Former military chief, General Sir David Richards, has warned that Britain is losing influence in NATO after pledging to leave far fewer troops in Afghanistan from next year than other key alliance members. The Times reports that David Cameron has been urged by NATO to commit more soldiers than the 200 already pledged to help to develop the Afghan security forces in 2015, provided that a key security deal between the Afghan Government and the US is signed.
General Richards, who supported the Government’s plan to run a Sandhurst-style officers’ academy outside Kabul, has said that he would like Britain to play a larger role in NATO, which would include the provision of military advisers in Helmand province after 2014. The Times says that this would give the Prime Minister greater power to influence alliance policy in Afghanistan and on wider issues, as well as enhancing the ability of the Afghan police and army to secure their country after the majority of NATO troops over the next 12 months.
• Answers to written questions on DE&S plus
• Defence Committee publishes report on the role of the armed forces
• Former military chief warns of dwindling British influence in NATO
Answers to written questions on DE&S plus
• Conservative MP Peter Luff asked the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the financial savings that would be achieved over a 10 year period from (a) the Defence Equipment and Support plus model and (b) a government-owned, contractor-operated entity.
Defence Minister Dr Andrew Murrison MP responded that the 2009 Gray Report identified around £1.5 billion of annual frictional costs, which the Materiel Strategy was developed to address. Dr Murrison said that the GOCO and DE&S+ models were both expected to yield significant savings, but precise estimates were not available due to the early termination of the commercial competition.
• Labour MP Kevan Jones asked the Secretary of State for Defence by what date will DE&S+ will be match-fit to undertake procurement for his Department.
Dr Murrison replied that the intent is to ensure that DE&S has undergone sufficient transformation in terms of structure, skills and processes such that it is able to deliver its outputs much more effectively and efficiently than it does today.
• Mr Jones asked the Secretary of State for Defence what conditions would have to be met for a GoCo proposal to be considered for Defence procurement in the future.
Dr Murrison said that no specific conditions have been set for consideration of a future GoCo and said that the Government will need to assess the maturity of both the market and Defence Equipment and Support as an organisation once a bespoke trading entity had been established and had benefited from private sector support as outlined in the announcement.
• Shadow Defence Minister Alison Seabeck MP asked the Secretary of State for Defence how much of the £60 billion planned spend on new equipment in the Defence Equipment Plan 2012 is (a) committed and (b) uncommitted.
Defence Minister Dr Andrew Murrison MP said that the breakdown of the Equipment Procurement Programme into committed and uncommitted is published in the Defence Equipment Plan 2012. Dr Murrison said the Government will update the figures in the Defence Equipment Plan 2013, which will be published this year.
Defence Committee publishes report on the role of the armed forces
The House of Commons defence committee has published its report on its inquiry: Towards the next Defence and Security Review. The committee scrutinised the 2010 Defence and Security Review and assessed the changing context for the 2015 review, including the impact of spending plans and Britain’s overseas role. The committee concluded that the imminent end of operations in Afghanistan provides an opportunity for the Government to think more “strategically” about the UK’s place in the world when formulating the 2015 National Security Strategy and the 2015 Defence and Security Review. The committee said a national strategy should be articulated in the National Security Strategy ahead of the next Defence and Security Review and should define what position in the world the UK should adopt and which combination of hard and soft power will be most effective.
The committee echoed warnings it has made previously that there was a discrepancy between ambitions outlined and resources available and said that if a real-terms increase in funding is not made available from 2015, strategic ambition would have to be “curtailed”. The committee also said that there was a danger of defence becoming a matter of “discretionary spending”.
Commenting on the previous Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010, the committee criticised that it was difficult to determine any genuine strategic vision other than reducing the UK budget deficit. The committee said that one of the greatest threats to defence came from the disconnect between the Armed Forces and the public which it says is caused by “lack of understanding”. Aside from outlining a coherent national strategy, the key conclusion of the report is that Parliament and the defence committee, in partnership with the MOD, need to debate and explain the case for defence to the public at large.
Former military chief warns of dwindling British influence in NATO
The Daily Telegraph has reported that the MOD has nearly doubled its spending on consultants for the 2013/14 financial year. The MOD has spent £66 million on consultants so far this year, which is £41 million higher than for the same period a year earlier. The newspaper highlights that the spend has been disclosed as the MOD continues to cut the number of civil servants and service personnel it employs. It also highlights that the ministry has faced “a string of costly procurement embarrassments and overruns” including an inflation of the cost of the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers.
MOD sources said that some of the recent consultancy spend had been on costly management experts drafted in to advise on how to part privatise the equipment buying process, to try to avoid such problems in the future. The bidding process, which collapsed due to the withdrawal of one consortium, cost £7 million to run.
Shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker MP said the findings were an example of “waste at the MOD” and said that service personnel would be “justifiably angry” at the findings when large redundancies were being made. Unions said the employment of consultants had only been made necessary due to the cuts to skilled officials and engineers. An MOD source told the Telegraph that the consultants had “niche skills” not available within the MOD and that consultant spending was down overall from the previous Government.