is up from 97.2 per cent a year ago and shows a continued upward trend in retention.

21,800 new recruits have joined the UK Regular Forces in the 12 months to 31 March 2010.

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The Ministry of Defence has announced titles and assumed precedence:

Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP - Secretary of State for Defence
Nick Harvey MP - Minister for the Armed Forces
Gerald Howarth MP - Minister for International Security Strategy
Andrew Robathan MP - Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans
Lord Astor of Hever - Under Secretary of State for Defence (spokesman in Lords)
Peter Luff MP - Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology


The voting for the powerful position of Chairman of the Defence Committee of the House of Commons (HCDC) was :

Round 1 count :

James Arbuthnot MP 210 ; Patrick Mercer MP 176 ; Dr Julian Lewis MP 114 ; Douglas Carswell MP 76

Voting was by Alternate vote system, so Carswell dropped out and his second preference votes were redistributed

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In a speech to the Royal United Services Institute in London this morning Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox has said that the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) will make a clean break from the thinking of the past and will be 'ruthless and without sentiment'.

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The whole team of Defence Ministers will be at the Farnborough International Air Show  today. This is what they do.

Secretary of State for Defence - Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP

Strategic direction on operations; personnel; Strategic Defence and Security Review; defence planning; programme and resource allocation; policy; international relations; nuclear programme; acquisition; parliamentary business and communications

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As part of the previous Administration's financial settlement with the Northern Ireland Executive linked to the Devolution of Policing and Justice, it was agreed that four defence sites in Northern Ireland which are no longer required by the Ministry of Defence and which would normally be disposed of on the open market should be gifted to the Northern Ireland Executive in order to help boost development and to provide a secure financial future for Northern Ireland, both generally and specifically in relation to policing and justice. The four sites in question are:

St Patrick's Barracks (and related housing), BallymenaSt Lucia Barracks, OmaghShackleton Barracks, BallykellyLisanelly Barracks, Omagh

It is intended that legal transfer of title will complete by 31 August 2010. The disposal value of the sites is estimated at £21 million at 31 March 2010.

In addition, three further disused sites will be sold by Defence Estates in 2010-11 with the proceeds of the sale being passed to the Northern Ireland Executive. These sites are:

Forkhill, ArmaghDrumadd Barracks, ArmaghLaurel Hill House, Coleraine

The Ministry of Defence will transfer to the Northern Ireland Executive £5.5 million.

Source: Departmental minute dated 24th June 2010 concerning the gifting of defence sites to the Northern Ireland Executive.


Distinct interests sparked the European involvement in Libya. The United Kingdom and France have issued vociferous calls for intervention in Libya for the past month, ultimately managing to convince the rest of Europe — with some notable exceptions — to join in military action, the Arab League to offer its initial support, and global powers China and Russia to abstain from voting at the U.N. Security Council.

U.S. President Barack Obama said March 21 that the leadership of the U.S.-European coalition against Libya would be transitioned to the European allies "in a matter of days." While the United States would retain the lead during Operation Odyssey Dawn — intended to incapacitate Tripoli's command and control, stationary air defenses and airfields — Obama explained that Odyssey Dawn would create the "conditions for our European allies and Arab partners to carry out the measures authorized by the U.N. Security Council resolution." While Obama pointed out that the U.S.-European intervention in Libya is very much Europe's war, French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91) and Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi (551) arrived in waters near Libya, giving Europeans a valuable asset from which to increase European air sortie generation rates and time on station.

Before analyzing the disparate interests of European nations in Libya, one must first take stock of this coalition in terms of its stated military and political goals.

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The following is a transcript of the full speech given by the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff

Two weeks ago was a busy week for the UK government, with the publication of three key documents. On the Monday we published our new national Security Strategy. Tuesday was the document we're here to talk about today – the Strategic Defence and Security Review. And Wednesday was the Spending Review which sets budgets for all government departments. Taken together these three documents represent three of the essential elements of strategy: the policy ambition (on Monday) the military capability (on Tuesday) and the financial resources (on Wednesday). The fourth essential element is that the three are in coherent balance (but that is not the work of a single day).

Indeed, to me, the maintenance of that coherence between policy ambition, financial resource and military capability is the art of strategy. Because coherence is not the natural state of things. The fundamental elements of strategy are more like helicopter flight – inherently unstable – needing constant recalibration. So our SDSR is a start point not a finish.

Some have accused the UK government of having conducted a somewhat rushed process. I do not hold to that. The UK Ministry of Defence has been preparing the intellectual ground work for a Defence Review certainly for the past two years – Particularly with work on Global Strategic Trends and Future Character of Conflict.

We also recognised that the military instrument of national power entered a strategic review in a difficult – or more accurately vulnerable position. I say this for 3 reasons.

First, the UK fiscal position was acute. And the government's determination to close the fiscal deficit in a single parliamentary term added to the challenge of curbing government spending.

Second, an existential threat to the UK in hard defence terms seems increasingly unlikely. The SDSR, therefore, correctly conflates defence and security for the first time. And many correctly question the relevance of some of our traditional military capabilities.

But third – and I would doubt that this is a particularly British condition – the experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan have bequeathed an immediate legacy of political caution and societal nervousness over the purposes to which the military instrument of National Power has been most recently been put.

The British are in one of our typically ambiguous mindsets where our Armed Forces have never been held – at least recently – in such high regard – but the purpose to which they have been put has never been so seriously questioned.

So, the military instrument of National Power entered our Defence Review in a vulnerable position – with many in the Whitehall village viewing it as big, dangerous, expensive, and attended by unforeseen consequences.

Given that context I believe that defence has emerged from the process remarkably well. Its resource position has been defended. Its utility to the strategic context is actively being reshaped. And the political context for its utility has significantly matured.

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By Victoria Dawson

The Military Covenant, traditionally sealed by the payment of a shilling to a soldier, between the Nation, the British Army and the Soldier, has as its core principles from the 'Army Doctrine', which holds that; 'soldiers will be called upon to make personal sacrifices – including the ultimate sacrifice – in the service of the Nation.  In putting the needs of the Nation and the British Army before their own, soldiers forego some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces.  In return, soldiers must always be able to expect fair treatment, to be valued and respected as individuals.  In the same way the unique nature of military operations means that the British Army differs from any other State institution, and must be sustained and provided for by the Nation'.

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By Gisela Stuart MP


"Ma'am, the explosive event is to take place in 30 minutes." That was my wake-up call from Sub Lieutenant Robert Frost. It was 5.30 in the morning and we were on board the mine hunter HMS Grimsby in the Persian Gulf. The "explosive event" was an object representing a mine being disposed of as part of a clearing exercise.

For me it was day four of a tour organised by the Royal Navy for the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme.

This was set up to give members of the Commons and the Lords first-hand experience of the armed forces. Having decided whether to join the Army, the Navy, the Air Force or the Marines, we have to pass a fitness test, are issued with the appropriate uniform, given the honorary rank of a major or, in the case of the Navy, a lieutenant commander, before being sent off to spend 22 days with our soldiers.

The initial security briefing includes advice on what to do if taken hostage. Be careful what you say, don't panic and, when you get rescued by your own side, don't be surprised if they manhandle you. They'll handcuff everyone first and establish who is friend or foe later.

Makes sense, but it was useful to have it spelled out.

We started in Bahrain. It's a mistake to think that all the Gulf States are the same. Bahrain, unlike its neighbours, is mostly Shia, is less dependent on oil and does its best to move towards a parliamentary democracy. And it knows that, without outside support, Iran could make the kind of historic claim on Bahrain which Iraq made on Kuwait. The first briefing covers the region's strategic importance and the UK and other nations' military presence. Our role has increased significantly since 2001 and, geographically, Commodore Lowe covers an immense area spanning from the Red Sea to the west coast of India and as far north as the Arabian Gulf.

Operations in the Gulf are complex. There are more than 30 navies operating in the region, plus task forces from the EU and Nato and conversations brim with abbreviations, acronyms and curious words such as "deconflicting" - which I think means that those who are on the same side should try not to get in each other's way.

We are here to keep sea lines of communication open, to counter terroristrelated activities, such as narcotics, alcohol and people-smuggling - all of which to some degree fund terrorist activities - and we play our part in the Global Maritime Partnership On Counter Piracy. The UK is a maritime trading nation and much of our oil and gas comes from this part of the world.

If things go wrong here, it won't be long before we'd notice it on our streets and in our shops.

We are picked up by HMS Kent. Launched in 1998, she cost £140 million to build and £14-16 million a year to run. She carries an array of weapons, from Harpoon anti-ship missiles, to Stingray torpedoes and vertical launched Seawolf anti-air missiles, as well as a helicopter.

Almost 200 officers and ratings are on board and I'm sure finding bunks for five visitors wasn't easy. It is hot and I mean hot. The water temperature is around 32C, but at least air-conditioning makes things easier on board. These ships were designed for anti-submarine warfare and intended to sail in cold Atlantic waters.

There are some Royal Marines on board - a reminder that the Navy isn't just about sailors and the sea. The Navy plays its role on land, sea and air.

HMS Kent's tasks are to participate in defence diplomacy, support the joint maritime operations, and provide an airborne asset, as well as supporting wider British interests.

Some British interests in the region are more obvious than others. If the Straights of Hormuz are blocked, the entire world's trade will suffer.

Piracy is back and it's big business. Modern container ships are huge and there are only about 600 of them. Capturing one means a huge bounty for the pirates, usually big ransom payments by some company or other and increased insurance premiums for all of us.

International law is difficult to enforce. Bringing the pirates to justice is far from easy and the solution to the problem has to be found in Somalia and not the high seas.

And then there is human trafficking, counter narcotic patrols and providing disaster relief and humanitarian aid.

A small sea boat takes us from the HMS Kent to Royal Fleet Auxiliary Lyme Bay. I now understand what they mean by floating platforms. Lyme Bay, a class of ship which replaced the Sir Galahad Class, can carry military forces of up to 356 Royal Marines and all they need, as well as vehicles, battle tanks and, above all, fuel. These are massive floating petrol stations. Access to the ship is either by helicopter, the extending side ramp or via a floodable stern dock. Think of a James Bond film and you get the picture.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary [RFA] is outside the navy, but provides capabilities which can be deployed where and when they're needed.

On Lyme Bay we talk to reservists. Many of them are coming up to their limit of 18 months' service in a three year period. The armed forces rely on them more than was anticipated. A fair number are signing up full time. They've got the taste for active service and it's a secure job.

HMS Grimsby is a mine hunter which can fight back if it needs to, but its main function is defensive. It works with local communities but first and foremost they look for mines and dispose of them.

After the Iraq war mine hunters cleared an area off the coast, which allowed the local fishermen to go out and earn a living, and brought down insurance rates for oil tankers, which in turn affects the price of oil for all of us. The process is painstaking and slow, relying on modern technology, but in the end the job is done by experienced divers and explosive experts.

Some of the officers we met started as submariners and have served on Trident nuclear boats.

Talking to them reminded me that the essence of Trident is the reliability and precision of its delivery mechanism.

Once the decision to launch has been made, there is nothing to stop it. So it's much more than just the price you have to pay to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

The journey back to Bahrain in an US Desert Hawk helicopter is a neat illustration of the way we share capabilities! After four days in the Gulf  I've seen first hand that there is nothing optional about us having a Navy. It's essential to the protection and defence of our national interests - military as well as trade.

None of the political parties should forget this. Talk of saving money by cutting back on aircraft carriers is not just misguided, but it's dangerous. We are an island, and we must have a properly equipped Navy.

Gisela Stuart is Labour MP for Edgbaston, a member of the foreign affairs committee and chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on International and Transatlantic Security.

Andrew Miller MP on the Royal Navy and Sea Cadets
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With the UK General Election campaign under way, what impact will defence and security issues have on voting intentions? Public opinion polls conducted by MORI between February and March suggest that defence and security are less of a concern for voters than the economy. When MORI asked what is the most important issue facing Britain today, 55% of respondents considered the economy as the most pressing concern. By comparison, 14% regarded defence, foreign affairs and terrorism as the most important issue facing the country.

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By Louise Edge, Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner, Greenpeace UK.

In the aftermath of the Conservative party conference, it's clear that in the run up to the UK General Election they plan to put the issue of spending cuts high on their agenda. But post-conference will the Conservatives have the courage and vision to open up a debate about cutting back on Trident?

It's now clear that the scale of the UK's debt crisis is likely to lead to cuts across all government departments. The MoD faces particular challenges. Heavy demands on existing forces, a long list of major defence projects in the pipeline, and a reported £35 billion pound black hole in the defence procurement budget mean that they are already dangerously overstretched, even before any budget cuts are made.

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Labour MP Eric Joyce has resigned from his post as parliamentary private secretary to the defence secretary. Here, in full, is his resignation letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

"As you may know, I told Bob Ainsworth some weeks ago that I intended to step down as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Defence Secretary before the start of the new parliamentary term.

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By David Hoghton-Carter, UK Defence Forum Research Associate

Recently, the New York Times, concurrently with its International Herald Tribune arm, has been running a series of articles offering an insight into the increasing front-line presence of women in the US Army. Here at the UK Defence Forum, we've also taken an avid interest in helping to promote the valuable contribution made by women on today's battlefields, from the dust and heat of Afghanistan and Iraq to the important job of keeping up the pressure to excel in the corridors of power . Then there's the forthcoming MOD review into the role of women in Britain's armed forces, prompted partly by the demands of EU equality policy. Is it fair to assume that the times may finally be a' changin'? Perhaps so.

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By Opit Hop

While revelations over MPs' expenses over the last few months may have rocked Westminster and damaged public confidence in politicians, they have also prompted us to ask important questions about the rules governing the behaviour of our elected representatives.

Significantly, some MPs have been attacked as 'part-timers' for having business and other interests above and beyond their parliamentary duties. Particular ire has been heaped on those MPs who hold well-paid directorships with major companies. It is, critics argue, inappropriate for parliamentarians to have outside business interests.

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By David Hoghton-Carter, Research Associate U K Defence Forum

Nearly two weeks ago, the MOD announced that Project Belvedere, the military's scheme to consolidate helicopter basing and command and control facilities, was finally being scrapped. This truly flabbergasting event comes in spite of how patently hale and hearty the plans were.

Apologies for the brief segue into sarcasm – after all, the eventual death of Project Belvedere falls under the "OK, we've got to finally fess up that this is going nowhere" approach to project management. The MOD Press Release was slipped out amidst the ongoing expenses scandal, (good day to bury bad news anyone? The old ones are the good ones...)

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Elayne Jude of Great North News Services reports on the UK Secretary of State for Defence, Rt Hon John Hutton MP, in session with the House of Commons Defence Select Committee:


It's difficult to find a critic of Urgent Operational Requirements; Defence Select Committee Chairman James Arbuthnot described them as 'the new black'.

But aren't they, he asks, rather an expensive way to get kit into theatre ?

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By our research staff

Today there was a debate in the House of Commons on defence procurement. The briefing for Members comprised the following sources, all of which is in the public domain:

Newspaper articles

(Many of these have been featured in DEFENCENET Daily, and are posted in the U K Defence Forum archive www.ukdf.org.uk including the links to websites)

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By Nigel Green, Research Associate, U K Defence Forum

The UK Government has come under fire for the stresses facing soldiers due to commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq. The criticism follows the Ministry of Defence's launch of a Command Paper last July, which aimed to alleviate some of the pressures on the private lives of service personnel.

The Minister for the Armed Forces Bob Ainsworth faced hostile questioning from Opposition Members in a recent debate in the House of Commons. In particular, he confirmed there had been breaches of the so-called "harmony guidelines" in which servicemen and women are not supposed to serve more than 13 months overseas in a three year period.

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By Nick Watts

UK Conservative MPs met the NATO Secretary General (Jaap de hoop Scheffer) on 26th January 2009. He outlined what he saw as the priorities for NATO at the forthcoming 60th anniversary summit, being held on April 3rd – 4th at Strasbourg. These are:

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Latest from the Ministry of Defence

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