This week’s leading UK defence news has been the publication of a study outlining how the Government will likely seek to meet the two per cent NATO spending target. The Times reports that Britain will achieve the target only by adding the budgets of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ into the total for the first time. The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has calculated that the proportion of money spent on defence would have fallen to 1.85 per cent of GDP by the end of the decade without the inclusion of intelligence agency funds when calculating the NATO figure. The research, which examined the details of a surprise budget announcement by George Osborne that Britain would keep its NATO commitment, triggered allegations from former military chiefs of creative accounting.
In his budget speech, the Chancellor only committed to increasing the core defence budget — the real benchmark for what a country spends on its armed forces — by 0.5 per cent each year at a time when the economy is forecast to grow annually at 2.4 per cent. The almost five-fold difference in growth rate will create a shortfall of £2.7 billion in 2019-2020 and £3.5 billion the following year when calculating defence spending. The intelligence fund, which covers the costs of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, is set to total about £2.2 billion in the year to March 2021. A joint security fund that has been created by Mr Osborne is due to total £1.5 billion that same year. These two pots of cash would be enough to close the gap to the end of the current parliament, the RUSI report said.
· British Army reluctant to post troops on UK streets after terror attacks
British Army reluctant to post troops on UK streets after terror attacks
The Guardian reports that the British Army is resistant to the idea of deploying thousands of troops on to UK streets in the event of a terrorist attack on home soil, despite the perceived increase in threat from groups such as Islamic State. Plans for up to 5,100 troops to “augment armed police officers engaged in protective security duties” were revealed in documents accidentally uploaded to the National Police Chief Council’s (NPCC) website. The plan reportedly revealed in the leaked minutes is codenamed Operation Temperer and would see troops backing up the police in guarding potential targets while counter-terrorist officers and MI5 hunted for attackers.
While the MoD has plans for backing up the police following major terrorist attacks, there is resistance to committing large numbers of troops for indefinite policing duties. Part of the argument against is that the Army is already overstretched and that if 5,000 troops were to be deployed to the streets, it would leave a significant hole in the number available for military duties. There could also be a morale problem after the initial novelty of being posted to the streets begins to wear off. But the biggest single objection is that once troops are committed to the streets, it is hard to pull them back. It would require the security services to declare that the threat level had dropped sufficiently to allow them to return to barracks.
Police Scotland see rise in young officers leaving to join MDP
The Daily Record reports that young officers are quitting Police Scotland and applying to join the force responsible for guarding Britain’s nuclear submarine fleet. Around 52 men and women have left Police Scotland in the last year and joined the MDP. Sources told the newspaper that those resigning believed that protecting the country’s nuclear deterrent will be less demanding. Some are blaming high stress levels for the switch – particularly pressures to meet targets such as stop and search and fixed penalty notices. A police insider said: “Working for the MDP guarding the nuclear submarine fleet may seem more stressful to most folk… but there is less need to work days off and more opportunities for overtime. The pay is about the same but stress levels are far lower.”
MoD launches new anti-rape campaign
The Independent reports that photographs depicting men and women who have been raped by soldiers are the focus of a powerful campaign by the MoD warning service personnel that consent is always required before they have sex. The offensive against rape will see posters with the slogan ‘Don’t kid yourself! Without consent it’s RAPE’ displayed in Army barracks and training centres across the country in the coming weeks. It has been instigated by General Sir Nick Carter, the head of the Army, amid concern over sexual offending in the military, and is the first time the Armed Forces have launched a campaign aimed at rape and sexual assault.
Service personnel are being warned that someone being passive during sex does not constitute consent, nor does how someone dresses or behaves. Consent has to be free and informed, so someone who is sleeping or drunk cannot give it. Differences in rank do not give individuals any right to have sex, and it does not matter if offenders think they are just having a laugh, for sex without consent is rape, say defence officials.
Crisis in Special Forces manpower reported
The Sunday Times reports that Britain’s Special Forces are facing the worst manpower crisis in their 75-year history. The Special Air Service (SAS) is officially classed as “overstretched”, with troops taking part in operations and training missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, north and central Africa and South America, according to well-placed military sources. The SAS and Special Boat Service — the two key elements of the Special Forces directorate — should each have about 450-500 members. However, the SAS is about 100 men under strength, according to defence sources. The SBS, which recruits almost exclusively from the Royal Marines, has less than fifty per cent of the officers it requires, it is claimed.
Armed forces job cuts reach target three years early
The BBC reports that British Army personnel have been cut back by more than 20,000 – three years ahead of target. MoD figures show that there are currently 81,700 full-time servicemen and women in the Army, down from 102,260 in 2010. More reservists are being recruited, but that process has been slow. Current plans envisage increasing the number of Army reservists to 30,000 by 2019, but as of April 2015, the number of trained reservists was at 21,030 – an increase of just over 1,000 since April 2012. The other services have also already exceeded their targets for job cuts, with the RAF losing 8,500 personnel and the Royal Navy cutting more than 5,500 posts since 2010.
Royal Navy suffering from high levels of absence due to sickness
The Mirror reports that new figures have revealed that a rising tide of sick leave is straining an already depleted Royal Navy. Manpower has been slashed in Government cuts to 31,000 – the lowest in Admiralty history – but with 4,740 off ill, warships are struggling to find crews. Sources claim an acute shortage of specialists is also affecting combat capabilities. The crisis affects destroyers, frigates and submarines, with a forty-five per cent shortage of marine engineers. To stop the gaps, sailors are being sent from one warship to another to keep up operational capability. The senior service is struggling to assign 800 crew to new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, which will begin sea trials next July. Two assault ships will go out of service so it can be manned properly. Fleet-wide vacancies for weapons and hydrographic specialists, medical technicians and nuclear watchkeepers for submarines are shown in the MoD annual report.
Concerns voiced over UK defence industry
The Daily Telegraph reports that Britain is considering changing its tactics in the international defence market after losing out to rivals on big deals, with the Government poised to take a bigger role. BAE Systems and its partners in the Typhoon fighter have had no success selling the jet abroad since 2012, while the French rival Dassault has landed orders for 84 of its Rafale aircraft. Close relationships built up between French President Francois Hollande's administration and counterparts in countries that bought Rafales are thought to be key to clinching the sales. The source said that ministers are now looking at how often senior politicians visit countries being targeted for export sales and how more wide-ranging deals can be negotiated, rather than just focusing on a single piece of military equipment.