210. Delivering Security, building on the
New Chapter to the SDR, set out the Government's analysis of the
defence and security challenges against which the Armed Forces
need to be prepared, structured and equipped. Although we accept
much of that analysis, we have been, and continue to be, concerned
that its vision of the future is too narrowly confined by the
expectation that the experience of recent years constitutes a
sufficient guide to the future: that there will be 'a similar
pattern of operations in the future, with the emphasis on multiple
concurrent Medium and Small Scale deployments'.
211. Many of the key capabilities, identified by
that analysis and in Future Capabilities, depend on the
introduction of new equipment, and much of that equipment will
not be available until the end of the decade or later. For example:
- Carriers, from 2012
- Type 45 Destroyers, from 2009
- Astute submarine, delivery of first in 2009
- FRES, first vehicles 2009 or later
- Typhoon, multi-role not before 2010
- Joint Strike Fighter, from 2014
- New helicopter capabilities, no date set
A number of these programmes have already experienced
significant delays. The possibility of further delays cannot be
212. On the most optimistic of projections, it will
be the middle of the next decade before the UK has the Armed Forces
described in Future Capabilities. At that point the analysis
of the threat upon which that structure was posited will be more
than ten years old. Given the extent of the changes which have
been seen in, for example, the seven years since the Strategic
Defence Review of 1998, it must be expected that that analysis,
in some respects at least, will not have stood the test of time.
213. MoD's response to this risk has been to emphasise
the flexibility which the Future Capabilities proposals will provide
to the Armed Forces. This flexibility is demonstrated by, for
example, the multi-role capabilities of the Typhoon; or by the
agility and deployability of the proposed FRES vehicles; or by
the range of capabilities which can be provided from the future
carriers. While such flexibilities are welcome, they are not all
new. Many existing capabilities have proved themselves to be extremely
214. Flexibility in terms of total military output,
however, comes not only from the ability to use one set of equipment
for a number of different purposesor train one unit of
personnel to undertake a number of different tasksbut also
from having a large enough pool of resources from which to draw
an appropriate mix of effective equipment and trained personnel
to achieve the range of tasks that may be required. Future
Capabilities concentrates on providing the resources needed
for particular types of operation: expeditionary, high intensity,
215. We are concerned that Future Capabilities
places too great an emphasis on providing for high levels of capability
across a relatively narrow part of the total spectrum of military
activities. The risk involved in doing this could be compounded
if some of the key equipment programmes which we highlighted above
were either subject to significant delays or failed to deliver
the full ranges of their planned capabilities. There is continuing
uncertainty over the Carrier programme. There have been problems
with the Joint Strike Fighter. And the critical technologies for
FRES remain untested.
216. A second area of risk is over the tempo of operations,
and the strain which this places on the Armed Forces. In recent
years the Armed Forces have operating at or near the limit of
their capabilities. General Walker, on his first appearance before
the Committee as Chief of the Defence Staff, told us in June 2003,
that each of the single service chiefs had raised concerns with
him, as the new CDS, about the level of commitments.
The proposals in Future Capabilities are not predicated
on any significant reduction in operational tempo in the future.
Indeed the MoD's analysis for Delivering Security states:
A major lesson of the last five years is that
the Department and the Armed Forces as a whole have to be structured
and organised to support a fairly high level of operational activity
at all times, not as a regular interruption to preparing for a
Large Scale conflict.
217. We are not convinced that that lesson has been
learned in terms of what can be reasonably expected of Armed Forces
personnel over an extended period. Admiral West described the
Navy as being 'very very taut
in terms of numbers'.
General Jackson said that an Army of 102,000 was 'just enough
to man the force structure'.
Air Chief Marshal Stirrup has publicly commented on the painful
nature of the reductions for the RAF and there is still uncertainty
about the core manpower requirement as the Service adapts to the
demands of expeditionary warfare. RAF manpower savings depend
not just on reductions in existing force levels, but on the timely
entry into service of aircraft and systems which will require
fewer people to operate them. On recent operations at least ten
per cent of those deployed have been reservists. The total number
of reservists, however, has recently been in decline and there
have been problems with recruitment. The MoD has admitted that
the arrangements for financial assistance for reservists have
had an adverse effect on retention rates.
218. Historically the Armed Forces have had difficulty
recruiting to their full manning levels. Failure to do so in the
future could seriously undermine the sustainability of the force
structure set out in Future Capabilities. The
MoD needs to recognise that, under its proposals, there will be
very little, if any, fat left in Armed Forces manning figures.
Full recruitment will be a necessity rather than an aspiration.
219. The Future Capabilities proposals have been
driven by a particular vision of future operational requirements.
It may take another decade before the capabilities to deliver
those requirements are in place. In the meantime equipment withdrawals
and personnel reductions may leave gaps in capability. Those gaps,
in turn, may create risks. Some of those risks, in our view, need
not have been taken.
220. The longer term vision is for an expeditionary,
high-intensity and network-enabled package of forces, capable
of contributing 'real weight' and thus influence to US-led operations.
Its achievement depends on the timely delivery of a range of new
and sometimes unproven equipment programmes. We believe that that
vision takes a somewhat narrow perspective on the range of demands
which our Armed Forces might be expected to meet in the future.
The decision to commit the Armed Forces to the realisation of
that vision is a demonstration of the Government's confidence
in the enduring relevance of the analysis of the future international
security environment in Delivering Security.
242 HC (2002-03) 771-i, Q 3 Back
Cm 6041-II, p 7 Back
Q 568 Back
Q 363 Back
Changes to the Reserve Forces (Call-out and Recall) Financial
Assistance Regulations - Statutory Instrument 1997 No 309: Regulatory
Impact Assessment, p 5 MoD, January 2005. Back