32. On the same day that that Report was published,
the Secretary of State for Defence made a statement in the House
on the Options for Change studies that the MoD had been
conducting since the beginning of the year. He introduced his
proposals as follows
... we have sought to devise
a structure for our regular forces appropriate to the new security
situation and meeting our essential peacetime operational needs.
The framework ... would be reinforced in a period of tension by
drawing on volunteer reserves and reservists, who will have an
important role to play. We have also allowed for the possible
need to build back up our forces over a longer period should international
circumstances ever require us to do so ... We shall ... continue
to need a robust defence capability as our insurance against the
unexpected ... Our proposals will bring savings and a reduction
in the share of GDP taken by defence ... We need force levels
which we can afford and which can realistically be manned, given
demographic pressures in the 1990s. The aim is smaller forces,
better equipped, properly trained and housed, and well motivated.
They will need to be flexible and mobile and able to contribute
both in NATO and, if necessary, elsewhere.
As we see, the watchwords of flexibility and mobility
were once again emphasised. The main conclusions of Options for
Change are shown in Figure 1.
Options for Change: Main Proposals
- to retain four Trident submarines;
- to reduce the air defence capability by withdrawing two Phantom squadrons;
- to halve the forces stationed in Germany so that their reinforced strength would be two divisions rather than four;
- to reduce RAF bases in Germany from four to two, and to end the UK's contribution to German air defence;
- to maintain the UK's amphibious capability and air defence contribution to NATO's northern region;
- to maintain three carriers; to reduce the frigate/destroyer force to about 40; a submarine flotilla of 12 SSNs (nuclear powered submarines) and four SSKs (conventionally powered submarines);
- to re-establish a strategic reserve division;
- to reduce service manpower by 18% over about five years to an Army of around 120,000, a Navy of around 60,000 and the RAF of around 75,000.
33. The government were insistent that Options
for Change was a process rather than a one-off review. It
was supposed to begin, as usual, with an analysis of the strategic
environment, which, as usual, was not disclosed to Parliament.
However, in his statement the Secretary of State made no attempt
to disguise the financial drivers of the process
I am taking steps to constrain
expenditure within the agreed provision. Announcements have been
made on aircraft. Consistent with our longer-term plans, we shall
be easing back on Army recruiting and retiring early several ships
and submarines, and making some other short-term changes to the
programme ... We believe that the new force structures that we
envisage can give us strong and reliable defences, in changing
circumstances, and at an affordable cost.
34. A week later, on 2nd August 1990, Saddam Hussein
invaded Kuwait. The UK's defence posture was again tested against
reality rather than hypothesis. On the whole, the lesson of Operation
Granby (the UK's part in the coalition operation in which international
forces drove Iraq out of Kuwait) seemed to indicate that our Armed
Forces could still deliver military success.
Two principal areas of concern, however, emerged from a study
of the lessons of Operation Granby. The first was the vulnerability
of ground troops and equipment in particular to chemical and biological
weapon attack and the need for enhanced protection.
The second was evidence that the operation had stretched logistical
sustainability beyond a safe level.
35. The Defence Committee produced a series of reports
on the consequences of the Options for Change process,
perhaps the first sustained Parliamentary analysis of any defence
review in the twentieth century. The consistent theme of their
criticisms was that, despite protestations to the contrary, the
proposals that emerged did not disclose a coherent underlying
concept to inform the UK's choices about defence spending. On
the Navy, the Committee concluded
For the past 10 years, Government
policy has apparently been based on a mixture of approaches ...
a theoretical preference for a smaller surface fleet, but a practical
acceptance of a larger one ... In other words, we have been here
before. Ten years ago, as a result primarily of financial pressures,
the Government proposed a substantial reduction in the surface
fleet and a greater dependence on submarine and maritime air power.
This was followed by the hostilities in the Falkland Islands and
a reassessment. In July1990, in response to a rapidly changing
strategic environment, the Government proposed a reduction in
the surface fleet, a significant cut in submarine strength, and
maintenance of existing maritime air capability. These proposals
have now been followed by hostilities. It is essential that, once
again, Ministers review their proposals in the cold light of experience
On the Royal Air Force the Committee concluded
With respect to the proposals
for the RAF, we are ... increasingly concerned at the apparent
security policy vacuum in which we are obliged to scrutinise them.
Almost a year since NATO's London Declaration of July 1990 we
still have little idea of what UK forces will be asked to do,
or where, or when ... It is high time that Parliament was told
of the broader context within which the proposed new force structures
for the RAF are to be subsumed.
And in its review of the government's July 1991 White
Paper, Britain's Army for the 90s
the Committee remarked
There has however been nothing
comparable [for the Navy and RAF] to the Army White Paper considered
in this Report ... This piecemeal approach ... may have had some
merit. But it has not made possible the sort of structured and
wideranging debate we had hoped for, nor has it enabled those
outside MoD to analyse in detail how far the proposals for the
three Services are consistent. It has meant that attention has
inevitably been concentrated on one often relatively minor issue
at a time. Whatever the contents, we cannot judge Options for
Change to have been a presentational success ... We look forward
to the production ... of a coherent overview of the effects of
the changes ... over the whole field of defence services.
1992: The Three Defence Roles
- To ensure the protection and security of the United Kingdom and our dependent territories, even where there is no major external threat.
- To insure against any major external threat to the United Kingdom and our allies.
- To contribute to promoting the United Kingdom's wider security interests through the maintenance of international peace and stability.
36. In the 1992 Statement on Defence Estimates, some
effort was made to provide a new conceptual framework for the
force structure when the MoD formulated the 'three roles' of the
armed forces as shown in Figure 2. The third of these roles, in
particular, indicated the recognition of the move to a new post-Cold
37. Options for Change also reviewed the roles of
the Reserve Forces. The 1989 Statement on the Defence Estimates
had described the wartime role allotted to the Territorial Army
(TA) during the Cold War as
... to provide 58,000 men
in formed units as an integral part of the reinforcement of BAOR
... A further 29,000 TA soldiers (including the Home Service Force)
and some 45,000 ex-Regulars would have home defence roles.
The 1991 Statement on the Defence Estimates
announced a review of these roles. The first casualty was the
Home Defence Force, whose primary role during the Cold War had
been to provide guard forces for lower-priority potential targets
in time of war, thus releasing more highly trained units for other
tasks. It was disbanded and its roles transferred to the Territorial
Army. The new mission for the TA, designated as 'National Defence'
was described as embracing
... all tasks in support
of military home defence (i.e. the direct defence of the UK),
as well as within the wider framework of the Allied Rapid Reaction
Corps or out of area.
However, those Territorial Army units assigned to
Allied Rapid Reaction Corps in Germany saw a shift in emphasis
away from teeth arms to combat support. As a consequence, the
infantry were cut, with rifle companies being reduced by 34% from
164 to 109 and battalions from 41 to 36. Overall the Territorial
Army was reduced from a notional strength of 91,000 to a peacetime
level of 63,000 to be expanded in emergencies to 71,000.
The Defence Committee commented in its report on Options for
Change and the reserve forces that
... it is by no means axiomatic
that a reduction in Regular forces should be accompanied by a
cut in Reserve forces. Logic could, equally plausibly, have led
the Government to maintain or even augment the TA's strength,
taking advantage of a relatively low cost option for supplementing
the Regular Army and providing a stock from which trained reinforcements
could readily be supplied. In the event, the opposite approach
was adopted. We were told that, as with the proposals for the
Regular Army, decisions about the TA followed from a review of
the threat faced by the UK and the extension of warning times
... MoD told us that "this is very much a strategy driven
exercise". The total future strength of the TA seems to have
been driven at least as much by demographic pressures ... as by
38. The primary Cold War tasks of the Royal Naval
Reserves (RNR) and the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service (RNXS) had
been the manning of mine counter-measure (MCM) vessels, defence
of ports and anchorages, and naval control of shipping.
In July 1991,
the MoD announced plans to reduce the Royal Naval Reserves by
1,200 from 5,900 and the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service by 150
from 2,850. Two of the Royal Naval Reserves' eleven River Class
minesweepers (which were obsolescent) were withdrawn and many
shore-based RNR units closed.
39. Unlike the other reserve forces the Royal Auxiliary
Air Force (RAuxAF) was expanded in the early 1990s, though only
from 1,900 to 2,000. There was disappointment in some quarters
that much sought-after flying roles for the Reserves did not materialize.
Our predecessors had argued that
The prospect of a number
of aircraft being held in active service... offers a long-awaited
opportunity to put into practice the concept of an active flying
reserve, comparable to the former Royal Auxiliary Air Force.
However, following Options for Change the
planned expansion of the RAuxAF was halted. A consequence of the
RAF reorganisation was the disbanding of several reservist squadrons
and those sections of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve with
a war role were amalgamated with the RAuxAF. The result was a
loss of 180 posts in the RAuxAF.
One new role was identified in the announcement. The RAuxAF was
to fill around half of the posts in several Rapier-equipped, ground-based
air defence squadrons. In addition to these posts, a unit was
formed to train reservists who would man these squadrons.
40. In 1992 civil war erupted in Former Yugoslavia,
and in May of that year the UK deployed a field ambulance in support
of the United Nations UNPROFOR I force deployed there.
In September, as the war worsened, the UN mandate was renewed
and enlarged in scope, and on 22 September a decision was announced
to deploy a further 1,800 ground troops to UNPROFOR II (a figure
subsequently raised to 2,600).
British ground forces were first deployed in Bosnia on 18 November
1992, and have
been deployed to the region ever since, rising to a maximum of
11,500 in UNPROFOR's successor implementation force (IFOR), and
falling to 5,300 with IFOR's successor stabilisation force (SFOR).
When SFOR's mandate was further renewed on 20 June 1998, the UK
committed itself to deploying 4,800 troops for a further 12 months.
41. As the Options for Change process unrolled through
1992 and 1993, the Committee continued to question the assumptions
(or, more precisely, the opacity or lack of assumptions) on which
it was based. On the Army, it commented
... the additional emergency
tour tasks assumed by the infantry since the beginning of 1992,
in Northern Ireland and Bosnia, have led to an unacceptable contraction
of the emergency tour interval for infantry units, with serious
consequences for individual service personnel and their families
as well as for the Army's capacity to prepare for and carry out
its primary wartime roles ... the increased use of non-infantry
units in the infantry role to meet emergency tour commitments
will threaten the effectiveness of those units in their primary
roles ... these commitments are ... symptomatic of the pressures
which the Army is likely to face on a constant basis in a future
characterised by international instability and uncertainty ...
the mismatch of the Army's resources and commitments looks set
to continue ... 
And on the Navy
It appears self-evident to
us that matching resources to tasks is becoming increasingly fraught,
stretching both crews and vessels to unwise levels even during
peacetime. It is evident that, in the event of full-scale war,
the Royal Navy would be incapable of defending our sea-routes
on which we depend for both trade and the movement of our Armed
Forces. It is our view that this shortcoming poses a serious,
and potentially fatal, threat to the long term security of this