RELIEF TO THE UNITED KINGDOM'S OVERSTRETCHED
97. The problem of overstretch of the British armed
forces is widely known.
David Stewart Howitt described the extent to which "demands
on major powers and international bodies to respond the issues
of governance and security" were likely to grow,
but also argued that the United Kingdom's armed forces are "neither
intended to carry out long running nation-building operations,
nor are they likely to have spare capacity to take on such tasks
in the foreseeable future."
He pointed out that the success of the British armed forces in
deployments overseas was partly a consequence of their great adaptability,
but that it was not always necessary to use such adaptable personnel
if the tasks to be performed were specific.
It should also be noted that the experience of British troops
in Northern Ireland has made them uniquely suited to peacekeeping
98. To support his point, David Stewart Howitt cited
the imposition of a sanctions regime on the Bosnian Serb Republic,
which, in his view, could have been carried out by customs officials
in a more cost effective way than through the deployment of national
Sir David Ramsbotham made the same point, arguing that the tasks
assigned to the small British contingent in Rwandawater
supply, road repair, provision of communications and the running
of a medical clinic"could have been provided by [the
PMC] DSL, using ex-military personnel, not just for six months
but for as long as the UK government was prepared to pay. Had
that approach been adopted the military infrastructure would not
have been affected, and the UK contribution to the rehabilitation
of Rwanda could have been enhanced."
99. The different personnel structures of PMCs imply
that they may be able to perform some tasks more cheaply than
can national armed forces. ArmorGroup point out that "In
addition to low start-up and running cost ... There are no complex
pension arrangements to wind up, nor expensive redundancies."
Doug Brooks has argued that this makes PMCs "ideal for addressing
Africa's military security problems at affordable prices."
100. In this context, the question of PMCs taking
on some of the activities currently being carried out by the British
forces is an obvious one. However, Denis MacShane was "reluctant
to get into the substitution discussion." He told us that
"where there is a direct British interest at stake, I would
assume, within the limits of what the Ministry of Defence can
deliverand I think it is delivering an extraordinary amount
of men on the ground for its budgetwould be the government
agency that would carry out this work."
He argued that the purpose of regulation is not to seek to increase
the extent to which British military activities are contracted
out to private companies: "What is under examination in the
Green Paper are states far away from Britain that do not have
an adequately trained, professionally led and equipped military
force who face the need to restore law and order in their own
country turning to some outside body."
101. We are reassured by Denis MacShane's answer.
We certainly do not believe that the Government should be aiming
for further cuts in the armed forces through the greater use of
PMCs to perform core defence tasks. However, we conclude that
the Government should consider carefully whether the greater use
of PMCs in UK humanitarian and peace support operations might
help to reduce military overstretch. PMCs might be employed
to provide protection for tasks such as tax collection, road building
or water and sanitation projects, which is currently performed
by UK forces in peace support operations. The creation of an additional
cadre of former armed service personnel to perform these non-combat
roles might also help to alleviate overstretch. We provide details
of this alternative to the employment of PMCs in paragraphs 138
to 141 below.