43. The 'mini-review' of 1993 was followed almost
immediately by the announcement of a further "major review"
in the Budget Statement on 30th November 1993.
On the following day, the Secretary of State outlined his proposals
in evidence to the Defence Committee as follows
Expenditure in 1996/97 will
be 4.2 per cent lower in real terms than the previous plans for
1995/96 ... To accommodate the reductions ... we will need to
take a ... radical approach. My firm goal is ... to achieve the
necessary savings without reductions in front line levels ...
I have therefore set in hand a ... new and major study ... of
how the Ministry of Defence conducts its business ... The purpose
will be to ... ensure that every penny which is spent is absolutely
essential for the support and operational effectiveness of our
front line forces, and to enable our Armed Forces to discharge
their military tasks and commitments properly, to the full and
with formidable military capability ... We are determined to maintain
a proper balance between commitments, capabilities and resources,
and we will continue to adapt our force structure to the changing
1994 Defence Costs Studies: Main Proposals
- the establishment of a new Central Staff to replace the Defence Staff and Office of Management and Budget set up by Michael Heseltine in the mid 'eighties;
- a reduction in the single service HQ staff and a reduction in MoD HQ personnel from 5,200 to around half that number;
- the formation of a Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) at Northwood;
- the restructuring of Land Command;
- the merging of all research and development and most testing functions into a new Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA)
- the collocation of Procurement Executive (PE) staff at Abbey Wood;
- reorganisation of financial management;
- reorganisation of management of the MoD estate, maintenance functions and stores and spares;
- the downgrading of the Rosyth naval base;
- the establishment of a new tri-Service Joint Staff College;
- reorganisation of the recruitment services;
- reorganisation of defence medical services with further integration into the National Health Service;
- reorganisation of MoD Police and guarding services with further civilianisation.
44. The Defence Cost Studies were bound up with the
programme of 'Fundamental Spending Reviews' then being undertaken
across government 
in a parallel to the way in which the SDR was the MoD's contribution
to this government's Comprehensive Spending Review.
The results of the study were announced to the House on 14 July
with an accompanying document setting out the proposals in more
detail. The main recommendations were as shown in Figure 3. A
considerable number of other minor recommendations relating to
support services were also made. Overall, these changes were designed
to produce, after the increased cost of front line enhancements,
eventual estimated net annual savings of £750 million.
45. The Territorial Army was also subject to further
review , the final
results of which were announced on 6 December 1994.
The review continued the transition of its role from infantry
to combat support. It authorised the formation of 26 new units
in various corps, whilst reducing Territorial Army infantry companies
from the 109 companies announced under Options for Change
to 87. Some of these new units were in supporting roles, but they
also included a significant expansion of the yeomanry. The TA
were also given the new role of providing the Army's nuclear,
biological and chemical defence regiment (a move subsequently
reversed under the SDR). The Reserves pool of 4,500 was removed
and the TA's establishment reduced to 59,000, a decision which,
we were told, owed as much to political as to strategic considerations.
46. At the same time a number of major procurement
decisions were announced, as set out in Figure 4.
Defence Cost Studies: Major Procurement Decisions
- new nuclear attack submarines (Trafalgar Batch 2), further Type 23 frigates and seven Sandown minehunters;
- two Landing Platform Dock amphibious assault ships (LPDs) to replace Fearless and Intrepid;
- 259 additional Challenger 2 tanks;
- a mid-life update of 142 Tornado GR1 aircraft to GR4 standard;
- procurement of submarine-launched conventionally armed Tomahawk cruise missiles, and a possible conventionally armed stand-off missile (CASOM) for the RAF.
47. The Defence Committee gave qualified approval
to the overall strategy and some of the detail of the proposals
in Front Line First
The details of implementation
of the broad proposals ... will be crucial and their effects will
be felt for many years. We look forward to the time when sufficient
funds are available to rebuild our defence forces to the level
required for our national security.
The Committee followed-up the detailed recommendations
which gradually emerged in a series of reports on individual studies.
In April 1995 the Committee warned
The reductions in the Defence
Medical Services are on a relatively dramatic scale ... these
reductions may have gone too far and too fast ...
Less than two years later, in a further strongly-worded
report the Committee concluded
The Defence Medical Services
are not sufficient to provide proper support to the front line
... and show little prospect of being able to do so in the future.
A choice would have to be made between sending troops without
proper medical support or only sending the limited number of troops
who could be supported. Defence Costs Study 15 [on medical services]
has not enhanced the front line but has seriously impaired it.
We consider the proposals of the SDR for the enhancement
of Defence Medical Services later in this Report (see paragraphs
199-201). On the proposals relating to other support services,
the Committee, in its report on the 1995 Statement on the Defence
Estimates, reiterated its concern at 'the apparent inability
of the MoD to reduce its civilian workforce in line with Service
The Committee was also cautious in its view on the proposals relating
to police and guarding services. It expressed particular concern
over reductions in the RAF police, and also was of the opinion
that the decision to withdraw MoD Police from some Royal Ordnance
Factories had been premature. The Committee was sceptical about
the ability of the civilian police to provide an adequate armed
response if needed. It also recommended that the process of contractorisation
of guard services should be halted until an adequate regulatory
system for such services was put on a statutory footing.
More generally, the Committee expressed scepticism about the rationale
underlying certain changes.
In relation to the plans for further redundancies amongst Service
personnel it asked for the benefits of stability to be 'balanced
against the often small financial benefits arising from change'.
of the Historical Context
Defence Reviews since 1945
The Sandys Review
The Healey Review
The Mason Review
The Nott Review
Options for Change
The Rifkind Mini-Review
Defence Costs Studies: Front Line First
48. From 1945 to 1990, governments reviewed their
defence strategy roughly every 10 years. Since then, as the preceding
narrative makes clear, the defence budget, the Services and the
civilian and support services have been subject to an almost continuous
period of review. Reviews have responded to the lessons of war,
economic pressures and changes in the strategic environment, especially
the pressures of the Cold War. We can see elements of a pattern
to 'reviews' over the last 40 years or so. The first element of
this pattern is inconsistency. The Reserves have been cut and
enlarged, have been allocated new roles, have had them withdrawn,
and have had them reimposed. The Navy has been cut, the cuts have
been slowed or reversed, the cuts have been reimposed. The RAF
has been cut dramatically, sometimes on the promise of better
equipment, and has waited and waited for new aircraft. Options
for Change removed several teeth, and Front Line First
shortened the tail. Undermanning has continued while recruitment
services have been cut. Some of these changes have been strategically
justified, others financially-driven. Inconsistency is not necessarily
inappropriate to a changing world: for example, Options for
Change delivered what was widely expected to be a 'peace dividend'
from the end of the Cold War, and established a force structure
that has proved fairly durable. But since its inception, the Defence
Committee in its successive embodiments has complained that the
details of our force structure and defence posture have rarely
been framed within a convincing and well-thought through assessment
of our strategic needs and national and international interests
and obligations. The Committee has consistently sought from government
such a fundamental statement of objectives and principles. The
SDR is intended to be a serious attempt to provide a coherent
policy framework for defence planning and budgeting. If it succeeds
in doing so, it will be a welcome refutation of the apparent lessons
of recent history.
49. There are, however, some consistencies in the
history of the last few decades.
Manpower has been on a steady downward trajectory, as has defence
spending as a proportion of GDP (though with occasional blips),
continuing the prevailing downward pressure on all aspects of
spending and ever-increasing demands for improved 'efficiency'
which have characterised almost the whole history of peacetime
defence policy in this century. It has not always been evident,
as our predecessors repeatedly made clear, that the demands on
the armed forces have been reduced proportionately to the defence
budget. Our predecessors have regularly had to report that
these reductions have been driven through ahead of any new thinking
about the demands that can and should be placed upon the Armed
Forces. The SDR is an opportunity to match capabilities and
force levels to commitments and to devise a framework for keeping
these in balance in a changing world. The degree to which it achieves
this aim will be the fundamental criterion by which its success
must be judged.
50. There have been other prevailing trends. Reviews
have tended to be conducted in great secrecy, and sometimes at
breakneck speed, in an effort to stifle dissent or to muffle criticism.
On occasions, Ministers have deliberately sought to keep different
parts of the MoD in ignorance of what other parts are doing. The
planning assumptions have rarely been exposed to public scrutiny
before the decisions based on them have been announced. The House
of Commons Defence Committee has consistently complained that
it has been denied access to information which would enable it
to offer a judgement on the soundness of the decisions based on
that information. This has, inevitably, led many to speculate
that these decisions were indeed not based on dispassionate analysis
but political expediency or administrative convenience.
51. More generally, all governments have been committed
to NATO as the cornerstone of the UK's defence and security policy,
and have maintained close connections with the United States.
Some governments have claimed to place greater reliance on the
strategic nuclear deterrent than others, although declarations
of changes in strategic posture have not, in the past, generally
fed through into any significant changes in the arsenal. There
has been an increasing emphasis in declared strategy (with occasional
reversals) on greater flexibility and mobility of the armed forces.
Even before the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the UK was becoming
increasingly committed to greater manoeuvrability and the use
of reserve formations rather than static defence. However, as
our predecessors have continually pointed out, actual decisions
have often been inconsistent with this declared strategy. Logistics,
and measures for sustainability after initial action, have been
lacking. The SDR is a considered attempt to demonstrate that
the chosen strategy has been followed through into the proposed
force structure. We consider below whether it has succeeded.
52. One of the key lessons of history is that few
reviews have delivered on the commitments made about new equipment
or increased personnel. The Armed Forces have traded cuts against
the promise of 'jam tomorrow'. They have often been disappointed.
Every review has been promised as the herald of a new era of stability
in defence planning. This also has rarely been delivered, though
whether events, bad faith or self-deception are to blame, we shall
not try to judge. The SDR once again promises a new dawn. If
the government's promise of an era of stability in defence planning
to be ushered in by the SDR is to carry any conviction, this Committee,
and members of the Armed Forces, will have to be convinced that
it embodies a sound strategic basis for incremental change and
a capacity for adaptation to the unpredictable circumstances of
the next 10-15 years.
112 Cm 2270, Defending Our Future: Statement on the
Defence Estimates, July 1993, p 5 Back
Report, Session 1992-93, op cit, paras 26-37 Back
2770, para 607 Back
all of the members of the RNXS were lost for good. Some 2,000
former members of the RNR and RNXS joined the Maritime Volunteer
Service, a civilian but uniformed organisation designed to perpetuate
maritime skills in order to continue and develop their skills.
The Maritime Volunteer Service has recently been officially recognised
by the Royal Navy. Back
Deb, 6 December 1995, cc75-76w Back
Report, Session 1992-93, Statement on the Defence Estimates
1993, HC 869, para 2 Back
Deb, 30th November 1993, c928 Back
Report, Session 1993-94, Statement on the Defence Estimates
1994, HC 68, Q 138 Back
might be seen as the final stage of the process begun by the Hartington
Commission in the 1890s, see Strachan, RUSI Journal, June
1998, p 4 Back
Deb, 27 June 1994, c403-4w Back
para 381 Back
Deb, 14 July 1994, cc1169-1190 Back
Deb, 14 July 1994, c1173 Back
Deb, 6 December 1994, c703-4w Back
Report, Session 1993-94, The Defence Costs Study, HC 655 Back
para 42 Back
Report, Session 1994-95, Defence Costs Study Follow-up; Defence
Medical Services, HC 102, para 22 Back
Report, Session 1996-97, Defence Medical Services, HC 142,
para 21 Back
Report, Session 1994-95, Statement on the Defence Estimates
1995, HC 572, para 73 Back
Report, Session 1995-96, Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding,
HC 189, pp xxviii-xxix Back
Report, Session 1994-95, Defence Costs Study Follow-up; Naval
Stores Proposals, HC 87, para 24, Third Report Session 1994-95,
Food Supply to the Armed Forces, HC66, para 15 Back
Report, Session 1994-95, op cit para 4 Back
and Watson, Country Studies: United Kingdom, Jane's NATO
Handbook, 1991-92, pp 319-323 Back