Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence

Further memorandum from the Ministry of Defence

  Further information requested following the session with the Secretary of State for Defence on 12 January 2005.[13]


  Q596-7.  A note on the readiness of the Amphibious Readiness Group and the disaster relief roles which it would be able to fulfil.

  The requirement is for an Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) to be available for deployment from the UK at five days notice. If the ARG is already deployed, for example exercising in the Mediterranean, it would be possible to divert to higher priority tasks at very short notice. The size and composition of the ARG will depend on the nature and scale of the operation to hand. Typically, it would comprise a Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) or a Landing Platform Dock (LPD), supported by a Landing Ship Logistic (LSL) and embarking a Royal Marines Commando Group. But this could be reinforced, for example. with up to three additional LSLs deployed in support and, in a slightly longer timeframe, RM manpower could be increased to a Brigade.

  ARGs are extremely versatile and could be used for a variety of purposes in a disaster relief role. Depending on the precise nature of the task, this could mean acting in a command and control function, facilitating communications over a reliable and secure communication network, providing logistic support, or the use of manpower for clearance or re-stabilisation work. Despite this utility, other defence assets were better placed to respond to the immediate aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami. It was not subsequently considered appropriate to deploy an ARG for disaster relief work principally because neither the affected countries nor the United Nations required this capability; indeed there was a clear expectation from, for example, the Indonesian Government that international military forces would begin to draw down rather than build up further in the weeks following the disaster.

  The Committee may also wish to note that, on current plans, the Department expects to retain RFA DILIGENCE in service until around 2010. As the Secretary of State indicated in his evidence studies are underway to examine options for the future afloat support capability in the round, but no decisions have yet been taken.

  Q610.  What consideration was given to the deployment of the Civilian Affairs Group in response to the Asian tsunami?

  The Civilian Affairs Group is now known as the Joint CIMIC[14] Group (JCG). This is commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel and comprises both regular and reserve elements. The regular element currently consists of four staff officers and four separate four man teams (of which one is at 10 days' notice to deploy). The reserve element comprises 100 reservists at 90 days' notice. Almost all operations require some interaction with civilian authorities. The Joint CIMIC Group can provide knowledge of civil issues in the area of operation, establish effective liaison procedures to deal with civil authorities and aid agencies, and where appropriate can train personnel in theatre in the specific skills necessary to achieve the objectives for that operation.

  As part of the UK's response to the Indian Ocean tsunami, a team of four experienced members of the Joint CIMIC Group was sent to Banda Aceh on 10 January 2005. Their tasks are to assist the aid effort in Banda Aceh, and to act as conduit between the military and civilian relief efforts. Their recent work has been focused on engineer liaison, replacing communications in the community and consideration of water sanitation.

  It is important to note, however, that MoD policy is that CIMIC is everyone's responsibility, not solely that of a specialist organisation. An increasing number of UK Armed Forces work with civil authorities to achieve military and civil objectives. In the initial response to the tsunami, this was one of the roles of the Operations Liaison and Reconnaissance Teams deployed to Sri Lanka and Indonesia. A smaller liaison team was also deployed to Thailand. These teams comprised up to 20 experienced personnel drawn from the Joint Force Headquarters and were deployed to scope the requirements for military assistance—looking at the support that DfID and host nations needed, what kind of capabilities were required, and what was already in place in terms of local infrastructure and facilities. These teams worked very closely with DfID personnel, to ensure that the assistance offered would be appropriate.


  Q624-5.  The requirements (including minimum height) for entry into the Foot Guards and what special characstics set them apart from the rest of the infantry and account for the decision not to reorganise them into large regiments.

  The entry requirements for the Foot Guards, including height, fitness standards and medical requirements, reflect those for the infantry as a whole. The minimum height requirement for the infantry is 158 cm.

  The reason behind the decision not to re-organise the Foot Guards Regiments was not, however, based on the individual entry requirements for personnel, but rather on their role and commitments. Nearly 50% of the Foot Guards are currently committed to the uniquely demanding task of Public Duties and State Ceremonial. To maintain and sustain these commitments, the Foot Guards Regiments must therefore recruit, retain and develop guardsmen from all four constituent parts of the United Kingdom while at the same time delivering five operational battalions. The Foot Guards already achieve the benefits of a large regiment through the movement of sub-units and individuals between battalions and roles according to need. It also has a common ethos, shared responsibilities and a common headquarters. Any change would therefore be purely cosmetic. The Army has recognised these arguments and accept the valid reasons for maintaining the status quo.

  Q637-8.  A note on what regimental accoutrements and other distinguishing elements will be able to be retained by the amalgamated single battalion regiments.

  The question of regimental accoutrements is currently being worked through by the Army. The Department expects this to be decided before the end of this year.

  Q639.  A response to Mr Havard's request that consideration be given to allowing the Royal Welsh Regiment the same dispensation as regards battalion names as was given to the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

  As the Committee is aware, before decisions were taken on the future infantry structure, a wide-ranging and detailed consultation exercise was undertaken, with the infantry being invited to express views on how the restructuring should be implemented. Colonels Commandant of each infantry Division were consulted, as were all the Regimental Colonels. The outcome reflected what was put forward by each Infantry Division. The Prince of Wales' Division, within which the Welsh regiments sit, is no exception.

  The decision to endorse the unique solution for the Scottish Division recognises the bold step Scottish regiments had taken in agreeing to move directly to a large regiment of five battalions. The Scottish Division also agreed that all would be kilted, adopt a common tartan and cap badge, and accepted that the abbreviated names would be 1SCOTS, 2 SCOTS and so forth. Given the very different nature and large geographical spread of the existing regiments from Scotland, this approach would also help to maintain the best possible recruitment. None of the Colonels Commandant of the infantry Divisions objected to the proposals for the Scottish Division.

  The Prince of Wales' Division solution preserves a distinct Welsh identity within the future infantry and it identifies explicitly the two component battalions with their antecedent regiments. Their traditional recruiting areas and links to the local community will also be maintained. The Committee will understand that while the Army cherishes tradition, it cannot base future capability on this alone, and it has a proud history of embracing necessary change to meet current and future challenges. At the same time, a clear commitment has been made to sustain the traditions, cultures and ethos of individual battalions within the new larger regiments.

  Q643, Q646.  Whether any research has been done into the factors which influence recruits to join the Army and in particular how far joining a specific unit (or cap badge) is a decisive factor.

  The Army has not researched the extent to which joining a particular regiment or unit is a decisive factor in individuals deciding to join the Army. However, the organisation responsible for Army recruiting—HQ Recruiting Group—does conduct programmed research every three to four months to determine interest levels and attitudes to the Army. This research is undertaken by the Central Office of Information through a private research company, Jigsaw Research Ltd, and is normally commissioned after an advertising campaign in the media. The research includes approximately 500 young people (aged between 16-24 years) throughout the UK. The aim of the research is to determine the interest levels and attitudes to the Army as a career and provide an indicator of the key factors that influence the levels of interest and attitudes to the Army. The latest research was conducted late last year and established that the key factors that influence recruits to join the Army are "challenge", "training", "job interest" and "travel". The supporting analysis is attached as an Appendix.

  Q651-661.  A breakdown of the reinvestment of the posts freed up by reductions in the Northern Ireland commitment as determined so far, and, as soon as possible, as finally decided.

  The figures provided to the Committee by CGS during the evidence session represent the re-allocation of posts from the reduction in four infantry battalions. Once this work is completed, 2,476 posts will be reinvested across the Army. In addition, we plan to reinvest a further 524 posts, all of which are currently established in Northern Ireland, when operational circumstances permit. Taken together, these changes reflect CGS's announcement on 16 December last year that "FAS will rebalance the Army with an overall shift from a heavy/light mix to a heavy/medium/light mix making it more expeditionary in nature and achieving greater brigade level capability by improving combat and logistic support at that level . . . Changes will permit the reinvestment of around 3,000 posts across the Army, making unit structures much more robust and reinforcing hard pressed pinch-point areas".

  This remains work in progress. The Army is continuing to work on the detail which is dependent on a range of factors including practicalities such as estate availability and training capacity. Whilst the details may therefore change, at this stage plans include:

    —  Some 500 posts will be distributed to the Infantry to decadreise elements of the Armoured Infantry battalions, enhance the Reconnaissance Platoons in each battalion and enable the introduction of new equipment (eg the much needed Automatic Grenade Launcher). This will be implemented as the Infantry reorganises in the period up to April 2008.

    —  Significantly improved robustness and capability will be provided in Intelligence and Signals units:

      —  Intelligence units will gain over 300 posts beginning from August 2005.

      —  Six Brigade Signal Squadrons will gain around 25 posts, the 2 Divisional Signal Regiments will gain around 50 posts each and the Logistic Brigade Signal Squadrons will gain 10 each. Implementation of these changes is planned to begin in August 2005 with priority to those due to deploy on operations.

    —  A new port and maritime squadron is planned which will enhance the military port at Marchwood and the Sea Ports of Disembarkation capacity on expeditionary operations. It will also improve tour intervals in this very specialised logistic unit. The unit will increase by nearly 100 posts, primarily in the Royal Logistic Corps posts. Implementation will be in two tranches, beginning in August 2005 and January 2008. Its pace will depend on the availability of appropriate estate.

    —  New sub-units are planned to enhance capabilities such as unmanned aerial vehicle, surveillance and target acquisition and bomb disposal capabilities—all of which have been in great demand in recent times. A 4th Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Battery will be created in 16 Regt RA and a 3rd Locating battery created in 5 Regt RA from the drawdown of 22 AD Regt. In addition two Heavy Improvised Explosive Device Troops are planned, in two tranches (September 2007 and March 2010).

    —  An additional strategic communications unit will be created which will improve the level of signals support available for expeditionary operations. An additional 30 Royal Signals posts will be provided, in 3 tranches: April 2005, April 2006 and January 2008.

    —  A logistic support regiment is planned for each deployable brigade to provide integral combat service support for medium scale operations. This is an internal re-roling that begins in April 2005 with 7 and 20 Armd Bdes, with other brigades complete by April 2008. Around 60 additional Royal Logistic Corps posts will be invested in Logistic Support Regiments from August 2006 with a further 40 drivers already provided to Brigade Equipment Support Regiments from April 2005.

    —  A commando engineer regiment is planned to enhance the support provided to 3 Commando Brigade. It will provide more engineering capacity, a planning cell and improved command and control capability. This enhancement will bring 3 Commando Brigade in to line with all the other brigades—where each have a dedicated Engineer Regiment. This entails an increase of some 250 Royal Engineer and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer personnel. An implementation team will be set up in August 2006 with the intention to establish the unit fully by April 2008.

  As announced by the Secretary of State, we are also developing a new unit to provide dedicated support to Special Forces operations.

  Q694.  An estimate of the numbers of people who for career development reasons under the new Army structure will have to move between regiments.

  At present career soldiers are moved periodically because of the arms plot. In future moves will be because of individual postings. Will those postings continue to be of about two years each? [If so,] have you worked out how many fewer moves of career soldiers there will be overall in any given year?

  Once the new Army structure is in place, no more people will have to move between regiments for career development reasons than is currently the case within the routine posting process. The reduction in arms plotting will result in an increase in individual postings, but mainly between the different battalions of a particular regiment. The career management mechanisms for such moves have not yet been defined but future postings will probably be of two years or more. The Department is not yet in a position to calculate how many fewer moves will take place within any given year.

  There is an argument for allowing people who have a staff bent rather than a command bent to spend longer getting good at, say, equipment procurement or financial planning, rather than insisting on moving them to broaden their experience. So are you taking this opportunity to look more broadly at the whole career development process?

  The Army is in the process of implementing a new system of Officer Career Development which combines changes in career management, with changes in the education and training programme. The Army has recognised that career development must be focused on maximising each individual's potential by identifying talent in each career employment field and increasing specialisation. This policy offers optimum development for individual officers and the best use of manpower for the Army. The approach entails the development of Officers through 3 career stages:

    (a)  Stage 1—Gain experience and ends on promotion to Major.

    (b)  Stage 2—Broadens experience and ends on promotion to Lieutenant Colonel.

    (c)  Stage 3—Increased specialisation as a Lieutenant Colonel and beyond.

  Employment opportunities are directed into five career employment fields: Combat, Logistics, Technical, Human Resources and Defence Policy, with the aim for each officer to gain experience in two or more of the career fields in Stage 2, before exploiting this experience in Stage 3.

How will you ensure that the widespread use of individual postings will not have the effect of reducing operational effectiveness?

  As the Committee is aware, the availability and efficiency of the infantry is hampered by the re-roling aspects of the arms plot. It is for this reason, and the need to offer our soldiers better career management and increased family stability, that the decision has been taken to end the infantry arms plot. For the future, refreshment and breadth of experience will be achieved through a system of individual posting. This system is already in place across the majority of the Army and follows a model which aims to ensure that operational effectiveness is not compromised. The Director of Infantry is working to establish this model throughout the infantry.


  Q664-5.  An update on progress with developing inter-operable and joint computer systems to support the three Services.

  Useful progress has been made in improving our Asset Tracking capability. The development of this capability for all three services has been brought into a single programme with a Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) within the DLO and a single programme manager. This step is a clear improvement to the governance and management of this important work; it promotes coherence, convergence and allows responsibilities to be clearly identified.

  In terms of the individual strands of work, the following progress is worth noting:

    (a)  Consignment Tracking. The Consignment Tracking capability consists of three core systems; Total Asset Visibility (TAV), VITAL and RIDELS. The following progress has been achieved:

      —  TAV. Resources have been allocated to retain the capability bought to support warfighting operations in Iraq. The Department is working closing with the US to maintain and develop the interoperability that TAV provides. There are indications that other NATO nations now wish to follow our example; the UK is providing a lead through the NATO Asset Tracking Working Group.

      —  VITAL and RIDELS. Work to improve the consignment tracking capability offered by these systems is in hand, including changes to the interfaces between systems to make them more effective and improvements to the "user friendliness" of the systems. Release 4 for VITAL, which made a number of key improvements requested by the Frontline Commands, went live last year. Planning for future releases is at an advanced stage and includes plans to link VITAL to key deployed inventory systems. Planning for an improved database for VITAL is at an advanced stage which will further improve its capability and make it easier to operate.

      —  Doctrine, Policy and Training. Doctrine, policy and training are also being addressed. The process of embedding the need to track consignments within the culture of the services is known as "institutionalisation". A crucial part of institutionalisation is ensuring that those who are expected to operate the systems are properly trained and have a clear doctrinal and policy framework to work within. This will assist us in ensuring that we fully exploit the Consignment Tracking capability.

    (b)  Management of Material in Transit (MMIT). This project will allow more effective visibility within and management of the supply chain. Current efforts include extending the Demand Tracking System into the Land and Air environments (currently it operates in the Maritime environment only) to provide a tri-Service capability. This is due to be complete in early 2005.

    (c)  Management of the Joint Deployed Inventory (MJDI). MJDI will provide a simple, joint set of logistic processes that significantly improve the supply, management, availability, visibility, maintenance and accounting of materiel, underpinned by a coherent IT infrastructure. Defence Modernisation funding of £2.6 million has been provided for the Assessment Phase and a further £15 million for solution deployment. Current single-Service processes and underlying IS systems are being evaluated as part of the Assessment Phase. Pilot Studies have been conducted at Wattisham (132 Aviation Spt Sqn RLC), Abingdon (32 Bde Sp Sqn) and Catterick (5 Battalion REME) to determine whether RAF business processes, supported by their Unit Supply Automatic Data Processing System could work in the Land environment. The Assessment Phase is due to complete in late 2005.

  Our joint logistics information systems will increasingly be able to take advantage of the investment we are making to establish a common, joined up, up-to-date computing platform across Defence under the Defence Information Infrastructure (DII) programme. The DII is a critical enabler for the Defence Change Programme, of which Logistics Transformation is a key component. The DII is in fact already delivering real capability at reduced risk through the incremental approach championed by the NAO. Early DII implementations are in place at the refurbished MoD Main Building, at Fleet Headquarters, at Strike Command, within the Army, and under Project Synergy—the programme to provide Communications and Information Systems to support ongoing operations in Iraq.

  Building on these early implementations, DII(Future), the most substantial part of the programme, and the element that will continue to establish the common information infrastructure across the whole of Defence, as well as materially contribute to NEC, is currently in the final stages of selecting a delivery partner, in anticipation, subject to approval, of a contract award during the first half of this year (2005). The DII also underpins the Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) programme, the aim of which is to modernise Armed Forces personnel management, through delivery of simplified and harmonised personnel regulations and processes to all three Services, and supported by a modern Information System (IS). JPA is on track to roll out to the RAF, RN and Army in turn during 2006.

  What progress is being made with the introduction of Bowman; whether The Daily Telegraph article of 4 January was an accurate report of the problems encountered with its introduction; and whether the remarks ascribed to the Director of Infantry were made by him?

  Encouraging progress continues to be made in the incremental delivery of the new Bowman capability. Since the In-Service Date was declared in March 2004, around 10% of the Army has been converted, including 84% of 12 Mechanized Brigade, 64% of the British Army Training Unit at Suffield in Canada (BATUS), and 27% of 7 Armoured Brigade. Conversion of 3 Commando Brigade has just started. The target for the end of 2005 is for about one third of the Army to have been converted to Bowman. The programme, which has had to accommodate operational deployments, is expected to continue until at least the end of 2007.

  The report in The Daily Telegraph on 4 January 2005 does not provide an accurate picture of the current position on Bowman. It rehearses old stories and reflects some misleading information. As with any programme of the magnitude and complexity of Bowman, challenges arise and have to be addressed on a day-to-day basis through proactive management of risk. Such complex equipment is subject to rigorous testing and evaluation precisely to identify any safety or operational issues that need to be resolved.

  For example:

    —  The old story on radiation burns relates only to the High Frequency (HF) version of the radio and is inherent on all HF radios. There have never been any problems with the VHF radios. Following trials, initial reports of minor radio frequency (RF) burns were investigated and were resolved by limiting power output while the HF radios were being carried in the manpack role—operationally an entirely sensible and acceptable measure—and by improving insulation on exposed metal surfaces. Following the latest trial, no further incidents have been reported.

    —  The weight issue is over-simplified. Bowman is not a direct replacement for Clansman. It introduces additional equipment and delivers greater capability. The installation in a vehicle may be heavier than its predecessor but functionality and security have improved dramatically. The HF and VHF manpack radios are of similar size and lighter than their Clansman equivalent; they are of course far more capable.

    —  The importance of flexibility is recognised and at the same time we have to be more careful about security issues with an information system such as Bowman compared to a traditional radio. Bowman radios are assigned radio role identities and we are addressing ways through programming and software changes to make reassignment of radios easier to manage. (Strictly speaking, call signs are attributed to individuals and there is no restriction in the use of call signs.)

    —  Lessons have been learned from trials about operating with Bowman. An improved carrying system, including radio harness, and stronger wiring are being fielded. The Personal User Data Terminal and the Keypad Display Unit were never designed to be worn like a wristwatch. The scaling of this equipment and its utility on operations is under review.

    —  As Bowman is a far more capable system than Clansman, comparing battery performance is of limited value. AA batteries could not meet the requirements of Bowman but the batteries used are tested rigorously for robustness before acceptance.

  The remarks attributed to Brigadier Balfour in The Daily Telegraph article reflected a personal point of view and their full context is not reported. It is understood that Brigadier Balfour was attempting to convey the point that the Department is contractually committed on Bowman and it was therefore necessary to overcome any difficulties with the introduction of this new equipment. It would be wrong to infer that there has been no input from his area to the delivery of Bowman. The Director of Infantry and his staff have been extensively involved in trialling Bowman and in regular dialogue with those delivering this capability. The Department, all three Services (but particularly the Army) and an extensive industrial base are all solidly behind the continuing programme to convert the Armed Forces to the Bowman system.


The restructuring of the Armed Forces is emphasising agility and mobility, to which the support helicopter makes a major contribution. The posts saved in Northern Ireland will be used to support front line forces elsewhere. Yet you are withdrawing from service altogether some of the support helicopters which worked with them. Are you confident that you can achieve increased ground force mobility with a reduced number of helicopters? How?

  Last summer's Defence White Paper on Future Capabilities indicated that "in light of the improved security situation in Northern Ireland, we plan to make some reductions in overall helicopter numbers." Current plans for the drawdown of aviation assets in Northern Ireland will remove six Puma Support Helicopters from the front line by 1 April 2006. These aircraft will be retained in a sustainability pool, helping to manage the Puma fleet through to its planned out of service date of 2010. The move will also improve crew ratios for aircraft remaining in the front line. It also allows us to prioritise resources for platforms with longer service life such as Merlin 3, Sea King and Chinook. As the Committee knows, the Department is also considering at present whether, and how best, to bring into service eight Chinook Mk 3s. Their entry into service would increase support helicopter availability.

  It is important to note that whilst support Helicopters do indeed provide an important element of mobility for the Armed Forces, they are only part of the picture. Improved ground mobility provided through projects like FRES will also play an important part in the mobility and agility of future Armed Forces.

When do you expect to receive the recommendations from the Future Rotor Craft Coherency Study for future helicopter procurement and to announce details of the promised investment (Future capabilities para 2.23) of £3 billion in new Helicopters?

  The Future Rotorcraft Capability (FRC) programme has been making good progress. An FRC Executive Group has been established to marshal the efforts of the Equipment Capability Customer, Defence Procurement Agency and Defence Logistics Organisation against a taut project plan. The Department is at present testing existing capability requirements to ensure the right balance between land and maritime lift, reconnaissance and attack capabilities to provide a robust force structure for the future. This work is well underway and is being conducted by an Operational Analysis Working group and a Requirements Working Group. The output of these groups will inform the programme and identify opportunities where common equipment and approaches to training and support could provide whole life cost benefits.

  In parallel, we have been engaging with industry to ensure that we have accurate and realistic cost and technical data, and we will take account of industrial considerations to arrive at the best value for money solution for both Defence and the taxpayer.

  This is a complex programme of work and we need to make sure we give due weight to the full range of capability, affordability, and industrial issues—as set out in our Defence Industrial Policy. We hope to have a clearer idea of the way forward towards the summer of this year.

February 2005

13   Ev 94-113 Back

14   CIvil MIlitary Co-operation. Back

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